Best quick-drying travel gear
Upgrade to quick-drying travel gear and you can wave goodbye to those seven pairs of bulky boxers, giant fleeces and endless pointless outfits you normally cart around the globe. Go armed with a couple of useful -albeit slightly domesticated - accessories such as Lifeventure’s soap leaves and a pegless clothes line instead. When slung in a backpack with some of these waterproofs, all-weather shirts and accessories, they'll help shape the perfect gadget man's capsule wardrobe with some of the most techi travel kit around.
Icebreaker Beast 150 underwear (£19.20)
You might think this sensitive area is best kept away from the occasionally itchy merino wool but Icebreaker has done something very pleasant to this most fashionable of tech fabrics for these quick-drying boxers. More suited to the single man about town than the brief-like space-savers from travel pant legends such as Tilley, ExOfficio and Rohan, the Beast 150 is a tad comfier than synthetic nylon versions, and remarkably cool in hot climates.
Icebreaker also does a fine line in lightweight, mid-layer pullovers that just about replace a bulky fleece in a daypack in summer - and dry much, much quicker. The Icebreaker City 260 Eclipse Hood (£71.20) hoody from Icebreaker’s City collection is figure-hugging, but oh so useful.
Speedo LZR Racer Xpress Dry (£40)
Despite being almost a euphemism for tiny tight pants, Speedo has made an about-turn and produced these ultra-versatile swimshorts that stretch to 3/4 (22 inch) length. Just as good as casual shorts on the beach, or around town, these LZR Racer Xpress Dry shorts are nevertheless designed for racing.
Created using water-repellent fabric and keeping some semblance of Speedo-ness (they're fairly contoured), they’re designed to glide through the water, but our favourite feature is - you guessed it - the fact that they quickly drip-dry. They also fold-up in a side pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.
Columbia Bug Shield Shirt (£27.50)
Ahh, the travel shirt - ideal for anyone wanting to look like an unemployed safari guide. US brand Columbia has obviously noticed that flaw in a lot of khaki-coloured clobber and have instead plumped for white for this, the finest quick-drying (about two hours), high-wicking, anti-smelly shirt around (it went three days in what, in retrospect, we’ll call ‘our testing period’).
Unsurprisingly, it's made of really thin material, but unless you like to spend a lot of time in the woods or near barbed wire then you should stay tear-free. Hang about near water, meanwhile, and this shirt reveals another trick up its rolled-up sleeves (with built-in fasteners, naturally); it’s impregnated with insect repellant that doesn't wash-out when cleaned. Did you guess that from the name?
That said, the Bug Shield has a clean, fuss-free design (there are no novelty zip-pockets) and Omni-Wick - AKA anti-sweaty-back technology - that involves a net and open flap arrangement around the shoulders. It's enough to get this smart shirt in our summer stuff sack.
The North Face Sabrina Crest Shirt (£22)
Most travel shirts designed for women are woefully thought-out, with zip-up security compartments inappropriately positioned behind breast pockets and a general look that doesn’t exactly make a lady feel very special. Available in white, blue, brown, pink and - our controversial favourite - jet black, The North Face’s Sabrina Woven Crest Shirt isn't anything remarkable, but it covers the basics well; it's comfy, it’s stretchy (great if you're wearing it with a daypack) and it stays pretty cool.
There is a secure zip pocket, but it’s sensibly positioned at the side - as is a highly-placed breast pocket - while a couple of tabs keep sleeves rolled-up. Made from VapourWick fabric that’s 86% Polysester and 14% Elastane, it conceals sweat and dries in just a few post-wash hours.
Visor Buff & Buff High UV Protection (£16.20 & £13)
Who wants to carry a sweaty hat? If you’ve even been skiing, hiking or surfing you’ll have seen some dude wearing one of these fabric tubes that claims to be 10 different styles of headwear, a sling and even - as on a recent Pocket Lint trek - an emergency sock. An odd one, that. This particular model (there are hundreds of different designs and specs) is aimed squarely at the head, face and/or neck, with sun protection claimed at 93-98 per cent.
Made from the fast wicking and absorbent CoolMax Extreme material - which is also found in Tilley’s quick-drying underpants - the buff twists and turns into many shapes, but dries in minutes.
Visor Buff, meanwhile, has a soft neoprene (as used in wetsuits) peak that’s more practical - especially if you're the type (fair-skinned or follicularly barren, perhaps) that needs, but hates, to carry a hat around in summer. The peak keeps its shape remarkably well, squashes into a pockets without ruining, and dries in minutes. It also keeps the Buff anchored to clothing when used as a neck scarf in winter.
Result R165X AirDown Core Inflatable Gilet (£72)
Body-mapping; it's the future, and the whole base layer, micro fleece, jacket and waterproof shell shuffle is no more - with this clever jacket from Result you’ll never add or remove a layer again. Or stay wet for long. That said, this inflatable jacket is certainly for survival types. Inflatable not for floating, but for regulating body temperature, it’s a got waterproof rating of 10,000mm, is windproof yet highly breathable, and super-lightweight for absolute minimum drying times.
As the sun goes down, up goes the Result R165X AirDown Core Gilet, which gives it insulating protection all the way down to -20 degrees Celsius. Most jackets that capable would take days to dry. What's more, because it’s inflatable, it actually clings to your body, so there are no gaps for the cold to get it. It’s comfy and cosy while being reassuringly solid - and extra snug when inflated.
Columbia Men's Silver Ridge II Convertible Pant (£50)
Worn in baking humidity or a sweltering city, cotton gets crumpled and sweaty in seconds. Head to the tropics and man-made fibres beat cotton - and for more reasons that you might expect. For long a travellers’ favourite, you might think all zip-offs are the same; Columbia’s Men's Silver Ridge II Convertibles are among the most comfortable and best-fitting, come with a lightweight belt, and have more zipped pockets than rivals, too.
Ideal for hiking or general wear, these have the same pros of the Bug Shield shirt, minus the anti-critter juice; they're wearable almost as soon as they’ve been washed, and certainly with an hour or so of sunshine.
Just as impressive - if not more so - are the women’s version, subtly named the Psych To Hike Full Length Cargo Pant (£25). Out go the dorky zip-off sections, replaced by classy tags at the knees that see the legs roll-up and clip-on. Great news for those who resent having to mess about with zips every time they want to stamp in puddles or dance in the sea. Why can’t blokes’ trousers do that?
The North Face Venture jacket (£80)
There’s a bit more to The North Face Venture Jacket than the Berghaus effort, though it’s still a lightweight and highly breathable option. Great for general use as well as for walking, trekking and backpacking, the Venture has a slightly complicated drawcord system for the hood that, once mastered, is just about fit for blowy summits (though it's far from snug, so best suited to summer).
Repelling the rain effectively and drying-off in minutes after a shower, there’s a twist that appeals to our packing light sensibilities; the Venture curls up in its own left-hand pocket to leave it no bigger than a pair of bulky walking socks. This is the women’s version, which oddly is much more expensive than the men’s design (£60).
Rohan Jeans Plus (£70)
All the ‘what to pack’ lists and guidebooks say you shouldn't take jeans on a round-the-world trip - they're heavy, too warm and take ages to dry. In practice, that’s not quite true. They’re supremely comfortable, hard wearing and can be worn for a week at a time without looking like they need a wash. Besides, not everyone wants to go out wearing ill-fitting, quick-drying travel trousers. They do, however, take yonks to dry; step forward Rohan, whose cotton-based Jeans Plus are lighter than denim yet just as durable, comfier (thanks to 1% stretchy Elastane woven-in) and dry in a fraction of the time (that’ll be the dollop of CoolMax polyester alongside cotton).
And, oh, the pockets! It's farewell to hip pockets that shed coins every time you sit down, and hello to a special zipped coin pocket, zipped hand pockets, fastening rear patch pockets and even a pen slot. Plenty to write home about.
Sea To Summit 100% Premium Silk Travel Liner (£34)
Never go camping in the UK without a sturdy, bulky sleeping bag, but in the tropics you won’t need more than this easy wash, quick-drying and virtually weightless silk bag. Useful for when bed linen isn't provided, or when travelling on trains, boats or planes, the Sea to Summit Premium Silk Travel Liner is a great option, though the choice of rectangular or mummy shape is a personal one.
For those who don't mind carrying a little extra bulk and who prefer cotton, head for the Lifeventure EX3 cotton sleeper (£14). Includes hidden security pocket and a treatment that sees off insects and, more obviously, keeps the bag smelling ok after a few weeks of sweaty sleep.
Berghaus Paclite Shell Jacket II & Paclite Shell Overtrousers (£150/£100)
The ideal emergency jacket. It’s a fact that you have to, err, shell-out for a decent waterproof jacket these days (though there are some over twice the price of these), but it’s worth it for the extra tech you get; haven’t we all tried, and failed to keep dry in a £20 pac-a-mac?
The cash gets you two huge advantages; Gore-Tex fabric that truly is waterproof, and - perhaps just as crucial - a super-compact size when scrunched-up in a your bag. We actually managed to fold the Paclite Shell Jacket II and secure it in a jeans pocket quite comfortably - though it does come with a stuff sack that’s no bigger than a large piece of fruit (apple mac, anyone?).
It comes in a huge range of colours to keep you visible on a mountain or bike, though the classic black is probably best for urban downpours on foot - and it's breathable enough not to get too sweaty on the commute, though we do have concerns about durability. The fabric used is seriously thin.
Craghoppers Pakka Plus trousers (£31)
If the Paclite trousers stretch your budget a little too far, a great alternative is the Craghoppers Unisex Pakka Plus trousers. These inexpensive, easy-pack waterproof overtrousers for expeditions come complete with their own little stuff bag. Lightweight and simply constructed from synthetic AquaDry fabric that repels water and dries instantly, the Pakka Plus have zips to their knees (so relatively easy to get on and off without taking your walking boots off) and an elasticated hem.
Bridgedale X-Hale Speed Demon & Diva Socks (£8/£10)
Travelling light isn’t all about quick-drying underpants; the fast-turnaround sock is just as important if you're journeying through anywhere where sandals and flip-flops aren't going to cut it.
Available in both Demon and Diva versions, the Bridgedale X-Hale Speed socks have double-loop cushioning for extra comfort, but best of all a mesh on the top of the foot that lets air circulate - and helps them dry quickly. Made from 20 per cent merino wool, with a touch of Lycra, these ankle socks are comfy and take up hardly any room in a backpack at all.
Exped Fold-Drybags (£29)
Each of these lightweight nylon dry bags from Exped (www.exped.com) have tops that curve ‘n’ click to keep gear dry in a backpack. The seams are taped-up, making them ideal for storing gadgets, clothes and - most importantly - lunch, while out-and-about in wet and wild weather, and they dry out pretty quickly, too.
Less ‘quick-drying’ and more just plain dry, they’re surprisingly addictive; get a soaking once and you’ll never attempt serious altitude without them again. They arrive in four sizes and colours. Tough types should check out the PVC Ortlieb Drybag (£12-£28 for five-109 litre sizes, www.ortlieb.com), while a Lowe Alpine Raincover (£13-£16, depending on size, www.lowealpine.com) can solve the problem of a leaky daypack. Or you could keep it really targeted and opt for the Aquapak belt case (£25), which is designed to keep your passport and wallet bone dry - even if you go 5m underwater for half an hour. And we'll take that as a roundabout way of saying: suitable for snorkelling.