April 15th, 2008 Posted in Myanmar/Burma | 3 Comments »
Shortly before leaving Seattle, I stumbled across a new retailer at Bellevue Square Mall while doing some holiday shopping. At this point, I had already begun planning my travels in earnest, and being the gadget geek that I am, was constantly looking for versatile, effective gear.
Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 5 years, I’ve become a bit spoiled when it comes to outdoor performance apparel. Yet even the highest quality trekking clothing doesn’t quite work for travel, as they tend to come in bright (dare I say garish?) colors and patterns. I needed something that would transition more easily between the jungles of Burma to the urban equivalent in Tel Aviv.
Enter Nau, a brilliant new startup based out of Portland. Started by one of the co-founders of Marmot and former execs from Patagonia and Nike, their clothing is developed with three fundamental design principles in mind: beauty, performance and sustainability. The net result is a buttery soft micro fleece made completely from recycled polyester and styled like a motorcycle racing jacket or a pair of trendy 100% organic cotton trousers that have been treated with DWR. None of their clothing feature logos of any sort, and its also worth mentioning that they donate 5% of every purchase to a non-profit of your choice!
Enthused about my new find, I quickly picked up a few select articles, knowing that these would be the only clothes I would carry with me for a year on the road. Thus far, I’ve been incredibly pleased with how the clothes have held up under the rigors of travel. I’ve lost count of how many travelers I’ve met who have marveled at how small my backpack is, and I’m convinced this due in part to the small, but efficient Nau wardrobe I’ve invested in.
Here are some thoughts on what I’ve been wearing for the past 4 months:
As mentioned above, its styled like a motorcycle jacket, with micro fleece on the interior and a smooth exterior that enables it to easily layer under a hard shell. Relatively thin for the warmth it provides, it rolls up tight and takes up much less space in a pack than a “traditional” fleece. It’s been an essential insulating layer for me both in the frigid winters of northern China and Tibet, as well as the occasional Thai bus that has set its air conditioning for arctic freeze. I also appreciate the hidden chest pocket which I constantly used to safely stash my passport.
The hood of this storm shell blends seamlessly into a high wrap-around collar, which provides that little bit of extra protection from the elements. The hood was designed to be helmet compatible, so it layers well over a wool cap, but its light enough to be worn without insulation underneath in tropical downpours. Hmm… The matte finish on the jacket doesn’t resist the grime of travel all that well. Over the past few months, daily wear has caused it to develop a permanent dark mystery layer in a few places.
Base 2 Wool Shirt
Made from finely spun merino, this shirt has made me a true believer in the wonders of wool. It somehow regulates body temperatures, so that it provides a surprising amount of warmth for its weight in colder climes, yet is breezier than cotton in heat. It naturally wicks sweat and tends to resist odor. This shirt comes with a small side pocket that blends into the seams - useful for room keys, for instance. Since it dries much more quickly than my other shirts, its been my daily wear ever since Thingyan has started. Hmm… The seam in one particular area is starting to come loose, though it hasn’t gotten any worse in the past 2 months.
I wanted a basic pair of cotton khaki trousers, but even here Nau has exceeded my expectations with little extras. They mixed just a touch of spandex into the fabric, so that the pants stretch nicely for more athletic endeavors. I’ve hiked up steep trails in the Tiger Leaping Gorge and played pick-up soccer in Laos in these these trousers and never once did they impede my movement. The cargo pockets have been sewn into the seams so they blend into the profile of the pants, which is appreciated since nothing screams BACKPACKER! like jarring, slapped-on cargo pockets. Hmm… I doubt there’s anything that Nau could do to solve this problem, but these pants are now sporting multiple stains from eating greasy street food that just will not come out.
Nau also interacts with their constituents by holding regular contests where people can send in pictures of themselves sporting Nau clothing.
Guess which satisfied customer won a merino polo this month?