A recent email from a reader asked for my advice on a particular embarkation he was gearing up for: A week long backpacking adventure through the Colorado Rockies. He was looking for an outdoor kit that could be be both preppy and practical at the same time. I commended him for wanting to kill two birds with one stone, because like in any activity, there is a way to collaborate Usefulness and Prep-approved style. The multifunctional ensemble that I speak of can be worn scaling the mountain or descending the campus library steps, while trekking the fine line between a bandana wearing, months of hair growth mountain grizzly man and a try-hard Patagucci “Look, I’m walking off the path!” city slicker.
Let me prologue that I am not an avid outdoorsman. I’m not really into fishing, which is why I don’t buy into the Salt Life and Guy Harvey southern boy craze, nor can I claim that I know how to survive off the land with only a toothpick and my own piss. But I do enjoy the occasional hiking trail and mountain bike ride (just purchased a new GT Karakoram 29er that I’m excited to break in this summer!) So the extent of my knowledge for outdoor gear is based on beauty beheld by my tradly eye and what I consider preppy and utilitarian. Hence the labeled name: Tech Prep.
Using the specific clothing checklist that the reader provided, I replied back to him with products that I thought exemplified Tech Prep. To set up the ambiance of what I mean by the lifestyle afforded to the preppy outdoors, I’ll go with the allusions that I am so fond of doing with these articles.
Imagine a Vermont born and raised 4th year undergraduate student who attends an earth-crunchy liberal arts college. Perhaps one of those small elite schools like Bowdoin, Hamilton, or Sewanee.
Studies political science and is in the midst of finishing his law school application to UVA, but plans on doing a gap year to travel to Machu Picchu and explore the Slavic countries. Right now he is water rafting at the nearby rapids. A casual outfit to him is an unbranded frocket, 5″ inseam duck cloth shorts, and TEVA sandals. Possibly mistaken for a hippy if it wasn’t for the fraternity letters and boating association stickers on the back of his 1998 Classic Cherokee, lifted with accompanying fog lamps and roof carriage. Still smokes reefer like a hippy though. He packs up his single seater kayak and heads to town to meet up with his buddies for a basement party at the lacrosse house.
Not as clean cut as my Harvard Boy or elitist as my GMP allegories, but who’s to say that young man…you…can’t be all three?
I categorized this article under “Frat Daddy” because Tech Prep tends to be a youthful jibe into college kid territory. And it truly is the joining hands of technical wear and preppy style. Utility is represented best with tech wear that you can use in daily life. It started early for me in high school, when all the popular girls started wearing this black fleece jacket with lots of pockets and a funny looking symbol in the back near the top right shoulder. Who knew that in the coming years it would dominate the college landscape? And you’ll see other outdoorsey crossovers like rain shell jackets on sorority sisters and fisherman sportswear on southern fratters. Maybe there was a time when a fleece jacket was only worn by the serious campers, but nowadays it’s almost a necessity for lounging around at the coffee shop with your sweatpants and Rainbows on an exam night.
There are a few brands that really live up to Tech Prep. North Face is certainly not one of them (it became too trendy as soon as those popular high school girls got their hands on them). Patagonia is the current reigning champion, and most of my outdoor clothing is from them. And three of their products have become classics in the modern day prep era: the Synchilla Snap T sweater that you’ve seen me talk of countless times before, the Stand Up shorts, and the Baggies Water Shorts. A personal nomination from me would be Patagonia’s Torrentshell as well. The above iconic pieces should be in everyone’s dresser, even if only worn for the intended purpose of rugged activity and not really for casual use. The Stand Ups and Baggies get the appointment due to their trad mannerism availability in 5″ and 7″ inseams (rock out with your pasty thighs out!). And the Synchilla has helped usher in the dawn of the modern prep era and introduction of Tech Prep, warming up college students since the 1980s.
Other brands that I like include Mountain Hardwear, Actyx (which supposedly is the favored amongst the hardcore outdoor bunch), Columbia PFG (“Performance Fishing Gear”), and Merrell active shoes. REI also carries a great in-house brands for the budget conscious and has cool membership benefits (joining only costs $20).
The art of the cross over from mountain slope to daily wear is easy when you take the pragmatic approach. Wear your Stand Ups with its plenty of thigh room on a warm day to help cool off your manhood jibblies. Mix the formlessness of a social dinner with a bowtie, croakies with sunglasses, and rain shell jacket when the summer storm moves in from the east and blocks the prior sunlight with its torrential downpour over the country club grounds. I wouldn’t wear Tech Prep on tradlier-than-thou occasions, but if it’s college or “hanging out” related for an informal convenience then it is all fair game. Or try a favorite combo of mine by replacing your regular chino shorts with the explorer shorts paired to a tucked in OCBD and motif belt.
Here are some pictures of outings to parks and trails highlighting my sporting apparel.
Patagonia Frocket, made in USA
Patagonia Stand Ups 7″
Merrell Waterproof XC Moab Trainers
The Game College Bar hat
Bolle Anaconda sunglasses and Croakies
Rock climbing. I love Stand Ups and PFG shorts because the leg openings are cut wide for ample allotment for movement. They also offer lots of storage (literally the only cargo shorts that I allow) and are lightweight and comfortable. Enjoyed by frat daddies everywhere. You can also bridge over athletic apparel for its function. Here I wore a sweat wicking t shirt to help keep me cool that I normally wear at the gym.
Local Sport Store Branded athletic t-shirt
Columbia PFG Half Moon Shorts
Merrell Waterproof XC Moab Trainers
You’ll recognize this back setting from my hike last Autumn with the Lady, seen in My Porn Stash.
Patagonia Synchilla Snap T with Yanaba print
Patagonia Stand Up shorts, 7″ inseam
Hamilton Khaki field watch
Lastly, here is the list provided to the reader that asked for precise examples for his week long epic journey. Again, these are just choices that I compiled stemming from my own tastes combined with customer review, and there are certainly other alternatives. You can’t go wrong with buying all of your accessories from a single brand either but I decided to mix it up for the purposes of this list. I happen to stay loyal to Patagonia but there isn’t a huge competitive advantage compared with the other brands I singled out so it’s all up to preference. I just strongly suggest you stay away from North Face! Not only are they too mainstream,but their recent product collections have been known to lack durability. Muffy has a related poll asking which brand is preppier, Patagonia or North Face (results won’t surprise you). I suppose it’s the affect of mass production and popularity bringing down its downfall. I can only hope that Patagucci doesn’t falter the way NF has. Right now it’s still prized for it’s uniqueness (Read: pricey, hence “Gucci”) and high preppy position in the GMP hierarchy. But more and more people are catching on!
“Wicking Short Sleeve T- Shirts”
-UnderArmour t shirts: My favorite wear for the gym and have a nice athletic fit.
-Patagonia Fore Runner t shirt: Form fitting, moisture wicking, odor control and SPF 30 protective. Your work horse shirt. Get two or three in different colors.
-Columbia PFG works well for outdoor activity as well. Bahama II long sleeve. Lightweight, breathable, UV protective, and durable.
“Quick Dry Pants”
-PFG Blood & Guts with zip-offs
-Orvis Fishing Pants
-I’d always vouch for my coveted Patagonia Synchilla Snap T, but if you need a full zip then you can go for the R4 Jacket.
-I love my Patagonia Torrentshell. Very lightweight and has zippers in the underarms for ventilation.
-Matching Torrentshell Stretch Pants
**Whichever brands you choose, I like using the same collection for the top and bottom if money is no object (I’m OCD that way) But I also think your Quick Dry Pants may be able to double if you’re not in a torrential down pour.
-Patagonia DAS Pants
-Mountain Hardwear Preignon
-REI Explorer Hat
-Mountain Hardwear Momentum Running Gloves
He didn’t ask about back packs, but my favorite camping storage brand is Kelty.