For most of us, getting closer to nature is one of the best parts of backpacking -- fresh air flowing through our hair, sun on our skin, the feel of mountain grasses brushing across our legs; the texture of dirt and stone, bark and branch, grass and dew. Many backpackers may not know what they're missing by donning the encumbrance of boots and pant.
In 2007, I started wearing a kilt and sandals on backpacking trips, and ever since I have resisted wearing
anything else. Years earlier I had ditched my boots in favor of trail running shoes and quickly appreciated the liberty and freedom of movement that came with lighter, less bulky, and more airy footwear.
The tradeoff was that I had to be more mindful of what my feet were doing, thinking that I might roll an ankle or step into a gopher hole and pull a muscle.
But rather than finding these hazards to be of concern, I found that I developed an increased tactile awareness of the ground beneath me. I think it was the following year that I cast aside my trail runners for sandals. I quickly began appreciating the earth, granite, brooks, and trunks that I traveled across so much more. I started stepping more lightly and quietly; I grew more attentive to the land through which I was traveling. Creeks that I previously avoided I now allowed myself to enjoy.
I started wearing a kilt in 2007 after searching for a while for something that was more opens and less restrictive than shorts or zip-offs. After pursing various kilt companies online, I chose the Original from SportKilt.com, which makes all of its products in the USA. That first trip in the kilt was amazing. I fell in love with the kilt, and I wear one whenever I can in the backcountry.
I have worn a kilt in the falling snow, hailstorms, rainstorms, and windstorms and on blazing hot hikes and walks across the O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy, many times when it was windy. Backpacking in all of these conditions was more pleasant in a kilt. I always carry zip-offs in my pack in case the mosquitoes get thick or the evenings get cold. I generally dislike doubling up on equipment, but I don't mind it with the kilt.
I own the original Sport Kilt and the Hiker from SportKilt.com, both of which are made without animal-derived fibers. I like them both but prefer the Hiker's lighter fabric, although I'd like to see a kilt made with fabric that permitted more airflow.
I've also customized my kilt to enhance its performance. I added "pebble pockets" that allow me to store a small pebble within the fabric when needed to prevent fairly strong winds (like those on the dam at Hetch Hetchy, for example) from blowing my kilt up. Inserting a small pebble found on the trail makes a big difference.
The kilt has many folds and layers, and pebble pockets work great when added to the left and right front INNER corners of the kilt. If your kilt has hem lines at least 1" high, you can add pebble pockets by sewing two vertical stitches in the hem of the kilt about 1.5" apart and then removing the original stitching between the stitches that were added. Reinforce the original stitching where it meets the new stitching with a little bit of backstitching.
It's hard to explain, but I hope the images help. If your kilt does not have hems like this, you'll have to sew on your own pockets or ask the manufacturer to do it for you.
When shopping for your kilt, please try to choose one in neutral colors to reduce visual pollution on and off the trail.
And yeah guys, chicks dig 'em, bigtime.