- Buyer's Guide
My Techwear Packing List
If you’re on the hunt for the ultimate fashion/function balance in your packing list, techwear is a niche definitely worth exploring. And having somewhere to start is always helpful if you’re new to the scene (or simply looking to unearth great pieces you may not have heard of). So we reached out to Expedition Documentarian Benjamin Pothier, a man who often finds himself in demanding and diverse environments, to share his ace techwear packing list…
As an Expedition Documentarian, a PhD researcher in Anthropology and a recently elected international fellow member of the Explorers Club (NYC), I’ve had experience packing for a wide range of trips. These included venturing to the driest desert on Earth with a group of astronaut candidates, an 18-day journey on a boat in the Arctic Ocean, the Himalayas, and more than a month’s stay at a research station in the high Arctic in between Finland and Norway. But it’s probably the first time I’ve packed for an 800,000-kilometer trip, sort of.
You see, I got the amazing opportunity to be invited by the artist Daniela de Paulis to actually send my photos to the moon and back as radio waves from Dwingeloo Radio Telescope in the north of Amsterdam. Crazy as it sounds, it’s for real.
Check it out: we used a formerly classified technique to beam to the moon and back a radio signal containing my photo of the Mars Curiosity Rover Test Site in the Atacama Desert:
“Communication Moon Relay was a military project by the U.S. Navy using the technology ‘Moonbounce’, also called Earth-Moon-Earth. This is a radio communications technique developed shortly after WWII which allows sending radio signals to the Moon and receive them back as reflection. Communication Moon Relay grew out of many ideas and concepts in radio espionage. Some impetus for the project was provided by the post-war efforts to develop methods of tracking radio signals, particularly those originating in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Communication Moon Relay played an important role in the Cold War and the Space Race.”
Source: Daniela De Paulis
This is the image I selected (on the left) and what it looked like coming back from the moon (on the right).
A trip to the Netherlands from France is definitely more urban than outdoorsy, but beyond my quest for adventures in the wild I am also a big fan of what is now called “techwear”, i.e. a streetwear fashion style as much as a daily life application of gear and clothing developed first for extreme environments and the outdoors. If you are familiar with science fiction like Ghost in the Shell, you probably have an idea of what I’m talking about: Super technical black Gore-Tex hardshells, next generation textiles and fabrics, designs influenced by Japanese streetwear, practicality, insanely technical bags, and oh man, many layers!
I therefore took the opportunity to share my more usual packing habits, a light EDC and a selection of my favorite techwear gear, bags and clothing.
This is my quite usual packing for a professional short trip in any European country, for a not too hard winter. Some of my choices were definitely influenced by the techwear scene, some come from my experiences during mountaineering.
If you want to know more about the techwear trend, check the hashtag #Techwear on Instagram. You’ll see some amazing fit pics by some people from the scene that I salute! (@Acrhive @erlsn.acr @blahboahbkah @Bagjack @valdizbro @aokuco , just to name a few…)
What I like mostly for my gear is versatility, high-tech textiles, ruggedness, waterproofing and breathability.
The Netherlands can be a bit cold and misty, but colors pop up sometimes unexpectedly…
HARDSHELL & RAINWEAR:
Since 2014 my favorite hardshell is my beloved and much taken care of Acronym jacket, a brand that has been a synonym of techwear since the beginning, and which is sometimes considered the “Porsche of Hardshells”. Beyond the breathability of Gore-Tex that also provides a neat waterproofing that I have tested in Fall in the North of Finland, I like the overall look of the GT-J34 that maintains an amazing balance between a killer techwear Japanese style (even though it’s designed by a Canadian from Chinese-Jamaican origins living in Berlin) and the quiet anonymity of its overall look and cut. Neat for a professional rendezvous or to attend an international conference, and streetwear enough to walk anonymously in Paris or Prague’s subway.
However, as there was a storm alert in France and the Netherlands the week I took my train, I also packed a supplementary Gore-Tex Pro parka. It’s actually a NATO-approved survival rain protection. It’s very rugged (I guess it’s the new version of Gore-Tex Pro) as well as pretty minimalistic (there are no pockets for example). I must admit that the very simple design reminds me of Ghost in the Shell, and on other occasions I have used this one during a training run in the rain for example.
For the same reason (storm alert) I also packed this neat pair of Gore-Tex pants from Beyond Clothing, even though most of my pants already have a DWR coating. These pants do the job, i.e protect you from heavy rain. And Gore-Tex breathability is certainly a plus in terms of comfort.
Items I definitely didn’t use on a daily basis in urban environments before participating in expeditions are base layers and long johns. I find them particularly handy since I used some extensively in the Himalayas, Arctic and on Ojos Del Salado in Chile. For this trip I wore a Beyond Clothing pair of bottom base layers. It’s the best way for me to still wear a pair of jeans during the cold months in Northern Europe. I have many different pairs of base layers, but I particularly appreciate this one from Beyond Clothing due to its particular texture and fabric. I must say it’s actually as they mention on their website:
a high-performance breathable, moisture wicking baselayer built from Polartec’s® super lightweight Power Grid™ fleece. The next-to-skin grid pattern is made up of air channels that help release excess body heat and perspiration. The smooth exterior of the fabric forces moisture to disperse and evaporate quickly. The grid construction also increases compressibility and reduces garment weight.
It’s incredibly comfortable and allows me to still wear in colder months some of my favorite lightweight pants.
Layering was a good idea for that one-hour wait at the railway station in The Hague…
One of my favorite pairs of pants is the swrve Downtown Blk Label.
I was wearing them when I met the French Ambassador in Nepal at the Embassy, at my show opening in South Africa, while biking in Paris and recently in the Netherlands with a pair of long johns underneath. I found this brand while searching for techwear a few years ago and I am more than happy to have discovered it. The versatility is great. The fabric is flexible enough to feel very comfy while biking or even hiking, yet very durable and waterproof with a DWR coating. Definitely a classic for me.
I also brought for this trip a pair of Knight Pants from POUTNIK BY TILAK that will soon become another favorite.
A little techwear gem coming from the Czech Republic and pretty hard to find in France.
The fabric is lighter and I was definitely wearing long johns underneath, but I’m sure I will enjoy these in the warmer days. The overall cut with articulated knees makes it extremely comfortable on a daily basis. It’s a bit less formal than the swrve Downtown pants, with that clear “techwear” look, but still neat enough for a professional meeting. The plus is definitely the super innovative cut. I think it’s got DWR treatment but I can’t confirm that. And the line was designed in collaboration with Errolson Hugh from Acronym.
Meet Japan’s techwear best kept secret.
One of the most comfy hoodies I’ve ever owned, that I currently wear in urban environments but that I will probably use extensively during expeditions as well in the coming years. I am more than happy to own this one that is super hard to get in France. You don’t need to go full ninja to understand how comfortable and well thought out this hoodie is. 100% recommendation on any gear from this amazing brand.
Step into the future with this piece definitely at the border of techwear and fashion tech.
The kind of gear I enjoyed wearing while working at a radio telescope. Talking about innovative textiles, this one is a beast: DWR, Cordura combat wool lining, odor control and super comfy kangaroo pockets. A glimpse at the future of clothing probably. I packed it as an upper layer and deeply enjoyed having it for those rainy days in the Netherlands.
As an active runner I particularly enjoy GYAKUSOU, a collaboration between Undercover and Nike. I own various gear from Gyakusou and bought this nice wool beanie recently. My head is usually shaved so a beanie is definitely welcome during winters.
I’ve used it in the Arctic Circle and came back for more…one of the best top base layers I’ve ever owned. Certified by the FBI diving team and made with a fabric developed for NASA. I’ve enjoyed its comfort on the Arctic Ocean and sleeping at 5300 meters high near the Nepal-Tibet border in the Himalayas, as well as on that cold evening in Den Haag’s subway coming back home after a nice dinner and a few glasses of red wine with some artist friends who collaborate with the European Space Agency.
Apart from this, I packed some Merino underwear and wool socks.
A Merino T-shirt from Howies, two other T-shirts and a black wool pullover with no brand, that’s simply comfortable and looks neat.
I’ve been using this lightweight yet durable toiletry bag since 2015, and find nothing to complain about it. The hanging feature is definitely a plus, be it on a lodge in the Himalayas or in a hotel or Airbnb room.
Considering my work as an Expedition Documentarian you can easily imagine that I have quite a collection of bags. A part of my desk is actually filled with Pelican and Nanuk cases filled with microphones and camera gear, and I own a large collection of backpacks as well, including prototypes I tested for different companies during my trips. However, for this particular trip I decided to go quite “low profile”.
A versatile camera suitcase that I have traveled with from South Africa to the Arctic Circle, and from Brazil to China.
Apparently not available anymore. I enjoy this model in which I usually fit my clothing, some gear and my tripod while traveling by plane (not carry-on) and in this case on the Paris-Den Haag high speed train. Not much to complain about it, after 5 years or something of intensive use it still looks pretty neat and doesn’t scream “photo equipment”. Thanks to the removable panels I have used it to carry only film-making equipment on many occasions, for example to interview the astronaut candidate Ulyana Horodyskyj at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris in 2017, meaning that a 4K recording studio including lights, tripod, camera and high-end audio recorder with HF and gunshot mic fit into this little beast. But as I said previously you can definitely remove the panels and use it as a “normal” suitcase for a three-week trip. My only concern would be the lack of omni-directional wheels. The best feature is the three handles on the top, bottom and side, so that the taxi driver puts it nicely in the rear of his car. An overall very good product, but not surprising coming from Lowepro.
Yes, a good old Eastpak backpack…can you get that “Back to school” feeling?
I bought it years ago…maybe in 2008 or something. Along the years it became my do-everything bag. In the past I’ve managed to fit inside a Hakama and full Aikido gear plus Aikido sandals, I’ve used it as a grocery bag many times, and even to carry pieces of wood for a sculpture project. I think you’ve got the idea…
I however use it from time to time as a photography bag in sync with a WOTANCRAFT waterproof and shock-resistant pouch:
Once again the idea is to not draw too much attention while still providing protection for my camera. I use other backpacks and camera bags for expeditions or on other occasions, but for this short trip to the Netherlands it was perfect. Definitely not a bag that will draw attention in a Paris subway at 6am, but that’s the idea.
BAGJACK SNIPER BAG + HNTR POUCH & PACK
A Next Level bag from Berlin. I must say I loved bagjack gear before I got the amazing opportunity to collaborate with them. The Sniper Bag that was released last year comes with so many features I might forget some…amongst them the integrated/removable soft shell muff is definitely amazing.
The MOLLE webbing is also a nice feature, moreover considering that you can decide which side of the bag you want to have facing toward you. Meaning that you can switch from a pretty badass bag with strapped pouches to a low-profile and very classy “man purse”. Regarding the quality, it’s handmade in Berlin with top-quality fabrics, and the people at bagjack are definitely skilled craftsmen and women. Probably the reason why Acronym bags are made by the same company.
I use the pouch to carry a Nomad PowerPack that fits perfectly inside it. The same as usual for bagjack, the quality is top-notch and every detail is very well thought out. The people at bagjack bring a 19th century craftsman’s attention to quality and details to a 21st century use of innovative fabric and next level design.
The Sniper Bag in Full Mode with the two pouches attached through the MOLLE system…from a discreet stealth mode bag to a badass do-it-all techwear bag.
FOLDABLE GROCERY BAG MADE WITH RECYCLED PLASTIC
I bought this one in an organic store in The Hague, and now it never leaves my Sniper bag. Perfect for bringing some wine to a party, then coming back with it folded in my Sniper Bag.
A very well designed power bank that I use with their dedicated cable.
I like the super neat black design and ruggedness and it definitely does the job.
This universal cable comes with integrated multi-tip charging options to charge mobile devices. The core cable is USB A to Micro USB. Two attached tips, an MFi approved Lightning tip and a USB Type C tip, let you charge iPhone, Android and other USB powered devices. I must say I now use this cable most of the time with my various USB devices.
One of my favorite flashlights from FoxFury, I don’t think my white model is still available. A neat flashlight made by a company that produces forensic flashlights for the FBI and other agencies. The shape makes it a “nice” tactical flashlight.
I made this in 2008 and brought it with me on many occasions, as well as used it while working on my sculptures. I brought it for this specific trip because I wasn’t so sure about the new rules in the Thalys high speed train so I didn’t pack any multi-tools or knives, but still wanted to have a small screwdriver that could also be used as a small pry bar (I actually took the same train as the one featured in the Clint Eastwood movie depicting a failed terror attempt between Bruxelles and Paris. And security has increased since that event).
BELLROY ALL CONDITIONS PASSPORT COVER
Apparently it’s not made anymore by Bellroy, but I guess it’s pretty similar to this. I must say that I am very satisfied with this Passport Cover from Bellroy. The mini pen inside is always useful for filling in documents on the plane, the waterproofing is definitely a plus, and it has a classy design and a great feel.
Since my first Arctic trip I always pack an OP/TECH Rainsleeve when I plan to do photography or film-making. My camera deserves a little hardshell as much as I do!
I also packed a light photography setup, consisting of a Nikon D7500 and a Giottos Vitruvian VGRN8265 tripod.