What’s up with all the khaki and zips?

Whether you call yourself a tourist or a traveller, whether you are away for a week or a year, I bet you have clothing in your bag that combines khaki and zips. If you are on an ‘adventure’ trip, chances are pretty much your entire wardrobe meets the khaki and zips description. When did this become the uniform to prove you were a hard core traveller – even if you are just on your way to Las Vegas for a weekend? Sure, safari suits were in fashion in the seventies, but have been completely lame ever since, so why is the travel uniform now basically a safari suit with 14 extra pockets and zips? Sure, it makes sense to have fabrics that are comfortable, that are suited for the heat or the cold, but there’s no reason they have to be khaki safari suits with added zips. And its not like other colours and styles aren’t available, so why look like a clone?
60's safari dress

When I first started travelling some 23 years ago, there were plenty of traveler uniforms, worn at different times by various sub-tribes. But everyone else just wore their most comfortable ‘normal’ clothes that suited the climate. There was the tie-dye/hippy look  available in markets worldwide, which we were already deriding as “so last decade” but somehow would end up with bits of in the pack the longer we travelled -but at least it always got thrown away as soon as we got home. 
hippy travel style
There was the ‘track pants teamed with souvenir t-shirts of places we’d been to’ look (or alternatively t-shirts with the logos of beers we had drunk). There was the preppy golf shirt look, preferably a Lacoste knock-off from Istanbul or Kuta. There was even a period (particularly for British travellers) of shiny shell suits in violently clashing colours. All of these were pretty bad looks, but we were unlikely to find every traveler we met wearing the same thing, and it was at least colourful. So when did the “styled by Ralph Lauren’s tasteless cousin with an oversupply of khaki and zips” trend start to creep in, and how did it get so ubiquitous?


khaki shorts
The first time I really noticed it completely taking over was about five years ago in Luang Prabang. It was the same time I noticed two other very disturbing (for me) trends. I realised that well over 50% of the tourists in Luang Prabang at the time were baby boomers – far outnumbering the young backpackers and everyone else in between. I don’t know if it was just a fluke, a random occurance, but it certainly surprised me. And every single one of those baby boomers were wearing expensive “made for travel” khaki trousers, with zip off legs and countless other pockets and zips. And far too many of them were pairing their khaki trousers with crocs. The takeover of khaki zipped trouser + croc wearing baby boomers was painfully obvious as they elbowed their way in every morning so they could shove their camera lens three inches from the faces of the monks as they wound their way around town at dawn collecting alms. It was not a pretty picture of the potential future of travel. It was consistent across at least a dozen nationalities that I could identify. And while it was most obvious on the babyboomers, it was certainly not exclusive to them.

I was reminded of it when I read “Brick Lane” by Monica Ali – its a book about immigrants, not travel. But I laughed when I read a paragraph where one of her characters made the following observation:
The white people wore trousers with pockets all over them. They had pockets at the thigh, the knee, down on their shins. All their clothes had little tabs and toggles, zips and flaps and fasteners. It was as if they had dressed themselves in tents and to settle for the night they would simply insert a few poles and lay down.


safari jacket
On a recent flight, after being on safari in Tanzania, I was reading the inflight magazine ‘Tailwind” and came across a like minded article by Anthea Rowan, who also has a really interesting blog ReluctantMemsahib. Here’s some quotes from her article, confirming that I am not the only person perplexed by the khaki and zips uniform.
Why have tourists visiting Africa developed such a zealous fondness for Khaki? And zips? And multitudes of pockets? Yes, I can understand why a soldier wears khaki during battle – mainly so he’s not seen  – by his similarly khaki clad enemy – and shot. But it doesn’t explain why tourists feel the need to look like a commando squad on active duty when they come to look at out wildlife.

Most of them will tell you it’s because they’re going for a game drive and want to creep up on the wildlife unseen.  How? In their black and white mini van with a dozen camera shutters clicking paparazzi-style? Even if their khaki uniforms rendered them magically invisible to the animals, I reckon there’s a pretty good chance the pride of lion/herd of elephant/cheetah and cubs might spot the fleet of 4×4’s surrounding them, get up and slope off out of sight.

Is your bag full of khaki and zips? Be adventurous, try a different color, a different style, or even clothes you’d be seen dead in at home!
Disclaimer: the author has been known to wear cargo pants on urban adventures (to the local cafes), and has even travelled with them once or twice, but has never owned (and never will) a pair of zip-off khaki trouser/shorts. Or a matching shirt. Unless they go out of fashion and everyone stops wearing them – then she may reconsider.

Is this the best travel photo gadget ever?

I found this by accident yesterday, I have no idea how long its been around, but I think it is the best gadget ever! “Big call” I hear you say. Yes it is.
Travel Tripod

How many times over the years have I ruined my low light photos by hand holding my camera and getting camera shake? Sure, I know I should carry a tripod, but a lot of the time it just seems too bulky, too much hassle.

And then I found this.
Travel Tripod

Its a bit like the head of a tripod, but designed to be screwed onto a bottle top or the top of a thin fence/wall/balcony. So just imagine, it’s sunset, I am kicking back with a beer, I wish I had a tripod, and voila – screw this gadget on, and the beer bottle becomes my tripod – or my water bottle, or rum bottle, or the top edge of the glass fence around the bar, or the chair back…… So now I can improvise a tripod where ever I am – how MacGyver!!

The instructions say it only takes around 500gms, so a compact camera, or a light DSLR. But I tested it with my camera and lense, a total of 1.2 kg, and as long as the beer bottle was full then it held it stable. It definitely needs a weighty, stable base for the bigger camera, but it can work – I think the size of the lense would be a bigger problem than the weight.
Travel Tripod

Mine was on sale for $4.99, down from $9.95 – a bargain. Its a very light construction, I don’t know how durable it will be, but at that price it doesn’t have to last long to be worth it. I think theres a great market for medium to heavy SLRs if they make a heavy, higher quality version too, at a higher price point – I’d buy it.