There’s a reason that tree planters don’t bring designer attire into the bush. Find out what clothing works best for planting and why.
In our last post, we talked about equipment and other items to bring to the bush. This week, let’s talk about what clothing is right for you. When it comes to items like your planting equipment, your tent, your sleeping bag, and so on, it’s good to invest your money into good quality gear. But when it comes to clothing, second hand can be cost effective and just as good as (if not better than) new clothing.
For basic clothing, you should be good with several pairs of socks. Keeping your feet in good condition is a must. Your boots will be your primary line of defense to keep your feet dry, but having comfortable socks is just as important. Many planters find that the best approach is a combination of two layers of socks. Poly pro inner socks are going to be better for staying dry and comfortable than regular cotton socks. Over the top of the poly pro, you can add a pair of wool outer socks. The wool socks help make sure your feet fit more snugly into your boots without as much direct pressure.
With the extra cushioning of two pairs of socks, you’re also less likely to get blisters, especially if your boots are the proper size and worked in gradually. Sometimes, if a planter has a pair of boots that is difficult to keep dry, he or she will even wear a bread bag on each foot (on wet days only), in between the two layers of socks. If you find that the bread bag makes your socks slide down, try wrapping a piece of duct tape around each ankle, placed low rather than at the top of the sock.
Next, let’s move on to underwear. You’ll definitely want several pairs, maybe including a pair or two of long underwear for the start of the season and for rain days. A pair of rain pants over long underwear is generally a lot more comfortable than rain pants over work pants. Speaking of work pants, you’ll want to own a couple pairs, and a belt. You’ll lose a lot of weight during the season, so pants that fit well in May will be dragging low by the middle of June. You might also want a pair of sweat pants to sleep in.
For your upper body, you’ll want a few t-shirts, and a few long-sleeved shirts. T-shirts are light and comfortable in the right conditions, but they have some drawbacks. Your long sleeved shirts will be good for keeping the bugs away, and for protecting your skin from the sun. Light coloured dress shirts works great. The collar of the dress shirt will help protect the back of your neck from the sun. Likewise, a light hat with a big floppy brim will keep the sun off the back of your neck and out of your eyes (sunglasses are useless). A heavy fleece sweatshirt is a life-saver on a cold day.
For boots, there is no clear winner. If you ask a dozen planters for a recommendation, you’ll get a dozen answers. Some people wear “caulked” boots which have metal spikes on the bottom, for better traction. Some people wear heavy-duty hikers or mountaineering boots. Some wear rainboots. Others wear steel-toed work boots. And finally, some people buy army surplus combat boots, which tend to last for quite a while. Whatever you decide to buy, make sure you wear them for a few days before you get to the bush, to start working them in and making them comfortable. There is nothing worse than sort feet when you’re planting. Some people will have a pair of heavy duty leather boots of some sort for normal use, and then a pair of cheap rubber boots for bad rain days. The side bonus with this approach is that you have a pair of backup boots that you can wear for a day if your regular boots are making your feet too sore. You should also have a spare pair of regular hikers that you can wear as a “town boot” in public.
Finally, make sure you have adequate rain gear. You’ll still get partly wet even with the best rain gear, but you’re going to be a lot happier if that’s due to warm sweat instead of cold rain. However, be cautious about spending too much on rain gear. No matter what you buy, it will inevitably get ripped up on slash and logs, so don’t invest a fortune. If it’s likely only going to last one season, you probably don’t want to budget much more than $100 (this is one of the few items of clothing that you might want to buy new instead of used). If you plant for a number of seasons, you’ll undoubtedly go through several sets of rain gear.
One last important item: don’t forget to bring a pair of gloves too. Your gloves shouldn’t be too thick, because you don’t want to be fumbling around while trying to grab a single tree out of your draw-bag. If you google “Viking nitri-dex glove” you’ll see one great option, but it’s best if you buy a few pairs as you’ll wear them out fairly quickly.
Again, don’t think you need to have fancy new options when it comes to clothing. If there’s one thing that the tree planter community embraces, it’s the unique hippie counterculture look that comes naturally from a trip to your local community thrift store! Remember that everything you wear is eventually going to get destroyed, and shop for items with some flair, that only cost a few dollars!