Monday, 30 December 2013

What sort of underwear does a farmer wear?

This post is a bit of homage to Tim Budd’s blog at testedtodestruction.blogspot.com where he reviews gear that he uses fell running and hiking about in the Peak District of England.

I thought it would be interesting to review the gear I use every day.  Interesting for me, I can’t say what other people will think, but then a bit of holiday fun never hurt, so here goes…

Arc’teryx Theta AR Jacket ($630)
OK, now I know I have lost you.  What orchardist seriously wears a $600 jacket?  This one, for starters.  Hang in there, let me explain.  I was a climber, skier and hiker long before I was a farmer and having this jacket since becoming one has been brilliant.  Paired with an Icebreaker shirt and a holey Icebreaker 260 pullover (if anyone knows why merino shirts develop random holes send me an email, I really want to know) I have been toasty warm in all but the coldest work conditions.  When it gets really cool I add a Polartec vest to the mix.  The underarm zips allow me to release a bit of heat if I have to chase the sheep in the rain, and the pockets are big enough for a couple pairs of work gloves (I will get to those), while the inner pocket is great for keeping my phone dry.  I haven’t found a use for the sleeve ski pass pocket yet, but I’m sure I will.  Most importantly, despite copping a beating from blackberries, barbed wire fences, branches and lots of sharp edges, it looks as good as new.  I know I could buy 3 jackets for the money that will last just as long, but would they be as good and as versatile?  I doubt it.  All I know is I am glad I had this before we got the farm, and I am stoked to have it now.

Sealskinz Sporting Gloves (£50)
Most of the time I like to use the rubber-gripped work gloves that you can buy for $5 a pair in the hardware shop, mainly because I know they won’t last, and I am not wearing them for warmth.  The Sealskinz come out when it is cold and wet.  With an index finger and thumb that fold back for finding your keys, or picking up screws, or any finicky jobs, these save you pulling them off and putting them back on.  The leather palm is good and hard wearing, and only a little bit of water occasionally gets through where the index finger folds back.  The nose-friendly fabric on the thumb proved great when the wind comes up and your nose is running (not the nicest but there you have it, reality, not some ideal).  I simply can’t recommend them highly enough.

I am trying to destroy them, but no luck yet
Mountain Equipment Stretchlite Guide Pants (£70)
Another hangover from my climbing days, these are the only item of Mountain Equipment gear I have.  They were recommended by Tim and have proved great on the farm.  Not waterproof, but warm and pretty water resistant, plus when they get wet they also dry quickly.  The stretchiness that is aimed at climbers has made scrambling under and over fences, onto tractors, and through bush easy as pie.  They have a leg zip pocket and zip expandable calves which help when putting them into wellies/gumboots.  The only real downside is they don’t have belt loops, so I have to carry my Leatherman in my pocket instead of on my belt.  They are a bit warm when it gets over 20 degrees but then I go to cotton drill trousers anyway.

They also aren’t chainsaw-proof, but they slowed it down enough to save my leg!

Under Armour Boxerjock briefs ($35)
What?  Underwear?  Well you wouldn’t know it from his blog, but besides buying and destroying outdoor gear and fell running, Tim (together with Rob) also has ongoing obsession with finding the best pair of space-fabric travel underwear money can buy.  Well I think I have found them.  And yes, it is relevant on the farm, because you never know when a bull might be coming at you flat out.  When that happens, you need to know you have some nice underwear on in case the ambulance officer is good looking.

In all (sort of) seriousness, I travelled for 18 months with just 4 pairs of these (washing them of course!!), doing everything from climbing to diving to hiking and farmwork, in both hot and cold conditions.  They have been great for everything, and dry overnight when washed, keeping them on a quick rotation.  Unlike cotton boxers or briefs, or even previously owned Nike Combat compression shorts, they haven’t shown a single sign of wear.  No loose threads, no pilling, no wear patches.  Brilliant!  Since arriving back in Australia I have bought another pair.  My other Under Armour stuff has done pretty well, including my cap (which I can always seem to wash grease out of somehow), but the boxers have been standout performers.

Yes, this is me modelling my Under Armour (no not really but did you really expect a photo of that??)
Mongrel SP Zipsiders Boots ($140)
As roundly castigated as I have been for not supporting Tasmanian boot-maker Blundstone, I have to say that I support whoever makes the best gear, not just where they are based, and for me the new Australian company Mongrel are making the best boots around right now.

The fact is that Blundstone’s elastic-sided boots don’t provide any ankle support.  After a friend was laid up for months with a broken ankle after walking across a cow paddock, and having weak ankles myself from old basketball and football injuries, I decided to go with the Mongrel’s steel cap zip-sided boots.  The zips allow you to get them on and off quickly but the laces allow you to get it tight around the ankle.

They are simply one of the most comfortable work boots I have ever worn.  They don’t leak water until completely soaked and have good grip in the mud.  They also aren’t too heavy.  When it is too wet for these I go to the Blundstone wellies/gumboots which have also been great.

The steel caps get cold in winter when left outside, making for cold toes when starting out in the morning, but this can be combated effectively with a pair of steel cap socks with the extra insulation in the toes.  I have dropped an apple bin on my foot and thanked my stars for steel caps!

They don’t have such a pronounced heel like Blundstones, which makes tractor work a little harder (pushing the clutch on the tractor with the heel is easier), but modern tractors don’t have a clutch like Dad’s old John Deere 2010 so that doesn’t worry me much.

The light colour fabric has kept its colour, while the leather has darkened, leading to the boots taking on an odd two-tone colour, but I don’t mind paying that price for the best boots I have ever worn.

Yes, I was standing in my socks getting wet feet to take this picture

Special Gear Mentions:

Stihl MS170 Mini-Boss chainsaw ($399)
Well apart from the damage I nearly did to my leg with it, this chainsaw has been brilliant.  It punches well above its weight and can drop big trees, but is light enough to handle pruning with one hand.  It isn't the biggest, manliest chainsaw going, but it is truly outstandingly versatile value that is a steal for four hundred bucks.

 It absolutely demolished this rogue silver wattle
Leatherman Wingman ($50)
Always in the pocket, able to open the razor-sharp blade with one hand, with handy pliers, screwdrivers and the rest of the usual gadgets.  No tweezers though which is what always put me off getting one, but when my pocket knife was taken off me by airport security in Brisbane, I took the plunge.  All I can say is the one handed opening is bloody good, and it is cheaper than most other multi-tools.  It even fits in my old pocket knife belt case.


Conclusion

So there you have it, the gear I use.  Not “true” Tassie farmer style (where is the flannel, the Akubra hat?), but then we all take our baggage with us into whatever new life we choose, and I am no exception.  Hope to see you down on Our Mates’ Farm, whatever sort of underwear you choose to wear!

Wearing all the gear with a young Bob vying for attention