Updated: What the Well-Dressed Frugal Liveaboard Wears

Ladies, I think, all rather decked out in sartorial splendor.

See the extensive comment below.

Pants.  All that I’ve read says that you can get by, if you have to, with one pair.  No thanks.  Ideally, I’d have room for three.  In our quest for an affordable lifestyle, perhaps a life on the move, we’d recommend pants that can be washed in the sink or a clean river.  Pants that won’t shrink or balk at this sort of behavior are desired, as are pants that dry quickly.

So which pants?

I am a big and tall kinda buyer, so there are some brands that just don’t come in my size.   I’ve been going to REI for decades, being a native of it’s place of birth, the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve owned a few pair of these pants, and they’ve survived considerable abuse.   The only problem has been that I caught one of the open zippered pockets on something and destroyed the zipper. Reviews of these pants are universally high, with the only con noted, and not often at that, the weak zipper.   The price is about $50.    There is some debate in travel/minimalist living circles about the right fabrics.  Most eschew cotton, some love wool, most choose manmade fabrics such as nylon.  The reasons are below.  Nylon has become the norm.  The only wool pant to be found in most places are dress slacks.

One reviewer said:  Overall these are among the most stylish and practical travel pants I have owned. Excellent especially for the price. Pretty enough for lunch in that clichéd Parisian café (and yes, Parisian men do sit around cafés discussing the cut of other patrons’ trousers) and practical enough for a hike up Machu Picchu. If they had a slightly shorter rise and a good place for a cell phone they’d get five stars.
If you have a young son going on a European adventure do your country a favor and buy him a pair of these. There are already way too many Americans wandering around cathedrals looking like they are in search of a basketball game.

It probably makes sense to have a heavy pair of jeans, probably much better an idea than dress slacks.   You are, i suppose, far more likely to need a solid and strong pair of pants than some spiffy city slicker’s dress slacks.   Neither jeans nor dress slacks will dry as quickly as the nylon pants above.

I’m not living aboard at this time, so I can only speak as a 9 to 6 land-lubber.  I have, however, used these pants for a couple of years in travel both overseas and local, at work, for boatbuilding and more.

What is your thinking on pants or other clothing?  Share your experience.  What do you think you’ll need in clothing if you adopt an affordable lifestyle afloat?  Comments welcome below.


Originally posted 2016-04-30 18:32:19.

A website about Shantyboats and affordable living on the water. More than 800 stories to date, and growing.


  1. Just a quick comment as I head out the door for Movie Night with a bunch of friends… I love jeans and would no doubt have a couple pair (or more, including a pair of heavy ones for any rough work that might be needed… firewood gathering, perhaps?). And for comfy clothing in cooler weather I like synthetic fleece because it is warm, soft, handwashable and dries quickly. But for all-round wears-like-iron-and-lasts-forever-while-looking-decent frugality, I’ve found nothing to compete with polyester-cotton khaki twill pants from Lands End or a similar supplier. The mens styles are more durable in 65% poly/35% cotton while the womens are 40% poly/60% cotton.

    More later…

  2. AMSEA (Alaska Marine Safety Education Association) and local SAR groups have a phrase “cotton kills”. One of their training exercises (conducted while out-of-doors) is to drape a damp, cotton towel around a student’s neck, and leave it there for a couple of hours. Most quickly get the point.

    I used to be a jeans man; Carhardt duck, when I could afford it. But, one sweltering day in Port Townsend, WA, along comes ol’ Bart, wearing wool pants.

    “Bart,” I gasped, “How can you stand it??”

    “Easy,” he replied, looking indeed cool and collected, “Wool is cool in summer, warm in winter.”

    I have to admit, I scoffed. But years later, after the AMSEA drill, I tried wool pants in cool weather. The change was astounding. I was immediately warmer. The surprise came when spring rolled into summer, ahead of my wardrobe, and I was, in fact, noticably cooler in wool than my beloved jeans. Now, every time I get back into a pair, for whatever reason, I’m immediately less comfortable.

    So now, the high tech fabrics being out of my budget for testing, I tend toward wool pants. Heavier (usually military surplus bargains) in winter, and mid-weight dress slacks (2nd hand, herring-bone or ‘brushed’ finish) in summer.

    As I write, I’m wearing the mid-weight around, with a pair of poly fleece sweats for long underwear. These were comfortable in the 10degF temps we had a week ago (while working, anyway).

    I wash them with everything else (many are marked ‘dry clean only’ in warm or hot water, then hang dry (they dry quickly). No problems. I like them slightly generous at the waist if there’s a chance I’ll wear the sweats under them.

    One tip for 2nd hand buying: somebody told me that one’s neck is half one’s waist diameter. Hold the pants at each side of the waistband (WB flat), and hold around your neck. If the two ends just touch, it’ll fit, without taking to the dressing room. This works for both Anke and myself. Try it on yourself with a comfortable pair… even if it doesn’t work as advertised, note how much gap or overlap does.

    http://www.sportsmansguide.com/ is where we do a lot of our shopping… closeout bargains and military surplus.

    Topsides, we like to layer poly shirts (turtlenecks or t-shirts), fleece full-zip cardigans, a down vest and top-layer of pvc for rain or nylon shell for dry.

    Socks are actually our biggest expense. Can’t get good boot socks 2nd hand. Only sometimes through SG. Costco’s been our big supplier with bargains here and there.

    We’ve been experimenting with leather bunker (Fireman’s) boots. They’re okay in and out of the water, in decent company, hiking and on the street. Not excellent at any of these, but eliminate 4 pairs of footwear. A pair of slippers, sandals and mickey boots (for extreme cold) round out our footwear.

    Exposure (aka work) suits for very cold weather, with neck bands, gloves, watchcaps, etc…

    Gets expensive and bulky, really. But hard to trim any further.

Comments are closed.