Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Patagonia Wavefarer Short

I heard a short radio news piece the other day about President Obama's wardrobe. Apparently he decided, only a short while into his presidency, that he was only going to keep gray and blue suits in his closet. That way he never has to think about what he's going to wear. Even small decisions like deciding what to wear can take valuable time out of one's day and distract one from more important tasks.

My days are certainly not as busy as Barack Obama's, but I still don't like thinking about what I'm going to wear each day. I decided to stock my closet with only a few specific items long ago. I love and hate outdoor clothing. When you climb a lot things wear out. Having functional new gear is nice, but finding the right product can be really challenging. Often replacing those well-loved items presents a significant challenge because manufacturers no longer make certain functional products, having moved on to something newer, lighter, or "better".

Certain designs are timeless and functional though, and smart gear and clothing companies opt to keep these products' design, cut, and construction the same or similar to past iterations of that product. Products like Cold Cold World packs, The OR Ferrosi Hoody, and FiveTen's Guide Tennie all come to mind. They've remained relatively unchanged over the years because their simple design is functional and minimalist. Things don't need to be changed just because competitors are releasing "better" new products.


One such item is the Patagonia Wavefarer Boardshort. For five years I've been almost exclusively wearing Wavefarer shorts during the summertime months. They're simple, lightweight and durable. I bought two pairs of Wavefarers in 2007, and two more pairs in 2008. Since then I haven't bought another pair of shorts. I've run, climbed, hiked, swam, surfed, and clowned around in them on every summer day during the past five summers. They're light enough to approach alpine climbs and then stuff in your pack when you change into pants as the weather cools or the terrain changes to snow, and they're durable enough to butt slide down rock slabs with a pack on during warm days on the rock. Ironically, there are much better boardshorts out there for surfing, but if you want a short that does it all these are the real deal.

Constructed of simple Supplex nylon, Wavefarer shorts have a minimum of pockets and seams, things that will break, tear or wear out. A classic one button/drawstring flat-lying waist keeps them snug on your hips and won't chafe with a pack on. One zipper pocket on the right side is big enough to hold my wallet, phone and keys, but only barely. Don't plan on carrying too much in there. A knee-length inseam makes these shorts long enough but not too long.

Sizing the Wavefarer short correctly is important. The waist isn't very adjustable so getting the right waist size will make them fit properly. For me, size 33, which is the same as all other Patagonia pants I wear, is the right size - snug when they come out of the dryer and stretching to a comfortable fit once I've worn them a few days. If they're sized too loosely they'll fall off. Unless you can find them to try on in a store, mail ordering a few pairs in various sizes and returning the ones that don't fit might be the way to go.

Over five years, wearing three pairs (I lost my favorite pair shortly after getting them), the only problem I've had is that the stitching along the butt has blown out on two of the pairs. This is easy to fix with a needle and thread - there's no need to replace the shorts, just repair them and keep going.

Several of the pairs I own have solid color Supplex fabric. Recently Patagonia has been making the shorts with print pattern fabrics, which I'm not in love with. However, several of the more subdued print patterns are fine, and after the shorts break in you won't notice the pattern at all. This year's lineup includes solid patterns again, which is nice, and also includes stretch versions, and longer and shorter inseams. At $60 a pair, the Wavefarer short isn't cheap, but if you calculate the number of days you'll wear these the cost seems reasonable. If you're looking for shorts that you can wear 24-hours a day during the summer months, the Wavefarers are the way to go.

Last year's model are on sale now at the Patagonia website. They're $41 which seems pretty reasonable given how long they're going to last.