Photos courtesy of Paka

This Brand Leads The 'Pac' in Sustainable Travel Clothes

Technology + Gear
by Tim Wenger Suzie Dundas Oct 10, 2023

Our editors put the Paka Hoodie and Paka Everyday Base Layer to the test — in the outdoors, on the road, and in the cold. What they found was that the brand creates durable, reliable clothing that’s eco-friendly, to boot.

There are so many reasons to cheer the arrival of fall: The colors. The harvest. The slightly darker tint and richer flavor of the beer in my pint glass. But what I most look forward to each year, the thing that actually gets me out of bed and outdoors into the crisp air of an early autumn morning, is this: it’s finally hoodie season. This year, I acquired the Paka Hoodie, available direct from the brand, and I’ve rarely taken it off since it arrived.

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Tracing the sustainability of the Paka Hoodie

Photo courtesy of Paka
Photo courtesy of Paka

Unboxing a new clothing item that you’ve anxiously awaited is one of life’s most underrated joys. Instead of the item itself, the first thing I noticed upon opening up the package containing my Paka Hoodie was a small recyclable postcard with a QR code. This QR code took me to a website where I could trace the origins of my hoodie, back to the actual alpaca the wool was sourced from in Peru. This included info on the farm and even when the hoodie was made. Living in an agricultural community, I’ve become quite accustomed to farm-to-table food, but the Paka Hoodie is certainly my first true experience with farm-to-body clothing. Granted, this piece of clothing came from some 3,800 miles away to my front door in Colorado, but that’s actually far shorter than the commute traversed by clothes made in Vietnam or Indonesia.

This complements the original reasons why I purchased a hoodie made of alpaca fur. Those are:

Renewable and biodegradable fiber: Alpaca wool is a natural fiber sourced from the fleece of alpacas. Unlike synthetic materials like polyester, it is renewable and biodegradable. This means that at the end of its life cycle, alpaca wool will break down naturally, reducing its environmental impact.
Low environmental impact: Alpacas have a relatively low environmental footprint compared to other livestock. They have efficient digestive systems, produce less methane, and can thrive in harsh environments, reducing the need for intensive farming practices.

Low water usage: Alpacas require significantly less water than other livestock, such as cattle or sheep. This reduces the strain on water resources, making alpaca wool production more sustainable in regions prone to water scarcity.

No chemical inputs: Alpacas are hardy animals that require minimal chemical inputs like pesticides and herbicides. This reduces the pollution associated with farming practices and makes alpaca wool production more environmentally friendly.

Longevity and durability: Alpaca wool is known for its durability and longevity. Garments made from alpaca wool tend to last longer than those made from synthetic fibers, reducing the frequency at which clothing needs to be replaced.

Of course, I could have simply bought a sweatshirt made of organic cotton. However, as an avid outdoorsman, I’ve come to loathe wearing cotton in anything short of perfect weather. Alpaca fur is both hypoallergenic and very breathable, meaning that even when I’m e-bike commuting in the still-pretty-warm Autumn afternoons in Colorado, I don’t have to worry about sweating through my hoodie.

The Paka Hoodie looks good outdoors and inside

As noted above, I spend a good amount of time outside, be that biking, hiking, or playing in the yard with my young daughter. As a travel journalist and avid snowboarder, I’m also on the road quite often. These factors combine to drive me towards a style of dress that emphasizes versatility and multi-purpose utility as much as, and often more than, fashion sense. Admittedly, I live in a place (western Colorado) that is known for casual dress, making it easier to get away with wearing the same hoodie five days a week than it might be in more formal emplacements. Still, no matter where I travel I want to have clothes that are comfortable and functional everywhere from an airplane to a mountain trail to happy hour.

The Paka Hoodie stands out foremost because of its functionality. But, prior to this one, I’d never owned a hoodie that convinced me that I looked good. Typically, hoodies are what you wear when you don’t need to impress. Not to say I’m ready to hit the runway, but I recently wore the hoodie over a black t-shirt and a decent pair of jeans to weekday coffee with a professional acquaintance – and I felt both confident and presentable.

Later that same day I wore the Paka Hoodie on an e-bike ride in 50-degree weather and managed to ride a clean and comfortable line between sweaty back and shivers. It was perfect, and as an added bonus, that day signaled two weeks of wearing the hoodie almost daily and, aside from a few quick spot treatments due to my own inability to avoid spilling coffee and snack crumbs, I hadn’t had to wash it yet.

My go-to for the shoulder season

The Paka Hoodie expertly fills the gaps between t-shirt weather and puffy jacket season. It’s ideal for flying, lounging, early morning dog walks, and laptop labor. While it isn’t the layer that’s going to protect me from encroaching foul weather, it has become my go-to for the long transition period that happens between summer and winter, and vice versa. This means the hoodie is among my most-used articles of clothing for a solid four to five months of the year. At its $139 price point, the Paka Hoodie is an absolute bargain – and an eco-friendly one, at that.

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-Tim Wenger

The Paka Everyday Base Layer is warm, dry, and functional

Photo courtesy of Paka
Photo courtesy of Paka

I tested the Paka Everyday Base Layer, and I liked it way more than I expected to.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate a base layer — but I find that they’re usually skin tight, especially too tight around the shoulders and armpits. So I sized up when testing the Paka base layer, which likely was a mistake — I probably could have gone with a small, since the sizing seems very on point. That said, it’s still one of my new favorite shirts, and I only wish I had a few more of the thicker similar styles to wear into winter. This one is super soft, with no scratchy tags or hems.

My favorite thing about the Paka base layer, aside from the flattering, straight-line fit, is the warmth. For being a relatively thin feeling shirt, I found myself a bit overheated on a recent September trip to northern Vancouver Island when I wore it in 60-degree weather (and I’m a personal that normally gets cold pretty easily). And when it started lightly raining, it didn’t get very wet. Because it’s thin, it doesn’t absorb much moisture, and when my traveling companions were still a little damp 10 minutes later, I was pretty dry. So I believe the brand when it says it’s both quick-drying and thermoregulation.

Paka says their shirts are anti-odor, which in my experience, was true. I wore it four days in a row before putting it to the smell test, and it smelled pretty much like nothing. Considering I’d worn it on a full day of flying and driving, under several layers on an all-day boat tour, and for walking around in sporadic rain, the fact that it didn’t have any type of body odor or moldy smell was pretty great. However, what it did have was lots of wrinkles, as you can see in this photo (insert wrinkle photo). Fortunately, I travel with a wrinkle releaser spray, but I can’t say it looked totally unworn after a week in a suitcase.

The only thing I disliked about this shirt was my own fault: Paka recommended I got a size small, but because I dislike tight shirts and have a long torso, I went with a medium. Truthfully, it looks a little baggy on me, and in some photos, the balled up extra fabric at the bottom looks a little like a flab roll. So I actually would advise going with the size chart recommendation. I’m 5’7″ and about 135 pounds, but with broad shoulders and long arms. The green color is also a little lighter than it appears on the website swatch — the model photos are more accurate.

I’d also advise maybe buying more than one. I wish I had also gotten the thicker crew sweater, as I have a feeling the combination of the base layer with the crew over it would be a warm, winter-ready combo.

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-Suzie Dundas

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