As someone whose trips typically revolve around tropical destinations, I've struggled to find the right multi-purpose travel top for quite a while. Airports, planes and especially long-distance buses are often air-conditioned to the point of discomfort, while mosquitoes and other bugs are a constant problem. The current fears about Zika are an obvious concern, but dengue fever, Lyme disease and malaria have been a worry for much longer.
I've made do with bug spray and a long-sleeve merino t-shirt for years, but regularly forget to apply the former, and it's usually too hot for the latter. As a result, when ExOfficio offered to send out one of its Lumos hoodies for an upcoming trip, I decided it was time to try a different approach.
Here's how it fared on a week-long trip to Southern Europe.
The ExOfficio Mens Lumos Hoody is part of the company's wider range of BugsAway apparel, which also includes shirts, pants, socks, and headwear. All of the BugsAway gear is treated with Permethrin insect repellent, rated to last through 70 washes (the average lifespan of the garment) and repel mosquitoes, ants, flies, ticks and other bugs.
Made from a blended cotton/polyester weave, the hoody comes in five sizes and four colors. Earlier versions of the Lumos had a kangaroo-style pocket on the front, but it's replaced in the current model with a single zippered pocket on the right-hand side.
There are thumb loops to minimize skin exposure when the bugs get particularly annoying (or the temperature really drops), and the hood has a pair of drawstrings to help keep it tight around your head if needed.
While there's no women's version of the Lumos, ExOfficio markets the similar Lumen hoody for its female customers, again in a range of colors and sizes.
I opted for the medium version, in “Road” coloring, and it fitted as expected. My trip took me through a variety of conditions, including cool morning starts, sunny days in the low 80's, humid evenings, thunderstorms and downpours, and cold airplanes.
As I was traveling with only a small carry-on bag, it was important that the hoody could be easily rolled up to minimize space, and didn't weigh any more than absolutely necessary. It succeeded in both categories. I was able to keep it accessible near the top of my backpack, and pulled it out whenever conditions dictated.
It was more stylish than expected – while hoodies aren't likely to win many fashion awards, it was fine to wear into mid-range bars and restaurants without feeling under-dressed.
The polycotton weave is quite thin, and it's clear the hoody is designed primarily for use in warm to cool conditions, rather than being a replacement for a dedicated sweater or jacket in winter. It was ideal for throwing on when temperatures dropped after the sun went down, but you'll want an under-layer in cold, windy weather.
The fabric was reasonably breathable, although I did find myself sweating lightly while walking around once the temperature got above 80 degrees or so.
Given the choice between that and bug bites, I know which I'd go for, but it's something to bear in mind if you'll be somewhere temperatures get much warmer than that.
There weren't many bugs around during my trip, so it's hard to gauge the effectiveness of the Permethrin-based “InsectShield” protection. That said, I've used that repellent in spray form in the past, to bug-proof clothing,backpack and bedding on a multi-week walk, and was never bitten or stung on any covered skin.
Unlike some insect-resistant fabrics, there was also no noticeable smell, either before or after washing it, and no skin irritation even after several hours of wear. I've had those issues with some kinds of spray-on insect repellent in the past, especially the DEET-based version, so that was a relief.
The hood was made from two separate pieces of fabric, which helped give it a little shape when being worn, and the drawstrings let me adjust it to be as loose or tight as desired.
I'm not typically a hood person, at least when it's not raining, but came to appreciate the extra warmth on a particularly cold, blustery evening.
Having a zipper on the pocket was useful for security, but as it's quite small, I never kept anything larger than a set of keys in there. While it was (just) possible to fit in a smaller smartphone, the pocket location on the side seam made keeping it there uncomfortable, and awkward to get in and out. You'll still want to carry a bag, or at least have some good-sized pockets in your pants for larger items.
If you're in the market for a versatile piece of clothing to keep the bugs away in tropical climates, and provide some extra warmth when the temperature drops, the ExOfficio BugsAway Lumos hoody is a solid choice.
It's lightweight, breathable in hot conditions, and gives welcome protection from sunburn, cool breezes and insects, all while remaining reasonably stylish. With a retail price around $65, it's a worthwhile investment. It won't keep you warm in cold climates by itself, nor is it intended to, but it's ideal for dealing with cool nights, excessive air-conditioning and a wide range of bugs.
Given its usefulness, it's one item of clothing that'll easily be making it into the backpack for future trips.