Your outer or primary layer of clothing will generally consist some sort of shirt and a pair of pants of shorts. This layer of clothing should be the most versatile as it will be warn in all situations and also be the most visible. It should provide some degree of both visual and social camouflage while being comfortable and durable.
Waterproofing the outer layer is frequently desirable, and can be done with dedicated fabrics (such as Goretex or rubber) or by using something like Scotchguard to waterproof almost any fabric.
Types of Shirts & Blouses
Military Style Shirt
Military style shirts (aka blouse) are a very common choice, they come in a variety of materials and colors and can be acquired at relatively low cost. Surplus BDU shirts are inexpensive since the US Armed Forces have moved from the woodland and desert camo Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) to the new digital pattern uniforms (Army ACS & Marine style digital). Other military uniforms, such as the British and Dutch Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) or German Flecktar shirts also make good choices.
Button-down shirts & blouses
Button-down shirts are extremely versatile because of the many way they can be worn and the many colors and styles they are available in. They can be worn open and out for maximum air-flow or buttoned-up and tucked in for maximum warmth and protection. The advantage of regular button-down shirts and blouses is that they fit in with everyday civilian attire allowing a survivalist to blend in (social camouflage) and not be targeted as having supplies on hand.
Tactical shirts are button-down shirts with greater consideration for the survivalist, such as more ideal materials like canvas duck or "ripstop" fabric, more pockets, and better stitching. Some tactical shirts come with hidden slashes or pockets to access concealed weapons.
Types of Pants & Shorts
Military Style Trousers/Shorts
Military style trousers are a very common choice, they come in a variety of materials and colors and can be acquired at relatively low cost. Like other military surplus clothing they may come in a variety of camo patterns.
The classic denim jean is cheap, tough, and everyone wears them, but they are generally not considered to be a good option due to their being made of cotton which is generally considered a very bad material for bug-out purposes due to its reaction to water.
Tactical Pants/Cargo Shorts
Tactical pants aka "cargoes" are available in many colors, cuts, and materials. They offer ideally suited pockets for the survivalist since they are based upon military trouser designs such as the BDU without standing out in a crowd since they are so popular.
- Battle-Rip Stop is 65% Polyester/35% Cotton blend, it is extremely durable and resistance to tearing. It dries out relatively quickly when it gets wet.
- Cotton is probably the most popular natural fiber clothing material, it is comfortable and relatively durable when woven into certain fabrics. Cotton loses all insulative ability when it is wet and is extremely hard to dry out, for this reason it is often referred to as the "death fiber".
- Gore-Tex is water-proof, yet breathable, fabric. It is generally layered on top of some other fabric such as nylon.
- NOMEX is a man-made fabric with extremely high resistance to heat and flame, it is also very expensive.
- Nylon is a thermoplastic that is used to make fabric. The resulting fabric is extremely durable, very effective at blocking wind, resistant to molds and fungus, and very lightweight. Its does not have very good insulate properties, however.
- Polyester is a man-made fabric that has excellent insulative properties and will dry out easily if it gets wet. It is very affordable and often is used in place of wool.
- Wool is one of the best materials for clothing. It has excellent insulative properties even when it is wet, it's durable, fire-retardant, and 100% natural. Wool is rather expensive compared to other fabric and some individuals are allergic to it.
- Silk is another good but expensive natural fiber used for clothing. Its tight weave means that it can be used for base layer clothing, thermal layer clothing and even outer layer clothes though it is not waterproof unless treated.