By Jules Older
For travelers, there’s no shortage of toys and tools, gear and gadgets. The best of the lot make great gifts to go.
Here are some of my favorites.
You will get funny looks. You will be asked, oh, five times per mile, “How’s the skiing?” But for three reasons, trekking poles are well worth it.
First, they’re protectors of knees and spine.
Second, on rough terrain, they give secure foothold.
Third, they let you do what I like doing best — two things at once. They give your upper body a workout when you hike a trail or just go for groceries. Who wouldn’t develop abs of steel while taking a walk?
Here’s what you need to know. The two big trekking-pole companies are Black Diamond and Leki. I’ve tested both; they’re both a great investment in health. Poles come in aluminum and carbon fiber. Some fold; others telescope, either’s fine. You’ll need to buy rubber tips if you’re walking in town. And if you don’t need models that shrink, yes, de-basketed ski poles will do nicely.
Glasses To Go
This a familiar scene? You’re in a dark restaurant, and you can’t read the bloody menu. Oh, and your reading glasses are back at the hotel.
No mo. In a ThinOptics smartphone case, you have glasses to go. They’re pince-nez, meaning they fit on your proboscis, and are either the coolest things in the room or, as one woman asked me, “Are they your anti-chick magnet?”
You wouldn’t want to read War and Peace with your ThinOptics, but for menus, they’re just fine. And if the restaurant is really dark, place them on your nose, then find the flashlight app on your phone.
From eyes to ears. I’m not a fan of those Bose-type sound-cancelling headphones, not because they don’t work — they do — but because you have to lug them around for the rest of your trip. And because they cost so much.
The traveler’s dilemma has always been that those freebie sponge earplugs they hand out on planes don’t work, and the ones that do cost the earth and weigh more than your lunch. Until now.
Now, there’s EarPeace. Designed to preserve audio fidelity while reducing noise at rock concerts, these tiny earplugs are equally adept at cancelling plane drone and reducing roomie snore. The two models (both of which work well) each go for well under $20.
It’s not just that they’re made in Vermont, USA. It’s not just that they come with a lifetime guarantee. It’s mainly that Darn Tough makes the best socks I’ve ever worn. These days, I wear little else. That’s because they make models for (deep breath): hiking/skiing/tennis/winter/summer/snowboarding/hunting/running/biking/adults/kids.
Their newest model, Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion, uses breathable, fast-drying, light Merino, which keeps travelers’ tootsies warm in winter, cool in summer.
Yes, smartphone cameras are good and getting better. But sometimes you want more — more control, more zoom, more sharpness … more.
For all this in a camera that fits in your pocket and is rugged enough to take skiing, the Canon S120 is hard to beat.
It shoots still and video, programmed and automatic, in bright sunlight and dark caves. The sound quality approaches miraculous. The zoom’s strong, too. Have a look at the nearly one hundred minimovies we’ve made with Canons and see what I mean.
We have to face it — as the world grows hotter, drinking water grows scarcer. Here are two personal solutions.
When you’re hiking or wandering remote areas, you cannot go for long without potable water. The LifeStraw provides it without boiling or iodine. It lets you turn nasty surface water into drinkable refreshment. I keep one LifeStraw for trekking and another in the car, just in case.
For urban travel to places where the water may be dodgy, consider the CamelBak Relay, a water filtration pitcher that filters ten-times faster than your old pitcher. It takes H20 from the tap to your tongue faster than any pitcher you’ve tried before.
Few expenses in this world provide a worse STP, (satisfaction-to-price ratio), than an expensive watch. They don’t tell time as well as a Timex or your smartphone, and despite those beautifully lit ads in haute magazines, they don’t look better, either.
Few expenses in this world provide a better STP than a contribution to a worthy cause.
One of my faves is relatively new. H2OpenDoors takes a different approach to bringing pure water to impoverished parts of the planet. Instead of drilling to find water (an endeavor littered with the detritus of failure), H2OpenDoors uses existing water — lakes, rivers, bogs —removes the filth and toxins, then lets villagers drink clean and free. All powered by sun and wind. You can see how it works here.