Gear to Go
By Jules Older Photos by Effin Older
Wherever you travel, you travel with stuff. From the shirt on your back to the shades on your eyes, the socks on your feet to the poles in your hands … stuff.
This is about stuff that adds to your traveling pleasure. Starting with, Here’s the thing.
Here’s the thing. You know the only thing to put in a water bottle is — anyone? anyone? — water. Why? Because anything else will harbor molds and fungi and things too fierce to mention. Only problem is, you hate water and yearn for liquid with some taste. Cirkul to the rescue. It adds flavor at the intensity you prefer, and it keeps the flavor thingies entirely separate from the H2O. Plus: The bottle’s a comfortable shape, is dishwasher-safe, and ends forever you buying those disposable plastic bottles that are killing our oceans.
Along with water, everybody needs sunglasses — but I have two issues with them. First, they don’t fit any of my pockets. Second, I never know whether to wear polarized or non-polarized shades. Popticals has resolved both issues.
The first is easy. They’re a high-performance sports sunglass that folds to fit into a small, portable case. The case fits in most pockets and also clips onto belts and backpacks. It even floats.
The second takes more explanation. According to the folks at Popticals, Polarized lenses filter out glare in bright, sunny conditions, like when looking at the water or any reflective surface. Polarized lenses are great for sports where it’s very bright and you’re concerned about glare; say fishing. But for skiing, trail running, mountain biking, golf, you want to be able to read the changes in terrain, and polarized lenses affect depth perception. Non-polarized lenses help identify surface undulations and details. So if you’re an active outdoorsman, non-polarized are better. But what about the key question — how are Popticals to see through? As good or better than any sunglasses I’ve owned. Highly recommended.
As are trekking poles. Someone near and dear to me just climbed Diamond Head in Hawaii. She did it with a new titanium knee. And, oh so appropriately, with Black Diamond trekking poles (above). Trekking poles are the best thing since spiced rum; they provide stability on mountain trails, protect knees and backs, and give you a mild upper-body workout every time you go out for a walk.
When you go for that walk, you’re wearing … socks. OK, socks are not the sexiest item, but, unless you’re at a nudist colony, you can’t travel without them. I want to recommend two brands, Bombas and Darn Tough. They’re both comfy and long-lasting, but that’s not why I recommend them. For every pair of Bombas you buy, the company gives another to the homeless. To date, they’ve donated nearly nine million pairs. And Darn Tough? Not only are they HQd in Vermont, they actually make their socks in Vermont. And guarantee them for life.
Here’s another duo to contrast and compare — backpacks. At the big-ass end of the scale is the Utility Backpack 40L, created by the unlikely combo of Eagle Creek and National Geographic. It’s big enough to carry a Shetland pony, strong enough to withstand a mortar attack, and black enough to disappear on a moonless night. Contrast this with Patagonia’s Tres Backpack 25L, designed for commuters. It converts to a shoulder bag or briefcase, has a padded laptop sleeve and room enough for an extra layer or a legal brief.
Both packs are comfortable and well designed, but both lack two somethings. Neither has a water-bottle pouch, and, maybe just as important in the Digital Age, an easily accessible external pocket for your phone. No idea why. Hope the next iterations have both.
Patagonia’s been making packs for just about ever; now, they’ve created a shirt line. I tested two, the Western Snap and the Farrier, both of which came with something I need and something else I was wary of.
The need is big, secure pockets. When I’m outdoors, I need them for my iPhone and an energy bar; indoors, for business cards and glasses. Patagonia’s shirts fill both bills.
What made me nervous is that both models are largely made from hemp. I remember the short-lived bamboo phase of skiwear; it lasted one (1) season. But, to my relief, the hemp works fine. Both shirts are soft and pliant, and I’ll bet they’ll be long-lasting. Highly recommended.
Like it or not, when you’re traveling with Digital Age kids, you’re traveling with a screen. And, unless you want to listen to every blaster and lightsaber, you’re traveling with earphones, too. Fine. But get phones made for kids. BuddyPhones PLAY shows why: It fits children’s heads, is adjustable for growing kids, limits volume to protect young ears, and is so bendable that when siblings fight over who gets to wear it next, they won’t rip the PLAY apart.
Adults have needs, too. One is a razor that’s good to travel with. And (at least for cheapskates like moi) inexpensive. The Braun Series 3 has both covered. Because it doesn’t have the separate carry-case of more expensive models, it takes up less room in the suitcase. Because it shaves wet or dry, you can use it anywhere. Because, depending on the model, you can buy one for well under 50 bucks, even cheapskates can look good.
And finally … do you need to get in shape for travel? Probably yes. Do you need to do it in gym? Probably no. We’ve made a minimovie on how to use your stairs as a workout center. It’s called NO GYM? GOT STAIRS? GOOD ENOUGH! It’s yours for the clicking.
Effin Older is an author, writer, photographer, editor, videographer and app-creator.