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October 27, 2011

Five Travel Essentials for the Frequent Flyer

Woman closing overloaded suitcase on bed(Jupiterimages,Getty Images,Thinkstock)
(Jupiterimages/Getty Images/Thinkstock )

When you've spent the last year circling the globe you tend to become proficient on how to make your time on the road a tad bit easier. Unfortunately, since there is no real secret to maneuvering the dreaded airport security, I'll leave you with five travel essentials that will at least make the rest of a travel-lovers experience a little less painful.

5. Lap protector
I won't get into the irony of calling a computer you shouldn't put on your lap a laptop, but anyone who has ever spent a lot of time with their personal computer resting on their lower body has experienced the 21st century version of a leg warmer. It turns out the direct contact is bad for your computer (because it doesn't allow the machine to breath), but it can also leave behind burn marks. An easy (and cheap) solution is a lap protector that provides a barrier between you and the scalding surface. Belkin's Laptop CoolStrip is not only affordable, but also compact enough to travel with. Now every time you want to check your email you don't have to check to make sure you're wearing pants.

4. Luggage scale
You know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? Well, that's how I feel about paying excess baggage fees. The problem is I also have a problem with over-packing. But thanks to digital luggage scales (like this one from Balanzza), I can stop filling my carry-on bag with my heavy electronic chargers and bulky travel guides in the hopes of getting that scale to drop a few pounds. With this nifty device you simply hook the gadget to your bag, lift, and the weight is displayed right there in black and white. Now you can save yourself the public humiliation at the airport so long as you can remember to weigh your bag ahead of time.

3. Zippered pillowcase
I didn't think you could find so many uses for a zippered pillowcase until I started counting all the ways I put it to use on my trip. 1.) Not only was the zippered pillowcase perfect for covering a hostel pillow that might have more questionable spots than a McDonalds playground, but I also used it to store my valuables (passport, money, etc.) under my head while I slept on planes, trains, and buses. It's easier to catch zzz's knowing that if anyone did go through your bag, all they might get away with is your favorite sweater. 2.) An ideal fix for anyone with allergies. Since I am allergic to feather down this cotton cover gave my skin a layer of protection from anything unknown that might cause me to break out. 3.) Use it to protect fragile items in your luggage that might otherwise get broken or banged up. 4.) If you find that your checked bag is slightly overweight (an "I told you so" is coming if you didn't listen to Tip #4), the zippered pillowcase can substitute for a quick carry-on bag. Next time remember to put it in your suitcase already filled with the heavy items and you'll eliminate the embarrassment of flashing everyone your skivvies while you bend over your suitcase moving personal items from one bag to another.

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August 04, 2011

GORP Launches New Outdoor Gear Blog

Our partner—guide to all things outdoors—just launched GEARZILLA, a fantastic new gear blog. They're running profiles of five new outdoors and travel products a week, each thoroughly vetted by a cadre of in-the-know gear testers, writers, and editors. PLUS: They're holding a contest each month. Just submit a review of your own favorite piece of gear, and the best one every 30 days will win free stuff like Patagonia's Torrentshell Jacket. They've also got great tips on how to navigate the confusing world of outdoors gear (from how to buy a tent to explaining what this whole soft shell revolution is really about), a huge cache of packing guides, and loads more.

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May 16, 2011

The Great Gear Scavenger Hunt: The Final Days

Lovers of all things gear-related, please take note: you’ve got two weeks left to follow the clues that lead to a Sylvan Sport Go trailer filled with gear. Find it first, and it's yours. We're talking about more than $15,000 in products from Sylvan Sport, Yakima, SPOT, Kelty, Niner Bikes, Emotion Kayaks, Grand Trunk, Black Diamond, and Keen. The nation-wide treasure hunt started on April 4, and for the last eight weeks video clues and geo-coordinates have been posted on, leading participants closer to the final location of the goods. So far, six clues have been revealed—which narrows things down from almost all of North America to…well, we won’t offer our guess. You’ve got till May 26 to get in on the action.

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November 17, 2010

Introducing El Naturalista: Fashion-Forward Travel Shoes

From low-top day hikers to multi-day high-ankle snow stompers, we seldom tire of uber-technical footwear. But sometimes the secret to successful travel gear lies in the right mixture of comfort, fashion, and function, rather than just the latest and greatest in laminates, fabric, and treatments. 

One of our favorites in this vein remains the Spanish footwear-maker El Naturalista, who seem to love travel almost as much as they like creating funky shoes. The company’s designers derive much of the inspiration for their footwear from their own travels and global experiences.  Take the men’s Iroko sneaker ($200). Its aesthetic origins tie back to Cuba, where the shoe designer’s father once lived. The website relates the father's tradition of visiting the Ceiba del Templete tree in Old Havana, which has been tied to rituals in the city since 1519. Ceiba, he goes on to explain, is the Cuban word for iroko, a hardwood much like teak, originating from tropical Africa.

But don’t expect the shoe to be a heavy, clunky experience.  They're made of pull grain leather that has been treated with river stones to naturally temper the hide for a soft-to-the-touch feel that's both flexible for long-haul stomping and highly weather-resistant. Breathable, removable insoles keep your feet swaddled in comfort, and rubber outsoles offer both bounce and grip.  The arboreal influence is evidenced on the shoe’s bottom soles, which replicates the appearance and texture of the iroko bark.

The Ikoro comes in a variety of colors and styles, from modest low-cut sneakers to high tops. El Naturalista also makes a wide line of women's and men's footwear, along with a limited-run selection of bags, wallets, and scarves.

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August 13, 2010

Summer Necessity: Timbuk2 Dolores Chiller

By Lacy Morris

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For all you biking fools out there like me, bike-appropriate gear is hard to find—much less gear that serves its purpose while also serving your style. August means summer, and it's a hot one. That doesn't mean your beverages have to be. If you can dream it, Timbuk2 can do it—they're keeping frosty treats chilly with the Dolores Chiller messenger bag, named after the wildly popular summer outing destination, San Fran's Dolores Park. The messenger part of the bag is a great way to arrive inconspicuously—sans forty in a brown paper bag. I've taken it rafting, biking, to the park, and to an impromptu shindig on a friend's refrigerator-less rooftop. Depending on the amount of ice you pack in, Dolores can hold 18 to 24 cans or (an estimated) 40 Nestlé Orange Tangerine Juicy Juices, depending on what stage you are in life. The waterproof lining keeps it all inside, trust me, I've tested it. Instead of the traditional fold-over flap, the Dolores has a zip-top closure to seal up nice and tight, necessary for your precious valuables inside. It's half messenger, half cooler, and pure style with its red, white, and blue color scheme. The bag sells online for $110, beer not included. So go confidently my friends, live the life you have imagined.

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August 03, 2010

Looptworks Introduces UpCycle Travel Clothing


In this world of perpetual catchphrases, “upcycling” may not register. But it will soon.

First, consider this statistic: In one year the factory that made the shirt or blouse or dress or pants you’re wearing right now created up to 60,000 pounds of textile waste in remainder fabric and other cast-off “trash.”

Second, introduce yourself to Looptworks. This Portland, Oregon-based company doesn’t see these apparel factory remainders as waste. Instead, they repurpose—or upcycle—the abandoned materials into fashion-forward, limited-edition, travel-friendly apparel like the Perai Hoodie, made from abandoned fabric in Indonesia, or the Jalan Overshirt, which is named after a street in Malaysia near where the garment’s discarded fabric was found. They even fashion neoprene laptop sleeves for the cast-offs left over from making wet suits.

Of the many men and women styles, here’s our two travel-friendly picks:

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July 28, 2010

The Perfect Summer Shorts

Karl Hiking, cycling, or just stomping down a dirt road in Southeast Asia, the Karl from Fjall Raven should be your go-to option for shorts. Constructed from proprietary G-1000 fabric, an ultra-durable mix of cotton and poly that the company founder first discovered when he fashioned a climbing jacket out of tent fabric, the Karl offers a heady mix of all the right features: wind resistance, water repellency, superior breathability, and UV-protection in a slightly stiff, lightweight package.  In addition to the four traditional pockets (two up front, two in the back), the Karl has a snap-closure cargo pocket on the right; a narrow, open tool slot; and a hidden zippered cargo hold on the left leg. And if you anticipate truly extreme weather, the shorts also come with a small cube of Greenland Wax, a combo of paraffin and bees wax the stalwart Swedish company has used to strengthen their garments since 1966. The application is simple (rub on a thin layer, then melt the wax into the fabric with a hair dryer), and its durability has been proven for decades—so they’ll definitely get you through the dog days of summer.

The shorts are available in Fjall Raven's NYC store (262 Mott Street;  open Monday-Sunday, 11 to 8) or by calling 212-226-7846

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July 23, 2010

An Ode to Boat Shoes

Clipping from the original 1968 ad for the PF Flyers Windjammer boat shoe.

Maybe it’s rote to say preppy culture is coming back into vogue in America. Maybe I’m way behind my Big Apple peers in pointing out the influence of Vampire Weekend and its Cape & Islands blueblood rock. Maybe I just spent too much time in Colorado, where the term “boat shoes” refers to Crocs and/or kayaking booties. But it seems to me that the tried-and-true boat shoe is experiencing a renaissance like never before.

Continue reading "An Ode to Boat Shoes" »

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June 09, 2010

Arc’teryx Has Summer Rain Showers Covered

By Lacy Morris

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Now's the time of year when most urban commuters search for gear answers. Excited about the summer weather, but terrified of the rain swells and oppressive humidity that typifies Mid-Atlantic weather, I count myself among them. I’ve spent far too much time staring at my jacket closet with a bike ride to work on the horizon. Do I go with the too-warm hardshell, pit zips asunder for much needed ventilation, or skip the jacket all together and carry the dreaded umbrella?

The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Pullover ($250) is the answer to my quandary. This jacket does two things really well. Unlike the typical hardshells that a lot of savvy commuters—not total gearheads, but we’ve got an idea of what we’re doing—end up wearing year-round, the Alpha SL is light and breathable while also being completely waterproof. With such light-weight material, on most rides in there’s no need to unzip the pits and risk letting the rain in. And in terms of style, the Alpha SL Pullover is the only one on the market that I found aesthetically appealing. I'm sure other jackets could get the job done, but I couldn't help but think that I would have to quickly take it off before entering the office where someone could see me. It really plays on the parka/anorak style that’s so hip these days, but without trying too hard. No one’s going to accuse you of trying to look like you just climbed K2. Though there are men's and women's colors, I ended up settling on the men's deep dusk in size small (shown above) rather than a women's color, based entirely on my own personal style preference, not performance.

The Alpha just fits. From hiking the trails on weekends to biking into the office, or grabbing it for light-weight protection when just hanging out, you’ll get compliments. At $250 it seems a little steep for a spring/summer technical shell, but don’t let the lightness of the jacket fool you. The two-layer GORE-TEX construction ensures the Alpha SL Pullover will resist rips and tears while keeping you from arriving soaking wet to the office—from rain or sweat.

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April 12, 2010

The Latest Camera Bags

The Boda V3

I've noticed a flurry of posting across various gear- and travel-centric websites extolling the latest and greatest in camera-ready bags. From the hardcore multi-lens sling Boda V3 camera bag ($195), which was designed by a wedding photographer and will definitely fill a gap in the on-the-go, quick-grab pro's circuit, to the stealthy Cloak Bag ($50), there are plenty of options out there—and more are getting introduced almost daily.

The Cloak

But when traveling I tend to go for the unassuming. Nothing says "valuable camera equipment inside" more than an over-padded bag with an all-too-familiar logo. And while the Cloak is certainly stealthy, forget carrying more than one lens; the purse-sized pouch has room for only your go-to lens and your SLR. Sure, you could carry the Cloak in a larger bag, one that would house your other lenses and various camera accessories. But that kinda defeats the twin goals: speed and stealth.

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