Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Travel Gear: My Five Favorites

Confession: I am a total gear junkie.  I love to have the right gear for every activity.  When it comes to travel, the right gear can make you more comfortable and can greatly influence your enjoyment of your trip.  No one wants to be cold or wet, have sore feet, a sore back or a numb arm from dragging a rolling suitcase over miles of cobblestones.  Here are some of my favorite items I've accumulated over the years.

1. Fjallraven Totepack No. 1 - $110 - I had never heard of this brand until I wandered into their store in Jackson Hole, WY (useful souvenir score!), and I fell in love! I wanted to buy everything in the store, in every color available, especially their completely adorable mini kanken! This pack is great because it is a tote or one of the handles can be pulled through to make two backpack straps. Its a great carry on because it slides easy under an airplane seat and zips at the top so your stuff won't fall out and roll to the back of the plane on take-off (am I the only one who worries about this?). It isn't so big that it is overwhelming, but not too small either.  I fit my DSLR camera, two jackets and some reading material no problem.

2. Columbia Women's Mighty Lite III - $110 - I bought an older version of this jacket at the Columbia outlet store for a much better price and it is a great jacket!  It has the "Omni-Heat" interior, which is like a space blanket on the inside and I think makes this jacket really warm. It is so light an pack-able compared to a regular winter jacket. I brought this jacket to the Netherlands and layered it with a raincoat and was comfortable all the time. On warmer days biking I was too warm and had to unzip! I could see myself even bringing this jacket on a winter/ski type vaca as a nice, light alternative to wearing a heavy winter coat the whole time.  

3. Osprey Ozone Convertible  50L/22"- $300 - Again, I bought this on sale! But it still would have been worth it, in my opinion.  I bought this bag for a 16 day Europe trip, and it was great!  I was undecided on this trip whether I wanted a backpack style bag for all the train travel, uneven European village roads, or if I wanted a rolling bag.  This was one of the few bags on the market that can do both.  WARNING - it is not very big!!  You must be a master packer to make this work!  I usually plan to do laundry at least once.  But packing light is a whole different topic... One thing I love about this bag is the zip off day pack.  You can attach it when you are wearing the bag as a backpack, or take it off to hold just the necessities when you are out sightseeing for the day.  Be aware that with the day pack attached, the bag will no longer be carry on size, but I usually just use the smaller bag as one of our "personal items" or zip it on mostly empty.  Also be careful you don't knock people/ things over while wearing the bag with it attached and you might want to make beeping noises when you back up.  As a rolling bag this bag is also amazing- it is small but has wide set wheels, so unlike other bags we own it doesn't tip over, and is super easy to just pick up for stairs, etc.  I love this bag!

4. Vans Classic Slip-on - $60 - If you like to walk everywhere like we do, a good shoe makes so much difference.  I am weirdly obsessed with these Vans I bought recently.  I know I am late to the party, but they are my first pair of Vans and I would buy them in other colors too! The black leather looks a little dressier for a sneaker and they look great with everything.  I want to wear them every day.  Just make sure you buy a few pairs of the little slip on socks.  They vans brand says on really well.

5. Paradox Women's Raincoat - $30-40 - I've never even heard of this brand but I was looking for a cheap raincoat in a dark neutral color to take to the Netherlands in February to wear over my Columbia down jacket (above).  This jacket is stylish looking and kept me nice and dry at half the price of a fancy brand name raincoat.  It was great! I loved the "Napoleon pocket" for keeping my transportation card in a safe place where it wouldn't fall out!  Combining this jacket with my lightweight down and some good layering was perfect for the cold and occasionally drizzly weather of the Netherlands.  The hood is generous enough that I didn't really need an umbrella either, which was great!

One last thing, a note on colors for those who like to match. If you are a free-spirit, skip this part!

For European travel - most Europeans in general don't wear bright colors. My Columbia down jacket is actually a bright red and if I could go back I would get black, because it blends much better!  The reason I needed a new raincoat was that my other raincoat is a lovely shade of light teal, which combined with fire engine red might burn some retinas.

So if you are spending lots of money on an investment piece, although black, grey or another neutral might sound boring to you, you will be thankful when you can walk around Europe without feeling like you have a "rob me, I'm American!" sign on your back.  If the idea of all black sucks out your soul, consider Olive or Plum?

When it comes to clothes, jackets, shoes, and even bags, stick to one color family.  Pick black or brown shoes and make sure everything matches with those.  You will save space and you will be less likely to buy things twice. Also consider colors that look good with both, like red or purples.

I hope you have found some great new ideas!

P.S. I did not receive any money or free stuff to review these items, I'm not that cool.  The opinions in this post are entirely my own. 


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