Don’t get confused by the names: men and women are set up with nearly the same winter boot this year from Teva, simply with different titles and slightly different design. The Teva Chair 5 for men and the Teva Jordanelle 2 for women both feature Thinsulate insulation, a grippy sole, and lace-up closure. And they’re both adorable.
With waterproof uppers and seam-sealed construction, both boots offer winter weather protection with 250g insulation. Both feature a removable boot liner, which makes getting the boot on and off much easier. Both lace up the front to mid-calf with easy hook-and-loop construction, and open wide so there’s no wiggling and whining while getting your wool-socked foot in (or is that just me?).
My favorite thing about the Jordanelle and Chair, however, is their weight. These boots are incredibly lightweight, considering the traction they offer. I can pack these boots when we travel to ski…even the size 12 Chair 5 my husband is wearing. Teva claims the Chair 5 and Jordanelle are approximately half the weight of comparable winter boots, and I believe them. Plus, both styles are crushable, so feel free to cram them into your suitcase…all will be good. You can literally fold the boot in half.
We took our Teva boots on a whirlwind Thanksgiving weekend in the snow, and while I usually curse my decision to bring winter or snow boots along for a road trip by mid-day of day 1, this time, I never minded. That’s because my Jordanelles were in my duffle, not rattling around the back of the car, to big to fit anywhere else.
The Chair 5 retails for $170 for men at Teva, but you can pick up a pair at Amazon for as low as $78. Colors include black and green. The Jordanelle retails for $180 (hey, no fair!) but can also be found on Amazon for $121. Color options include black, white, and purple. Also available at REI and Backcountry.
We love double-duty travel gear here and if a winter jacket can pull triple duty like the ExOfficio Storm Logic coat does, even better!
The original Storm Logic jacket we reviewed when it first came out a few years back was great for travelers: it turned into a travel pillow for the plane or bus, then unpacked to be a toasty insulated coat after the journey was over.
This new iteration takes it a step further, integrating eight pockets that cover the items most travelers will have with them on a trip. So you’ve got a place for a pen, for your passport, for an ID, sunglasses, a pocket camera, and keys (with a clasp). Of course there’s a pocket for your smartphone as well, with a clear panel over it so you can still swipe and tap to check if that important e-mail has come through or to see how cold it’s going to be outside.
I’ve been trying this travel jacket out for weeks, even using it as a pillow once, and it has worked great. It’s surprisingly wrinkle-resistant for when you go from pillow mode to wearing mode and the Primaloft insulation works well and keeps it shape. I thankfully haven’t gotten rained on, but I did test the DWR in the shower and it stayed dry. If the insulation does get wet, it’ll still keep your warm though and will dry quickly—a big advantage over traditional down. I like the microfleece collar and the fit of this is good: not bulky, but there’s enough room to have a sweater on underneath.
My main gripe is kind of a petty one, but it’s one that my teenage daughter spotted in 10 seconds. “Where does the cord go for your earbuds?” she asked. I was asking myself the same thing the first time I listened to music wearing this jacket. The smartphone or iPod barely fits in the phone pocket and there’s no hole to plug in the earbuds or headphones and run a cord up. So you have to move the device to the front pocket or one meant for something else, like the camera pocket or the front chest one, running the cord from there to your ears.
Otherwise though, the Storm Logic does everything it’s supposed to do very well and is reasonably priced at $150.
Whether you’re playing Santa for an outdoor enthusiast in your life, or just want to fill a stocking full of camping gear for yourself, the following nifty products make for great additions to your holiday shopping list.
Coghlan’s LED tent pegs: We love Coghlans! And I’ve tripped over my tent’s guy lines more times than I care to admit. Coghlan’s 10” heavy duty tent pegs now feature a single LED light for visibility at night. Just twist on, and you’ve got a nice glow around your tent. Just $3.99 for a pack of two at Amazon.
Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want something called a fire knife in my stocking. Light My Fire’s unique fire-starting knife really is all that: this camp knife comes with a plastic sheath and a high-friction rubber handle, and it creates its own spark via a FireSteel Scout, which twists into the knife’s handle when not in use. Get it on Amazon in one of five fun colors for $28. I also love Light My Fire’s meal kits, perfect for young backpackers.
Arka LED rechargeable lantern: This camp lantern by Industrial Revolution is compact, lightweight, and collapsible, perfect for camping and overnights in outdoor shelters like yurts and fire towers, where electricity may be scarce or nonexistent. Recharge the lantern via USB cable to your smart phone. Can be used as a flashlight or strobe light, too! Pick it up for $69 on Amazon. (See Tim’s review from earlier in the year here: Uco Arka lantern.)
Dublin Dog KOA collars: For the outdoor-loving dogs in your life, how about outfitting them with waterproof collars that don’t stink? Not even after months and months? Our two dogs have been sporting designs from Dublin Dog’s Trout line since summer, and I am sold! They won’t ever wear another type of collar. The KOA material repels dirt and grime, and the collars really do stay fresh-smelling. Pick one up at Amazon for under $30, depending on size.
Icebug ArchFlex Insoles: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! I’ve been running and hiking with Arch Flex insoles since July, and while I’ve tried many insoles over the years, these are the ones I reach for. They’re slim, easy to get in and out of my shoe, and provide the right shock relief for my repetitive running and hiking movements. Pick high arch or low, plus shoe size. Find them on Amazon.
GRAYL Water Filtration Cup: If you have someone headed to a part of the world lacking potable drinking water, the new Grayl makes for a nice gift. Like other water purification bottles, the Grayl has its drawbacks, but is overall a solid choice for travelers who need access to filtered water all day, every day. The cup, which looks and feels more like a bottle, features a duel cylinder construction wherein the user filters water through the bottom of the inner cylinder via a carbon filter. Once you’ve given it a few practice runs, it’s easy to use, though be advised: until it’s well ‘worn in’, the cylinders can be hard to pull apart, due the the vacuum seal. (As I said, not without its drawbacks.) However, the Grayl is sleek and shiny, heavy but definitely portable, and features a nice open-close design. If using abroad, you’ll need to upgrade the filter to the ‘purifier’, but once you’ve done so, you’re good to go for 300 uses. Buy the Grayl on REI for $69.
Cocoon Ultralight Microfiber terry towel: I love Cocoon travel products! I have used their travel pillow and packing cube, but by far my favorite product is their microfiber towel. Perfect for backpackers, campers, and round-the-world travelers, the Cocoon is small, thin, and light, but still actually does the job intended…you know, actually dry your body. Set it outside to dry afterward, and it will be good to go again in no time. Pick it up for your travel or backpacking friend for under $35 on Amazon.
Liberty Bottle Works Topo bottle: I would say I use this 100% recycled aluminum USA-made bottle every day, but I can’t: the minute I got it, my teen son took it. I think he loves the topographical map design best (ours features Mt. Rainier) but it may be the straw or the easy to open and close flip top lid with carrying handle. Pick out the map your hiking loved one can relate to most for as low as $12 on Amazon. It’s also available at Backcountry.com.
While I am often the first to laugh at people who walk around public areas “talking to themselves,” there is great freedom that comes with these Bluetooth wireless headsets that allow you to keep both hands free while talking on the phone. It is especially important for those who make phone calls in the car. Personally, I think it is impolite to wander around a public place shouting into a phone or headset, but that is another issue.
The Motorola Whisper Bluetooth Wireless headset offers a crisp sound that requires little need to shout or ask for things to be repeated. My standard iPhone has poor sound quality, and this wireless headset is a great alternative to access a clearer sound while also gaining an extra hand. For people who use this device outside, it has a unique ability to cut out excess background wind noise and reduce echoes. I also found this especially helpful when using this while driving as sound can sometimes be an issue using Bluetooth in my car.
An adjustable microphone also helps to direct the sound clearly. When traveling, I appreciated that there is a six-hour battery life, which is typically more than enough time needed between charging opportunities.
Many of my colleagues use other devices instead of iPhones, and the Whisper connects to any Bluetooth-capable device including Androids, laptops, or tablets. The headset fits snugly in your ear without being bothersome or too tight. It is small, sleek, and hardly noticeable since it is not as bulky as some other in-ear headsets.
Accepting a call was easy as the button was well-positioned for quick access even when distracted walking or doing something else. For the first time ever in using a Bluetooth device, I had zero problem setting it up and maintaining a signal. In the past, I have lost the signal occasionally with my Bluetooth connections when using iPad keyboards, for example. This was surprisingly easy to set up from the moment I removed it from the box.
It takes up little room in my briefcase, and it even has the surprise benefit of allowing me to ward off would-be seatmate conversation starters since people think I may be on a call!
Noise cancelling headphones are nothing new. There are a handful of brands that do the job for a range of prices. But what if you want the streamlined utility of in-ear headphones, so you can not only use them on planes and trains, but also while going for a run or walk? In addition, they take up far less room than those gigantic traditional headphones.
Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, like their bulkier brethren, reduce noise so you can actually focus on your in-air entertainment instead of the conversation next to you. This is Bose’s first foray into noise-cancelling in-ear headphones, and after testing one against the other, I actually prefer them to the over-ear version.
The QC20i headphones are smaller and lighter, making them an ideal choice for traveling. The carrying case is not much bigger than a standard cell phone, and can be tucked in a pocket, rather than vying for space with your laptop and camera. The StayHear ear tips are far more comfortable than other earbuds I’ve tested, and my ears didn’t get tired after many hours of wearing them.
As for the noise-cancelling aspect, these impressed me over many other competitors, even the Bose over-ear headphones. Ambient noise on the airplane dropped to next to nothing. Street noise as I was walking through a busy city practically disappeared. In all cases, noise was dropped to the point where it was barely noticeable. If you’re worried that you’ll miss something, there’s an Aware mode that lets some noise in. These may not be magic, but they’re much quieter than any other headphones I’ve tested.
Other QC20i features help the user, such as the four-button remote (in the QC20 version, it’s only a two-button remote) that adds volume, music control and voice commands—so you don’t have to reach for your phone every time you need to adjust something.
There’s no price break between the Bose QC15 (over-ear) and the QC20i products, all at $299.95. With the QC20i, the need for carrying around batteries disappears, because there’s now a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 16 hours of playing time per charge. Just remember to charge it, though. It’s easy to get used to the noise-cancelling technology, and you really notice it when it’s gone.
The Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones list for $299.95 on the Bose website. For those of you who don’t have i-devices, there’s also a QC20 version for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phones at the same price. On Amazon, they’re priced at $299.