Packing light for vacation, especially when you’re trying to avoid the irritating checked baggage fees, often means you’re leaving some fun options at home. While it’s good to focus only on the things you’ll really need, sometimes it’s nice to bring a little bit of frivolous style along with you.
With the Eagle’s Nest Outfitters Twilights, you can spice up a camping trip—or any trip, for that matter. The string of 23 bright LEDs can illuminate your tent, campsite, hammock, hotel room, rental cottage, or hostel space (as long as you ask your roommates for permission).
The lights take two AA batteries, which provide more than 72 hours of continuous burn time. I’ve tried them at home, as well as at campsites and lodge rooms in New Zealand, and didn’t have to worry about the batteries running out any sooner.
If the plain, white LEDs are too boring for you, pick the color option—with 23 color-changing LEDs. You’ll pay a small price for the fancy choice, adding one more battery to the mix (with three to charge the lights), but for some, opting for the disco look is a very important style choice.
Twilights weigh 4 ounces and come in a small padded case. Even if you’re traveling light, it’s easy to tuck these into a corner of your suitcase and use right when you need to brighten the night.
These relatively lightweight but heavy-duty Vasque shoes will work for running down a trail or strolling down a path, with serious tread and protection.
Sometimes your travels involve nothing more taxing than airport terminals and museum halls, but on other trips you need something serious on your feet. You need shoes that will hold up to more natural elements: rocks, roots, mud, and branches. This Juxt model is ready for all that, and for just keeping your feet comfortable as you hoist on your backpack and head to the bus station.
This is the kind of “in between” shoe we review a lot here, because most vacations are not all or nothing anything. There are some technical aspects to this pair of Vasques that make it good for real hiking, like a close-to-the-toe lace system coming down further than most shoes, plus a full toe cap to keep stubbed toes at bay. There’s a serious tread for rolling over uneven surfaces and down giant boulders.
These shoes don’t incorporate a waterproofing membrane, but the leather uppers are coated to make them water-resistant. In my tests they were fine in a light drizzle. You might want something more robust if you’ll be hiking somewhere rainy, but otherwise these are fine and doing without the membrane saves you $20-$30.
Overall, I’m quite happy with these shoes and I keep pulling them out for jaunts in my area and trips where I know I’ll be doing some light hiking here and there. They look good enough to be my regular active day shoes and have some interesting visual touches, like the overlapping punched-out layers on the toe guard and the unique accent layers on the side. The Vasque Juxt shoes don’t look like many other models out there.
These manage the feat of fitting well out of the box and not needing a lot of break-in time. Plus unlike far too many I’ve tried, the laces and padded tongue both stay where they’re supposed to.
In theory this model comes in wide sizes according to the Vasque site page (and the ones I reviewed were a wide size) but if you look at the listings at REI, Zappos, or Moosejaw you’ll see they only carry the regular widths, so that might be something you have to special order. The Juxt shoes list for $105, but you’ll find them for a bit less at those links.
See more reviews of Vasque shoes for travel.
We went bike riding for a week straight, but in these Ibex merino wool shirts, we felt comfy and smelled good.
Earlier this month I took my wife on a cycling trip in Portugal with Bike Tours Direct and rode along mostly empty roads in the Alentejo region. It’s a farming area full of vineyards and olive groves, wineries and cork trees. We rode on hybrid bikes because usually it was paved roads, but sometimes dirt paths.
Ibex Giro Full Zip
I brought a few different shirts along, some just synthetic workout shirts, but the one I wore the most was this Giro Full Zip Jersey. Made in the USA from New Zealand merino wool, it kept me cozy on cool mornings and wicked the sweat away to keep me nice and comfortable when the sun hit high noon. It fits snug but is stretchy, a zipper with a locking tab running the length of it.
I didn’t use all three pockets on the back, but the divider did make it easy to find the phone I stashed there when the Portuguese tour operator called to make sure everything was going fine. I could stash my sunglasses back there too when going inside to get something to drink. Like most cycling jerseys it’s longer in the back than in the front, useful even when you’re not hunched over like a road racer.
In the end I wore this Giro FZ jersey through three days of hard cycling in the sun and it still didn’t smell like it needed a wash. That’s a big advantage when you’re away from home and don’t have a lot of time to mess with figuring out laundry. When it is time to wash it though, you don’t have to treat this shirt with kid gloves: toss it in the washer and then hang it up to dry.
The shirt comes in three color choices on the Ibex Wool site and lists for $140. You may find it for a bit less at Amazon.
Women’s Indie Freeride
My biking companion for the week wore another one from Ibex, the women’s Indie Freeride with a half zip.
This was the first time she’d ever worn something made of merino wool and her first time in something from Ibex. She was really impressed by the feel of the fabric and how uncannily it worked for temperature regulation. “I never got chilly and I never got sweaty.”
She also liked the fit of it and how the zipper is so well concealed in the design. You can’t see where the zipper stops and the regular seam begins. This model doesn’t have the full cycling pocket set-up across the back, but it does have one zippered stash pocket if you want to use it for running or other active pursuits.
Nothing in the Ibex line is cheap, but nothing ever feels cheap either. Plus I can attest they’ll stick to the promise that comes on their tags: “Exchange or get a refund for your garment for any reason.” That’s not something you see very often.
This model comes in three colors with a design on the back on the Ibex Wool site, listing for $120. The one my wife wore was red with a design on the front though and that’s the one still showing up on Amazon for slightly less.
If you’re a tomboy like me, when you need to look dressed up, you still don’t want to feel dressed up. In other words, forget any clothes that feel uncomfortable within the first few minutes of putting them on. This is exactly why I love eco-friendly Aventura clothing. In fact, Aventura made it into my top gear of the year for 2012. And now my love affair can continue with the Aventura Scrolls dress. I have a feeling fellow tomboys design clothing for Aventura, because this dress doesn’t feel like a dress at all. It’s extremely soft (that’s the bamboo fabric…I can’t get enough of bamboo), non-restrictive while still having a shape, and doesn’t wrinkle. All that, and it looks nice enough to wear out at night or for a nice lunch, especially paired with the Aventura Julian Cardigan (but more on that in a minute).
The Scrolls dress is very flattering with an empire waist and sleeveless top, plus you get a finished look without the effort due to the faux under layer. The shoulder straps are wide enough to conceal a bra without any fuss, and the eco-friendly bamboo fabric has a nice stretch to it. Have I mentioned it’s flattering? And I’m not the only one to fall in love with it: my taller travel writing pal Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals found the Scrolls dress appealing as well.
I took the Scrolls on a trip to Disney World (the lucky thing!) where it did double-duty as a cool, comfortable theme park touring ensemble and a ‘work casual’ outfit appropriate for the work-related conference I was attending. This is a win-win, of course, because it meant I could conserve space in my luggage, saving me the dreaded checked bag fee.
You can get the Scrolls dress in three colors: red, black, and white (though I’d call white ‘blue’, as the scroll pattern is a nice china blue). I prefer the white because it promises to be the coolest in summer, but the red and black look classier for an evening out. I have a medium, which falls to 37″ (about the knee) and is roomy without being boxy. Pick one up at Aventura in XS-XXL for $79. You can also find it at Amazon for the same price.
I talked about pairing the Scrolls Dress with the Aventura Julian Cardigan: this light warm-weather piece is perfect for layering over dresses and sleeveless shirts when spending spring and summer evening outside or when you’re traveling and need to cover your shoulders (whether it be to protect again sun or otherwise). The Julian Cardigan is 100% cotton, made in the USA, and while simple, it has an understated tonal horizontal stripe that keeps it from being boring. I opted for the white, so I could pair it with the white Scrolls dress as well as numerous dresses I already own. I’ve worn it to conventions, dinner out, museums, and while city touring on cool mornings. The cardigan doesn’t zip or button up, but is rather open in front, and the sleeves are mid-lenth. It has a very finished look; wearing it, you’ll definitely appear put together (even if, like me, you rarely feel that way!).
Pick up the Julian Cardigan in black, latte, or white for $55 on Aventura, or like the Scrolls dress, you can find it at REI for the same cost.
This Clutch Engine model is one of the most contemporary and stylish pairs of shoes that I have ever owned. What I love most about it is the elegant, yet lightweight, aura that it displays. Clarks is known for its high-quality and durable footwear, and this pair certainly does not disappoint on that front.
My travels take me across the globe, and the weight of any pair of shoes is a giant concern for me. In fact, I typically plan my wardrobe around one pair of shoes because of that. This lightweight casual ware shoe turns my entire style effort on its head because it allows me to double up on footwear.
All of a sudden, I can pack a pair of shorts and a polo shirt for those hot Indian summer afternoons or Caribbean weekend breaks that would otherwise see me slumming it in the air conditioned confines of my room despite being in breathtaking surroundings. It may seem strange to you, but for many business travelers who travel with carry-on luggage only, the weight of one’s bag is a major issue. Not having the appropriate footwear for casual attire can stop someone from exploring the neighborhood in comfort.
These Clutch Engine shoes are incredibly nimble, both in storage within one’s bag, and when it comes to stuffing a loafer full of socks or charging cables to save room to maximize space.
A soft heel on these shoes makes them ideal for exercise walks. My pair boasts a suede upper fabric giving it a dress loafer appeal while still feeling as if it were a casual loafer. I can transition from outdoor stroll to business casual dinner with the same pair of shoes.
The moc stitched toe and metal logo detail seal the deal when it comes to both looking and feeling comfortable. With rubber heel kicker pods and a smooth lining and cushioning insole, what is not to love about these shoes.