travel hats

Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros PillowPlenty of elements of travel are uncomfortable, especially bus, train, airplane and airport seats. Considering the amount of time you send in each of them, perhaps a little more luxe treatment is in order, like the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow.

This inflatable pillow comes in two sizes: regular and large. The regular pillow measures 14 x 10 x 5 inches and weighs 2.8 ounces. The large pillow measures 16.5 x 11.5 x 5.5 inches and weighs 3.7 ounces. Both pack into a tiny stuff sack, which is helpful when you have limited space in your carry-on bag.

The pillow’s fabric is a brushed 50D polyester knit, which has a soft feel—unlike many other inflatable pillows that end up sticking to your cheek. The curved internal baffles make the pillow contour, so it centers on your head and shoulders and makes for a comfortable place to rest your head.

The pillow inflates easily with a multifunctional valve. The wide-mouth part of the valve lets you inflate and deflate the pillow quickly. The smaller element of the valve allows you to fine-tune the amount of air inside—so you don’t lose it all and have to start over.

If you’re a super fan of the pillows that hug your neck, this may not be the one for you, as it fits behind your head and not around your neck. But then, you can always use it as a lumbar pillow and make things far more comfortable for yourself.

The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow lists for $39.95 for the regular size and $44.95 for the large size at REI.

See more Sea to Summit product reviews.

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Tilley Mash-Up Hat

I’m a reformed sun worshipper. After spending way too many hours in the direct sun, I’ve finally learned to care for my skin while enjoying the outdoors. Side note: I’m well into my 30s and should know better. But if a sun-oholic like me can not only get used to wearing sun hats but actually sing the praises of them, anyone can.

Tilley is the Rolls Royce of outdoor and sun hat wear. We’ve long been fans here at Practical Travel Gear, reviewing numerous Tilley products. In fact, you can access their site straight from ours, right at the top of the page. (Go ahead, give them some love.)

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I think the Mash Up was designed specifically with people like me in mind; that is to say, people who tend to be rough on their gear, merciless on their clothes, and largely uncaring about their stuff while enjoying the outdoors. Why? You can’t ruin this hat. It rode along with me on a two week road trip through California, where the two of us enjoyed weather ranging from 90 degree sun to high wind to coastal rain. The Mash Up was tossed in the back seat, packed into duffels, stepped on, and trapped under a cooler. I squished it, bent it, and left it for dead more than once, and it always bounced back. Literally.

And it made me look way more sophisticated than I really am. The brim is flexible enough that you can adjust it the way you like it, and the chin straps are both cute and utilitarian. One goes behind your head and tightens in the case of wind (and yes, it works!) and the other goes in front. The inside rim is also adjustable (though you’ll want to get your correct hat size). The Mash Up is made from recycled yarns from hemp and organic cotton, and the brim slopes gently downward. It comes with a hat band that’s removable.

You can feel the quality of the hat when you hold it in your hand: there’s nothing flimsy or insubstantial about it. And since the bucket of the hat mashes down, you can stow it easily and not worry about it getting ruined. (Remember the days of hat boxes? What was that about?)

Pick up the Mash Up in either gray mix or mauve at Tilley for $84 in small through XL. Or look for it at Amazon as well.

See Tim’s earlier review of the Tilley Mash-up Airflow Hat for Men.

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Mountain Hardwear Huxley Button-up Travel Shirt

Hardwear HuxleyA travel shirt that looks like a regular short-sleeve button shirt, this Huxley from Mountain Hardwear is good for traveling men who want to look decent in their quick-dry, wrinkle free clothing.

When I was backpacking around the world for years, I hardly carried anything that wasn’t a t-shirt or a polo shirt. Now I need to look a bit more respectable when I hit the road and am working, so I like to pack wrinkle-free shirts with a collar. I can wear this one tucked-in for dinner or hanging loose for casual times.

You get a 60% cotton, 40% polyester blend, which seems to be the best of both worlds in this case. It doesn’t dry as fast as a pure synthetic shirt, but definitely much faster than an all-cotton shirt: about half the time when this was side-by-side with a regular t-shirt.

It’s impressively wrinkle-free though, which is the big plus when traveling and trying not to look like a slob. No hotel iron needed: it looks fine coming right out of the suitcase or backpack and doesn’t get wrinkled when hung on a clothesline to dry. No hotel iron needed. Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of features to talk about: just two chest pockets you can button up to keep prying fingers at bay.

At $55, this isn’t going to break the bank. Based on how it has performed so far, including with a heavy pack on my shoulders a few times, it feels built to last. So far no fading, stains (even though I spilled some food with chili in it), or loose threads. This is expected based on our experience with Mountain Hardwear items in the past. It comes in three colors: this blue, “pesto,” and “shark.” Sizes go from S to XXL and aren’t too fitted.

You can get this Huxley short sleeve shirt direct from the Mountain Hardwear site, where they made us think this shirt was meant for us with this line: “Designed for the practical traveler who appreciates a bit of style…” You can also shop for it in three colors at REI or Zappos.

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Granite Gear Leopard AC 58 Backpack

 Testing out the Leopard AC 58 has served as my introduction to Granite Gear, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Of course, their Leopard series has been tested by far worthier outdoors-people than me: gear testers Justin ‘Trauma’ Lichter and Shawn ‘Pepper’ Forry took the packs on a trek through the Himalayas. For those of us with slightly more humble itineraries, here’s my take.

Leopard AC 58 backpackThe Leopard AC 58 includes a lot of bells and whistles. I mean, a lot. There are multiple loops and hooks for just about anything you think you’ll need, from gear loops to crampon holders. And with extra ties and buckles, you can customize to your heart’s content. The pack is highly adjustable: not only do you select torso size (regular or short) and belt size (small through XL), but the shoulder straps offer more height options than any other pack I’ve tried.

And the customization doesn’t end there. I’ve never seen a pack with more flexibility in terms of storage space. Hidden pockets and panels abound, and all can be expanded or shortened by the use of clips and ties. The biggest challenge it remembering where you stashed everything. The expandability carries over to the main compartments, too: when you’re hiking light, it’s easy to tighten down the straps and roll down the top compartment opening to utilize a very small space, but all these sections also expand to impressionable depth. This is a pack for the fast and light hiker, that can adjust to carry bigger loads when necessary.

The pack features two sections that allow the greatest capacity-flexibility: the sides and the top. On the sides, clips keep side panels folded almost nearly in half for when you need a streamlined look, and the back panel lies close to the main compartment. Fill the compartment, and the back panel expands and the side panels can be let out. At the top, the pack’s roll-top design works like the closure on a watertight dry bag: fill as much as you want, then roll to close. The extra space is sizable.

The Vapor Airbeam frame offers weight savings (this is where that fast and light hiker is pleased) and the total weight is only 3 pounds, 5 ounces. I was skeptical about the Airbeam frame at first: with a full panel of fabric, would it feel too hot? Nope, it remained comfortable on a long, dry hike for my husband, who kindly tried it out for me. We didn’t need the extra space on our hike, so I battened down the hatches, so to speak, taking the time to find all the nifty pockets and tie-downs. (My favorite is the small zippered pocket at the bottom of the back panel, perfect for a phone or keys.) I was also very pleased with the water bottle holders on each side: I can be picky about this, as I hate having to struggle for my bottle when I need it. Standard water bottles slid into and out of the stretchy pockets easily.

Can there be such a thing as too many bells and whistles? Sure. If you’re not a hiker or backpacker who has differing packing needs for various excursions, you might not need all this flexibility. Ditto if you don’t carry a lot of technical tools and gear. If, however, you have a variety of needs, the Leopard will be all things to you.

The Leopard AC retails for $249 at Granite Gear and is also available at Moosejaw, Backcountry, and Amazon. Interested in the women’s specific model? Check out the Leopard AC 58 Ki.

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STUFFITTS For Gear Odor-Killing Backpack

StuffitsI admit. I do not work out on a regular basis when on the road, but it is always a goal of mine to go for a quick jog in a new city or try out the hotel’s fancy fitness center or health club. It is tough to do that when traveling with a carry-on bag as there is limited space for workout apparel and tennis shoes.

The Stuffitts odor-killing backpack provided me with the perfect opportunity to get more exercise while on the road and minimized my previous excuses of not being able to carry gym gear. This is a lightweight bag that allows me to keep everything from dirty laundry to gym gear separated from the rest of my clothes.

Typically, I do not travel with backpacks, but wearing this bag on my shoulders was a bit liberating as I had less to lug behind me when strolling through airports and train stations. This bag was designed for athletes who may travel long distances to compete and often with wet or dirty gear.

Inside the main pouch is the largest compartment, which is perfect for shoes or a stash of laundry. The mesh top allows the contents to “breathe” without developing any internal odor. Smaller items can be placed inside separate pockets.

Lest you be concerned that the bag itself will eventually start to smell, even when empty, Stuffitts designed it with interior panels that can be removed and washed while also creating more space for bigger items.

Two side pockets hold small items that make this a convenient accessory for going to the gym. I used it to store my phone, keys, and wallet. There is a hidden bottom compartment sealed with a zipper, which is another good place to store valuables.

This is a great option for those that like to work out on the road, but prefer not to mix clean and dirty, smelly clothes (who does?!). It is available for around $100 from the Stuffitts website or on Amazon.

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