The weather where you are might not be making you think about sandals, but if you’ll be taking a vacation to a hot place or you want a truly original gift idea, check out this Keen custom shoes offering.
The original Keen Newport sandals were a revolution that launched a company and they’re still super-popular for several reasons. They’ve comfortable, functional, cool, and protective of your toes. Plus they’re terrific for water activities like kayaking and river rafting. Now they can come in whatever color combination you want as well.
Keen gave me a code to try this process out and it was a pure delight. Well, for my teenage daughter anyway. I knew she’d go crazier with the choices than I would, so I let her loose on the Keen Custom page so she could make her own unique pair.
After picking her size, she chose from 20 strap colors. Then from 13 stitching colors. Then from 14 microfiber colors for the tongue and sides. After that the lining, from four choices. She chose the woven tab colors (from 7 options) for the two pull tabs, then picked from 10 bungee lace colors and 5 colors for the plastic pull tab at the end. Last was the outsole and midsole, which produced the only bit of whining: sorry kids, gray or black there.
It gets topped off with a yellow and black Keen logo no matter what, but it would take a math club contestant a few minutes to figure out how many combinations you can get from all that. It’s a lot of choices. She went back and forth a few times trying different options, which is easy to do on the intuitive website. Each time you change something, you see the result on the screen and you don’t have to ever hit a back button and start over.
At the top of the screen is how hers came out. Here’s another pair I mocked up with random choices. Obviously a much different look.
This process takes 2-3 weeks, so order today if you want them by Christmas. (To avoid that stress, print the custom page and buy a gift card for $130 instead.) The process was very smooth though, with Keen keeping us updated: a verification e-mail that pictured the shoes as we’d ordered them, another e-mail later that it was in process at the factory, then one when the shoes were on their way.
Sure, these cost more than a pair of regular Newports you buy off the shelf, but how much is it worth to have bespoke travel shoes like nobody else’s? For now anyway these don’t come in kids sizes, but the women’s sizes start at 5 and the men’s at 7. See more at the Keen custom shoes page.
Here’s a nice little travel tool you can buy for yourself, buy for a friend, and buy for a Secret Santa gift and still be out less than $40 after tax.
Gerber is best known for seriously gnarly survival and hunting knives, but they also put out pocket multi-tools that fold out to be pliers, saws, screwdrivers, and more. These GDC pocket tools aren’t as serious as either of those, but they won’t get you stopped at security and they’re super-light.
I took that photo at the top to show how the two I’ve been using size up to some other items you probably have in your daypack or work messenger bag. The GDC Zip Light is something like you’ve seen before: you press a button and the LED flashlight guides you on your way to the bathroom or helps you find the light switch. But it’s double-duty gear because it also has our favorite accessory built in: a beer bottle opener. As you may have noticed, we like items with beer bottle openers built into them.
Little LED lights like this usually last for years before the power runs out, but if it does before you lose it, the batteries can be replaced. You probably won’t lose it though because it’ll attach to your bag. You don’t have to wrestle to remove it though: there’s a quick-release connector with all these Gerber GDC items. Get it direct from Gerber or at Amazon for $12 or less.
The Gerber Zip Driver is there for you when you need some tightening or fixing along the way in your travels. Like the light it’ll clip to your bag or daypack, which is good since the four screwdrivers just rotate around—they don’t tuck away. You get two sizes of flat screwdrivers and two sizes of Phillips ones. They’re made of strong stainless steel and the small one is small enough to work on some precision things like eyeglasses or the damned battery cover on my Franklin Spanish translator that I otherwise love.
There’s another version that has hex wrench tools rotating around and one that has a small blade that folds in. These would be great stocking stuffers because they fit the original intent of stocking stuffers: small and inexpensive.
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The Mountainsmith Descent is a solid camera bag option for anyone who travels with their DSLR and extra camera gear. It’s not massive, so you won’t feel dwarfed by your camera equipment everywhere you go, and it’s affordable while still delivering on the features you need. The Descent is designed with a cross-chest carry (more on that in a minute) and features a handy clamshell access to the main compartment. You get a media pocket under the lid, and an external front pocket with key clip. A large front section offers plenty of organizational space for documents, a tablet or Kindle, and a wallet. The bag could definitely double as your carry-on if you travel light.
Inside, the main compartment is divided into four sections with sturdy Atilon foam with a 14 L volume. You can fit two camera bodies and two lenses, no problem. The outside is nylon with waterproof coating, and there’s a rain hood as well.
The mobility for this bag is quite good. due to a secure hip belt in addition to the shoulder strap. I know some photographers prefer backpacks to sling bags, and I do too…when hiking good distances. When I have my DSLR with me, however, I tend to want to stop often and take lots of shots. If you’re like me, and want to access your camera at any moment, the Descent’s sling shoulder strap will really work for you. I like the ability to slide the bag forward as I walk or when I stop at a sight. I don’t want to have to take the entire bag off my body to access the camera. Is the Descent going to be as comfortable to move with as a backpack style? No, but it’s darn close. If you’ll be hiking or traveling good distances between shots, a backpack might be for you, but if you’re a stop and shoot all day long kind of photographer, opt for the sling carry.
The Descent is versatile, fitting most users, but if you have a long torso, you’ll want to try it out in a brick and mortar store before ordering. The adults in our family had no problem exchanging the bag back and forth to wear, with easy adjustments to the sling strap and optional chest strap. Pick up the Descent for an exclusive $99 price at REI this December or find it on at other retailers and Mountainsmith in January.
The Wally iPhone Wallet by Distil Union is a stylish accessory for your iPhone. It sticks to the back of your phone (or your iPhone case for those that are smart enough to protect their accessories) easily and can be removed without leaving a mark. It does not wrap around the entire phone, rather only sticks to the back surface leaving a space for the camera lens. I had no problem adhering it to my rubber case and also exchanging into to a plastic case when I swapped iPhone cases.
The red fabric strap pulls out to reveal storage space for a few credit cards, hotel room keys, or ID cards. This is especially ideal for those that are traveling in big cities or at crowded events and would rather not have their entire wallet with them (watch out for pickpockets), but still need to have a credit card and their phone.
True, if you lose one thing, you lose everything, but it is better than losing an entire wallet. Also, I found myself more careful with my phone than ever before since it had my credit card inside the Wally pouch. I am not the best guard of my cell phone, so this gave me added incentive.
My favorite feature, however, is the soft leather exterior which gives it a hip, contemporary look. It is far more stylish than the rubber case I have on my phone. It comes in a cowboy brown or slick black color and is designed for iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 models.
Many might assume that it is easy for cards to slide out, but the purpose of the fabric tab is to secure them in the case until you tug on that tab to release them. The wallet remains slim and adds little bulk to your phone. I found that I could comfortably put four cards in the wallet without a problem.
Unfortunately this is one of those bootstrapped products short on funding, so it’s out of stock at Amazon and hard to find at retail. It is available on Distil Union’s website for $39.99.
The Response Fake TV Burglar Deterrent is a kitschy, yet surprisingly useful, security precaution that travelers can use when on the road. If you do not have a timer feature on your lighting system at home, this is the perfect device that is only a fraction of the cost of paying for a timer setting.
It essentially emits a flashing light mimicking the effect of someone watching TV. This is a great way to show that someone is at home, even if you are away to help in deterring thieves.
It uses very little power, but emits a bright enough light to appear as if someone is watching a large-screen, high-definition TV. It has random flashing lights so that there is no distinctive pattern, which truly makes it look as if the TV is on. I can even see this giving pets some comfort when people are away at work during the day.
Setting it up took just a few minutes, and for someone like me with little ability to construct anything successfully out of the box, this was a cinch.
I am often traveling to destinations where security issues can be a concern, and this would be a great item to tag along in my carry-on for those hotels where my room is on the first floor or where I do not want anyone entering while I am gone. For example, I had this with me when in West Africa, and I felt a bit more comfortable leaving the room since it always appeared as if someone were there.
The device has its own timer with seasonal settings that can adjust to the varying patterns of light in winter or summer. Disappointingly, the timer is sold separately, but is worth the extra cost. It is available for under $30 on Amazon.