Let’s face it. We are what we wear sometimes, and this sleek and comfortable messenger bag sends a contemporary and modern impression. My charcoal Brenthaven Collins Slim briefcase looks as hip and cool as ever as I stroll through airports with it slung over my shoulder using the adjustable strap or dangling over my rollaboard suitcase.
It can easily fit a MacBook Air 13″ or MacBook Pro 13″-15″. I admit that I am not cool enough to have a MacBook (and I am proud of it), but my Lenovo ThinkPad 15″ fits easily into the same supportive, foam-protecting slot.
The same padded pocket can hold a tablet device or even smart phone without concern for it to shift around. A front storage pocket is also great for storing smaller items such as keys, boarding passes, passports, or pens and notepads.
For a slim carrying case, I was quite surprised at the quantity of magazines and paperwork that I could stuff into the pocket without it feeling too bulky or looking stretched.
While this case would not work for some of my longer trips that see me gone for two weeks at a time, it is perfectly convenient for short trips where my load is light.
I think that we can all agree that our laptops are our most valuable commodity since they store so much of our information and work documents. At least for me, I could not survive happily without it, which is why seeking out the most protective, yet stylish, carrying equipment is paramount for my travels.
It comes in a variety of colors, and the metal strap provides a fine design accent no matter what hue you select. Brenthaven has always provided solid value for my money, and this briefcase will not disappoint.
As winter gives way to spring, it’s not as if the temperature magically changes and you can ditch all your cool-weather gear. When it comes to traveling, it’s always good to have something for those in-between temperatures, whether you’re being active outdoors, or just looking for a warm layer when you walk around. An ideal piece for this very use is the SmartWool women’s PhD SmartLoft Divide Vest.
The vest has a wool-insulated nylon with DWR shell on the outside (for water repellency and warmth), and Merino lining on the inside (for warmth, breathability, and optimal efficiency in transferring sweat to the outer layer)—all perfect to keep your core warm.
All that put together results in a light and compressible piece that keeps you toasty in cool conditions. And with Merino wool, the vest can be worn multiple times without needing to be washed, which is always ideal when you’re traveling.
Even if you get warm when being active outdoors, you can easily adjust your outcome based on the weight of long-sleeved shirt you wear underneath. When you’re in winter conditions, add a layer on top to allow for more warmth and protection without overheating with all those layers.
The hand-warmer pockets stash items for quick access, and the zippered chest pocket with media routing allows you to listen to your tunes when out on the slopes, in the street, or on the trails.
Yeah, we’ve tried out more than a few travel speakers on this gear blog, but this Buckshot one from Outdoor Tech is inspiring serious envy when I show it to people. This is a true travel speaker that sounds pretty damn good but will fit in the palm of your hand like the throttle of a motorbike. Or if you’re the workout type, like the handle on one of those bands you use to do tension exercises.
I’ll get to the sound in a minute, but the big appeal of this Bluetooth speaker—that’s right, no wires—is how small and rugged it is. You can fit this thing in a corner of your daypack or stick it in your suitcase, where it’ll take up less space than a pair of thin socks. If you drop it when you’re taking it out, no biggie. This Buckshot speaker has a shock-absorbing rubber exterior that’s got diamond shapes built into it. I don’t know if that makes it more bouncy when you drop it, but it sure looks cool.
It’s water-resistant too, which is a good thing since it comes with a bicycle mount. I’m dubious about the idea of people riding around thinking everyone wants to listen to their music, but I guess it beats having headphones on and being oblivious to things like, oh, ambulances. And other riders.
This little travel speaker has a listed battery life of 15-16 hours. I think I passed that on the first try because I played about 20 full albums and left the thing on for days when I wasn’t using it. Eventually it cuts itself off, but still. That’s impressive. If you’re camping or hiking in areas with no outlets, bring along a solar charger and this thing will keep cranking forever. It charged up in a couple hours in an outlet, so it shouldn’t be one of those all-day affairs if you’ve got a GoalZero kit or a stored power charger.
So how’s it sound? Well, “pretty good considering” would be the best answer. When I play it next to larger and heavier speakers I have around, it doesn’t have the same thumping bass and there’s clearly less dynamic range. This Buckshot weighs a lot less than those and is tinier, so a better comparison is those little X-mini ones and the like you see at mall kiosks and electronics stores all over. This Outdoor Tech one is clearly a step above those.
I’ve played a pretty wide range of music through this: Coltrane, Strokes, Lana del Rey, Thievery Corporation, Band of Joy, John Hiatt, Sigur Ros, Common, Nortec Collective, and some classical for a start. As with most small speakers, it does better with electronic music than rock, better with pop than jazz or classical. New music that’s already compressed for Apple devices sounds better than older stuff meant for when people used real stereos. Anyone under 30 will probably think this speaker sounds amazing; anyone older will say it’s not bad for the size. (If you really want to shake the walls in your apartment, upgrade to the company’s Turtle Shell one instead for more than twice the price.)
Packing for travel is all about trade-offs of course and in this one you get a decent-sounding speaker with no distortion that’s a no-brainer to pack even if you’re only taking a carry-on. Since it’s Bluetooth, you only need a charger cord, which is USB micro and included.
My main beefs with this speaker were encountered in the first few minutes. It’s quite hard to figure out where the plug is to charge it. You have to peel a layer of rubber back to expose it and that’s not pointed out anywhere in the limited instructions. The other problem is there’s just one button to do anything except turn the volume up or down. This means one button does these three things: turn on, turn off, enable Bluetooth. See the problem there? The same action that turns it off—holding the button down—is also the same action that enables Bluetooth. How about just putting another frickin’ button on there? There’s room.
After I got the hang of it though, I was able to pair the device at least half the time on the first try. Then I could crank my tunes all day without needing a recharge.
We’re liable to like any pair of travel shoes that has “wildly versatile” in its marketing description. Coming from Ecco, we’re liable to believe it too. After a string of thumbs’ up from me on past models I’ve tried, I had a pretty secure feeling these Terra Cruise Speed shoes would be winners.
After all, I’ve raved about other Eccos in the past and I’m still wearing the Biom Grip ones regularly after trying my best to pound them into submission over the past year and three months. They’ve got at least 200 miles on them at this point, on sidewalks in a half dozen countries.
The Danish shoes from this company aren’t cheap: a pair of Terra Cruise Speed ones will set you back $140 at list price, even though these are made in Thailand. They look and feel well-made though and I don’t worry that two months down the line they’ll compress to nothing and leave me with sore feet. With all the traveling I do (which always involves walking) and living in almost completely pedestrian-focused Guanajuato (even more walking), I need shoes that are going to hold up for the long term.
These are more than functional though, with a look that’s got a bit of Euro style, but not to the point of being dainty and impractical. They fit like a glove on top, partly thanks to the stretchy lace system, which I really dig. Slippery shoelaces are my biggest pet peeve with footwear companies and the system here is pretty much “set it and forget it.” Great for the security line at the airport. You can even slip these on and off without sitting down and messing with them—very handy if you’re headed to Japan or Korea.
Your feet will breathe well in these too, so you won’t clear the room when you take off your shoes. These are some of the most breatheable ones I’ve worn that aren’t meant for the water. All the moisture evaporates right out. No need to overheat first like you do with many membrane ones. The downside is they’re not waterproof, so don’t buy these planning for them to be your everyday kicks in Seattle or London.
Otherwise, there’s nice padding around the ankle, a tongue that stays in place, and a sole with some grippy traction. In short, good all-around shoes for urban travel and light adventure. The “speed” part of the name is because these are a tad lighter and more flexible than the regular Terra Cruise shoes, which sometimes have “sport” in the name. Yeah I know, it’s not real clear, but this company likes to design whole lines around one word or phrase, so pick carefully.
You can get the Terra Cruise Speed shoes in European and American stores, direct from Ecco USA, or online from Amazon. Also, Zappos carries the other Terra Cruise models, so they should have this one in by spring.
Winter’s not over yet, and you need to stay warm. Whether you live in a cold climate or you like to vacation in them, one of your best bets for keeping toasty is the Big Agnes Shovelhead Hooded Jacket.
Down jackets have their problems: wet down doesn’t keep you warm (or dry, for that matter), down sometimes shifts within the jacket to create a weird imbalance, and a lack of fit can make you look like a sack of potatoes. But not so with this jacket. Here’s why:
The 700-fill DownTek water-repellent down that’s inside the jacket absorbs 30 percent less water and dried 60 percent faster than untreated down. It can also be washed without losing the ability to repel water. This water-repellent treatment is non-synthetic, environmentally safe and adds no measurable weight.
Vertical baffles in the Shovelhead jacket keep you warmer, and “Flow Gates” eliminate the down from migrating all over the jacket. The jacket’s lightweight nylon shell is wind and water resistant, and the contoured fit makes it look like the Shovelhead was made for you.
There’s ample pocket space, too. Two outside zippered pockets, two interior stash mesh pockets, and one interior zippered pocket are enough room for your cell phone, wallet, hands, gloves, hat, and likely a few other things. Just remember—the more you stash in the pockets, the less you keep that fitted look.