travel hats

Posts Tagged airplane gear

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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V-MODA M-100 CLIQFOLD Noise Canceling Headphones Review


These classy, over-ear noise canceling headphones have a distinctive look that is sure to turn heads on an airplane or train. And that is not because the sound leaks out of the side (one of my biggest pet peeves from clueless travelers when they have no idea they are sharing their music with everyone on the plane). V-Moda headphones have memory foam ear covers that lock in the sound improving quality and saving the sanity of your seatmates.

I tested out the V-Moda M-100 Cliqfold model on several trips. One of my favorite features was the ability to fold the headphones at the earpiece edge into a more compact shape taking up less room in my carry-on bag.

I was not sure what benefit the dual headphone inputs would have (one cord into each ear rather than just one side), but noticed this was a special feature touted by V-Moda. It did lead to a more powerful sound that contributed to a more even and realistic balance in my ears. A second cable is included to allow friends to listen in as well. I was impressed with the durability of the Kevlar-coated cables that keep them from fraying or twisting in an over-packed briefcase.

One downfall of over-ear headphones is that it is difficult to sleep with them on especially if on an airplane as you can only sleep on your back. If you turn your head, it becomes obstructed by the ear piece and either falls off or shifts uncomfortably on your ear. But, I still prefer this model over in-ear pieces that irritate my ear canal after long periods of use. Plus, those just seem more dangerous if you like to turn the volume up.

Luckily, the head band on this pair adjusts easily to fit your head. When napping, I like to keep them snug so they don’t slip off and wake me up. You can even twist the head band a bit to loosen the pressure of the ear cups by angling them out a bit without losing the pressure on your head. I found this useful if I did turn my head to the side and wanted some leeway without losing them completely.

The sound quality of this pair of headphones is one of the best I have ever experienced making it more than worth the hefty $310 price point on V-Moda’s website and Amazon. I consider this an investment in comfort, and this pair has more of a hip edge and superb sound quality that makes it a great contender for the more expensive Bose models.

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Hummingbird WideMouth Carry-On

Finally. A bag tough enough to travel with my tween and teen boys. The Hummingbird WideMouth Carry-On is a multi-use, double and triple duty all-purpose bag you never knew you couldn’t do without. When I first got it, I wondered what I’d use it for, but multiple times since, I’ve wondered how I used to get along without it.

widemouth carry-on

Don’t let the name sway you: the WideMouth is good for a lot more than just as a carry-on. In fact, I’ve yet to use it as such (though I have checked it as luggage). It’s made of reinforced vinyl, resembling a big river rafting dry bag. In fact, it’s waterproof (fully submersible!), with a rolling closure just like a dry bag’s. In addition, you get reinforced shoulder straps and snap closures to keep everything secure. It’s 12x12x22 (with a volume of 40 liters).

You can fit so much into this bag, it’s crazy. (Of course, you can also pack it down small.) The wide-mouth, top-loading design means it can fit multiple pairs of shoes or boots, jackets, towels, sweatshirts, and even ski helmets. We use it to store the entire family’s ski outerwear during ski vacations (just take the one bag into ski lodges or leave it in the car) and everyone’s boots and water shoes during road trips. The vinyl material means that we don’t care if we have to toss dirty shoes into it (it just wipes down) and the waterproof feature means we can cart it from the car onto the ski slopes without anyone’s fleece getting wet.

As this post is published, the WideMouth is at my side during a 10-day eco cruise along Alaska’s Southeast shore: we checked it at the airport full of rain gear and hiking boots, and it has weathered everything thrown at it. Should we someday head out on a tour in a remote part of the world requiring bus travel, the WideMouth could easily catch a ride on a bus roof without incident.

The WideMouth retails for $149, but you can pick one up at Amazon for $65 in blue or orange, or find it at Moosejaw for a bit more. While you’re at it, check out other Hummingbird products for your journey, like the self-inflating neck pillow. It’s pretty rugged as well!

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WoodTones Over-The-Ear Griffin Headphones Review


This pair of stylish headphones from Griffin is polished with a wood exterior that gives it a unique look unlike any other pair of noise-canceling devices I have owned. What is even better is that the sound quality matches the elegant look, which is a plus for those that would rather not look like a sound studio technician while traveling.

The ear piece covers are devised from real wood and come in a variety of styles including walnut, sapele grain or the lighter beech wood. These are far more stylish than any other pair of noise canceling headphones on the market and come at a smaller cost than the typical Bose models. What is most important to me is the heft of this gear, and the pair I tested was both lightweight and easy to squeeze between existing travel items. One thing I steer clear from is hefty or bulky travel accessories since I only have a carry-on bag when traveling.

Often times, headphones that focus more on aesthetic style end up lacking in quality, but this pair seems to find a happy medium between both the look and sound protection that travelers prefer. They knock out exterior noise with more than a standard muffle, but are not overly bulky.

To be honest, I shy away from packing heavy or large headphones when traveling overseas because airlines often provide them in premium cabins and the space they take up in carry-on bags is not worth the trade off for a few hours of muffled sound. But, the WoodTones over-the-ear Griffin headphones went beyond simply masking exterior noise by providing more sophisticated stereo surround sound when plugged into music or other audio. My seat mates often asked where I got them from since they make quite a classy impression.

They are equally comfortable allowing users to sleep on one’s side without developing a soreness on the ear or side of the head. The fair purchase price of under $100 is a great tradeoff to the costlier versions produced by Bose. They are only available at this early stage on Griffin Technology’s website.

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A Great Leap Forward for Books: Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon e-reader at night

The Kindle Paperwhite is a terrific value, a device with clear text and long battery life that you can read with in the dark.

As the author of several travel books (including the new 4th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations), I’m a big fan of anything that makes it easier to find, buy, and read books. As an avid reader, I’m happy with a device that allows me to carry lots of books in one device and read them under multiple lighting conditions.

Both sides of me are thrilled with the Kindle Paperwhite.

I wasn’t exactly an early adopter of the Kindle e-reader from Amazon, but I did get one early enough that it was white, rather large, and had a keyboard. It’s hard to believe now, but that device started out at $399. By the time I got mine in 2010, it had dropped to $189. After too many times of being stuffed inside my laptop bag without much protection, the screen gave up the ghost recently and I’m now using a newer version—which retails for less than my inferior original did.

You can still get the regular one that requires a reading light in the dark, just like a book, but this one is better for reading in low light. As travelers, we encounter that a lot: on trains, buses, and in hotels with lousy lighting. (Or on the Delta Airlines flight I was on two nights ago where the overhead light didn’t work on multiple seats on the plane. Sigh…)

Evolution of the E-reader

It doesn’t feel like you’re looking at a glowing screen when you’re reading with this Paperwhite though; it’s much easier on the eyes than a tablet. The low-energy LED lights don’t take much power either. You can read for weeks between charges in normal use with the Wi-Fi turned off, but even with that on and hours at a time of reading, the battery will last 4-8 times as long as your iPad will, in actual usage time. When you’re not using it, there’s almost no drainage. Plug it in for four hours (by USB or with a wall adapter) and you’re good to go again after four hours.

e-reader day or nightIf you take a lot of notes you may miss the keyboard, but anyone else won’t. You can still type on the touchscreen if you want, but turning pages doesn’t require clicking a button. The only thing I miss is a home page button. I’ve found it tricky to get back there or to the control settings—to change the font size for instance—without several tries. You’re supposed to be able to just hold your finger down near the top of the screen, but half that time for me that ends up highlighting a word instead.

Highlighting a word is good though: you can look up the meaning of something you don’t understand. Or you can search for a particular word or line of text.

One big improvement is the progress read-out. You can see an actual page number if you want instead of just a percentage, and the Kindle estimates how long it will probably take you to finish the book. After a couple years of starting and stopping, I’m halfway through Moby Dick and it’s telling me I’ve got 10 more hours. Get on with it Ishmael!

In theory you can check your e-mail or pull up a website with this device, but the display is kind of clunky and not too quick. It’s better for an emergency than regular surfing. That’s actually a big plus for some buyers, especially parents. “I don’t want a tablet, I want something for electronic books” I’ve heard many people say. As in no temptation to check the Twitter feed or see if any new e-mails need a reply. Just concentration on one thing—a good book.

There’s a rubberized back on this new version that makes it easier to hold, but honestly if you’re going to do any traveling with it you need to invest in a case to protect it. The case can make it easier to hold this smaller device while laying down anyway and some of them have a built-in function that turns the device off when the cover is closed.

Paperwhite price $119 $139 $179

This thing holds up to 1,100 books, has a screen that looks great in the dark or bright light, is customizable, and…starts at only $119. How can anyone not see that as a terrific value? You have to add $20 to get rid of the promotional ads on the home screen and screen saver. Pay $179 to get the 3G version, which is useful if you’ll be traveling a lot and want the option of downloading a book from anywhere. (Or doing that emergency web surfing or e-mail checking.) The 3G service works internationally as well.

One other cool thing: when I turned this new one on and signed in, it downloaded all my books from the cloud. Unlike with the agony of getting a new laptop going, moving my Kindle library was completely painless. So was adding some new books I’ve had on my wish list.

See all the specs here and check prices on the Kindle Paperwhite book reader and shop the wide selection of cases to find one to protect it.


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