Posts Tagged double-duty gear
The new Eagle Creek FlipSwitch is a very fun and useful hybrid wheeled carry-on / backpack. It does, however, take some playing around with and trial and error to fully ‘get’ it. Before I tried it out, I wondered whether it was going to score high on novelty points in the double duty gear category, but low on practicality points. I’m happy to say that’s not the case.
First, here’s what it is and how it works: At first glance, the FlipSwitch looks like your standard wheeled carry-on. It comes in two sizes, 22″ for the carry-on version and 28″ for the larger or checked bag version. It’s soft-sized with ripstop fabric under a lifetime warranty, has reinforced sections where bags are subject to the most abuse, and two-sided, lockable zippers in two compartments. There’s also a zippered water bottle holder, two reinforced handles (one on the side and one at the top), and nice, easy to roll wheels (with a pull handle, of course).
However, unzip the outside compartment, and you’ll find a full suspension backpack system. This includes a fully padded, vented back, padded shoulder straps, a fully adjustable waist belt, and even a chest strap. Within the back pad is a small zippered compartment, and behind the whole system is an extra, roomy pocket. It takes about one minute for a newbie to switch the bag from carry-on to backpack and be on the go again, but I imagine I’ll get my time down to under 30 seconds as I get more familiar with the bag.
Do you need it? This was my first question once I’d become familiar with how the FlipSwitch works. The fact is, the backpack system does take a substantial amount of space in the bag, and we all know how precious space is in our wheeled carry-ons. That said, the backpack system is removable. You could absolutely leave it at home and use the space for more storage. Of course, I know the minute I do that, I’ll encounter a situation in which I need the backpack.
Whether having this nifty backpack option is worth the space it takes depends entirely on your mode of travel and preferred method of carrying your bag. For standard air travel, I’ve found I haven’t used the backpack once. The next time I’m flying, I’ll remove it from the pack before leaving. However, for road trip travel and trips when I need to carry my bag long distances in cities, I have used the backpack every time.
If you opt to keep the backpack system attached, but not used, you basically lose the storage space of the outer compartment. This leaves you with the interior compartment, which is small by carry-on standards (35L). You do also have a small zippered pocket on the lid of the inner compartment, good for storage smaller items, toiletries, or power cords. There’s also reflective striping and an ID pocket.
What it comes down to: is the FlipSwitch a quality bag? Yes. And I’m not surprised; I’ve always been able to trust the Eagle Creek name. But for $275 for the 22″ model, you’re paying for both a bag and a backpack. If you need both, this is a great value. If not, the FlipSwitch is probably more than you need. Pick one up in light blue or black at Eagle Creek or Backcountry for $275, or find one for around $250 at Amazon.
Taking double-duty travel gear in a new direction, this combination water bottle and vacuum mug from Stanley will pack down together when you’re not using them.
We’re always happy to see items that pack up easier. Besides all the crushable travel shoes we’ve reviewed regularly, we often get overly excited about packable wine kits, folding solar kits, collapsible camping bowls, or packable daypacks. And if you’ve got limited space in your apartment, you don’t want to fill your cabinets with more than you have to.
This Stanley nesting set is a classic vacuum bottle holding 16 ounces and a 40-ounce basic leak-proof, BPA-free water bottle. The water bottle is basically just a receptacle: no drinking spout or other way to get at the liquid without unscrewing it. So this functions better as something to take along camping or wilderness backpacking in dry areas than it does to travel with day to day.
The mug is a different story, rated to keep hot liquids hot for three hours or more and in my tests it did the trick from 7:30 am to lunchtime. There’s a turn mechanism on the top that allows you to drink from it or lock it down for transporting. This looks to be nearly the same as the one-hand vacuum bottle that sells for $30 on its own, so it’s almost like you’re getting the water bottle for free.
If your coffee doesn’t need to stay hot that long, say for a morning commute, there’s a cheaper version for $20.
I’d like to see the 2.0 version be a bit trimmer and more useful on the water bottle front, but for using on camping trips and then packing away afterwards, it’s a good product for a good price.
In case you haven’t noticed, yoga has hit the road. There are yoga tours, yoga resorts, and there’s a pretty good chance that beach resort where you’re staying has a class running at least once a day. I’m not the person to ask about yoga clothing to take traveling, but my wife Donna is a personal trainer and yoga teacher, so she is. Tell us about the New Balance Anue line Donna!
Traveling can be rough on the body. I don’t mean hiking or rock climbing. I mean, sitting in a car, or an airplane, or even in an airport for hours on end. My body gets stiff. So when I get to my end destination, I like to do some yoga. Whether it is alone in my hotel room (with my trusty travel yoga mat) or seeking out a yoga class.
New Balance has come out with new additions to their Anue yoga collection called Nirvana. They are all made from recycled fibers that are soft and supple, wicking moisture in all the right places.
Their Spree Capri is exactly what you want in a yoga pant. It hugs the body in all the right places but allows for total freedom of movement. It’s made from recycled polyester with a bit of spandex, so it should dry quickly if you need to do a sink wash in the room.
Same with their new Cami, pictured top right, which went over so well it’s sold out at HQ. (For now you can still get it at Amazon.) With a soft feel and flat seams, it’s comfortable for a workout or around town.
The nice thing about these pieces are they are lightweight, easy to pack and can be used for layering outside of the yoga studio. I was recently in Nashville on vacation with my family. After using my new yoga togs on the mat, I was able to wear the Capri underneath a skirt for added warmth when the temps dropped into the 30s. And the Cami made a wonderful layering piece as well. The best part is, because these are exercise clothes, they remain breathable and are not bulky. Easy to pack and multi-purpose.
While I did not bring the Sutra Tank on this trip, I use it often in yoga class. I like the banded hem as it keeps it in place whether I am in downward dog or crow pose. However, this top will absolutely make it into the suitcase for my next warm weather vacation. Off the yoga mat, this little top will look sexy with a skirt or shorts.
The Anue line from New Balance is a nice alternative to the high-end yoga wear from the likes of Lululemon and Prana. The pieces here I tried range from $48 to $60 list price, less on sale sometimes at retail or online. Buy direct from New Balance or get them online at Amazon or Zappos.
If you’re going off the grid for a while or just want to have a reliable power source when outlets are scarce, this Goal Zero solar charging kit really delivers.
I’ve reviewed a lot of different solar chargers over the years, from the good to the almost useless. This is the best kit I’ve tried for people who want outlet-strength charging for their gadgets that won’t require two days in the sun. You get a ray-catching fold-out solar panel, a 4-AA battery pack (batteries included), and various cords for different scenarios.
When I tried this out for the first time, I was amazed how fast it worked. Accustomed to small panels that take 6-8 hours to charge up in full sunlight, this Goal Zero Nomad 7 panel charged up my smartphone from 20% to full in 2.5 hours. It took less than four to charge up the battery pack of dead batteries, whether using theirs or four of my own rechargeables.
That Guide 10 battery pack is one of the key benefits of this Guide 10 Plus kit. You can charge up the ones that came with it and use those to power up other devices later when you need to, like in the middle of the night or early morning on the move. Or you can use those batteries or others in your super-zoom camera, lantern powered with AA batteries, travel flashlight, etc. Bring enough spares with you and you’ve got days of ready power at the ready—just put the AAs into this Goal Zero pack and you’ve got an instant charger.
The battery pack even has its own built-in LED flashlight to help you find what you need in the dark. It also charges up AAA batteries.
Without it you can charge directly from the solar panel. I did this with two smartphones, and iPod Touch, and a Windows Asus Vivo tablet. I would plug them into the USB port in the morning and be fully charged up before I was done with lunch. There’s a netted pouch in the back of the panel that holds these items (keeping them shaded from the sun) and all the accessory cords.
One cord is USB to micro USB, another is a car adapter that will charge up the battery pack. Yes, you can charge the batteries with good ole electric power and use this as a regular travel charger as well, for trans-Pacific flights on the way perhaps.
With continual improvements in the design over the years, all of this together weighs less than 1.5 pounds and since the panel fold up, it all takes up very little space in your backpack. Heck you can even strap the the panel to your pack as you’re hiking and charge up the batteries on the move.
The Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Adventure Kit lists for $120, which is a fair price for a solar panel set-up with this output plus the battery pack and cords. Get it direct from Goal Zero, at many retail stores, or online at Summit Hut, Backcountry, or Amazon.
(See Ramsey’s take from two years ago on an earlier version of the Guide 10 Adventure Kit.)
I’ve sung the praises of Hi-tec jackets on this gear blog before because while they look good and perform well, they’re priced half or less what many competing jackets are with the same features. This Napier Ridge Parka really surprised me though in how warm it is, keeping me toasty on a windy ski lift at 15F degrees.
This parka is one of those 2-in-1 jackets and if you pay close attention to the buying details at the end, I’ll tell you how you can get it for even less than it’s $249 combo price by buying the two pieces separately right now. The outer shell is like your typical waterproof breathable shell using the likes of Gore-tex, OutDry, Polartec, or eVent. But as with Colombia’s Omni-dry, Hi-tec uses its own proprietary Dri-Tec system, saving them some licensing fees. I can’t promise you their nanotech surface solution comes out on top of those name brand membranes in lab tests, but this is the third jacket of theirs I’ve tried now and all have performed as well in my real-world uses as any other. This Napier Ridge one was no exception: it kept me dry when it snowed or drizzled, but I didn’t get sweaty then clammy when I went out snowshoeing one day around Park City, Utah.
The photo here is from the slopes of The Canyons ski resort at 15F degrees and that’s where the inside section went to work. The zip-in interior is an Alpine Start Parka with 550 fill down insulation. Under a waterproof layer, that kicks in a lot of warmth. So with just an Icebreaker merino wool baselayer and this two-part jacket, I was quite comfortable skiing The Canyons and Park City Resort, while people I was skiing with were whining about how cold they were. If you’re going to face sub-freezing temperatures, this won’t be the slimmest option around, but it might be the warmest.
Of course if the temperature rises and the sun comes out, you can strip off the shell and stick it in a locker. The Alpine Start down part can be worn as a jacket on its own. So if you’re going traveling, this combo enables you to take three jackets along for different conditions, while only carrying one.
As far as features go, it has a zip-off and Velcro hood with elastic cinch straps, two seam-sealed waterproof outer pockets for gadgets, inside pockets on both the down jacket and shell, and cinch straps at the bottom of both jackets. If you get too hot, there are pit zips on the shell.
Overall, this is a terrific two-in-one jacket for cold weather activities and the flexibility on the two parts means you can take this and this alone on a winter vacation trip and be set for multiple conditions, from rain to blizzard to mild. With a list price of $249, it’s a bargain compared to most name brand, well-made jackets of this type. You can get it for even less though if you buy at close-out time, which happens to be right now. On the Hi-tec site, the combo parka is available in black at list price, but you can get the Napier Ridge Shell in several colors on sale for $70 and pick up the down Alpine Start jacket that zips in for another $90 to $130 at Amazon or Buy.com depending on color.