Posts Tagged double-duty gear
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.
Find out about deep discounts and coupon codes through our Insider Travel Gear Deals newsletter and get a free report: “10 Travel Gear Gifts for $20 or Less.”
You can’t go wrong with a classic. If you need a waterproof, rugged, all-purpose duffel bag and want to pay a bit less than you would for most adventure-gear brands of a similar size, Helly Hansen’s 50L duffel is for you.
Helly Hansen offers their duffel bags in 30L, 50L, and 90L for $75, $90, and $110 respectively. I don’t usually open my reviews with the price, but it bears noting the value here: you get all the features you’d expect in a high-quality duffel for a price that makes you want to buy two. Or three. I’ve been putting ours through its paces for eight months now, and it shows literally no sign of wear.
It’s pretty, too. When the 50L duffel arrived in our household, it caused an argument between my teen and tween sons; each wanted to claim it as their own new carry-on bag. I settled things by taking it for myself. In the months since, my oldest has reclaimed it, putting it to use as a ski gear bag. It’s so versatile, it’s been pressed into service as a day bag for snorkel gear, too.
Let’s go over features: don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles on the Helly Hansen duffel. Like others in its category, the genius is in its simplicity. But it does deliver on details. The bag is made of tough nylon tarpaulin, with extra flaps to fold over zippers and keep moisture out. Its water-resistency is what makes it a great ski or snowboard gear bag. You get compression straps to tighten everything down (and fit into airline overhead compartments) and a zippered pocket both inside and outside. There’s a name tag holder and a padded shoulder strap, but I’ve saved the best for last: hideaway backpack straps that allow you to carry the duffel on your back. As mentioned, you can tuck these straps into the bag, but we keep them out full-time.
The duffel features a nice U-shaped extra-rugged zipper to completely open up the bag, and stiff end panels makes it possible to stand the duffel on one end (great for easy storage or for resting between your knees on a bus, shuttle, or plane). It comes in a nice variety of shiny colors including orange, white with red accents, blue, red, black, or purple. Buy straight from Helly Hansen for $90, or pick one up on Amazon for a few bucks less or look at Moosejaw.
Ever need one suitcase when you start out but two when you come home? Or have limited space to store luggage where you live? This Eagle Creek Morphus Bag can be one suitcase, two suitcases, or a suitcase and a backpack. But it’s not that short and simple…
I mentioned this bag back in my January gear trends recap because it was like nothing else on the market. It’s got a hard shell back, a soft waterproof front, and two bags hiding in what looks like one. On top of that, it’s got wheels or you can put the whole thing on a backpack for a daunting flight of stairs—but the straps are on the front, so no wheels digging into your back.
Already pretty cool, but the real magic happens when you need two suitcases, as I did recently when I went on a trade show trip and had a bunch of things to bring back. I did a quick unzipping that turned this Morphus bag into two bags and checked one of them for the trip back.
“What’s the catch?” you’re probably wondering. Well apart from the price, which is nosing up against $400 for the carry-on, you do lose a little cargo space since there’s an extra layer of bag in there. I can’t pack quite as much in one of these as I can pack in some other Eagle Creek 22-inch bags I’ve tried. A 47-liter capacity is not always apples to apples.
The Morphus comes in at a rather average 7 pounds 14 ounces when you’re wheeling along with both of them together. Obviously that drops a lot if you’re just using one.
When it comes to features and versatility though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any carry-on bag anywhere that has such a long list. This thing has all kinds of handles, straps, and grabs to enable you to haul either section multiple ways, comfortably. It’s got lockable zippers, multiple pounches, a padded laptop section, a tablet sleeve, even an emergency whistle. Yes, a whistle!
If you can’t get your head around all this, there’s a good video demo on the Eagle Creek website.
I mentioned the hefty price earlier, but I do have to point out that besides this being for two bags, it comes with Eagle Creek’s “no matter what” warranty. If you buy this and like it, you’ll probably still be using it when you’re 15 years older. Get the Eagle Creek Morphus Bag in a 22-inch carry-on or 30-inch version to check direct from Eagle Creek, at REI, or Moosejaw.
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.
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!
Talk about practical travel gear: this UCO Arka gadget is a flashlight, a lantern, a charger for your gadgets—all rolled into a water-resistant package that collapses down to fit into a corner of your bag.
I’ve annoyed a few PR people over the years who were pitching camping lanterns or flashlights they thought this travel gear blog should review: I passed because they used throwaway batteries. Sure, it’s possible to charge C or D batteries if you have the right kind of big, bulky charger. But who’s going to carry that along on even a car camping trip? Hardly anyone, so people just buy disposable acid batteries that will be chucked into a landfill probably.
In this day and age, that just seems barbaric.
This device charges up by USB, so you can plug into a laptop, into a wall outlet with the included adapter, or into a solar charger like the ones we’ve reviewed from Goal Zero or Bruton. Or some portable charger you’ve carried along like the Innergie, Digital Foci, or Eton travel chargers we’ve checked out. But the current can also flow the other way, this light itself serving as a charger if needed.
If you’re into stats, here are the ones that matter. This UCO Arka lantern weighs less than half a pound (213 grams) and its light output is 180 lumens. The charging output is 3.7 volts, 4AH. That should be enough to fully charge your dead smart phone. As for how long the light will stay lit when fully charged, the official promise is 6-8 hours on high. In my tests though, it went for more than eight hours on full blast. So figure you’d be good for a weekend camping trip without needing a recharge: on low mode it’s supposed to last 50 hours. It juiced back up again in about two hours from my laptop, a tad less from a solar panel charger in full sun.
There’s just one button on the top of this flashlight/lantern and it cycles through the various modes. You can use it as a flashlight or lantern in low or high, of course, or you can go in red lantern mode, flashing or steady on. The really cool thing is that button is also a dimmer. Hold it down and dim it or do it again and make it brighter, to the exact level you want.
The designers didn’t take the easy way out on this product. They even built little extendable feet into the base of it that fold out when using it as a lantern, fold back when a flashlight. And you pop it down to half its height when it’s time to use it as a flashlight or just pack it away to get a move on during daylight hours. There’s also a ring on top for hanging it in a tent or on a branch.
My only real complaint about this Arka lantern is the way it is packaged. For something so eco-friendly, the packaging is atrocious: lots of Chinese plastic that requires judicious cutting and can’t be recycled. It took longer to free the lantern from its bondage than it did to figure out how to use it.