Posts Tagged gift ideas
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.”
Alternate title: OMG, I’ll never carry my ski gear in a shoulder bag ever again. Transpack specializes in backpack-style ski and snowboard boot bags, with several distinct models to choose from. What they all have in common: high quality construction, intelligent design, and comfort.
Transpack calls its design the ‘isosceles storage system’, which reminds me unpleasantly of high school geometry but, unlike my math education, turns out to be something I can actually use in the real world. What an ‘isosceles storage system means: the interior design of most Transpack bags is such that the toes of the boots meet together in the front of the pack, away from your back when you carry the load. The weight of the pack is distributed to the sides, which equals happy shoulders and neck muscles.
Go on the Transpack site, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. While they only make a few main styles of backpacks, there are several models in each category. To break it down and identify the main differences in styles, my skiing and snowboarding family and I tried out four different Transpacks. (We try to be helpful like that.)
For starters, no matter what your boot bag needs, Transpack has you well taken care of with backpack straps for an impressively comfortable carry. The question you have to ask yourself is: how big a bag do I need, how sturdy does it have to be, and where will it be traveling with me?
Transpack breakdown (clockwise from top left): Compact Pro, Sidekick, XT1, and Edge Jr.
This is the pack you need if you’re an every-weekend, all winter long kind of skier. I tested this out for myself, as I ski at least once per week all season long. The Pro comes in a standard size or a compact size, features the Isosceles Storage System (so it’s triangular shaped), and is made of super tough, treated 1680 ballistic nylon with a water resistant TPU tarpaulin bottom. You get reflective piping on the sides, a roomy central compartment for gear, side zippered pockets for ski or snowboard boots (with drainage), and many internal and external pockets, including a soft fleece-lined goggle pocket. There’s a stabilizing waist strap in addition to the shoulder straps, and a mesh padded back panel that you’d expect to see on a hiking day pack, not a boot bag. I found the compact Pro to be plenty big enough to store my helmet, my boots, gloves, two pairs of goggles, an extra shell, and all the little items that get lost in the bottom of a standard bag: sunscreen, car keys, screwdriver and binding adjustment tool, ski pass, sunglasses, and lip balm. I’d only opt for a standard for men with very large ski boots. The Pro is $119 through Transpack retailers like REI and $109 on Amazon, and comes in a variety of colors.
If you plan to use your pack a little less often (say 2-3 major ski trips per season), you can save some dough downgrading from a Pro to an XT1. The main difference: the XT1 is made of water resistant coated 600 denier polyester instead of the higher grade ballistic nylon. There’s no major difference visibly. You still get the rubberized water resistant TPU tarp bottom, and because the XT1 is one of the more popular styles, it comes in a greater variety of colors and prints. The design is the same as the Pro, including the patented Isosceles Storage System. Our 12-year-old is using the XT1, and he’s been swapping out his ski boots and snowboard boots in the boot pockets, finding that they fit both easily. You get mesh zippered size pockets and a top pocket on the outside, perfect for ski passes, keys, and other small items. Like with the Pro, helmets, gloves, and other larger items fit in the main compartment. The XT1 retails for $90 at Transpack and can be found on Amazon or Sun And Ski Sports for as low as $69. (Your other economical option is the Edge, found on Amazon for under $50.)
For kids under 10, the Edge Jr is a manageable size. We’re big fans of kids carrying their own gear, but our eight-year-old really struggled with a shoulder-strap style bag. It kept slipping off his shoulder or thumping against his legs as he navigated the parking lot. With the Edge Jr, which is pretty much identical to the XT1 but smaller, he can easily carry his bag and his skis and poles. There’s plenty of room for a kid-sized helmet, gloves, boots, and outer layer, though this bag is missing the dedicated goggle pocket. I guess Transpack (correctly) assumes that kids have already scratched their goggles beyond repair anyway. The Edge Jr is $49 at Amazon, a bit less at Paragon Sports, and comes in fun prints, like gray camo.
Transpack Sidekick and Sidekick Pro:
The sidekick is the alternative to the Isosceles Storage System style. This backpack carries boots on the outside of the pack, using a Delta strap boot system with optional, stowaway boot covers to protect boots against the elements. Personally, I prefer for my boots to be zippered into an interior dedicated pocket, but the Sidekick is perfect for my 14-year-old, who wants a more versatile bag.
How is the Sidekick different? In addition to the exterior boot carry, this bag has a traditional backpack design, complete with hydration sleeve, laptop sleeve, and an exterior zippered helmet compartment. Our teen uses his bag to and from school ski trips, so he uses the laptop sleeve to stow homework and books. He also likes that he has the option of the hydration sleeve for use as an on-mountain pack. The Sidekick Pro is made from the same ballistic nylon as the regular Pro, and the regular Sidekick sports the polyester. The pack appears pretty bulky and cumbersome loaded up with ski boots on either side and helmet strapped in the outside pocket, but in fact, my son and I were both amazed by how well the shoulder and waist straps support the weight, and how well that weight is distributed. Like the other bags, you get plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your gear organized. The Sidekick Pro retails for $120 through Transpack retailers or as low as $99 on Amazon, in a good variety of solid colors.
Outfitting your entire family in quality boot bags is an investment, but we don’t plan on needing to replace our Transpacks for a long time. I can’t say the same of the cheaper shoulder strap bags we’ve used in the past. A set of Transpacks might make for a great holiday gift to the whole family under the tree this year. Just saying.
I’ve been known to carry a flask along now and then, so I was glad to give this new one from Stanley a whirl after I saw it at their Outdoor Retailer Show booth. Besides it being useful and cool, it’s made of very tough plastic, so I wasn’t worried about it getting dented along the way.
The eCycle in the name makes you feel like you’re doing some good in the world as you drink to Mother Earth. It’s made from recycled food packaging (up to 25% post-consumer) and if the thing gets too beat up to use anymore (or you drop it under a moving vehicle while waving your arms around telling that great story), you can toss it in any recycling bin that accepts #5 plastic. See more details on that at the Stanley eCycle page.
What else makes this seven-ounce Stanley flask different is how you get into it. There’s the normal screw-off circular lid for pouring or swilling, but then there’s another opening too. The whole rectangular top of the container will flip open, allowing you a bigger space in which to pour ingredients for a cocktail to go. Or to just get the thing clean when you want to go from Bourbon to Vodka—never an easy thing in the ones where you just have to keep filling and rinsing. It’s dishwasher safe—how cool is that!
The main drawback of this is…it’s still hard to find. It supposedly came out in July, but retail orders must have been light because only a few of the usual spots you’d shop for Stanley mugs and bottles seem to have it.
The eCycle flask comes in green or blue and sells for $20. I’m guessing I’ll lose this before it even comes close to wearing out. It’s well-designed and very rugged. Pick up one for your camping friend who drinks or your favorite lush who travels. Check a local retail store, L.L. Bean, or add it to the cart at Amazon.
You can buy a foldable camp chair for under $15. It’ll be flimsy, but will probably last you through the summer with general camping, picnic, and field-side use. Or you can pay significantly more for a chair with bells and whistles, such as footrests, canopies, and even built-in coolers. Or you can pay somewhere in the middle for a Strongback Chair, which mirrors the basic chair model seen in parks everywhere, but is easily twice as comfortable.
What makes the Strongback different? Well, you know that sinking feeling you get when you fall into a regular camp chair? How you’re kind of cradled in the cup of it, and have to heave yourself out of it? That doesn’t happen in a Strongback. This chair features a curved bar in the design, which gives the back of the chair support to keep your back straighter. When I first sat in a Strongback, I could immediately feel the difference; my back was straight, my shoulders square, and I felt supported…the chair itself felt stiffer and more significant than my usual chair.
Of course, my second thought, after, ‘wow, how comfortable’ was: but does it matter? Who cares if I slump in my camp chair? I guess it doesn’t matter much in the short term, but if you’ll be spending significant time in your chair–for me, this is while watching countless hours of youth soccer games–or if you have any type of back problems, it makes a huge difference.
There are two styles of Strongback chairs, the Elite and the Zen. The difference: size and weight. The Elite weighs in at over 11 pounds–very heavy for a chair–and has a larger frame (and folded size). It is rated to 300 pounds. The Zen is significantly lighter at over 7 pounds, folds down smaller, and is rated to 225 pounds. Both come with armrests, a cup holder, and a carrying case with both backpack straps and a well-constructed carrying handle. One other nifty feature: after folding the chair, you can keep it closed by snapping a buckle closure. No more squeezing the chair shut while trying to stuff it in its case!
I tried the Zen, and as a medium-sized woman, it fits me well. Because I carry my chair across a lot of parks and fields, I would not want the heavier version. If you primarily use your chair at a camping base camp or while RV camping and don’t move it much, however, the Elite would probably work just fine.
Is a Strongback worth the price? Like with most things, it just depends on what you need. If you need a chair with extras (like a sun canopy), it isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for a basic, all-purpose folding chair that will last and offers significantly more comfort, it’s definitely worth the investment. Pick up an Elite for $79 or a Zen for $45 on the Strongback website, or for the same price at L.L. Bean.
By this time of the summer at Practical Travel Gear, I’ve collected so many useful yet smaller outdoor travel items that I decided to bring them together for their very own outdoor adventure accessories round-up. A successful backcountry trip is all in the details, so here are four perhaps overlooked items that will make your time in the wilderness more convenient and more comfortable.
MosquitNo silicone bands:
I have a deep hatred for mosquitos. Often, these pesky suckers (pun intended) are the only nuisance I can find in the wilderness…my tolerance for heat, cold, wind, rain, and bears are quite high. I usually slather myself in DEET (yes, I’ll probably die young), so I was skeptical of these non-DEET silicone bands designed to repel mosquitos. Do they work? Yes…though not as well as the straight stuff. They’re made with citronella oil, so they’re safe for kids, and they come in kid-sizes and are brightly colored to appeal to the younger set. They even glow in the dark. They last for 150 hours (around 5-6 days), and yes, they’re easier to apply than stinky spray. We did find them to repel the insects as well as a citronella candle, and the kids were much more agreeable to wearing them than to subjecting themselves to spray or lotion.
I’ve reviewed Nikwax products in the past, and loved them, so I knew I’d like their base fresh. What is it? A conditioner for technical clothing: all those base layers you sweat in. Add Base Fresh to your regular washer load (along with detergent) to keep these sensitive fabrics at the peak of shape. These clothes are expensive. You want to preserve their life and usefulness.
Pick up Base Fresh for $7.50 at Amazon.
E-Case for iPhone:
Keep your smart phone dry and dust-free while backpacking, kayaking, river rafting, and traveling. This little guy came along with me for a four-day whitewater rafting trip, and I could still take video through the case (I could have checked my email, too, should I have had any bars). I love that this case, made by Cascade Designs, is seal-locked, totally waterproof, and UV resistant. Plus, it fits the iPhone 5, but also older models.
I’ve admitted before to liking my comforts while in the backcountry. I’ll happily carry more weight in order to lay my head on a pillow at night. But Cocoon’s ultralight Air-Core pillow is a breeze to cart along at only 185 grams, and it comes with a stuff sack, too. I don’t normally find inflatable pillows comfortable, but the materials used are so soft, they make up for this.
Pick one up on Amazon for under $20.