Posts Tagged green gear
If you’re a tomboy like me, when you need to look dressed up, you still don’t want to feel dressed up. In other words, forget any clothes that feel uncomfortable within the first few minutes of putting them on. This is exactly why I love eco-friendly Aventura clothing. In fact, Aventura made it into my top gear of the year for 2012. And now my love affair can continue with the Aventura Scrolls dress. I have a feeling fellow tomboys design clothing for Aventura, because this dress doesn’t feel like a dress at all. It’s extremely soft (that’s the bamboo fabric…I can’t get enough of bamboo), non-restrictive while still having a shape, and doesn’t wrinkle. All that, and it looks nice enough to wear out at night or for a nice lunch, especially paired with the Aventura Julian Cardigan (but more on that in a minute).
The Scrolls dress is very flattering with an empire waist and sleeveless top, plus you get a finished look without the effort due to the faux under layer. The shoulder straps are wide enough to conceal a bra without any fuss, and the eco-friendly bamboo fabric has a nice stretch to it. Have I mentioned it’s flattering? And I’m not the only one to fall in love with it: my taller travel writing pal Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals found the Scrolls dress appealing as well.
I took the Scrolls on a trip to Disney World (the lucky thing!) where it did double-duty as a cool, comfortable theme park touring ensemble and a ‘work casual’ outfit appropriate for the work-related conference I was attending. This is a win-win, of course, because it meant I could conserve space in my luggage, saving me the dreaded checked bag fee.
You can get the Scrolls dress in three colors: red, black, and white (though I’d call white ‘blue’, as the scroll pattern is a nice china blue). I prefer the white because it promises to be the coolest in summer, but the red and black look classier for an evening out. I have a medium, which falls to 37″ (about the knee) and is roomy without being boxy. Pick one up at Aventura in XS-XXL for $79. You can also find it at Amazon for the same price.
I talked about pairing the Scrolls Dress with the Aventura Julian Cardigan: this light warm-weather piece is perfect for layering over dresses and sleeveless shirts when spending spring and summer evening outside or when you’re traveling and need to cover your shoulders (whether it be to protect again sun or otherwise). The Julian Cardigan is 100% cotton, made in the USA, and while simple, it has an understated tonal horizontal stripe that keeps it from being boring. I opted for the white, so I could pair it with the white Scrolls dress as well as numerous dresses I already own. I’ve worn it to conventions, dinner out, museums, and while city touring on cool mornings. The cardigan doesn’t zip or button up, but is rather open in front, and the sleeves are mid-lenth. It has a very finished look; wearing it, you’ll definitely appear put together (even if, like me, you rarely feel that way!).
Pick up the Julian Cardigan in black, latte, or white for $55 on Aventura, or like the Scrolls dress, you can find it at REI for the same cost.
Every time I review or buy a stainless steel water bottle, I start by ensuring it’s BPA-free. At one time, Sigg water bottles did not meet this criteria, though in hindsight, this may have been due to their lucky-yet-unlucky position at the front of the stainless steel water bottle pack. At any rate, public awareness about BPA–Bisphenol A–grew, Sigg re-designed, and now all is right with the world. Time to move on to what’s new:
Sigg’s Active Top:
Basically, Sigg has taken the ease-of-use of a hydration bite valve and placed it on top of a water bottle. I’m sold. I like that it’s on several models and sizes, including my favorite: the Dynamic Black Touch .75L bottle. Unlike the wider 1L bottle, the .75L is thinner, which means it slides into my backpack pocket better. It also grips in my hand more naturally, thanks both to the shape and to its textured outside. The active top includes the pressure-relief valve, as well as what Sigg calls the pre-ventilation system, wherein you can lock the valve closed with one turn, making it completely leak-proof. One tip: be sure to set it from open to closed while gaining or losing elevation while driving, or it will send water bubbling up like a volcano. Grab the Dynamic Touch .75L for $28 at Sigg or Amazon.
Sigg Wide Mouth:
Sigg’s wide mouth line is fatter than the Dynamic Touch (no surprise there) but also very lightweight, which is a surprise. I tried out the Wide Mouth Touch 1L. It has the same ‘Touch’ texture as the Dynamic Touch, and a wide-mouth cap you can unscrew to add liquid or ice cubes. When drinking, use the smaller top cap instead, so you don’t slosh all over yourself. (What, just me?) For my purposes, the wide mouth 1L is too wide for use in my car and in some backpacks, but it’s ideal for my sons when they need lots of hydration on the side of the sports’ field. Pick up the wide mouth Touch 1L for $28 at Sigg or just $21 at Amazon. Comes in red or black.
Sigg’s Cuipo line:
Sigg has long been an advocate for environmental awareness, and is now partnering with Cuipo.com, a retailer dedicated to protecting the Cuipo Rainforest Preserve of Panama. Cuipo has acquired 13,354,600 square meters of rainforest set aside for preservation. Each purchase of a Cuipo item saves one square meter through their One Meter at a Time project.
The Cuipo line includes many sizes of bottles, starting from 0.3L children’s models and on up. My pick: the Sigg Cuipo Be the Solution 1L bottle, which is large while still fitting in most cup holders and backpack bottle sleeves. The mouth is wide enough for ice cubes, and it has the active top. The bottle is bright green with an attractive ‘Be the solution, not the cause’ slogan, and comes with a rainforest-saving activation code you can redeem at Cuipo to do your part. Buy the Be the Solution bottle for $24-$28 at Sigg or Amazon. Also comes in red with a ‘Respect and Protect’ slogan.
As solar panel prices have come down, we’re finally seeing cheap and practical items that really deliver what they promise. This Luci light from the MPowerd company is a true game-changer, for your off-grid travels or emergency pack—or for something that will change lives in the developing world.
If you want to get me excited when it comes to travel gear, send me something involving green power, a reasonable price, or ease of packing. This Luci solar lantern knocks it out of the park on all three counts.
This Luci lantern is just $15 right now. When it gets into stores it will be $20 for two: one going to you, one going to a village with no electricity somewhere in Tanzania, Kenya, and beyond. So you can do good twice—saving energy and giving free light to someone who either paid money they didn’t have for portable fuel or went without.
All well and good, but does it work?
That’s the best part. It works really well. The specs on this solar lantern are impressive. You charge it up for 4 to 8 hours depending on how sunny it is and then it will run for 6 to 12 hours off that charge depending on the setting. It has a low, high, and flashing mode. The real standout thing though is that it barely loses any power if you don’t use it. The marketing pitch says you can light it up for up to two years after you charge it, that it only loses 2% per month.
I couldn’t test that last part, but I will say that I got this thing six weeks ago, have used it multiple times, and am still on the first charge. Every other solar device or battery pack I’ve used would probably be drained by now. This is despite the fact that the battery is tiny. They can thank the advances in LED technology for that—the bulbs use hardly any power.
You use this Luci solar lantern by blowing it up like you would a beach ball or raft. When it’s fully inflated after a few puffs, it has metallic reflection plates on the top and the bottom. These diffuse the light and make it spread across the room or tent. It’s surprisingly bright on the high mode—good enough to read by while cozy in your sleeping back or cheap guesthouse room with one dim bulb.
There’s a little plastic strip handle on the top so you can hang it from a hook. There’s just one button to deal with. It turns the unit on and you cycle through low, high, and flashing with it. Press once more and it’s off.
Then when it’s time to go, you take a few seconds to let the air out, throw the 5-inch-diameter disc into your pack, and head out. It packs flat and can be stowed anywhere there’s not a sharp object. It only weighs 4.5 ounces.
Ten years ago it probably would have cost 5 or 10 times as much to make a simple little lantern like this, so let’s give thanks to Solendra R&D money and China’s race to dominate the solar market at all costs. If nothing else, we’ve gotten a very cool lantern out of it for a very good price.
You can buy the Luci solar lantern direct from MPowerd or get it at Amazon. These guys won a prize at the Consumer Electronics Show and then exhibited at the Outdoor Retailer show, both in January, so you should start seeing the lantern in stores later this year.
See more green travel gear reviews.
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.)
My bud and fellow reviewer Jill Robinson and I spent three days on the floor of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last week, doing a bit of tag team and a bit of divide and conquer to see what’s on the way in travel gear. There were more than 1,000 companies exhibiting, so despite the hectic appointment schedule, we still only saw a fraction of what was out there in detail.
You’ll read about the gear we liked enough to check out personally later in the year, but much of what’s on display now is what’s going to be on shelves 6 months or more from now. So think of this as a sneak peek into the future, though assume some of these non-winter items will be out by June. Like any hack journalists, we’re looking for trends we can boil down into easy digestible blurbs, so here’s what stood out.
We liked the Kelty external frame luggage system that goes from rolling suitcase to backpack to rolling huge suitcase to duffel bag. Long story short, the expanding frame with wheels fits your carry-on, then you can leave the frame in your room and just carry a backpack. Then if you buy lots of stuff you need to take home, the frame expands up and the bag goes up and out. Buy a larger duffel from them and it’ll fit in the same frame.
Everyone was drooling over Eagle Creek’s new Morphus luggage system coming July 1, which is equally adept at transforming itself from suitcase to backpack to more, but it’s also really two bags in one. Half of it zips off and is a full-fledged backpack that can be worn several ways. You can also carry the whole thing backpack style with straps on the front (no wheels in your back). It’s going to be pricey, but it’s the best “one bag” solution for people with limited storage space that I’ve ever seen.
Less Weight, More Warmth
As I mentioned in the Columbia Powerfly jacket review yesterday, a few companies have gotten very good at creating warmth without a lot of bulk. Their Omni-heat system has been rolled out to almost all Columbia Sportswear winter products for the coming year, even shoes. At the same time, there’s usually a venting layer under the arms and when the product is waterproof, a wicking membrane.
Many other companies are combining a waterproof technical shell with some kind of down or Polartec liner to create form-fitting jackets that can still take you down past zero degrees comfortably. With so much heavy competition in the jacket world, features that used to be high-end are now standard.
Shoes Now Refuse to Be Heavy
I picked up and held at least 50 pairs of shoes last week (I’ve really got to learn to book fewer footwear appointments) and the only ones that really felt heavy were damn serious work boots from Baffin meant for the kind of people who work in Antarctica for six months. Thanks to the wonders of chemistry and materials design, all footwear is getting lighter, even rain boots. That’s a good thing for travelers watching the luggage weight limit.
Made in the USA! (Or Canada)
There has been a trickle of companies moving some manufacturing back to North America and some stayed here all along (Darn Tough Vermont, Liberty Bottleworks, Tom Bihn). But now some companies that had been tiptoeing are increasing production here: Woolrich, Keen, and Ibex for starters. Watch for more companies to create jobs in North America, either completely, on one product line, or through some hybrid approach like Coldpruf base layers does: mill the fabric in North Carolina, cut and sew in Mexico, warehouse and ship from North Carolina. (Hey, it’s hard to do it all here for an item that retails for $30.)
Goodbye Throwaway Batteries
There are still plenty of companies making things that require throw-away batteries, but this year seemed to mark the tipping point where rechargeable was taking the lead. Besides the long-time leaders like Eton, Solio, and Goal Zero, there were new products from Brunton, Uco, Princeton Tec, SteriPen, and many others that recharge by USB, sometimes in conjunction with solar chargers.
I also found two cool solar-powered inflatable lanterns from the companies LuminAid and Luci that I hope to review when they’re widely available. They pack down to nothing when not in use, then you charge, inflate, and voila: 6 to 9 hours of light. Naturally, these have huge implications for the developing world and in areas too remote for wired electricity.