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Posts Tagged green gear

Sigg Thermo Classic Bottles

Sigg-thermo-bottle‘Tis the season for steaming drinks after outdoor excursions! I’m something of a collector of thermal bottles and mugs, as evidenced by the disarray in my cupboards, but given that I use thermal containers nearly every day of the winter, I feel justified.

The new Thermo collection at SIGG includes four sizes of bottles ranging from 0.3L to 1L, and come in teal, classic white, and smoked pearl. They look as good as they sound, with a sleek minimalist design characteristic of SIGG. I really like the tall and thin style, as I find the bottles fit better in my backcountry pack (even in the water bottle pocket) and take up less room in my soft-sided cooler. However, both the .75L and 1L are taller than any other thermos style bottle I own, so adjustments to my packing style are sometimes necessary.

The bottles are sized at 0.3L (personal tea or coffee bottle), 0.5L (could be big enough for individual soups), 0.75L (my personal favorite for hot water to serve 3-4 people a warm drink) and 1.0L (tall and lean…ready to keep a group in hot coffee). The two smaller sizes come equipped with a tea filter, if that’s your bag (sorry about the pun). The two larger models come with adjoining cups that serve as lids, and while I’ve certainly seen this done on many other thermal bottles, none I own are as generous in size (see photo below). The SIGG lids are big enough to serve as a genuine bowl for that cup-o-noodle you’ve been packing across the slopes all day.

It’ll come as no surprise that SIGG Thermo bottles are made of high-end stainless steel that is both odor and taste neutral and are of course BPA and Phthalates Free. They’re advertised as able to keep beverages hot for up to eight hours; I tried this out after sealing in boiling water at 7 am and opening it again at 1 pm. Our water was warm enough to heat our drinks and soup packets, but not piping hot (after six hours). The Thermo performed as well as our other thermal bottles, but I did hope for a little more heat retention. More importantly to me, however: I experienced zero leakage from the Thermo while it remained packed in my pack during those six hours.


All in all, the SIGG Thermos are a solid pick for your thermal liquid needs this winter. They range in price from $24.99 to $39.99, depending on size. Grab one on the SIGG site, or find them at Eastern Mountain Sports for a little less.

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Stanley eCycle Flask for Adult Beverages

Stanley eCycle FlaskI’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.

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LuminAID Inflatable Solar Light That Packs Down Small

Inflatable solar lantern

This LuminAID lamp ticks off a lot of boxes that make us happy on this travel gear blog: eco-friendly, practical, inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to pack. On top of all that, the company is doing some good in the world as well.

Yes, I’m doing two reviews this week of things that pack down small and then expand at your destination. This time it’s a cool little lantern that stows away in the size you see below—basically a solar panel and a battery—then inflates to be a useful lantern. And as you might have gathered from the top photo, it floats!

solar lamp inflatable

This inflatable lantern only weighs three ounces (85 grams), so it’s not going to be much trouble to pack, even for an ultralight backcountry camping trip. When you’re ready to use it, a few puffs of air blows it up and you’ve got a 20- or 30-lumens lamp with a nice soft glow. There’s a flap on top for hanging, so my daughter hung it from a hook on her bunk bed when we were unpacking in a new house and it was bright enough to read by.

Like most solar panel devices of any kind, you need a few hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery, six to eight hours if you really want to be sure. But this LuminAID is very efficient after it is charged. We’ve used it at least 12 hours without having to charge it again. The company says it should go for at least 10 hours on high, more like 15 hours on the low setting. There’s just one button to take you from low to high to off.

inflatable solar lanternThere’s very little leakage of power with this lantern either: you can store it for months and it’ll still light up. So besides the obvious travel and camping applications (light up your tent or light up a cheap hotel room that has just one dim bulb), this is a good emergency lantern for your car or home. It’ll last for many years if you use it regularly, who knows how long if you don’t.

You can buy one for yourself at Amazon or the LuminAID site, but if you want to do something good for someone who wasn’t born in as lucky a place as you, spend a bit more. If you plop down $28 instead, one lantern will come to you, one will go to someone in a village without electricity. They’ve been handing these out in places like Ethiopia, Laos, and Haiti. See the details here.

We four well-traveled writers put up a new travel gear review each weekday. Follow along by RSS, Twitter, or Facebook to keep up on what’s new.

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6 Travel Gear Trends for 2014

Want a look into what kind of travel gear innovations and trends you’ll be seeing in spring and summer of next year? We’ve got your crystal ball right here.

Bushnell solarwrapJill, Amy, and I spent a few days bouncing around booths at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market a couple weeks ago and are just now catching our breaths. Some 1,400 exhibitors were showing off what they’ve got coming out next year and even with three of us splitting off to check out different sections, it was impossible to see everything. From a demo day on a lake, days of meetings, and random encounters, here’s what’s notable for what you’ll be seeing in travel gear in 2014.

Lighter, Easier-to-pack Shoes – But with Comfort

I’ve seen the rise and fall of many trends over the years since I started Practical Travel Gear and many I was very happy to see flame-out in a hurry (like retro backpacks). The latest “stick a fork in it” trend is barefoot running shoes, which have been a podiatrist’s dream but have not been very practical for most buyers. Thankfully cushioning is back, but often using lighter materials and still keeping the design minimalist enough that shoes made for walking won’t take up a lot of room.

Hiking boots have gotten much lighter too as most casual hikers have made it known that they’re buying something to wear next week, not something that will take a year to break in. These will still take up room, but they won’t add much to your packing weight. I saw enough styles of versatile light hiking shoes on display that I could probably do a review a week on them if it were physically possible. Ones I liked best were from Oboz, Scarpa, Ahnu, and Lowa.

packable boots  Ranger Puddletons

A trend that really caught my eye though was packable rain boots. This is a cool idea since taking rain boots on a trip has typically been a clunky affair most travelers would avoid unless they were headed to Seattle. With the ones I checked out from Pakems, Ranger Boots, and Baffin, however, you can get full boots that come up past your calves, but pack down to the size of regular shoes in transit. The Baffins Packables come in four colors and stuff into their own carrying pouch. They’ll sell for $70. Pakems are produced by an independent company and are already in the market. They sell for $60 and come with their own pouch.

More Solar, Rechargeable, and new Hydrogen Power

Nothing I saw at the show made me as happy as the decline of the traditional throw-away battery. Sure, there are still plenty of flashlights and headlamps that use them (but usually with efficent LED lights now), but it’s getting cheaper and easier to go with rechargeables. Or solar: the Rukus XL solar boombox I reviewed recently is just the start. All kinds of solar lanterns are hitting now and I really liked the portability of this Bushnell Solar Wrap with a retractable panel pictured at the top.

Brunton HydrogenI also liked a new solar backpack I saw from a new company called BirkSun. These packs look better and are more efficient than their predecessors and the best part is the price: $150 and $160 for packs that can charge your devices while you’re on the move.

The big development coming next year though is hydrogen fuel cells. These are aimed more at expeditioners and people who may be in non-sunny places without power for a while, but they’re also going to be a big hit with preppers readying for the apocolypse too I’m sure. One from myFC uses a cell where you pour in water and that starts the reaction. I liked this one from Brunton better though as it’s a plug and play system. When the cartridge is spent (after 5-6 phone charges) you pull it out and put in another. Users can purchase a recharger unit that puts hydrogen back in the cartridge or they can bring them to a participating retailer for a recharge.

Portable Watersports Gear

I did a whole post on another blog about portable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. I took a few spins out on the water with inflatable versions of both and I have an inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements that I like a lot. More styles are on the way next year and I saw some interesting non-inflatable options, like a kayak that you put together like Legos and one that folds up into a case you sling over your shoulder: the Origami kayak.

More Packable Tents and Sleeping Pads

We only spent a bit of time checking out camping gear, but the trends were clear: new tent designs that pack up lighter and innovations that make the whole process more enjoyable. In the former category, six pounds is now the high end for weight, with many coming in under four. New designs allow more viewing area of the outdoors, ways to get in and out without stepping over your stuff, and easier set-up. The most interesting innovations are coming from Kelty, Brooks-Range, Mountain Hardwear, and a Sierra Designs model that comes in just shy of three pounds. (At $360 though, that’s $120 per pound…)

Also, in the fall Amy will be reviewing a new sleeping bag from Sea to Summit that packs into a pouch the size of a grapefruit. Lots of sleeping pad designs are packing easier too.

One good/bad trend depending on your point of view is tents being outfitted with hanging or mounted pouches that’ll enable you to watch movies on an iPad. We’ll go with the excuse that you need that when it rains.

More Variety in Women’s Travel Clothing

Jill was thrilled to see women’s outdoor and travel clothing in non-girly colors and in general, more clothing that has outdoor wear features but meant for an urban setting. After all, much travel does involve travel to cities. We’ve long seen this from Nau and Horny Toad, but the aesthetic is becoming more prominent too with the big brands like Patagonia, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Columbia.

More Attention to Packing Ease

Filter lanternBesides the easier-to-pack camping gear (something we’ve always loved about GSI Outdoors), I saw lots of new gadgets and trinkets on the way that combine two or three functions into one item and the airline baggage fees nuisance has spurred many companies to make their products easier to pack. “This stuffs down into its own pouch” is a common phrase now, whether we’re talking daypacks, jackets, or even duffle bags. It’s getting easier and easier to stuff a lot of belonging into a rollaboard carry-on suitcase or small backpack.

I also looked at a lot of new water filters that will hit the market next year, but I’m not sure how many of them will survive. I liked this Oko Odyssey one pictured here that doubles as a lantern. I also got a demo of a new camp stove from Primus that easier to pack and is a lot more efficient than other models out there.

I also got a sample of a new compression packing cube from Eagle Creek where you stuff all your things into it and then by the way the zipper is configured, as you zip it closed it compresses what’s inside. Simple but effective.

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Rock Out Portable Speaker From Goal Zero

blog review rock out speaker

We’ve reviewed quite a few portable travel speakers on this gear blog, but this Goal Zero Rock Out speaker has got to be the best one we’ve tried that costs $30 or less.

Seriously, for that amount I expect to get some tinny speaker with no bass, powered by AA or AAA batteries I have to keep recharging in a separate charger. I don’t expect to find a speaker that really deserves the name “Rock Out,” one you can crank up to 11 with no distortion and have bass lines that pump instead of ones that go hide in the closet.

The secret is a wooden sound box built into the design that acts as a bass booster, eliminating the need for what most portable speakers naturally lack: a big speaker with a big magnet.

Being that it’s from Goal Zero, this speaker is rechargeable, of course. Ideally you’re charging it with one of their solar panels like the Guide 10 Adventure Kit I reviewed a while back. The built-in lithium battery will fully charge in a few hours in the sun and then it’ll crank your music out for ages after that. If you don’t have a solar charger though, any USB port or wall adapter will work.

It’s advertised as lasting 20 hours in normal use, which is impressive. Half a workweek’s worth of tunes! I got through hundreds of songs on my phone before it ran out of juice the first time, about the same the second time with an iPod Touch. For me that came out to more than a week before needing a recharge. On a camping trip or weekend getaway, you’d be good to go for the duration.Goal Zero rock out speaker

The controls are dead simple, so just charge it up, turn it on, plug it in to the headphone jack. Nothing to figure out from an instruction manual.

If you’re traveling with anyone else who has one of these, you can daisy chain them together to spread out the sound. The rugged design is shock-resistant and should hold up to whatever a traveler throws at it. The controls are inside the zippered closed part—no turning it on by mistake and no switches exposed to the elements. There’s a set of stretchy cords on one side that will hold your music player, plus a carrying strap that doubles as a hanging hook.

As you can see from the photo at the top, the Goal Zero Rock Out Speaker comes in multiple colors. It’s a mere 30 bucks – a terrific value.

Order direct from the Goal Zero site or check prices at Moosejaw and

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