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Posts Tagged packing light

Icebreaker Aero Crew Shirt With “Featherweight Merino”

Aero merino wool t-shirtIcebreaker Aero Crew

Who’s ready for t-shirt weather? This Icebreaker Aero Crew in lightweight merino wool is ready for what you want to throw at it, all your sweating, your stuffing, and your stink.

There are four kinds of t-shirts in this world: cotton, poly/cotton, treated synthetic, and merino wool. As a traveler, if you can afford to stick to the latter two, you will be able to wear your shirts much longer before they get stinky. The people sitting beside you on buses, trains, and airplanes will appreciate it.

With the first travel option, you get something made from some synthetic polymer and treated with chemicals or silver to ward off the sweat and bacteria elements that become b.o. I’ve got a few shirts like this that I pack regularly and they have some advantages. They’re super tough and dry super fast. Most anyone will tell you merino wool feels better against your skin though. It’s a natural fiber, but it has many of the same properties as those wonder fabrics cooked up in a lab. It wicks your sweat and dries relatively quickly. The big advantage though is that you can wear a merino wool shirt for days on end before you need to wash it.

I put this Aero Crew from Icebreaker through my usual test: I put it on and didn’t stop wearing it until I noticed that I needed to. (Hey, I’m a writer and editor who works from home when he’s not traveling, so I can only offend but so many people.) I went for four days and probably could have pushed it to five. Then I took it on a trip to sweaty Nicaragua and it was the best-smelling shirt that went into the laundry basket when I returned.

There is 10% nylon in here, but I think that’s a good thing. Besides giving it a little more stretch, I imagine this will make it tougher for the long run. If there’s one beef I have with merino wool shirts is that they tend to be less durable than ones made with other fabrics. This should help.

The key thing for me is, this shirt is super-comfortable and looks good too. I love that it’s so lightweight and the flatlocked seams don’t scratch, plus the temperature-regulating properties of the merino keep me from getting too hot or too cold. If you want to pack light with a core item you can wear for sweaty adventure activities and as a layer to wear under something else, this t-shirt will be worth packing.

The Aero Merino Wool Crew comes in five colors and sizes and has a list price of $60. (There’s also a women’s version.) Get it direct from Icebreaker or shop online at REI or Moosejaw.

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Packable Advocate Lace Shoes From Patagonia Footwear

Advocate Lace Smooth

We review a lot of shoes for travelers who will be walking a lot. Or hiking. Or doing something where their feet will constantly be getting wet. But sometimes you just want to go on a lazy vacation and not do a whole lot, right? If you want some flat-packing shoes to pad around in at a beach resort or you’re just going from cars to hotel rooms, check out these Patagonia Advocate Lace smooth leather shoes.

A few years back I reviewed the Advocate Weave shoes from Patagonia, which apparently didn’t do very well and quickly disappeared. I’m with the wisdom of the crowds on this one as I like these lace ones a lot better. The big orange “1% for the Planet” pull tab was pulled from this design and these just feel more comfortable.

They fit like bedroom slippers though, without much padding or support besides the insole. There’s a wafer-thin midsole and an almost flat sole apart from a bit of tread. They’re crazy comfortable to wear around your house or a hotel, but you’re not going to want to walk to the other side of town in them. Think of them as the casual equivalent of barefoot running shoes.

The uppers are nice leather on these Advocate Lace ones though, which made them good looking enough to wear out for the evening. The equivalent of a woman’s packable flats. Although there are laces, they’re meant to be left knotted at the ends and you just slip these on and off like loafers.

This being a Patagonia product, many of the synthetic materials are partially made from recycled waste and though the big ad is gone, the company does still give 1% for the Planet.

The Patagonia Advocate Lace shoes come in brown or black, in full sizes only, and weigh just 6.5 ounces. They list for $90, which seems steep for made-in-China shoes without a lot of raw materials, so check prices at the following direct links to find them on sale: Amazon, Moosejaw, or Planet Shoes.

There’s also a “Plaid” women’s version that has a thicker, warmer lining and a men’s version. Neither looks plaid in the pictures, but they cost less because the upper is fabric rather than leather.

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Eagle Creek 2-in-1 Backpack Duffel

I love packable travel backpacks. The new Eagle Creek 2-in-1 duffel may be the best I’ve seen to-date. It meets my non-negotiable criteria for an overnight carry-on: it’s lightweight, packable (stuffs into its own pocket), and offers many of the bells and whistles of a full-scale (non-stuffable) backpack.

eagle-creek-2-in-1-duffelI’m usually less of a fan of convertible bags. Maybe it’s just me, but on a given trip, I either need a duffle or a backpack, but rarely both. However, with the Eagle Creek 2-in-1, you don’t lose as much valuable space when switching between styles as you do with many convertibles, making this a non-issue for me.

The 2-in-1 is made of ripstop nylon and carry-on sized at 11 x 22.5 x 7.5. It has a 33 L capacity (28 as a backpack).

What I love about the 2-in-1: when used in backpack mode, the pack can be accessed by top-load panel or side panel zippers, and offers two roomy water bottle pockets, a deep top zippered pocket, and a deep interior zippered pocket.  The zippers are lockable, and you also get side and bottom compression straps with external lash points for stowing more gear.  The bag is reflective and very lightweight. Converting the pack to a duffel is pleasantly simple (see photos below) and when you do convert, the duffel version gives you 15% more space (though a little bit is lost to shoulder strap storage).

What I don’t love so much: I really wish the shoulder straps slightly more significant (I’m willing to add some weight for this feature) and more adjustable. They do adjust at a basic level, but I was unable to fit the straps to my nine-year-old. I know, the 2-in-1 has never been touted as a child’s pack, but because of the size and weight, it’s the ideal carry-on bag for a kid. We love using the top zippered pocket for my son’s iPod, ear buds, and Kindle (all the possessions he could possibly want on a trip) and the main compartment for the rest of his gear.

How it converts: Converting from a backpack to a duffel is easy, as illustrated below. Eagle Creek is nice enough to color-code the straps and clips for us (all are gray), making it even simpler. Step 1: unhook the shoulder straps from the bottom of the pack. Step 2: stuff them into the zippered back panel. Step 3: Unzip the bottom circular compartment. Step 4: Pull out the duffel straps. Step 5: Attach the duffel straps to the coordinating clips.


Pick up a 2-in-1 duffel from Eagle Creek for $80, or find it at Amazon, Sunny Sports, or Moosejaw for the same price. Colors include black, flame orange, or mantis green. While you’re shopping, take a look at additional Eagle Creek gear we’ve reviewed.

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Pack More in Less Space with Eagle Creek Compression Pack-it Cubes

pack-it specter compressionThere are plenty of packing cubes, pouches, and folders out there to get you organized in your packing, but these Specter Pack-it Compression Cubes from Eagle Creek take the concept a big step forward. Instead of just giving you something to stuff your clothes into, they actually help you carry more in the same space.

It’s not a radical concept: we’ve long had Space Bags and other compression systems (Eagle Creek makes their own version too) to reduce sweaters and bulky coats down. You know, those clear plastic things that are shot if they get a tiny hole in them. But those are better for a one-time move than regular use. These cubes, on the other hand, are easy to work with, super-lightweight, and not dependent on having an airtight seal.pack-it specter compressed

Basically these are made like the regular Eagle Creek Specter super-light cubes, but with a key twist. You can use them normally, but then after you zip your things inside, you activate another zipper to compress the bag tighter. The fabric may be light but it’s super-strong, so the cube holds everything in well. Like a diet ad, the top photo is before it’s zipped up, the bottom photo is the after.

I was going to create a video to show this more clearly, but hey, Eagle Creek already did that:

These are stain and water-resistant, plus there’s a handle on top to pull them out and toss them in a hotel drawer. I’ve been taking one of these on trips for months now and while I often leave the other cubes behind, this one has become a regular on my list. I use mine a lot for dirty laundry because who wants that taking up a lot of room? You can cram a lot of socks, underwear, and t-shirts in here, then you zip it up and reduce the bulk in half.

These come in two sizes and are generally sold as a set for $38. You can get them in green, orange, or white with one of those as an accent. Get the zip-up Specter Compression Cubes direct from Eagle Creek or check online at Backcountry, Moosejaw, or Zappos.

See more of our Eagle Creek travel gear reviews.

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5 Things I Always Pack – David Lee of GoBackpacking

David LeeDavid Lee is a the founder of two popular travel blogs, Go Backpacking and Medellin Living. He considers himself a minimalist, and when not on the move is based in Medellin, Colombia. So Dave, what do you always pack?

In 2013, I challenged myself to begin traveling ultralight, with nothing but a 1,950 cubic inch North Face Big Shot backpack. Traveling with a small backpack requires boiling down what I take with me to the bare essentials. Here are 5 things I still find room to carry with me when traveling.

1. Sea to Summit Dry Sacks dry sack for travel

Nylon dry bags are much lighter than the rubber rafting type, and are perfect for protecting clothes and gear against rain, snow, dirt and sand. The type of travel I do often requires taking small river boats, throwing my backpack on the roof of a minibus, or going on multi-day treks. Using dry sacks allows me to relax, knowing my stuff is protected.

They’re also useful for keeping things organized, and can be used as compression sacks to help you fit more clothes into less space. I use a small one to carry my money, passport and documents, and a larger one rolled up at the bottom of my backpack in the event I want to protect everything I’ve got with me.

2. Petzl Zipka 2 LED Headlamp

Hands-free LED headlamps are incredibly useful for camping, trekking and caving, as well as navigating hostel dorm rooms while everyone else is asleep. I’m a fan of the Zipka model because it’s designed with a retractable cord mechanism, versus the typical headband, thus making it smaller and lighter. This also allows you to easily wear it on your wrist, or fasten it to an object.

Atacama travel hat

3. Hat

I carry a hat for sun protection, which became especially important after I began shaving my head in my twenties. Earlier, I’d used bandannas or baseball caps, but since 2010, I’ve been sporting woven hats, which are more traditional amongst the older generations in Latin America.

4. ExOfficio Boxers travel underwear

I’d been hearing the praise about ExOfficio boxers for years before I finally bought a few pairs myself. Now I can’t imagine wearing anything else. They’re extremely comfortable, lightweight, durable and easy to clean.

5. Mophie Juice Pack Air

When I’m traveling to new places, I rely heavily on my iPhone 4S to share thoughts and images via social media apps. Whether using WiFi or a local 3G cellular data connection, the battery drains quickly. The Mophie Juice Pack Air doubles the battery life of my iPhone 4S, allowing me greater use between recharges. There’s also an iPhone 5/5s version.

You can follow Dave’s adventures on Twitter @rtwdave or on Go Backpacking’s Facebook page.

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