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Dr. Cool Recovery Wraps

If you play hard during your vacations, traveling with a set of Dr. Cool Recovery Wraps isn’t a bad idea. As we like to camp, mountain bike, hike, and ski with three very active and growing boys, we’ve used our recovery wraps multiple times (and we’ve only owned a set for a few weeks).


What it is:

Dr. Cool Recovery Wraps are compression wraps with velcro closure that can be soaked with water and frozen for immediate injury treatment. They can be used on just about any body part, and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Apparently, it’s the only product which combines ice and compression in one wrap (though of course it can be used dry if all you need is compression). As a former wilderness EMT, I was taught that cold and compression is the most effective way to reduce swelling in the field, and speed recovery in general. Sure, you can use a standard ice pack, but those are bulky and heavy to pack for your outdoor adventures, and you’ll have to pack wraps separately.

How to use them:

To use Dr. Cool wraps at home or at a hotel or resort,  simply wet the wrap under a faucet or at a sink, then roll it and freeze it for 20 minutes. Tip: don’t freeze for much longer than this, or you’ll end up with a wrap that’s frozen solid for hours. There’s something called Coolcore in the material that keeps the wrap cold longer than average.  When you need it, unwrap and apply. We’ve found the wraps to stay icy cold (but still flexible) for about an hour.

This video gives a good demonstration:

If you’re on the trail or otherwise away from a freezer, you’ll need to wet your wrap ahead of time, and store in an insulated bag or cooler. Dr. Cool sells a bag that fits one wrap, but we’ve found standard insulated lunch bags to work as well. Their cooler is only $10, however, so might be worth picking up along with the wraps.

Wraps come in small ($24), medium ($29), and large ($34). They’re reusable, of course. On average adults and teens, we’ve found the small size to work well for ankle and wrist injuries and the medium to work for other limb injuries (knees, elbows, etc). The large is quite big, and would be used for torso or shoulder injuries (of which we luckily haven’t suffered yet). You get your pick of seven bright colors, and each wrap does have a hole at one end for easier wrapping around knees, elbows, and heels. For now these are hard to find at stores or online retailers, so you’ll have to go direct. Pick up one or more at Dr. Cool for the prices above.

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8 Great Camping and Outdoor Stocking Stuffers

Whether you’re playing Santa for an outdoor enthusiast in your life, or just want to fill a stocking full of camping gear for yourself, the following nifty products make for great additions to your holiday shopping list.

Coghlan’s LED tent pegs: We love Coghlans! And I’ve tripped over my tent’s guy lines more times than I care to admit. Coghlan’s 10” heavy duty tent pegs now feature a single LED light for visibility at night. Just twist on, and you’ve got a nice glow around your tent. Just $3.99 for a pack of two at Amazon.

Light My Fire knifeLight My Fire Swedish Fire Knife: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want something called a fire knife in my stocking. Light My Fire’s unique fire-starting knife really is all that: this camp knife comes with a plastic sheath and a high-friction rubber handle, and it creates its own spark via a FireSteel Scout, which twists into the knife’s handle when not in use. Get it on Amazon in one of five fun colors for $28. I also love Light My Fire’s meal kits, perfect for young backpackers.

Arka LED rechargeable lantern: This camp lantern by Industrial Revolution is compact, lightweight, and collapsible, perfect for camping and overnights in outdoor shelters like yurts and fire towers, where electricity may be scarce or nonexistent. Recharge the lantern via USB cable to your smart phone. Can be used as a flashlight or strobe light, too! Pick it up for $69 on Amazon. (See Tim’s review from earlier in the year here: Uco Arka lantern.)

Dublin Dog KOA collarsFor the outdoor-loving dogs in your life, how about outfitting them with waterproof collars that don’t stink? Not even after months and months? Our two dogs have been sporting designs from Dublin Dog’s Trout line since summer, and I am sold! They won’t ever wear another type of collar. The KOA material repels dirt and grime, and the collars really do stay fresh-smelling. Pick one up at Amazon for under $30, depending on size.

grayl water filtration cupIcebug ArchFlex Insoles: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! I’ve been running and hiking with Arch Flex insoles since July, and while I’ve tried many insoles over the years, these are the ones I reach for. They’re slim, easy to get in and out of my shoe, and provide the right shock relief for my repetitive running and hiking movements. Pick high arch or low, plus shoe size. Find them on Amazon.

GRAYL Water Filtration CupIf you have someone headed to a part of the world lacking potable drinking water, the new Grayl makes for a nice gift. Like other water purification bottles, the Grayl has its drawbacks, but is overall a solid choice for travelers who need access to filtered water all day, every day. The cup, which looks and feels more like a bottle, features a duel cylinder construction wherein the user filters water through the bottom of the inner cylinder via a carbon filter. Once you’ve given it a few practice runs, it’s easy to use, though be advised: until it’s well ‘worn in’, the cylinders can be hard to pull apart, due the the vacuum seal. (As I said, not without its drawbacks.) However, the Grayl is sleek and shiny, heavy but definitely portable, and features a nice open-close design. If using abroad, you’ll need to upgrade the filter to the ‘purifier’, but once you’ve done so, you’re good to go for 300 uses. Buy the Grayl on REI for $69.

Liberty bottleCocoon Ultralight Microfiber terry towel: I love Cocoon travel products! I have used their travel pillow and packing cube, but by far my favorite product is their microfiber towel. Perfect for backpackers, campers, and round-the-world travelers, the Cocoon is small, thin, and light, but still actually does the job intended…you know, actually dry your body. Set it outside to dry afterward, and it will be good to go again in no time. Pick it up for your travel or backpacking friend for under $35 on Amazon.

Liberty Bottle Works Topo bottle: I would say I use this 100% recycled aluminum USA-made bottle every day, but I can’t: the minute I got it, my teen son took it. I think he loves the topographical map design best (ours features Mt. Rainier) but it may be the straw or the easy to open and close flip top lid with carrying handle. Pick out the map your hiking loved one can relate to most for as low as $12 on Amazon. It’s also available at

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Cool Gerber GDC Pocket Tools for $12

Gerber key tools

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.  Gerber zip driver

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.

This tool is also $12 or less from Gerber, Amazon, or REI.

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.”

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Women’s Travel Underwear and Bra Round Up

Smartwool PhD Seamless bras:

Hands down, Smartwool’s action bras are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. They’re designed for action–hiking, running, and other work outs–but I’ve been wearing my Seamless Strappy Bra every day it’s clean. It certainly always makes the traveling team, finding its way into my bag every time I leave town. What makes it great? It’s seamless, which means I skip any pinching or rubbing against my skin. It’s made of Merino wool throughout, which wicks away moisture like a boss and is equally comfortable in cold or hot weather. Pick between the Racerback model or the Strappy; both are comfortable enough to sleep in. They come in sizes S-XL in three colors for $60 at Smartwool or a few bucks less on Amazon. It’s also stocked at For a tougher bra with harder core control, upgrade to the PhD Racerback for $70, also at Backcountry.

womens underwear round up

Photo from left to right: Give and Go lacy bikini underwear, PhD Seamless Strappy bra, Gore Essential brief.

ExOfficio Give and Go underwear:

ExOfficio is a known authority on travel-ready clothes, so it only makes sense to trust them with your base layers, too. Let’s get real: underwear and bras need to last the distance while on the road more than any other item of clothing, right? Any frequent traveler would vote them ‘most likely to end up rinsed out and drying on a hotel bathroom sink’. ExOfficio is here to tell you those days are over, however. Their Give and Go underwear line is treated with a microbe shield which helps maintain freshness. In other words, they don’t smell. (Really.) They’re also extremely quick-drying, which means less sink-drying time, and highly breathable. I have it on good authority that river rafting guides the world over swear by Give and Go underwear, because they dry much faster than swim suit bottoms. The best news? They’re not ugly: travelers pick between no fewer than nine colors and nine styles, from boy shorts to lacy bikinis to full coverage. Not to over share, but I have the lacy bikini style and am a very satisfied customer. Pick up a pair for $22 at ExOfficio (I know, but they’ll last you!) or shave a few dollars off the price on Amazon.

Gore Running Wear Essential Base Layer Briefs:

If your travels include serious exercise, like all-day hiking or biking, Gore’s Base Layer Briefs will be your new best friend. These briefs are extremely lightweight (they’re described as ‘barely there’ and very breathable (made from polypropylene). Seams are present, but minimized, and the waist sports a soft elastic band. They stay put on your body and take up very little space in your bag. The cut is fairly high, without quite being bikini level. Pick up a pair in black or white for $29.99 or do yourself a favor and get them for as little as $17 on Amazon.

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CLIF BAR Seasonals for Winter Energy

healthy energy

Want to get into the holiday spirit without junking up your body? CLIF BARS can come to the rescue with Peppermint Stick, Spiced Pumpkin Pie, and Iced Gingerbread flavors.

Obtaining enough calories to get you through your workouts and outdoor adventures is seldom a problem in December. Everywhere you turn you’re probably avoiding Christmas cookies, chocolates, candy, holiday drinks, and special desserts. You can easily pound down enough sugar and fat to get you through a marathon.

These CLIF BARS are a better thing to grab though if you’re going to huff and puff up a hill or down a mountain. You’ll get carbs, fiber, vitamins, and protein, but not a ton of sugar and fat. Good ingredients for your body (fruit, nuts, oats) and not a lot of bad stuff (like trans fats, corn syrup, or chemical sweeteners).

We don’t write about food much on this travel gear blog, but that doesn’t mean we’re not packing these things for our own adventures. I always look forward to checking out the CLIF booth when I go to the Outdoor Retailer show to see all the different snacks and bars. I usually throw something of theirs in my bag when I’m headed to the airport, the ski slopes, or on a multi-day bike ride.

holiday CLIF BARSAfter a while I get kind of tired of the standard flavors though, so I was happy when a few samples of their seasonal holiday ones arrived in the mail. My daughter tried them and said, “Yum!” I tried them and said, “Yum indeed!”

Which one comes out as your favorite probably depends on how you feel about gingerbread, pumpkin, or peppermint, but all three let that ingredient shine and all definitely made me feel like it was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I liked the Peppermint Stick one best, partly because the flavor was so different than anything else they have out and also because the pieces of candy cane added some crunchy texture.

You can find CLIF bars all over the place, from Whole Foods to Target, and I’ve seen these seasonal flavors in the grocery store as well. Here’s a list of retailers that carry them. If you need to order them online, act fast. They’re already showing as sold out on Amazon, but they’re still in stock at REI for $1.50 each.

If you’re a real bargain hunter, watch for the leftovers to go on sale after the holidays. They’ll taste just as good, but what hasn’t sold will get cleared out.

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