Posts Tagged Travel Light
The Eagle Creek line of Pack-it cubes and folders has been a runaway success, to the point where one person from the company told me a couple years ago that they make more profit from these little pieces of fabric with a zipper than they do from the feature-rich products that got them started so long ago: backpacks.
I’ve got mixed feelings about these packing accessories, as outlined in one of our perennially most popular posts, The Pros and Cons of Packing Cubes. But people who love to be organized and get giddy over a shopping trip to the Container Store think these packing cubes are the greatest thing ever. One of those people is my wife, so whether I pack them in my bag or not, they get a lot of use.
I like these new Specter ones from Eagle Creek more than past iterations because they take up no extra room whatsoever. They’re super-thin and wispy light, to the point where the extra millimeter or two of thickness they add is going to have zero impact on your packing space. This translucent material is the same type of refined nylon used in lightweight tents and is amazingly strong. It weighs next to nothing though: the 14-inch-long cube, for example, only weighs one ounce.
They come in a variety of sizes you can buy individually (list price $12 to $24) or you can buy a set of three for $35 to $38. The general idea is that these pouches keep your clothes organized so you can pack and unpack with ease. This is especially useful if you’re going to be changing hotels several times in one trip. They also give you a place to put dirty laundry as you use up your clothes, keeping dirty things separated from clean ones. One thing I do use one of these for regularly is packing shoes. If they get dirty, no worries.
There’s nothing complicated about these products—just rectangles or pouches with a zipper—but if you’ve got a set of these there’s guidance on how to effectively pack a suitcase, should you need help with that.
A little more complicated but quite useful for business travelers is the Pack-It Specter Folder for shirts. I’ve used an older, thicker version of this whenever I’ve had to pack some dress shirts to look presentable. This folder, which comes with a handy hard plastic sheet to help you fold your shirts to fit, keeps your nice shirts/blouses relatively wrinkle-free and protected from the other items in your bag. This Specter version is much lighter and thinner than the one I’ve been using, but just as strong. It costs a bit more, at $32 for the 18-inch version, but if you travel a lot on business it’s well worth it.
These items come in multiple color combinations, though the packing cubes are generally ghostly white with colored trim. See more details at the Eagle Creek site, where you can buy direct. You can shop for the cube sets online at Zappos, or eBags. Get the shirt folder at Backcountry, Amazon, or Summit Hut.
If you’re not familiar with ‘barefoot’ or minimalist running, you may not have heard of Skora, a new-on-the-scene running shoe company based out of Portland Oregon. In fact, the men’s Skora FORM and BASE running shoe models only came on the market last year, and the women’s are brand new this fall.
Skora’s motto is ‘run real’, and I’ll admit: as a daily runner, I hadn’t realized I’d been running fake. But what they mean is this: Skora takes away features to their running shoes instead of adding them. What remains is a minimal running shoe that works with your natural running gait, not against it. The result: a very different feel for your feet and your entire body if, like me, you typically buy running shoes with the most cushion possible.
How did Skora compare? I tried the new women’s Skora FORM, and it took a bit of getting used to. At first, I rebelled against feeling every contour of pavement beneath my feet, the thin soles of the Skora FORM feeling foreign to me. While I loved that the shoe is extremely lightweight, I just didn’t think I had enough…something…on my feet: protection? Padding? Synthetic siding?
I stuck with it, and before long, I saw the benefits. I was no longer clomping, for lack of a more technical term (can you tell I’m only a recreational runner?). Because the FORM forces me to run with a natural gait, my heel is on the same plane as my forefoot, which leads to what Skora calls ‘bio-mechanically correct’ running. In my personal experience, this has led to less stress on my knees and joints. Plus, these shoes are so darn lightweight, you hardly feel them on your feet.
What else I noticed about the Skora FORM that my other running shoes lack: they’re leather! As in, real, soft-as-butter goat’s leather. And it makes such a difference in the fit! The FORM mold to my feet like a dream, with stitch-down construction and a roomy toe-box. They’re designed to wear with our without socks, and I’ve found the most comfort without (the built-in OrthoLite sock liner keeps feet from getting to hot or sweaty, a worry of mine). Even the lacing is designed especially with form in mind, with asymmetric lacing for a more practical fit. They fit snugly, but there’s an elastic heel strap to adjust to your preferred level of tightness. Only one warning: because the FORM has a curved out-sole to follow the contour of your foot, there’s not a lot of room for those with wide feet.
If you need to know the nitty-gritty runners-speak on how Skora shoes have been working (or not) for various runner types, the running world (aka the blogs) are abuzz with technical details and case studies about the Skora FORM’s design. Since I’m a traveler, not a competitive runner, I want to speak to the FORM’s other virtues, namely, that they fit in even the most cramped carry-on luggage.
See? Proof! Usually, if I’m flying carry-on only, I have to make hard choices about footwear, and bulky running shoes can be the first to go. The Skora FORM squishes down to next to nothing, and easily double as comfortable walking and touring shoes. The leather of the FORM features reflective detailing for twilight and night time runs, and the anti-slip heelpad provides enough traction to get the job done unless you’re doing some serious hiking or scrambling. I’ve taken the FORM on travels for my morning run only, and ended up wearing them during the day as well.
The women’s Skora FORM comes in a very pretty natural/blue/pink with bright yellow laces, or an impressive royal/white/light blue. If the $185 price tag deters you, Skora also offers their BASE model for $110. Is the FORM worth the price? I think the answer is yes if 1. you’re serious about making the transition to barefoot running, 2. serious about packing light and running on the go, or 3. serious about having the latest and greatest. Here are the links to the Form and Base on Amazon, plus you can find the men’s FORM there as well.
For some, it’s the eternal travel question: backpack or shoulder bag? There’s usually only room for one, but not both. With the Nau Lightbeam Tote, you actually get a chance to have a bag that morphs into both possibilities without having to go back to your hotel room.
The Lightbeam Tote’s recycled polyester fabric is soft and lightweight, and the bag compresses into a mesh organizer bag, which makes it easy to pack along on your travels. Spend less than a minute threading the carrying strap into a new configuration, and the bag becomes either a backpack or tote to carry on your shoulder.
A huge main compartment can be stuffed with nearly anything you need. The bag also has a handful of separate pockets ensure that there’s a place for your gear. I used this bag as my main city bag on a recent trip in Wales, as well as the one I stowed under my seat for the flight over (containing the essentials: headphones, wallet, book, phone, etc.). The bulky backpack that kept my laptop and DSLR remained in the overhead bin.
The Lightbeam Tote is not the ideal bag for carrying heavy things, like your laptop. The roomy main compartment’s lack of structure means that your laptop slides around a lot, which isn’t optimal for easy toting. Also, when using the bag as a shoulder tote, it was difficult to adjust the length of the strap without it slipping back a few minutes later.
That said, the bag is a great, lightweight option for those who don’t carry too much with them when they travel, and also want an option for how to carry their essentials.
The Lightbeam Tote lists for $96 on the Nau website.
We review a lot of travel shoes on this blog since they’re both key wardrobe items but can also be the items causing the most problems when trying to pack everything into a carry-on. Like a lot of women, my travel partner has a lot of trouble with that whole concept of going with just two or three pairs of shoes. Lately she’s become a fan of Ahnu shoes, however, finding these cute, comfortable, and multi-functional.
The Ahnu Jackie shoes are no secret. This popular model is a favorite with women in the workplace, on the convention floor, on the road, and around town. The marketing tag says this line is for the “Jackie of all trades,” which is ideal for a travel shoe that needs to pull double-duty to earn its suitcase space.
It’s got a rubber sole, polyurethane midsole with heel stabilizer, and cushioned insole with odor-fighting treatment. The bottom line is, this is a comfortable all-day shoe that can take you through several outfits. It’s well-made and comes with a one-year warranty.
The Jackie shoes come in two distinct styles: rather subdued solid ones in leather and the zanier striped ones like you see pictured at the top. There are seven colors in all, so shop to find the one you like at PlanetShoes, Zappos, or direct from Ahnu with free shipping.
Ahnu’s Zen model is a summer slip-on with some umph. Unlike a lot of slip-ons you probably have in your closet, this shoe will still feel good at the end of the day. My in-house tester has taken these on the road and worn them around all day shopping at the mall to make sure. Thumbs up.
The rubber sole, EVA footbed, and supple leather upper ensure your comfort, while the anti-microbiological treatment ensure you can slip these off before yoga class without leaving a stinky pair of shoes in the corner. The stitched accents add a bit of style when you want to wear them out.
After using this Granite Creek travel shirt for three weeks in Europe and three weeks in Asia, I’m ready to make it a wardrobe staple.
When most people think of the Mountain Khakis brand, they think of heavy-duty clothing for cold weather, the kind of shirts and pants that cowboys and cowgirls might wear as they gallop along in the Rocky Mountains.
There’s that, yes, but the company has been warming up as fast as our planet, putting out respectable summer travel clothing that’s lightweight and well designed. This short-sleeve Granite Creek shirt is a great example. It is quick-drying, wicking, lightweight, and wrinkle free, ticking off all the important boxes for packing light. It’s also got two chest pockets that are handy and secure, with an additional hidden zipper compartment underneath them—a great place to stash cash or a credit card.
I felt cooler in this shirt than I with most pure synthetics, partly because of the venting in the back and under the armpits. What I really like about this shirt though is it doesn’t completely change colors when you start sweating as so many do when you hit the tropics. When it was 100 degrees and super-humid on a regular basis on my recent trip to Southeast Asia, this is the shirt I would wear when I didn’t want to advertise the fact I’d sweat out a gallon of water in 30 minutes. As soon as I’d hit a good fan or air conditioning, it would dry faster than most of the others as well. Then the couple times I sink-washed it, a few hours later it would be dry.
The touted 50+ sun protection seemed to be on the mark as I had a bonafide farmer’s tan after wearing this around Ankor Wat all day. It also weighs in at just 3.7 ounces, which sure made packing it a pleasure.
This Mountain Khakis Granite Creek short-sleeve shirt just came out this year, so you probably won’t yet find it discounted much off the hefty $85 list price. It comes in three colors and five sizes. It’s designed to be “casual fit” – loose enough to breathe in the heat. For women, there’s a long-sleeve version of this shirt that Amy reviewed recently. There’s also a men’s version for $10 more than the short-sleeve one.