Posts Tagged Travel Light
Lightweight, quick-drying, rugged, and comfortable, the Mountain Khakis Equatorial pants check off all the right boxes.
Here at Practical Travel Gear we’ve probably reviewed more pairs of travel pants than any other blog or website on the planet. So when we give a pair of them a big thumbs up, you can be assured they hold up well against some tough competition.
Mountain Khakis is best known as the company producing rugged, last a lifetime western wear for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Over the past few years though they’ve become a major force in more casual wear and travel clothing that is lighter, but has the same high quality. We’ve reviewed quite a few of their travel shirts and MK women’s travel clothing in that department. These Equatorial Pants are a further evolution and I highly recommend them.
First of all, they’re incredibly lightweight, which is great for both packing light and traveling to hot destinations where shorts are not really acceptable. (You don’t realize until you go traveling around the world that hardly any country’s men wear shorts as much as men here in the USA.) These travel pants weigh in at just 3.7 ounces, which is probably less than some of your t-shirts. So they take up almost no room in your bag and don’t but a smidgen of weight.
Despite that, they’re super-strong, with such a high-density weave that they’ll repel stains and drizzles, and also provide an impressive 50+ UVA/UVB sun protection. Naturally they dry super-quickly. When I hung them outside in the high desert of central Mexico, they were dry and hour later. So overnight shouldn’t be an issue in most climates.
These are quite secure travel pants in two ways: you’ve got hidden zipper pockets that are two of six total to keep away sticky fingers. Then you’ve got a snap cuff on the bottom of the pants to keep out pesky mosquitoes. Consider it extra malaria insurance in the tropics.
I’ve usually got something to gripe about with even the best products we try out, but I can’t find fault with these Mountain Khakis Equatorial Pants unless it’s to caution you they’re probably too thin for cold weather trips. But that’s true for any of these lightweight nylon ones.
Keeping your valuables safe and packing light now go together better thanks to some soft and comfortable—but significantly lighter—P^Cubed Adventure Pants.
We’ve checked out quite a few items from our supporting partner Clothing Arts over the years, from the original pants to their Pickpocket Proof business pants and shorts. In a few weeks we’ll review one of their new travel shirts they’re branching into.
The company made their name with some innovative pants that I was impressed with the first time I saw them many years ago, as they were just getting into the marketplace. I loved everything about them except for one issue: they were heavy. Made out of thick canvas treated with Teflon, they were rugged and comfortable, but weighed as much as some pairs of shoes and were suited better for cold climates than hot ones.
Now the P^Cubed Adventure Travel Pants are out in a new nylon fabric that’s much lighter, but is also rugged and solidly constructed. This “Nature-like Nylon” is also a much softer synthetic than you’ve probably felt against your skin too. It doesn’t feel slick and it doesn’t make the swishy sound many travel pants do when your legs rub together.
Naturally these will dry faster, whether that’s after being caught in a downpour or after they need a sink washing from a week of heavy wear. They’ll also wick the sweat coming off your body if you’re not in the humid tropics. And they can sit in your stuffed carry-on for a flight over the ocean and not be wrinkled on the other end.
The best part is, you don’t give up anything choosing these over the original heavy cotton ones except for weight. The nylon ones even have a “diamond gusset crotch” to allow more free movement. You still get all the terrific features that enable you to leave the money belts, money pouches, and hidden zipper products at home. It’s next to impossible for a pickpocket to get in and steal your valuables when you’ve got these pants on unless you’re passed out and drooling on the sidewalk.
Every pocket has multiple layers of protection in the way of zippers (that go up, not down), pockets within pockets, and button flaps. See a video running down the various features no YouTube or under “features” on their website.
If you’re in an area you don’t have to worry, you can just zip or button a pocket and get at your money easily. If you’re in a notorious pickpocket area like Rome or Barcelona though, you can go into lockdown mode and be sure you won’t suffer the same fate as so many others around you suffer each day, with double or triple protection.
The new nylon Pickpocket Proof Adventure pants come in three colors and will cost you around $110, but they’ll probably hold up for at least the next 10 years of travel and as I’ve said before, they’re also like buying insurance for your valuables. With a pair of these on, you’re not going to lose your money, credit cards, phone, or ID. How much is that worth?
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.