Posts Tagged waterproof
Alternate title: OMG, I’ll never carry my ski gear in a shoulder bag ever again. Transpack specializes in backpack-style ski and snowboard boot bags, with several distinct models to choose from. What they all have in common: high quality construction, intelligent design, and comfort.
Transpack calls its design the ‘isosceles storage system’, which reminds me unpleasantly of high school geometry but, unlike my math education, turns out to be something I can actually use in the real world. What an ‘isosceles storage system means: the interior design of most Transpack bags is such that the toes of the boots meet together in the front of the pack, away from your back when you carry the load. The weight of the pack is distributed to the sides, which equals happy shoulders and neck muscles.
Go on the Transpack site, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. While they only make a few main styles of backpacks, there are several models in each category. To break it down and identify the main differences in styles, my skiing and snowboarding family and I tried out four different Transpacks. (We try to be helpful like that.)
For starters, no matter what your boot bag needs, Transpack has you well taken care of with backpack straps for an impressively comfortable carry. The question you have to ask yourself is: how big a bag do I need, how sturdy does it have to be, and where will it be traveling with me?
Transpack breakdown (clockwise from top left): Compact Pro, Sidekick, XT1, and Edge Jr.
This is the pack you need if you’re an every-weekend, all winter long kind of skier. I tested this out for myself, as I ski at least once per week all season long. The Pro comes in a standard size or a compact size, features the Isosceles Storage System (so it’s triangular shaped), and is made of super tough, treated 1680 ballistic nylon with a water resistant TPU tarpaulin bottom. You get reflective piping on the sides, a roomy central compartment for gear, side zippered pockets for ski or snowboard boots (with drainage), and many internal and external pockets, including a soft fleece-lined goggle pocket. There’s a stabilizing waist strap in addition to the shoulder straps, and a mesh padded back panel that you’d expect to see on a hiking day pack, not a boot bag. I found the compact Pro to be plenty big enough to store my helmet, my boots, gloves, two pairs of goggles, an extra shell, and all the little items that get lost in the bottom of a standard bag: sunscreen, car keys, screwdriver and binding adjustment tool, ski pass, sunglasses, and lip balm. I’d only opt for a standard for men with very large ski boots. The Pro is $119 through Transpack retailers like REI and $109 on Amazon, and comes in a variety of colors.
If you plan to use your pack a little less often (say 2-3 major ski trips per season), you can save some dough downgrading from a Pro to an XT1. The main difference: the XT1 is made of water resistant coated 600 denier polyester instead of the higher grade ballistic nylon. There’s no major difference visibly. You still get the rubberized water resistant TPU tarp bottom, and because the XT1 is one of the more popular styles, it comes in a greater variety of colors and prints. The design is the same as the Pro, including the patented Isosceles Storage System. Our 12-year-old is using the XT1, and he’s been swapping out his ski boots and snowboard boots in the boot pockets, finding that they fit both easily. You get mesh zippered size pockets and a top pocket on the outside, perfect for ski passes, keys, and other small items. Like with the Pro, helmets, gloves, and other larger items fit in the main compartment. The XT1 retails for $90 at Transpack and can be found on Amazon or Sun And Ski Sports for as low as $69. (Your other economical option is the Edge, found on Amazon for under $50.)
For kids under 10, the Edge Jr is a manageable size. We’re big fans of kids carrying their own gear, but our eight-year-old really struggled with a shoulder-strap style bag. It kept slipping off his shoulder or thumping against his legs as he navigated the parking lot. With the Edge Jr, which is pretty much identical to the XT1 but smaller, he can easily carry his bag and his skis and poles. There’s plenty of room for a kid-sized helmet, gloves, boots, and outer layer, though this bag is missing the dedicated goggle pocket. I guess Transpack (correctly) assumes that kids have already scratched their goggles beyond repair anyway. The Edge Jr is $49 at Amazon, a bit less at Paragon Sports, and comes in fun prints, like gray camo.
Transpack Sidekick and Sidekick Pro:
The sidekick is the alternative to the Isosceles Storage System style. This backpack carries boots on the outside of the pack, using a Delta strap boot system with optional, stowaway boot covers to protect boots against the elements. Personally, I prefer for my boots to be zippered into an interior dedicated pocket, but the Sidekick is perfect for my 14-year-old, who wants a more versatile bag.
How is the Sidekick different? In addition to the exterior boot carry, this bag has a traditional backpack design, complete with hydration sleeve, laptop sleeve, and an exterior zippered helmet compartment. Our teen uses his bag to and from school ski trips, so he uses the laptop sleeve to stow homework and books. He also likes that he has the option of the hydration sleeve for use as an on-mountain pack. The Sidekick Pro is made from the same ballistic nylon as the regular Pro, and the regular Sidekick sports the polyester. The pack appears pretty bulky and cumbersome loaded up with ski boots on either side and helmet strapped in the outside pocket, but in fact, my son and I were both amazed by how well the shoulder and waist straps support the weight, and how well that weight is distributed. Like the other bags, you get plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your gear organized. The Sidekick Pro retails for $120 through Transpack retailers or as low as $99 on Amazon, in a good variety of solid colors.
Outfitting your entire family in quality boot bags is an investment, but we don’t plan on needing to replace our Transpacks for a long time. I can’t say the same of the cheaper shoulder strap bags we’ve used in the past. A set of Transpacks might make for a great holiday gift to the whole family under the tree this year. Just saying.
Have you heard of Icebug yet? If not, it may be because you live where the snow doesn’t fly. The Swedish shoe company is best known for their innovative studded shoes and boots for year-round trail running and hiking in wintry conditions. The Icebug Spruce, however, is certainly for the everyman (and woman)…no ice required.
This trail walking shoe is pretty enough to pass muster (and then some) while city touring, walking, and commuting, but also packs enough punch in the traction and weather-proofing department to transition to the trail. The lovely Easter egg colors don’t hurt, either. Bleak winter day, consider yourself cheered.
The Spruce features a low cut construction and comes in two different upper material versions: leather or suede. Both are 100% waterproof, due to the inclusion of OutDry technology (in which a waterproof membrane is bonded directly to the shoe’s outermost layer). At first glance, I could hardly believe the Spruce is waterproof; my suede opal numbers just looked to ‘nice’ to get wet and repel water. I tested them on many a autumn walk, and they stay true to their promise, all while staying breathable and soft.
You get a drop and roll sole construction, but let’s get to what you really want to know: does the Spruce sport Icebug’s signature studded traction? No, that would be overkill in a walking shoe. Instead, Icebug utilizes their traction technology for un-studded shoes. What that means: RB9X. What that means: Rubber 9 Extreme, Icebug’s latest rubber compound development, combined with a saw tooth outsole pattern, which sets a new standard in providing friction. In other words, these guys know traction, and no matter the shoe, they’re going to provide it.
Where my Spruce shoes have been: wooded trails, slick pavement, city streets, airplane cabins, stuffed in carry-on luggage, on wet soccer fields, and propped up on the couch (don’t tell). My point: this is an extremely versatile shoe that will get lots of game time out of your closet.
We’ve tried out a fair number of Bluetooth speakers here and there are certainly plenty of good ones to choose from on the market. But this Braven wireless BRV-1 speaker takes it up a serious notch. You can drop it, submerge it, and toss it like a baseball to your clumsy friend without hurting it. Above is a video demo where my teenage daughter puts the claims to the test.
That video is a fun one and not too long, but as you’ll see in there, the speaker keeps cranking out music after being sunk in a bucket of water. Not that you’re going to do that every day, but it shows that if you get caught in a rainstorm or you spill your beer on it, no biggie. The party keeps going.
It sounds really great too, with far more bass than you’d expect from something this size. The BRV-1 is kind of heavy, as it needs to be to give you full dynamic range instead of just the top half of the spectrum. If you set your iPod or other music player to an EQ setting with bass booster, you’ll actually be able to rattle the chair or table it’s sitting on, without distortion. But it cranks good ole rock-and-roll in full fidelity too, or sounds good with some Sunday morning jazz. You can control the volume on the speaker itself, a nice touch when your device is on the other side of the room.
It’s a Bluetooth speaker and so far, the only one I’ve tested that never failed to connect. It features some nice audio clues to what’s happening, with an upward-turning tone when it is turned on, and lower-turning tone when it’s being turned off, and a separate connection tone with a device syncs up. I tried this with an Apple, Android, and Windows mobile device and all easily worked.
This Braven wireless speaker comes with what you need out of the box: a micro USB to regular USB cable and a two-male plug for connecting it to a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth, like an older MP3 player or a laptop. I tried out this option too and it checked out fine.
You reach these connections by unscrewing the locking, watertight cap on the back. So naturally you can’t dunk this underwater if you’re using the BRV-1 with a plug or you’re charging it. (Most people hopefully know you shouldn’t dunk anything in water while charging it…) In my tests over a couple months it never took more than three hours to fully charge, even when I did it by solar with a Goal Zero panel. Five lights by the charger input show when you’re on full power again. Then you’re good to go for 12 hours on average before needing to charge again.
But wait, there’s more! You can also charge other small portable devices from this Braven speaker if you really need to. And you can use it as a speaker phone. If you’re listening to music from your phone and a call comes in, you hit the play button arrow on the speaker: that pauses the music and lets you hear and talk through the speaker. Cool.
My only complaint about this Braven speaker is the heap of plastic packaging I had to wrestle with at the start. But after I disposed of all that, smooth sailing.
Mountain Khakis calls their lightweight, packable adventure pant the Granite Creek Pant. I call it the Do All, Go Everywhere, and Look Great Doing It Pant. (Wordy, but accurate. I’m sure Mountain Khakis will be calling me shortly to rename all their other pants, too.)
The Granite Creek pant comes in men’s and women’s styles, and truly will perform for all travel situations and outdoor adventures. (By the way, we’re not Granite Creek newbies. Check out our reviews of other Granite Creek line clothing.) Unlike some trekking pants that get the job done but scream ‘outdoor excursion’, the Granite Creek looks downright casual while still featuring everything you’d need on said excursion. Both the men’s and women’s version offers a relaxed fit (women’s is called a contemporary fit), which gives you some style while still being comfortable. I’ve found all MK women’s wear to be a bit roomy; order a size down if you want a very slim fit. They are constructed of 100% brushed nylon, pack down small without wrinkling, and come to you Scotchgard treated. (Note: my husband and I took ours through the wringer on a multi-day backpack trip, and should have double-treated them with Nikwax stain guard in addition.)
The Granite Creek offers UV protection of 50, and wicks away moisture like a pro. Wear them hiking or in the rain, and keep your skin dry and your core temperature steady. As stated, the Granite Creek isn’t loud and showy with trekking pant features, but they’re there none-the-less: both men’s and women’s version offers five pockets, including a flat front and rear zip pocket, plus a cargo pocket with a hidden security compartment. Seams are triple-stitched to ensure the pants last you for years, and you get MK’s mudflap reinforced heel cuffs.
I took my Granite Creek pants on multiple travels, from an adventurous Alaska vacation to a Canadian Rockies tour via rail. My husband abused his backpacking and fishing. Both pairs enjoy frequent field trips out of the closet for everything from golf to dinner out to average work day use.
Pick up the Mountain Khakis men’s pant for $82 in four colors (see below), or opt for the convertible style with zip-off pants for just a few dollars more. The women’s Granite Creek Pant can be had for the same cost, in ash, birch, pine, or mushroom. Find both on Amazon, Backcountry or Moosejaw for a few bucks less. Need something a little more polished for everyday wear? Opt for the men’s Teton Twill Pant or the women’s Everyday Chino Pant.
Here at Practical Travel Gear we’re big fans of jackets that pack down to nothing in transit. This Columbia Trail Drier Windbreaker is a great one to fit into a carry-on bag when traveling somewhere that is windy and cool, but not freezing cold.
For most trips this year, I’ve been traveling to places where the weather is a little iffy, with a good chance of wind and rain, but not cold enough to justify a real coat. So I’ve often been packing this Trail Drier jacket from Columbia. It served me well for the morning chill on a biking trip in Portugal and I just wore it to start my day while in Quito and the Cuenca region in Ecuador. In between, several other trips to cool places.
I’ve been very happy I brought this jacket along in each case, especially since it took up almost no room in my bag. I could stuff it, roll it, or cram it into my daypack and it still looked fine on the other end.
This is no slouch windbreaker though. It’s got Columbia’s Omni-Shield to keep water out and their Omni-Wick properties to wick the sweat off if you’re doing something strenuous. In my travels both technologies have worked quite well, keeping me dry in a drizzle and not getting clammy when I was climbing steep hills on a bicycle.
Otherwise, you get a chest pocket with a seam sealed zipper, two side pockets, and a hood. Not a lot of frills, but that’s not the point: this is a great jacket that covers the basics without adding hardly any weight or bulk to your packing list.
Since it came out in the spring, it’s already on sale too. You can get it in four colors at the Columbia Sportswear website for around $45, or check prices at Backcountry. Yes, there’s also a women’s version, which has all the same properties but is more shapely.
See reviews of other Columbia Sportswear travel gear.