Ever wish, on a long road trip, that your family could know where you are and when you’ll be home—without making phone calls along the way?
Or did you ever fly into a town, hop in a rent car and want to let someone know when you would arrive for a meeting?
Now, you can “share your where” with Glympse, a free app for GPS-equipped iPhones, Android, and Windows Mobile phones.
Glympse will send your location information over cell phone data channels and let you share it with anyone who has access to a desktop or laptop computer, or a mobile phone with a Web browser. Glympse will show your position on a map, along with travel speed and even an estimated arrival time, if you set a destination.
Testing the software on my AT&T Tilt2 smartphone, it worked amazingly well. The first step is opening the program and choosing who to share the information with and for how long. Then, Glympse will send them an e-mail or text message with a link to the company’s website. Whoever received the Glympse message does not need any special software or registration. The only thing required is a Web browser.
My travels showed there is a slight lag, about one block, from your actual location to the spot shown on the map. But that’s to be expected, since it does take a few seconds for the program to send the information and for it to update on Glympse’s servers. Still, it’s about as close to real-time as you can get.
The movement shown on the map is slightly jerky, not buttery smooth. But that’s understandable and the position updates are still very frequent.
I didn’t notice any huge battery hit when using the program on the phone. But it would be a good idea to hook up a charger if the program is running for a long time.
Glympse also addresses privacy and security issues. It’s not possible to “forget” you gave someone permission to view your whereabouts and thus allow them to track you 24×7. When you start the program, you choose who to allow to see your movements and then set a time limit, up to four hours. For longer trips, the time window can be easily extended.
The minimum age for using Glympse, under the company’s terms of service, is 14. It seems that would be difficult to enforce, though.
For many uses, Glympse is better than other location-sharing services such as Google Latitude. Latitude requires registration and a software download for everyone who uses it. But those who receive a Glympse invitation can track your travels just by following a web link, with no special software or log-in required.
If you’re using a Blackberry phone, help is on the way. The company plans to support Blackberry’s operating system in the next few months and is also working on versions for other popular phones.
There are many uses for Glympse—helping with busy business schedules, keeping up with friends and offering peace of mind to families. Just a decade ago, who would have ever imagined?
The challenge: Pack only two pairs of Tilley “fast drying, sweat defying” underwear on my week-long road trip from Colorado to California. The reasoning: The undies are made with 100% polyester CoolMax Extreme Mesh fabric, so I could wash them by hand in hotel sinks (or my mom’s bathroom), and they’d dry by morning. My goal: Take this test so that PracticalTravelGear.com readers would know if they could do the same when packing light really matters (i.e. when you’re on an extended backpacking trip or you only want to pack a carry-on bag for your next plane flight, not when you’re driving a mini-van that could actually transport two dozen pair of underwear).
I’m not one to typically buy underwear for its quick-dry qualities, but I sure found the Tilley CoolMax Extreme Women’s Briefs ($22) fit the bill here. On our trip, I was able to wash my underwear by hand at night, wring it thoroughly, towel it dry twice (per instructions), hang to dry in a well-ventilated place, and it was dry by morning. I almost made it through the entire nine days of our trip on one pair of black and one pair of white Tilley briefs … if only I hadn’t forgotten to do my hand-washing one night. Since both were dirty the next day (hey, it’s not part of my nightly routine; mea culpa), I had to pull out my back-up pair of Hanes.
I am very impressed with how comfortable and light the underwear are. The weather was cool in California over Christmas, so I couldn’t fully test its moisture-wicking capability on our hikes in Joshua Tree National Park (I just didn’t sweat that much), but I sure intend to wear the underwear this summer when I’m hiking in the mountains here at home.
My husband was given a pair of Tilley CoolMax Travel Boxers ($22) to test on our trip as well. He could not speak more highly of how comfortable they are. To wit: He said he was more comfortable driving our 10-hour day in his Tilley CoolMax boxers than driving for just 4 hours in his Gap cotton ones. He says they are the most comfortable underwear he owns.
Testing Tilley Underwear in Jamaica
I wanted to test the quick-dry theory on our trip to Jamaica last week, so I packed my Tilley briefs again. I figured that doing the overnight-dry routine in arid Palm Springs would be quite different than in the humid tropics. Indeed, the quick-dry feature just didn’t work well in our hotel room in Jamaica. It might be that my husband and I abhor air-conditioning, and I dislike ceiling fans, so we actually slept in a room with no air circulating (really, it was better than it sounds), and whenever we were in the room, we had the sliding doors open, so the humid breeze blew in. All of these factors added up to my underwear not drying overnight, unfortunately.
But, to be fair, neither pair of my Hanes underwear dried overnight either (yes, at one point, I had four pairs of wet underwear hanging in various places in my hotel room … the housekeeping staff must have thought I was nuts). In fact, all of my clothing ended up slightly damp by the time this trip was over, as is typical when I travel to tropical locales; it was downright musty when I unpacked it all in Colorado, and had to rewash everything.
Testing Tilley in Colorado
I wanted my Tilley underwear experience to end on a high note, so just last night, I hand-washed a clean pair and hung them to dry on the doorknob of my bedroom. I went to bed at 11 p.m., and by 7 a.m., they were perfectly dry.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
I’ll do just about anything in the name of research for this blog.
I highly recommend Tilley underwear for frequent travelers, with the caveat that it may not wick and dry as well in humid climates as it does in arid ones.
I know what I’m getting my husband for his birthday.
Tilley manufacturers all sorts of other travel clothing, including its awesome lifetime-guaranteed hats. I wore a pair of “Unholey”quick-drying travel socks ($16) on my two most recent trips; similarly, they dried no problem overnight in desert California, and took longer to dry in Jamaica. They are super comfortable, mid-calf socks with ribbed arch support and a “moisture escape panel for breathability.” They really resist odor, too. The Tilley CoolMax Extreme Women’s Briefs have matching black or white Extreme Tanks ($26), made from the same moisture-wicking fabric. These, too, are very comfy, and great for layering for active outdoor pursuits in cold weather.
Yes, Tilley costs more than the underwear you might find at your local Gap, Jockey or Hanes outlet. But because Tilley underwear is built to last with material that will keep its shape much longer than traditional cotton underwear, I look forward to wearing my Tilley travel undergarments for years to come.
At times it felt like a science class, but one that was actually interesting and useful. Yeah, I got a couple jackets that I’ll be reviewing on here later, but I also came back with lots of knowledge I didn’t have before.
Here’s your mini-lesson in why seeing a Gore-tex label on something matters and how it works.
1) Gore-tex is made from fluoride
This was my first revelation. I always figured it was some kind of petroleum-based plastic product. Instead it’s powdered fluoride turned into a membrane made of microscopic threads. Sweat evaporates through the membrane, but water droplets don’t get in.
Simple concept, but it takes complicated science and manufacturing to create it. (The membrane holes are 700 times larger than a sweat molecule, but 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet.)
2) Gore-tex is meant for cool places, not the tropics
A breathable membrane of any kind won’t be much help when you’re in the Amazon or zip-lining in Costa Rica. In basic terms, your hot sweat molocules need a cooler place to escape to. That works great when you’re skiing or hiking in the mountains.
In the hot, humid tropics however, the sweat has nowhere to go. It’s just as hot and humid outside as it is around your body. So the sweat just sits there. Technology can’t save you there—unless it’s the technology in your air-conditioned hotel room.
So this is exactly what you want for skiing/snowboarding, hiking, or living in a place like Seattle or Iceland, but not what you want for a boat ride down the Amazon.
3) Gore-tex is just the protective membrane, not the outer fabric
When you see a Gore-tex label on a North Face jacket or a pair of Merrell shoes (or any of these other brands), that’s just referring to the waterproof (or windproof) membrane built into the design. It’s just one of several layers.
The actual waterproofing on the outermost layer is some form of DWR, which brings us to…
4) Waterproof jackets should be dried in a dyer
It sounds counter-intuitive, but hang-drying your waterproof jacket is a bad idea (sorry Europeans!). Over time the waterproof properties of the DWR deteriorate from abrasion, dirt, and oils from your skin.
Washing it helps, but then it needs the heat of the dryer to restore and realign the microscopic pegs that repel water.(Obviously this won’t work for a rubber raincoat or something with a pure polyurethene coating—check the label.)
5) “Waterproof” is best, “water repellent” is worst
I always assumed “water repellent” was better than “water resistant,” but I was wrong. Apparently in outdoor apparel industry terms, resisting something is stronger than repelling it. Go figure. Save yourself the head-scratching and look for something labeled “waterproof.”
6) There are lots of sub-categories, but Gore-tex is generally waterproof and Windstopper items are not
The Windstopper products are meant for situations where wind is a bigger factor than rain. These are high-tech windbreakers that keep you warm and eliminate the “wind chill factor.”
I wore one into Gore’s wind testing room (giant fans blasting out really cold air). My upper body felt fine, even though what I was wearing looked like a regular fleece, but my lower body and feet were freezing.
7) “Breathability” measurements don’t have an industry standard
“There’s no FDA for breathability.” Gore was the first to develop breathable fabric (in 1978) and says the most reliable measure of this ability is one put out by the Hohenstein institute, but competing companies use a variety of other measures.
Some of these scales are hard to duplicate in different environments and the “as good as Gore-tex” claim is hard to disprove until you’re soaking in sweat inside your jacket and it’s too late. If you buy jackets, gloves, or shoes with eVent, Pertex, or some other similar technology, you probably won’t find them using the same measurement techniques.
It doesn’t mean they don’t work, but there is a good reason Gore products are the ones used by astronauts, firefighters, mountain climbers, and the military.
8 ) Gore tests everything with their name on it and guarantees it
Your jacket may say Arc’teryx and your gloves may say Marmot, but each model with a Gore-tex tag gets tested in their labs to make sure it works properly and will hold up for a lifetime.
Why do I have a row of washing machines pictured here? It’s because jackets are thrown into 200 of these washing machines and beaten up for weeks on end. If they don’t hold up to at least 500 hours of agitating, they fail.
There’s a rain room to test the waterproofing (I got to stand in it with rain gear on), there’s another room that takes the temperature from – 50 degrees celsius to + 50 degrees celcius.
The shoe machines pictured at the top continuously flex the shoe in wet conditions for days on end. Glove machines with sensors test whether the temperature is changing when they get wet.
Gore hires students to run on a treadmill with their gear on and tests how dry they’re staying. This enables them to back up every Gore-tex product for life.
It doesn’t matter if your jacket says Burton or Mountain Hardware. If you get wet while wearing it, you can return it to Gore. They’ve been doing that since 1989. To me, that says a lot.
This month’s guest post of “5 things I always pack” is from John E. DiScala, otherwise known as Johnny Jet. His site has been one of my go-to travel resource sites for close to a decade now. Johnny travels around 150,000 miles and visits over 20 countries each year. He and his website JohnnyJet.com have been featured over 1,800 times in magazines and newspapers and on all the major TV networks.
I always pack: In no particular order, mind you …
1. My wardrobe essentials:
– A bathing suit because you never know when the occasion may arise.
– A sports jacket to look smart.
– If I wear sneakers I bring dress shoes or vice versa. A reversible belt (brown and black). I’m also keen on the ScotteVest SeV jackets—they have multiple pockets (like 18-52 depending on the model) so you can hide your valuables.
Ear plugs block the noise on a plane or in a noisy hotel room. I don’t like the cheap scratchy eye masks that the airlines pass out; instead, spend $10 or less and buy a fluffy one that will make you look silly but feel fresh. I have one from Lewis N. Clark.
4. Travel Journal
The moment I take my seat, I write down my destination, the date, the airline, the type of plane, seat number, the listed departure time, the actual departure time, flight time and miles. I know it’s kind of Rainman-esque of me, but I used to do it back when I was afraid to fly, to focus my mind on something else. But now it helps me with my story details.
I also jot down what I did, where I ate, how much I spent, transportation modes, weather. And on the last page, I put stamps of all the countries I visited (see the picture here). I get my journal from Graphic Image or Barney’s New York.
5. A box of chocolates…
…for either the gate agent and/or the flight attendants. They can make or break your flight.
John DiScala’s JohnnyJet.com has been named “one of the top best money-saving web sites for travel” by Budget Travel Magazine, while the L.A. Times calls it “one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the internet.” Every week, Johnny hosts a “travel website of the week” for several radio stations around the country, he writes weekly for Frommers.com and he has written for USAToday, The Boston Herald, LAX Magazine and Coast Magazine. Sign up today for Johnny Jet’s free weekly travel newsletter at JohnnyJet.com.