ExOfficio Kukura Trek’r Stretchy Travel Pants

ExOfficio Kukura Trek'r Stretchy Travel Pants | Practical Travel Gear

ExOfficio Kukura Trek'rWhenever and wherever I’m going in my travels, at least one pair of travel pants is going in the bag, often two or more of them. These Kukura Trek’r ones from ExOfficio are now on top of the stack, a grab and go pair of pants that works in multiple situations and climates.

While I love the typical thin, quick-dry travel pants that will dry overnight (or an hour in the sun), they’re not ideal for cooler climates and can be kind of baggy on your body. These Kukura ones from travel pants champ ExOfficio are a little thicker and have a key attribute for active pursuits: they stretch. Whether crammed in on a plane or hiking the Andes, that extra bit of give makes these comfortable enough to wear all day every day.

I wore these pants on a trip to Turkey recently, one that involved flying Tampa-NYC-Istanbul and then hitting the ground running when I arrived to research an article. Usually I’m ready to shed what I’m wearing at that point, but I kept these pants on the whole time and wore them much of the following week as well. They looked brand new no matter what and were super-comfortable. I especially appreciated the expanding waistline feature when I was enjoying all that good Turkish food.

These are marketed as technical pants, good for hiking, rock climbing, or other active pursuits. I’m taking them with me on a biking tour trip this coming week and if the weather is too cold for shorts, I could bike in these as well.

Being travel pants though, they’ve got lots of thoughtful features built in for travelers. I like that both of the back pockets are secured: one with Velcro, one with a zipper. The pattern is repeated on the side, with a zipper pocket and a Velcro pocket on the leg. That doesn’t make them pick-pocket-proof I know, but it helps. Then there are two regular pockets you can stick your hands in, one with a loop for keys or whatever. All the pockets have mesh liners to cut down on weight and allow air to circulate.

Like most ExOfficio products, these pants are built to last and will still look great after 20 trips. They’ve got a DWR treatment that repels stains and water—a feature I got to try out when someone spilled coffee on my leg and it wiped right off. The “Indestructible Button System” uses fabric loops instead of bound-to-unravel thread.

While you could argue the Craghoppers stretch pants I tried and reviewed recently are more stylish, with no side pockets on the legs, these are nice enough to wear in most non-business situation where you want to look presentable. When you don’t, they’re ready to take on any challenge.

You can toss these Kukura Trek’r pants in the washing machine no problem and if you do sink wash them, they should be dry by morning. They come in black or gray and list for $110, which is certainly not cheap, but it’s not an exaggeration to say they could last you a decade or two and you could easily wear these and nothing else for a week straight if you’re trying to pack light.

Get the Kukura stretch pants direct from ExOfficio or buy them from Backcountry or Paragon Sports.

See more reviews of ExOfficio travel clothing

Maui Jim Keanu Sunglasses

Maui Jim Keanu Sunglasses | Practical Travel Gear

Keanu sunglasses

Who’s ready for Spring? Today is officially the first day of that season the northerners are so happy to see, so put on some shades and head outdoors.

Sunshine, warm weather…and Maui? Sounds like a good combination, so these Maui Jim sunglasses make you smile before you even put them on. The nice case they come in is textured to look like a woven basket. Pop it open and there’s felt inside with a Maui Jim logo in gold.

These are high-end sunglasses, so it doesn’t stop there. You also get a soft carrying pouch that doubles as a lens cleaner and it’s got a tropical Hawaii theme going with red flowers and palm trees.

My first impression when I put these on was that they weren’t dark enough to do the job. My go-to pair of sunglasses in Florida has been the polarized Costa del Mar Tag pair I’ve had for two years now. These Maui Jim ones have lighter lenses, but that’s kind of misleading for how well they work. Sure, you won’t trip over something when you walk indoors because you can still see, but they do block out an impressive amount of glare.

Turns out my pair came with Maui Jim’s Maui “High-Transmission” lenses, which work better for overcast days or the beginning/end of day instead of peak sun time. They offer sharper contrast and more vibrant color, so that “low light is perceived with new vibrancy.”

After I wore these around home on the morning school drop-off and then took them on a road trip across three states, they grew on me. They’re a good all-around pair for changing light conditions and for going in and out of buildings. Of course you can get them with another darker lens choice if you’ll be in very bright sunlight most of the time. There’s a cool lens comparison feature on their website with how the view changes here: see the difference.

These Keanu sunglasses are extremely comfortable, thanks to soft rubber nose grips, flexible ear stems, and a springy hinge where the stems connect to the frames. They’re made with quality in Italy.

As with every pair of Maui Jims you get their patented, color-infused polarized lens technology that reportedly wipes out 99.9% of glare and 100% of harmful UV rays.

This was my first experience with Maui Jim sunglasses and I have to admit the $279 list price gives me pause, but they do come with a two-year warranty—not a common thing for sunglasses. If you will be traveling in a climate with variable sun conditions, this Keanu pair with HT lenses would be worth packing in its nice case and taking along. Or if you live in the Pacific Northwest, they’ll probably do you all year long.

By the way, these are named after a Hawaiian word meaning “cool breeze over the mountains,” not the actor…

Get them direct from Maui Jim, at retail sunglasses stores, or online from Zappos.

Squishy Oofos Shoes for Recovery or Just Comfy Walking

Squishy Oofos Shoes for Recovery or Just Comfy Walking | Practical Travel Gear 1

Oofos comfort shoes

I may have found the most comfortable shoes ever. On top of that, they’re super-light and durable.

As Jill and I walked around the floor of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last month, a trade show where 1 out of 10 exhibitors seems to be selling footwear, it was easy to get jaded and feel like we’d seen it all. Maybe we had, but I had to admit I didn’t feel it all until I stepped into these Ooofos clogs and took a walk on the soft side.

Yes, I’ve walked around in Crocs, I’ve tried plenty of shoes with memory foam midsoles, and I love my Sanuk Beer Cozy flip-flops, but they were nothing like these Oofos shoes. I couldn’t wait to pop these on for my walk down the stairs to a glass of wine fireside at Washington School House Hotel in Park City. That’s one way they’re being marketed, as “recovery shoes,” but they’re also ideal for anyone who is tired of sore feet.

After trying these out, I’ve worn nothing but these around the house since I got back home.

Oofos comfortable shoes

“Those shoes are kind of ugly,” said my 12-year-old daughter when she saw me padding around the living room with these clogs on.

“Put them on and see how they feel,” I said. “They’re really squishy.”

“Can I have them?” she asked after walking to her bedroom and back.

“No, they’re mine, so back off.”

Therein lies the one negative of these though. You’re not going to put these Ooofos on because they’re fashionable and you want to look cool. But if you go for the slides they’re less clunky than the clogs I’ve been wearing and if you go for the thongs, nobody will be the wiser. You could wear those all day, looking like you’re in normal flip-flops, but feeling like you’ve got something better than a yoga pad under your feet.

So what’s the secret to the comfort? You’re not going to get them to display the secret formula, but it’s basically better foam through chemistry. After wearing them a month, I believe this claim though: “Test results show OOfoam is 37% more impact absorbing than any existing EVA, the most common material found in footwear.”

The bottom line is, these are ideal travel shoes, especially if you need something to change into after skiing or hiking. They weigh next to nothing, you can throw them in a washing machine when they get dirty (or just hose them off), they don’t compress and lose volume when you wear them, and they won’t cost you much. They’re made from one single piece of molded plastic foam, so there’s no seam to give out and no way to blow out your flip-flop.

The Oofos list for $40 to $50 depending on style, available in multiple colors as sandals/flip-flops, slides, and clogs.

You can order direct from the Oofos site or get them from Amazon.

Great Looking, Value-priced Armitron Watches

Want to travel with a stylish, attractive watch that looks far more expensive than it really is? Armitron watches perform at a high level without costing you your arm and a leg.

Armitron Men's 20/4692 Bracelet Watch
21 Reviews
Armitron Men's 20/4692 Bracelet Watch

  • Black dial with silver-tone Arabic numerals at 12-3-6-9.
  • White hour hands; Date window at 4 O’clock.
  • Sweep second hand with red tip.
  • Adjustable bracelet with one touch two button fold over clasp with safety.
  • Water resistant to 165 feet (50 M): suitable for swimming and showering.

Part of the reason I started Practical Travel Gear many years ago was to supply an antidote to the gear reviews you typically see in the likes of Wired, Outside, Men’s Journal, and Maxim.

It’s not uncommon for them to hype watches costing $8,000 or $10,000 like that’s something people with normal jobs are going to spend their money on.

So when we review a watch here, we’re assuming you’re not buying it to compensate for something or to outdo your office mates. Armitron does not have cachet perhaps, but the company makes great timepieces that can do a lot for not a lot of money.

armitron travel watchI especially like this black stainless steel model with silver numbers and a luminous dial. It’s easy to see what time it is at a glance, but it has a unique look to it. Although it looks like a fancy clasp band watch, it’s water-resistant to 50 meters (165 feet).

I wish the date dial box weren’t so minuscule, but otherwise this is a watch that feels and looks solid. I’m taking it on my second trip abroad next week.

This Armitron black analog watch lists for $79, but it currently $55 at Amazon.

The other model I’ve been checking out is more business oriented, but is also well-suited for travel. This titanium-cased quartz watch with a steel link band is a dressy and expensive-looking model with three small dials in the face.

These display the day, date, and month in an analog fashion and there’s a second hand as well.

Armitron travel watch titaniumFeaturing the same locking one-hand (but two-step) latch system, it’s easy to get on and off once you figure out how it works. I have to admit I was stymied at first and had to consult instructions to get it open. After that though, easy and secure.

Like the black model at the top, this watch is water resistant to 50 meters.

Keep in mind if you buy this or the other model from somewhere besides a watch shop/jewelry store, you’ll need to visit one of those to get some links removed or do it yourself with some precision tools.

That’s not Armitron’s fault—it’s the nature of a band with interlocking metal links instead of a strap.

This titanium-steel model lists for $80, but is currently selling for $60 at Amazon.

You can also find a good selection of Armitron watches at physical stores like Sears and Macy’s.