A few months ago I set up to put together the ultimate light traveling kit.   My wife and I are planning on taking our two kids on a month long european trip this summer.  Travelling light is hard enough but with two small boys (3 and 7) we had to make sure that every single item we packed would hold up to the chaos of a family trip but also be light enough to keep mom and dad from falling over with exhaustion each night.

To get ready for this adventure we have been testing a lot of different gear options  and our favorite has been the  Sea to Summit Travelling Light Series.

DryLite Towels

A towel is a massively useful item for any traveler to carry (not just an interstellar hitchhiker). As any spontaneous swimmer or cleaner-upper has discovered when being without one at the most inopportune time, having your own towel can stave off many bouts of air drying or being wet and cold. And if you’re staying in cheap hotel then you might not like the towels (if they are even provided).  The problem is, towels can take up a lot of room. Those fluffy Egyptian cotton terrycloth ones so prized in upscale hotel rooms would take up half your carry-on bag when packed. Sure, they feel luxurious and dry you off quickly, but travel-worthy they are not.

So you have to make a bit of a compromise in order to get something that packs well. This Sea to Summit one, like most of them out there, uses a polyester/nylon blend that squeezes down tight and dries quickly. The trade-off, of course, is those materials are more often used in apparel touted for their wicking properties than quick absorption. So to compensate you have to work a little harder and use the whole surface area in order to get dry. It’s not ideal, but this really is a case where you can’t have your cake and eat it too: bring a cotton towel and you could be carrying around a musty artifact that refuses to dry.

Don’t let the finger feel fool you though: this microfiber will absorb three times its weight in water. It then dries very quickly afterwards, in as little as an hour in my tests if you’re not in a humid area. It’s got a little snap loop too so you can easily find a place to hang it.

The sea to summit DryLite Towel is a micro-fiber quick dry towel that is nothing short of magic.  Having been a competitive swimmer I have used a lot of these types of towels and while nice, they really don’t replace a decent towel and I was skeptical that theDryLite Towel would work for me.  The first workout I took my blue DryLite to changed my mindset, for one it was big SeaToSummit-DryTowel Editenough to actually function as a real towel but at 1/10th the weight and size.

After using it I wrung the water out of it and put it in the drying compartment of my workout bag.  I had intended to pull it out and hang dry it but forgot to do so and didn’t realize my mistake until 3 days later I finished another workout.  With some trepidation I pulled out the DryLite Towel expecting to find a sour, damp mess.   Shockingly the towel was not only perfectly dry but also completely odor free.  It worked just as well as the first time.

The most amazing thing was I finally read the directions and realized that I was supposed to wash the towel before I used it the first time.  After washing the towel it actually improved both in how well it absorbed water but it seemed to dry out even faster. We are planning on taking 4 of these towels with us on our adventure, we each have our own color and we are excited to not have to rely on the hotel having towels that are both clean and useful.  You can find the best prices for the DryLite towel on amazon at the MadAthlete Store

Packing Cubes

I have been a fan of packing cubes for years.  Here at Practical Travel Gear we have tried nearly every packing cube on the market and they get better every year.  Recently Sea to Summit updated their packing cubes to an ultralight Ultra-Sil fabric so I decided to put them through their paces.  I gave a good friend,  Rob Johnson my full set to try out with the condition he shoot me a video of how he used them.  Rob had never used packing cubes and has become a complete packing cube convert.  Watch the video below to see how Rob uses them for his weekly trips. Learn more about the Sea to Summit Travelling Light Packing Cells

Travelling Light Shoe Bag

As a business traveler that has to take formal shoes to far-flung corners of the globe, I often find myself packing them in my carry-on bag while wearing more comfortable shoes on board. That means loafers on the plane and more formal footwear in my bag. To keep it from getting my other clothes dirty or wrinkled, I find the Travelling Light Shoe Bag to be the ideal option.

Photo credit, Sea to Summit

Photo credit, Sea to Summit

Many hotels overseas actually provide complimentary shoe bags, but they are either too small to hold dress boots or too big to keep smaller shoes from slipping out. This brand offers bags in multiple sizes that are great for those that have a variety of shoes in their luggage.

Women, especially, will find these bags handy because dress shoes and comfortable walking shoes can be even more important to one’s wardrobe.
I like that I can zip the bag closed to secure the shoes in place. Stylists will find that there are multiple colors available, which can help color code packing for those that are always in a hurry. They have easy-access grab handles to yank them from an overstuffed bag in a jiffy.

These bags can also be used for other items to keep things organized within one’s suitcase like charging cables, cameras, jewelry, underwear, and even toiletries. It can make finding things easier in your suitcase.

The bags are lightweight and have a soft surface meaning that they can squeeze into corners of your bag without being too bulky. The largest size can hold two pairs of shoes or one pair of boots, and this is my go-to option when traveling. The price varies between around $20 and $96 depending upon the size of the case, and we recommend checking out the MadAthlete store on Amazon for the best prices

Comfort Light Sleeping Mat

It’s becoming easier and easier to be a backpacker these days. With packs, tents, and mattresses becoming more technical, lighter, and more effective every year, backpacking enthusiasts no longer have to choose between comfort and weight (for a price).

sea-to-summitCase in point: the Sea to Summit Comfort Light Mat is both the most comfortable and the lightest backpacking pad I’ve tried. While the Kelty TrailLogic PDa pad is still more compact, the Comfort Light wins in ease of use and cushion. How does it do it? With what Sea to Summit has dubbed Air Sprung Cell technology: the use of a double layer of high resolution cells in the torso area for added comfort and support, and only a single layer of medium resolution cells in the head and legs to reduce overall weight.

I know some extremely minimalist backpackers who use the smallest, child-sized pad possible, because they believe a pad along the torso is absolutely all that’s needed…the legs can rest on the ground and the head can rest on a jacket or shirt. Personally, I’m not willing to sacrifice my comfort in the outdoors for a few ounces, so the Comfort Light is ideal. The regular version (it also comes in small or large) is 72 inches in length and 21.5 inches in width, and weighs in at 16 ounces. Fully supine, every inch of my 5’4” length is fully cushioned. My husband, at 6’3”, would either need the large, or to subscribe to the ‘torso only’ philosophy (which he does not).

The Comfort Light packs down into a 3.5 x 6.5 inch stuff sack, rolled the conventional way most pads are packed. Unlike ‘old school’ pads that must be attached to the outside of pack due to their bulk and length, the Comfort Light can definitely pack into a backpack interior, should you wish.

After weight and pack-down size, my next question about any backpacking pad is: how easy or hard is it to inflate and deflate? The Comfort Light  uses a multi-function valve, which allows you to blow it up by mouth in about one minute, and deflate in less time, using a roll method. It’s also easy to release just a bit of air or add a bit as needed. Sea to Summit uses an unique TPU lamination process to strengthen the pad, and the 40D rip-stop nylon is tough without compromising on weight. In short, I’ve yet to encounter a Sea to Summit product that wasn’t built for quality and endurance.

Lastly, is it comfortable? Oh my, yes. Our Comfort Light’s inaugural outdoor adventure was a chilly spring trip to the Oregon coast, where it protected me from the cold, somewhat soggy, ground and kept me blissfully cozy in our three-person tent without taking extra room. Back at home, the Comfort Light has proved so comfortable, it’s taken up near-permanent residence in the kids’ rustic fort, where they sleep nearly every night in spring and summer. It’s far more comfortable (and gets me further off cold ground) than my standard backpacking air pads, and I find I stay on it better during nights in tents, probably due to the air cells that give the pad contour. Not only will the Comfort Light continue to join us on backpacking trips, but I’ll be reaching for it in lieu of our heavy camping air mattresses for car camping as well. In other words, I won’t be going back to anything else!

Waterproof Packable Daypack

ultra-sil packable daypackI’m always happy to take something that can pack away into its own little pouch, but this Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack from Sea to Summit really takes things up a notch. It’s ultralight, strong, and packable, yes, but the thing also keeps everything inside dry when you get caught in the rain!

This daypack is configured like a dry bag you would take out on a boat or kayak, with a top closure that folds or rolls over a few times and then snaps shut. It’s made of siliconized Cordura fabric and is seam sealed, so once you lock down that flap, no water is getting in to mess up your things.

This is no wimpy little toy bag, however. It’s got compression straps on the outside to hold more of your gear and the capacity is 22 liters. I’ve jammed 25 pounds of weight in it from a grocery store trip on foot and could have put in more if my shoulders could handle it. You’ve got a lot of room and it’s very strong.

packable backpackWhen you’re ready to pack up and head home, this Sea to Summit Dry Daypack goes into a little pouch that’s unbelievably small, to the point where you could lose it in your larger pack or suitcase pretty easily. Thankfully it’s got a little snap tab so you can hook it onto something to keep track of it.

I’ve taken this out into a few drizzles and have not even gotten a drop in my belongings. Water just beads right off it, even if I stick it under a faucet to simulate a white water rafting ride. My real last whitewater rafting ride, in Veracruz, would not have been a good test though. We hit a wall of water and I went flying overboard. The label on this clearly says, “Do not submerge.”

This is a great little daypack to take along if you need something for around town and you’ve brought another bag with your laptop or tablet in it that’s too hefty. Plus if the weather is iffy, no worries about your contents getting wet.

The Ultra-sil Dry Daypack retails for $55 and comes in four colors. See more at the Sea to Summit site and get your own at on  Amazon.

Dry Pocket Soaps, Shaving Cream, and Shampoo

Here’s something I can say I’ve been using for years, items that perfectly fit the credo of “practical travel gear.” These dry tabs in a waterproof packet from Sea to Summit are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. You can use them on a weekend getaway or a round-the-world trip and they’re great for getting around the liquids issue with your carry-on.

pocket soap shampooHere’s something I can say I’ve been using for years, items that perfectly fit the credo of “practical travel gear.” These dry tabs in a waterproof packet from Sea to Summit are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. You can use them on a weekend getaway or a round-the-world trip and they’re great for getting around the liquids issue with your carry-on.

Of course they’re great for camping too, especially if you need to schlep all your stuff in a backpack over miles of trails before you set up camp.

Sea to Summit is known for putting out a great variety of gear that’s well-made, but well-priced. These pocket soaps retail for just $4.99 and are often on sale for a dollar less. Each has 50 of the tabs inside: little pieces of what feel like thin paper. When they come in contact with water, however, they turn into what they’re labeled: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, or body wash. Like magic! See a demo of the soap in action below.

 

Of course they’re great for camping too, especially if you need to schlep all your stuff in a backpack over miles of trails before you set up camp.

Sea to Summit is known for putting out a great variety of gear that’s well-made, but well-priced. These pocket soaps retail for just $4.99 and are often on sale for a dollar less. Each has 50 of the tabs inside: little pieces of what feel like thin paper. When they come in contact with water, however, they turn into what they’re labeled: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, or body wash. Like magic! See a demo of the soap in action below.

They’re biodegradable, so no worries in the backcountry, plus they’re phosphate and paraben free. How much would you pay for even trial sized liquids making that same claim?

All have a pleasant “light green tea” fragrance.

2 Comments

  1. Jairus on April 2, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Great article!



  2. Brad on April 5, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Hey Chris, some great info here! Just thought I’d let you know in the last section that talks about dry pocket soaps there is a lot of redundancy- seems like multiple paragraphs have been duplicated 🙂