After almost ten years of round-the-world travel you could say that we have just a few ideas on what works and what doesn't when it comes to travel gear. While we've never done a holiday gift list before, our recent trip to the United States where we spoke to university students and visited family inspired this one. We found ourselves answering questions and dishing out advice wherever we went on travel gear, luggage, and digital tools to make your travels more fun and organized. So, we thought to share some of this with all of you, from recent discoveries as well as gear we've been using for almost a decade.
If you're looking to buy something for a traveler in your life (or are gearing up yourself), look no further. The goal with this gear is to equip you to travel well, as well as with organization and flexibility.
- Gifts for Travelers: What's New This Year
- Gifts for Travelers: Oldies, but Goodies
- Digital and Photography Gifts
- Fun Gifts for Your Friends With a Travel Bug
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We upgraded our trekking backpacks earlier this year in order to walk the Camino de Santiago (960 km/600 miles). In preparation, we researched extensively and tested several backpacks at outdoor stores. The ones we chose — the Osprey Packs Exos 38 Backpack and Deuter ACT Trail Pro 32 SL Backpack — exceeded our expectations for being light, functional and comfortable. If you're planning a long trek or walk, take a good look at these packs. They are that good.
We are always looking for laptop bags that are comfortable enough to be used as a daypack. One of the things we liked about this backpack is that the structure and organization of it allows you to pack in a lot of stuff — including a laptop and all its accessories — into a pretty small-sized bag. It's compact. Additionally, it has a wide waist strap to make it more comfortable for long urban walks. If you're traveling by air, the laptop compartment can unzip to go flat on the x-ray conveyer belt so that you don't have to take your laptop out separately (TSA approved). We tested this feature on our recent trip through the United States. Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing.
You can enter to win your own ECBC Lance Executive Daypack by entering the giveaway below!
$149.99 $104.99 on ECBC. Our readers get a special discount until the end of the year!! Use the discount code UNCORNEREDBP30 to get 30% off all ECBC backpacks and UNCORNEREDMB70 for 70% off all messenger bags. On top of that, anyone using the UNCORNERED code gets a free black 5500mAh portable Power Bank. Pretty good deal, I'd say.
This one is for the travelers who also run, walk or work out while on the road. Dan switched over to Bluetooth headphones for running earlier in the year and raved about them. Now, I finally see why. What's cool about the RunPhones is that the Bluetooth speakers are nestled into a headband so that you not only have your podcast playing into your ears without the annoyance of traditional earbuds and wires flailing around, but you also stay warm in the process. I was thankful for this during our latest trip to the U.S. when temperatures began to drop. Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing.
We've long been advocates for earplugs as a good night's sleep on the road is golden, like a gift. Recently, we switched to these silicone earplugs for the Camino de Santiago and have never looked back. Whether you are sleeping in a crowded albergue or in a hotel on a loud city street, these silicone earplugs can create quiet in the midst of a snoring dormitory or urban noise storm. A good night's sleep is so worth the expenses and effort of carrying earplugs.
Supposedly, we will spend about 3.5 days of our life untangling headphones. I laughed when I first read this unscientific study, but then I started paying attention to all of the time I did spend trying to undo the knots of my iPhone headphones each time I needed them. And it did add up, in time and frustration. So when LOOP first contacted us about their earbud organizer we welcomed the opportunity to avoid this part of our day. The design is simple, and it actually works. Great for the road, and for home. Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing.
Here's the gear that we've been using for years and years. In fact, some of these items have been with us for ten years and we're still using it.
These packing cubes help keep us sane on the road. We use different packing cubes of different colors for specific items — one for underwear and socks, another for clothing, while another holds all of our technical gear. This means we always know where exactly to go in our bag to find exactly what we need. Whenever people ask for packing advice, packing cubes are always at the top of the list.
With a set of pliers, several knives, multiple types of screwdrivers and a bottle opener, our Leatherman has gotten us out of many situations — e.g., fixing windshield wipers and lights on a car in the middle of the night in Kyrgyzstan. It is also essential for picnics and make-shift eating on the road (you know, when you have a ripe avocado on a bus in Uganda that you want to eat). Pair this with a spork or camping silverware and you'll really be all set for picnics. Note: Be sure not to leave this in your carry-on bag if you are flying. We've learned this lesson the hard way.
Trekking Pants: Clothing Arts Adventure Travel Pants
We've been wearing these travel pants (his and hers) for over three years and have really put them to the test — Camino de Santiago in Spain (960km/600 miles), Peaks of the Balkans trek (200km), gorilla trekking in Uganda, Jyrgalan trek in Kyrgyzstan, and many more outdoor adventures. And, they still are in good shape even after all of this use. We really like all the pockets and zippers available that keep our valuables (e.g., smartphone, wallet, passport, keys) safe and secure whether we're on a mountain trail or a city street.
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Wheeled Luggage
Although we still have backpacks, we find ourselves using our wheeled luggage more frequently these days. These bags are sturdy (the wheels even survive our cobblestoned street in Berlin), have strong zippers, fit in a ton (perhaps too much) stuff, and look good. Dan uses the 32-inch bag while I use the 26-inch one. There is also a carry-on version at 22-inches that I am currently eying. These aren't the cheapest of bags, but they do last. We've put them through a lot of wear and tear and they are in good shape.
This simple and inexpensive Energizer headlamp lights the way and keeps your hands free. If you're staying with families in guest houses or home stays, you may find they are without electricity at night. This is especially important when navigating a bathroom/outhouse, which is a most unfortunate place to trip in the dark. If you're camping, headlamps are of course absolutely essential.
Cost: $11.02 on Amazon.
We all have way too many passwords to try and remember, not to mention that passwords need to be more sophisticated these days to prevent hacking. We love LastPass for managing all of our passwords with browser extensions and apps. Another great feature is that we can share password information between us (LastPass Premium). This is perfect for couples. If you sign up to LastPass here you'll get a free month of premium service.
When it comes to photography editing, I admit that there's a lot more that I can learn. And, editing often takes me more time than it should. That's why I was intrigued by these Sleeklens presets and brushes to see if they could serve as a sort of shortcut in my Lightroom photo editing process (e.g., kind of like filters on photo apps). I tested them out with photos from our latest trip to Kyrgyzstan (Jyrgalan trek and World Nomad Games) and found that not only did editing go faster, but I was able to get results through the presets that I didn't know how to do manually. The trick is to spend time at the beginning playing around with all the filters so that you understand what to use so that you get the look or result you want. Disclosure: This was provided to us for testing.
Cost: $39.00 for landscape bundle of presents and brushes on Sleeklens. There are also Lightroom presets for other types of photography.
If you know someone who has a love of travel, food, typography and design then check out this collection of food art for a unique gift. Currently the countries represented for prints, t-shirts and tote bags include: Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Thailand, and Vietnam. Our friend, Jodi, who is the food-lover and traveler behind this collection has been adding more and more countries. So if you don't see your desired country there yet, be sure to check back in the future.
Our friends, Erin and Simon, of Never Ending Voyage are the masters of carry-on travel. They have been traveling and working around the world for six years with only carry-on bags. And, they do carry laptops and other photography/technical gear. Yes, it's as impressive as it sounds. This book is a practical brain dump of all that they do to be able to do this. We're still learning.