It’s the holiday season and of course everyone has their own version of the holiday gift guide. What you may not realize is that many of those folks get kickbacks for the items in the post, or a percentage of sales via the provided link. I don’t like that, so I’m not doing that. There are links here, but they’re simply direct links to the companies and I’m not getting a cut of any sales. No, instead what you’ll find here is my pure and unvarnished reviews. What I will say is that almost everything on this list was sent to me for free by the company. I get A LOT of things sent to me though, and almost everything I get is fairly worthless. The items on this list are different and reflect a small percentage of the total swag I received over the course of a year. While they may have been provided to me for free, they’ve quickly become items I use on every trip. In some cases, I’ve actually been testing these items out for more than a year, so I can honestly say they’re definitely worthwhile as a gift for yourself or that travel enthusiast in your life.
Last a year a company reached out to me on Instagram offering use of their jackets for upcoming trips I had to Norway and Iceland. Since I was in dire need of cold-weather gear, I quickly accepted the offer. I’m not sure what I expected, but what are arguably the best jackets I’ve ever owned wasn’t it. A Canadian-based company, Westcomb isn’t you’re run of the mill outdoor apparel company, they’re something special.
From the very beginning, they were focused on providing active gear that reflects the best Canada has to offer, encapsulating the spirit of the landscape, culture and best manufacturing practices into all of their products. That commitment to superior quality proved to be accurate, and after nearly a year of owning their apparel I am finally ready to fully and completely endorse them. The jackets I received included:
The Cayoosh Hoody uses a combination of Pertex Quantum down with Polartec Powerstretch side panels to create a jacket that is cut close to the body, enabling freedom of movement and comfort, while still being warm and water repellent. When used in conjunction with the Apoc Classic outer shell that shuts out wind and rain while still being breathable, it’s the perfect way to defeat harsh winter temperatures. When used together, the jackets provide ample protection in temperatures below zero, which is amazing given how light they are. For a frequent traveler like me, I need outwear that does the job but which is also light and compact. The hoody rolls up into a tiny ball, meaning if I’m not wearing it, it’s very easy to pack.
I love this company not just because they make amazing products, but because they have a clear corporate ethos and they never lose sight of that. Hard to say in today’s world.
I have a soft spot for companies with a mission, which is why I was excited when the guys behind the innovative shoe company Forsake reached out to me. Outdoorsy guys by nature, the two co-founders wanted to create footwear that was sturdy enough to use on just about any adventure, while being comfortable enough to wear throughout the day when not tackling epic summits. When I travel, I tend to do a lot of outdoor experiences, so I was eager to try out the shoes for myself. I also have an oddly shaped foot, and to be honest I go through shoes on a fairly regular basis. What they sent me was the Mack, which is designed for active types whether it’s hiking or just walking around new cities. It has a breathable upper mesh that keeps my feet comfortable and dry. I have worn these shoes on every trip this year and so far, no hot and sweaty feet. More importantly they’re the most comfortable shoes I own and I find myself wearing them around the house when I’m doing nothing more exciting than tackling the laundry. Better yet, after a year of near-constant use they’re in fine shape, they look like they’re new out of the box – except for a few scrapes here and there which I take as badges of honor.
Safari by Geoffrey Kent
Although I was certainly familiar with the iconic brand, I have to admit that I actually didn’t know as much about the luxury tour company Abercrombie & Kent or its founder, Geoffrey Kent, as I should have before reading this new book. In his new book Safari, Kent shares with us how he started the concept of experiential luxury travel through what is arguably the best luxury travel company in the world, Abercrombie & Kent. So much more though than just about the founding of a company, in the book Kent shares his adventures and experiences throughout a lifetime of traveling the world and by the end of it I think that you’ll agree with me that Geoffrey Kent certainly is the most interesting man in the world. From sleeping in the African Savanna to playing polo with princes, Safari is informative, engrossing and one of the most inspirational books I’ve read in a long time.
It seems that every other week someone is sending me a different style of portable battery pack. Since I’m constantly using my iPhone when I travel, these are actually essential to my work but there’s one problem. Most of them are a pain to use. Either they take far too long to charge, or they don’t have enough juice to use more than once or they just mysteriously stop working after a few months. I’ve gone through more of these key pieces of travel equipment than I care to admit to. Then a few weeks ago a company called Ventev reached out to me, and I grudgingly agreed to try out their product. So imagine my surprise when, unlike all of the other batteries out there, this one not only worked, but it worked well. I selected the powercell 6000c battery charger with Lightning cable, which was perfect for me since I only use Apple devices. I liked this battery charger more than all of the others for a few reasons. First, it has a built in Lightning cable, so I don’t have to hunt for mine in my carry-on bag when traveling. What I really love though is that it has an on/off switch. So many of these don’t and if I leave my cord plugged into it by accident, then they die. But with this one that hasn’t happened thanks to that simple switch. Plus it provides up to 25 hours of additional talk time, which is perfect for those long days on the road. I also combined it with some of their other products essentially creating little power hubs for all of my devices wherever I go in the world, thanks to the included converter.
I love transportation and I especially love aviation, although admittedly my knowledge isn’t as robust as my aviation geek colleagues out there. I also wear a lot of t-shirts, so when I found this company I knew I had to get one of their products. It’s simple, this company offers a wide variety of gifts and t-shirts featuring any number of airport codes and other travel related phrases. I’m always wary though when buying t-shirts online, either the fit is weird or they aren’t comfortable, but this t-shirt fits so well and is so comfortable I find myself wearing it all the time. I opted for the Reykjavik airport code KEF (for Keflavik airport) and am eager to expand my collection to include any number of other favorite airports around the world. This really is the perfect gift for the travel lovers out there.
I am not a backpacker by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s probably why I was so excited to back this Kickstarter project last year. Nope, they didn’t send me a free bag – I bought it fair and square and now I want to offer some thoughts on this innovative new piece of luggage. The promise was simple, to create a piece of luggage that could easily transition between backpack and a more standard looking carry-on bag, all the while being sturdy and big enough to lug just about anything you’d need on a trip. Honestly, I didn’t use the bag as often as I would’ve liked because despite claims, I found that in practice I really couldn’t fit as much in the bag as I had imagined. Because I’m not a backpacker, when I go on a trip I frequently need different styles of clothes, multiple pairs of shoes and so on. The bag just can’t accommodate this, but I did use it exclusively while on a weeklong trip to Peru when I didn’t need to transition between active wear and business casual. The result was that the bag performed as promised, it was sturdy, fit everything I needed for a week on the road and easily transitioned from backpack to a more normal looking piece of luggage. Even better, it meant I could finally go carry-on only, a rare feat for me. The bag is a good one and if you’re a backpacker or going on a simple weekend trip, it will suit your needs. But, if you’re like me and frequently need 2-3 pairs of shoes, sports coats and other larger items, then this will probably only work as a bag to complement your main piece of luggage.
Earlier this year, GoPro released the new Hero 4 Session and with it launched a major social media assault. Part of that campaign was sending the new camera to as many social media “influencers” as possible, including myself. I was (and am) honored by the inclusion, and penned a review soon after first using the new gadget. All in all, I like the new Session and still recommend it for a few reasons. It’s very small, very light, very easy to use and produces very high quality videos and photos. All of these traits are perfect for travelers. After using it for a few more months though, there are some drawbacks. First, you can’t adjust the settings on the camera itself, you have to use their iPhone app which means if you’re snorkeling, you can’t switch between video and photos. It’s also glitches when trying to download the photos from the app to my devices and more than once I’ve shut it off entirely rather than deal with the hassle. But when it comes down to it, size, weight and quality mean I keep using it whenever my other cameras aren’t a good fit for the situation.
These are some of the travel-related gear I use on a routine basis and I know that they’re great gifts for any travel enthusiast. What’s your favorite gear that you’d recommend?