Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Travel Gadgets and Gear That Work in Practice

About 48 out of 50 travel gear reviews on this blog tend to be based on real world tests. Some sites run gear reviews or stories based on just a press release and a photo, which is putting way too much faith in promises if you ask me.

I recently returned from a two-week trip in Peru: Colca Canyon, the Saltankay Trek, a couple nights in the Sacred Valley, then two days in Lima. I tried out a lot of gear for the first time, indluding the OR Revel light waterproof jacket, a Kombi bamboo weave base layer, an Airzone daypack from Lowe Alpine, and a set of lightweight but waterproof hiking boots from Keen. (Plus an awesome Casio superzoom camera I'll review next week.)

I packed and used plenty of other items though that I have reviewed here in the past. Consider this a list of travel gear items that really deliver in practice, over and over again.

Hiking socks from Gordina Lavawool and Teko. Eight days of hiking, warm feet, zero blisters.

The Steripen Traveler. I just added another country to the list where I didn't even get the slightest case of the runs when using this water purifier. (I'm up to six now.) Yet I only added one throwaway plastic water bottle to the landfill in two weeks' time. With its solar charger case, I also recharged the batteries from a hotel window sill.

The Hymini wind and solar charger. I never had to plug my iPod into a computer to recharge and I left my phone charger at home and just brought the tiny Nokia connector for Hymini. I powered three devices solely on wind and the sun, with no worries about 220 vs. 110 volts.

Western Digital portable hard drive. I am paranoid about losing photos when on assignment, so I save to my laptop every day or two then back up to this hard drive, which goes into a separate bag. With its small size and light weight, it's easy to squeeze in.

ExOfficio quick-dry travel underwear. Carrying 14 sets of underwear for a two-week trip is silly. These dry in a few hours, so it's easy to do a sink washing and have clean undies in the morning.

CoolMax wicking t-shirt from CoolClothing. I have some more expensive wicking shirts, but I like this one because it's black, thin, and dries quicker than anything else in my pack.

Illuminite zipper fleece. Peruvian drivers aren't known for having a deep respect for pedestrians. Wearing this around Cusco and Lima, at least they saw me in the headlights. Plus it's comfy when I don't need to be seen.

Comply noise-reducing ear buds. These are passive rather than active for noise reduction on a plane (squishy like earplugs to block out noise), but are far easier to pack than the Sennheiser headphones I also like.

My Timex Field Expedition watch. Held up well in the elements as usual and I love the Indiglo function at night. Plus you don't need to consult the owner's manual to reset the time or date.

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