Whoever said that getting there is half the fun obviously never had to endure the insanity that is contemporary airline travel.
While this modern mode of transportation has opened doors to adventures around the globe that outdoor enthusiasts could only dream about if we didn’t have those beautifully sleek gas hawks to whisk us over land and ocean in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take, the convenience isn’t without cost. And it can sometime be a pretty steep price to pay. Being forced to wait in cattle-car lines to load a congested metal tube before being stuffed into a seat that had to have been made to fit a medium-sized toddler can’t be anyone’s idea of fun. Add to that the delays and cancellations that have become the norm rather than the exception, and it begins to make you wonder if the adventure on the other side is worth the frustration you have to endure to reach it.
It is, of course, and it most likely always will be. But it’s also a safe assumption that airline travel isn’t going to get any more convenient anytime soon, so we put together a list of products that help make getting there a little more bearable, and maybe, even make it half the fun again.
Osprey Ozone Convertible 75L
If your outdoor adventure involves any kind of hiking, biking, or backpacking, then you might very well already have an Osprey pack ready to carry on your various excursions once you reach your destination. But the good people at Osprey didn’t stop with making the outdoors more accessible, they’re also making it easier to travel too, thanks to a line of luggage that is as well-thought out and cleverly designed.
Available for $330, the Ozone Convertible 75L might very well be the most versatile piece of luggage any outdoor enthusiast could hope for. The main compartment is roomy enough to hold enough clothes and gear for even prolonged adventures but not so expansive as to indulge those of us who are consummate over-packers and invariably fall on the wrong side of the 50 lbs. weight-limit.
The Ozone Convertible also features several organizational pockets that, unfortunately, seem to have become a rarity for most checked luggage these days but provide the same packing convenience for larger bags that all of us demand in our carry-ons. Some of the most innovative, functional, and downright cool elements of this bag, however, are the ones that aren’t readily apparent at first glance. For those times when wheeling luggage isn’t practical, the Ozone Convertible 75 features shoulder straps, a waist belt, and even lumbar support tucked conveniently in the back zipper pocket that allows you to convert the luggage into a fully functional backpack. And just in case you don’t have one of Osprey’s coveted backpacks ready for your adventures when you reach your destination, the Ozone Convertible has you covered with a detachable day pack that zips off the front of the luggage to become a traveling companion that will help you keep your gear secure and organized whether you’re heading to the hills or the museum.
Both the day pack and the luggage feature the kind of commitment to quality that Osprey customers have come to expect from the company’s packs. From the lightweight aluminum tubing that makes up the frame and the large wheels that keep it rolling even over rough terrain, to the thick carry straps and the durable nylon shell, the Ozone Convertible is made to survive years of rugged use. And just in case it doesn’t, it carries Osprey’s impressive All Mighty Guarantee, which means that it might just be the last piece of luggage you’ll ever have to buy. Or ever want to.
Granite Gear Cross-Trek 22” Wheeled Carry-On
With the cost of checking bags – not to mention the ever-present threat of lost luggage – one of the easiest ways to remove stress from your journey is to figure out how to pack all the clothes and gear you’ll need for your trip into a carry-on bag instead. It’s not a trick that’s easily accomplished, especially if you’re heading out on an adventure that requires any kind of specialized gear, but it’s one that’s infinitely more manageable with Granite Gear’s Cross-Trek 22” Wheeled Carry-On.
In addition to the large main compartment, the Cross Trek also includes two additional zippered sections with internal dividers that give you the flexibility to keep your clothes and gear separate for more strategic packing or create one large compartment for oversized items. The Cross Trek also includes internal compression straps (instead of those flimsy elastic bands that you find in most suitcases) as well as a pair of large cinch straps on the outside of the bag that allow you to really torque an over-stuffed pack down and get it to fit in the overhead bin.
Be aware, however, that while the bag does fit in the those compartments (tightly), it does not slip into the metal baggage guides that are becoming increasingly prevalent at the gates, and with the tightening restrictions that some airlines are placing on carry-on bags (especially on perpetually over-crowed flights) you might end up having to gate-check the bag if the airline agents press the issue. If that is the case, though, rest assured that the bag will emerge unscathed because it features the kind of durability Granite Gear packs are known for including water and stain-resistant fabrics, aircraft aluminum pull handle, a solid frame, and wheels that roll easy even over tough terrain. When you really have to hustle, the Cross-Trek also has the ability to convert into a backpack by simply pulling the shoulder straps out of the front pocket and untucking the hip belt that’s cleverly housed in a secret stash found in the front of the bag.
Ironically enough, all the versatility and convenience that the Cross Trek delivers actually comes with a very reasonable price tag of $169.99. Definitely not a bad price to pay for the amount of stress this bag can relieve when traveling.
Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 & Travelsafe X15
Thieves are thieves the world over, and one of the unfortunate realities of traveling is that no matter where you go, there’s a chance that those unsavory elements of society are going to try and take what doesn’t belong to them. Pacsafe is making that prospect much more difficult to pull off however with the Venturesafe X30 adventure backpack and the Travelsafe X15 portable pack insert.
Built to be used separately or in conjunction with each other, the Venturesafe and Travelsafe both include innovative features that are designed to thwart the stickiest of fingers. The Venturesafe retails for $169.95 and includes many of the aspects of a traditional travel pack including a computer/hydration sleeve, built-in rain cover, stow-away hip belt, a large main compartment, and several smaller organizational sections. The Venturesafe also includes a number of other added benefits designed to keep your belongings safe. The pack is made with Pacsafe’s eXomesh Slashguard material woven into the fabric to prevent thieves from slicing the bag open and grabbing the valuables inside. The pack also features a RFID-safe pocket, zipper loops that prevent effortless access to the internal compartments, and durable webbing straps with security hooks that make it difficult to snatch the pack and run.
The anti-theft aspect of the Venturesafe is significantly amplified, however, when it’s used in conjunction with the Travelsafe bag. Available for $99.95, the Travelsafe is completely encased in the eXomesh material and includes a stainless steel cable that can be pulled tight to cinch the top of the bag closed then wrapped around a pole or fixture and locked together with a TSA-approved combination lock to create a portable safe for your valuables. The Travelsafe fits snugly inside the main compartment of the Venturesafe, but also includes a removable shoulder strap and handles if you want to carry it separately or secure your important belongings in the tour Jeep, dive boat, or anywhere else thieving hands might be hiding.
Eddie Bauer Flying Squirrel Sleeping Bag
It’s called a sleeping bag, and, technically, I suppose that it is. But on long flights and extended stays in a cold airport, Eddie Bauer’s Flying Squirrel might be more aptly described as the silver lining that has the power to brighten up the darkest of clouds. At $299, this silver lining isn’t a cheap addition to your adventure travel essentials, but as soon as you realize just how often you’ll reach for it, you’ll wonder how you ever traveled comfortably without it.
Although it’s designed to be used like a traditional mummy bag, it’s a simple matter to open up the wide wings tuck your feet into the bottom, and wrap the Flying Squirrel around you to instantly transform that cold airplane seat into a comfortable recliner you won’t necessarily dread parking your butt in for hours on end. The bag features a 20D Ripstop nylon shell and the 850 fill Stormdown insulation is rated to 40 degrees F. It’s a full 84” long, but stuffs into a tiny compression sack and weighs just shy of a pound and a half, making it easy to tuck into any carry-on.
Even if you don’t happen to get cold on the plane, the stuff sack makes a great neck pillow that has the added benefit of being able to transform into an actual sleeping bag if you happen to get stranded in a remote stretch of the terminal at some distant airport on the way to your grand adventure. Not that that has ever happened to any of us, of course, but if you do have to face that unimaginable eventually someday, you’ll definitely be grateful that you have your little silver lining to cling to.
66 Audio BTS Sport Headphones
66 Audio claims that the BTS Sport Bluetooth headphones were designed for athletes and active users who want the convenience of wireless earbuds and the comfort of on-the-ear headphones. That might very well be the case, but take these headphones on your next trip and you might start to wonder if they were actually designed specifically for travellers.
The BTS Sport feature a lightweight frame that wraps around the back of your head in a way that holds the headphones securely against your ears but goes relatively unnoticed even if you’re wearing a hat or leaning back against the headrest. The unique frame also makes it simple to fold the headphones into a compact package that isn’t much larger than the cases designed for most earbuds.
The padded headphones are comfortable enough to keep your ears from getting sore no matter how long it takes you to get to your destination, and with a battery that’s rated to deliver 25 hours of continuous music or 400 hours of standby time, you could almost fly around the globe without ever having to recharge them. As an added bonus, because the BTS Sport are created to be sweatproof, if your travels do involve any kind of active excursions, you don’t have to worry about bringing another pair of earbuds to wear on your adventures. And regardless of whether you wear them on the plane or down the trail, the quality of the music they deliver would be impressive even if they carried a price tag that was several times more than their $59.99 MSRP.
Goal Zero Flip 30 and Nomad 7
In this day and age, you never want to be without power. Especially not on an extended flight where your only peace and sanity might come from your ability to lose yourself in a good movie or your favorite tunes. Goal Zero’s new Flip 30 rechargergives you enough power to fully recharge a tablet or several smaller devices. This $49.99 insurance policy makes sure you don’t run out of juice during your travels, and once you arrive at your destination, the Nomad 7 solar panel ($99.99) can quickly power the Flip back up even if you are heading on an adventure where outlets might not be a standard feature. Together the pair weigh slightly more than a pound and take up next to no room in your carry-on, so there’s no excuse to ever run out of power again.
Klean Kanteen 16oz Insulated Wide
Whether you’re a coffee snob or not, chances are good that you might want to fill up with a cup of java that’s a little more upscale than the lukewarm brew served on some airlines – especially if you happen to find yourself seated in the back of the airbus. Available for $30.95, the Klean Kanteen 16oz Insulated Wide travel tumbler allows you to fill up in the airport and keeps your premium roast nice and toasty no matter how long your flight is. And once the coffee runs out, you can always use the stainless steel double-wall tumbler to help keep your water cold or even as a makeshift cocktail shaker for those flights when the going gets really tough.
Gerber Dime Travel
Ever since TSA tightened the regulations that made it illegal to bring a knife of any size onto a plane, those of us who have come to depend on our blades for countless everyday uses have felt a little hobbled when traveling without checked bags. The Gerber Dime Travel multi-tool might not give you back your blade, but it at least can give you access to some of the most useful tools that TSA will still allow onboard airplanes.
The Dime Travel retails for $25 and features a small spring-loaded needle nose pliers and wire cutters as well as micro-scissors, a nail file, flathead screwdriver, and the all-important bottle opener. All of these tools are cleverly stuffed into a package that’s 2.8” long closed and weighs only 2.2 ounces, so it’s an easy essential to toss in your carry-on.
Unfortunately, however, it seems that not all agent received the memo that the Dime Travel meets TSA regulations for carry-ons because on a recent trip, one of the tools that was placed in the security bin was confiscated by TSA. This might be an isolated incident, but you should be aware that the possibility exists nonetheless. With as functional as this product is though, it might very well be worth the risk – especially when you consider how stressful it can be when you’re in a jam and have absolutely no tools at your disposal.
Arc’teryx classifies the Arakys as approach shoes, but don’t let the name fool you because they are every bit as functional in an airport as they are on a rocky peak. Available for $150, the Arakys are made from a lightweight, breathable, stretch material that wraps comfortably around your foot with or without a sock. They feature a unique one-handed closure that’s easy to slide off and latch back up when you’re going through security, and the heel of the shoe is even made to collapse so it’s a simple matter to slip them off and toss them into those beautiful gray buckets in a hurry. The sticky Vibram sole will give you plenty of traction whether you’re running to catch your plane or on a hike once you’ve reach your destination, making these shoes the only pair of kicks you’re likely to need on just about any trip.
SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Socks
Those who say socks don’t make a difference have likely never worn a pair of socks that are designed specifically for comfort. The SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium socks are like little blankets wrapped around your feet that help keep them cool when you’re stressed out and warm when the cabin temperature starts to drop. These socks retail for $23.95 and feature SmartWool’s new Industratawool technology that’s designed to provide more durability in high-wear areas as well as the 4 Degree elite fit system that wraps around your foot comfortably in all the right places. And the best part is that because they have the natural odor-absorption properties of merino wool, you don’t have to worry about being that inconsiderate schmuck who gasses out the rest of the passengers when you slide your shoes off during long plane rides.
Arcade Adventure Belt
If you’re like me, your belt might just be your most-overlooked piece of equipment. If so, be prepared to have the Arcade Adventure Belt give that outdated mindset the smackdown it deserves. The Adventure Belt is designed by outdoor enthusiasts as a way to not only keep your pants up during all your adventure activities, but to do it with style and – more importantly – comfort.
The belt is available in a mind-blowing selection of styles that will fit in with anyone’s wardrobe and are made with a stretch material that provides the right amount of give to keep from binding when you bend or roll without being so loose that it defeats the purpose of wearing a belt in the first place. The feature that will make this $26 gem an essential piece of equipment for any traveler, however is the durable plastic buckle that allows you to keep the belt on when you pass through security. A simple pleasure that will undoubtedly make a huge difference to any traveler.
For more suggestions on great gear to carry with you on your adventures, visit our camping & hiking page.