Heading out on an adventure in the near future or have an adventurous traveler on your holiday gift list? Here is some of our favorite gear that over the past year of traveling around the world, we found it functions well, holds up to plenty of abuse, packs easily, and best of all, makes us look good on the road.
Teva De La Vina Dos Chelsea Boots: Full disclosure — I’ve been wearing a pair of the original Teva De La Vinas for a handful of years. The boots have been to four continents and double the number of countries. They are my go-to travel boots; actually they are my go-to everyday boots from October through May. The new Chelsea is all this and more. The leather is a soft pigskin, with a canvas lining. There’s stretchy material (the official term is “gore” on both sides), which makes the boot easy to get on and off, nice when you’re late for a flight and rushing through security. Plus the PU footbed has great cushion for those long days of touring cities like Bogota and Stockholm. The welt is leather, which adds durability and the rubber outsole has good friction—even when I went for a walk in Norway on icy cobblestone streets. The leather upper is waterproof; you can get away with walking your favorite trail in these boots; just brush them off if you get dirty. I treat mine once a year with a good leather cleaner/oil to thank them for all the miles and adventures they’ve carried me through.
Stio Pinion Down Vest: The Pinion Down Vest gives you core warmth without the need for the bulk and weight of a full jacket. You can wear it to work, at home, out on the town, and on the trail. Consider the vest a four-season security blanket—ideal for everything from summer hiking, to winter skiing, to everyday casual wear. We brought the vest (and the new Pinion Hooded Jacket) on more than 50 adventures, and while it got pounded with gear in the pack and scraped against rocks when we were climbing and belaying, the strong but light material didn’t tear once. The Pinion’s durability comes from a tightly woven Pertex Quantum shell, while 1-inch horizontal baffles stuffed with 800-fill goose down (responsibly sourced by Allied Down) provide warmth; the vest kept us cozy while waiting for a bus in full-winter conditions in Courmayeur, Italy. The Pinion comes with a loose-fitting stuff sack that makes for a great pillow, and has two zippered hand pockets and two 6.5” x 10” interior pockets (one on the inside of each chest panel) that are perfect for gloves, maps, sunglasses or a passport.
Cotpaxi Batac 16L: Your main pack for an extended trip needs to fit several days-worth of clothes, food, and gear, but you’ll want something smaller for short day hikes, market excursions, and carry-on duty. We like the Batac in this role for its intuitive organization and large capacity in a 16-liter pack. It has a long zippered front pocket with a handy phone/passport sleeve for quick access, and inside the main packbag is another zippered mesh pocket big enough for headphones, a spare battery block, and neck pillow, or a guide book and maps. The 210-denier nylon is durable; after eight months of hard use, the only sign of wear is a needle-point-size hole after one tester used it for climbing trips in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park and overloaded it with gear. There’s no framesheet, just a nylon backpanel, but the 2.5-inch-wide mesh shoulder straps and chest strap are comfortable under loads up to about 10 pounds. “I never carry a purse when I’m traveling, so I love that this pack fills that hole and can fit the essentials to boot,” says one tester who logged 7 countries, 15 states, and 10,000 miles of car travel with the Batac this past summer. “I can stuff it with a toiletry kit, headphones, headlamp, puffy, and raincoat, and still have room for my thermos and a sack lunch.” Bonus: When not in use, the Batac compresses down to fist size.
HeroClip: Hate is a strong word, but we greatly dislike setting our backpacks down on sticky restroom floors or muddy campsites. This handy hook/carabiner combo attaches to doors, trees, packs, and whatever else you can clip it to, taking the anxiety out of stashing our stuff, and at two ounces it’s become a staple of our travel kit. “I’ve used it for hanging a backpack from a tree in Montana bear country, as well as clipping my backpack to my roller luggage handle for maneuvering through city streets,” one tester says. The HeroClip holds up to 50 pounds (it’s not climbing-safe), and the ‘biner swivels a full 360 degrees, making it easy to attach to the support at any angle. The whole gadget folds together for convenient storage.
Icebreaker Hike+ Medium Crew: A well-fitting sock is a travel essential. You want one that isn’t too bulky, doesn’t slip down, and doesn’t stink after days of wear. With 62 percent merino wool and 36 percent nylon (the rest is lycra), the Hike+ socks are warm, durable, and breathe well. But the feature that makes these our favorites is the body-mapping knit that gives you more padding under the heel and toe where you need it, and a thinner knit under the arch and over the instep. “I always have a hard time with hiking socks as they don’t fit well under street shoes,” says a tester. “But these are thin enough for wearing everyday, with great padding for on the trail.”
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp: Hasty early-morning packing sessions, unexpected blackouts, and nights in the backcountry are all reasons to pack a headlamp and we grabbed the Storm over other models because of its long battery life and multitude of light options. Four AAA batteries let it run longer than headlamps powered by just three—great if you are traveling in the backcountry for an extended journey, and the Storm has a burn time of 250 hours on its energy-saver setting. (Cranked up to its full 350-lumen power, it lasts for 40 hours.) Red, green, and blue light settings let you read (or hike) without disturbing those around you. “I used this headlamp hiking parts of the Trans-Catalina Trail in the dark,” one tester says. “The green light made seeing the ground in front of me easy, while not blinding my hiking companions.”
Stanley Classic Flask: After protecting your body on an adventure, some reward booze is the next-most important thing you can preserve. “I’ve carried this flask on countless overseas trips,” says one tester. “It was stepped on by a camel in Wadi Rum (don’t ask), and later rolled off a 20-foot-high boulder after a ski through France’s Valle Blanche. But even though it’s single-walled, it’s never leaked a drop of its precious cargo.” The Classic has an 8-ounce capacity, and a wide mouth for filling so there’s no need to fuss with a funnel. Rectangular in shape, it can stand upright, making spills less likely. The stainless steel won’t rust (so you can leave it in your pack for weeks on end) and there’s an integrated lanyard so you never lose the lid, no matter how much Knob Creek you’ve consumed.
Birkenstock Boston: After a day of hiking or traveling, changing into a pair of slip-on shoes can help you recover for another day on the trail (or plane). We’ve tested camp and travel shoes from flip flops to down slippers, but these tried-and-true Birkenstocks get two thumbs up from our most-experienced globetrotters. The Bostons have great toe protection, making them ideal for easy, end-of-the-day strolls or answering the call of nature in the middle of the night. A cork footbed with a rubber midsole offers ample shock-absorption without feeling too spongy and the contoured footbed has excellent arch support, something our long-distance hikers loved after long days on the trail. The outsole is EVA, which cushions the ride even more; and it doesn’t break down like the PU that many sandal companies use. “I started getting blisters from my new leather hiking boots on a trip on the Moss Springs Trail into the remote Minam River Lodge” says one tester. “They were nearly debilitating, but I’d packed my Birks for camp shoes. They performed great as an emergency option on the 8.5-mile hike to the car over uphill, switch-backed terrain under a 35-pound weight pack.” The upper is made of a treated leather that doesn’t absorb water.
What’s some of your favorite adventure travel gear?