Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

What to Pack for Patagonia: 36 Essentials

Soaring craggy peaks, jaw-dropping glaciers, and pristine forests await you in Patagonia. I spent two weeks trekking the classic “W” route in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy in El Chalten, Argentina, sleeping in tiny refugios and campsites along the way. Here’s what made it onto my Patagonia packing list … and what I wish did.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Backpack

I’m a chronic overpacker, so I forced myself to stick to the 50-liter limit of my trusty Osprey Aura AG backpack. The lightweight frame makes it easy to carry for hours, and plenty of pockets, zippers, and compartments keep me organized.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Day Pack

A day pack gives you flexibility in your itinerary. Drop your backpack at camp, make a quick switcheroo, and move on up to the summit for the day. This water-repellent backpack from Sea to Summit gets the job done.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Sleeping Bag

Refugios and campsites offer linens and sleeping bags at an additional cost, so you can probably get away with not bringing one. I’m a cold sleeper though, so I don’t regret bringing my lightweight sleeping bag, especially when temperatures dipped below 30 degrees one night at camp.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Flight and Bus Ride Essentials

  • Headphones: There’s not much space for traditional over-the-ear headphones, so I brought my tiny Bose SoundSport Wireless ones and an adapter for the charger.
  • Scarf: The Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf doubles as a blanket or a pillow in a pinch, which is why I never leave home without it.
  • Motion sickness medication: It takes more than 10 hours of travel to get from Torres del Paine to El Chalten on winding mountain roads, so you’ll want your motion sickness remedy of choice.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Shoes

  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes: Make sure you’ve broken them in before you leave. Even a small blister or slightly ill-fitting shoe can mean misery for multi-day hikes, no matter how beautiful the trails are.
  • Waterproof camp shoes: These can do double duty as shower shoes and for relaxing at night.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Jacket(s)

Since you can experience bright sunshine, torrential downpours, snowfall, and high winds all in the span of 15 minutes in Patagonia, layers are essential.

  • Insulated vest: The Patagonia Nano-Puff Vest is my go-to for any kind of hiking or running. It keeps me super warm but is so light I barely notice wearing it. (It’s also available for men.)
  • Mid-weight windbreaker: Layer the vest with a midweight windbreaker (like this one for women or this one for men) when you’re hiking or the sun is out.
  • Warm coat: Keep a really warm puffy coat close by for the summits, around camp, and when the weather turns particularly nasty. Bonus: My L.L.Bean one is packable. (See a similar option for men here.)

What to Pack for Patagonia: Rain Gear

It will rain for some or all of your trip, so be prepared. The trails are well maintained, and with the proper gear, you can still have a great day.

  • Raincoat: The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket fit perfectly over my puffy coat and kept me warm and dry. (Check out a similar option for men here.)
  • Backpack cover: If your pack doesn’t have one, you’ll want to make sure you bring a cover. It’s best to find one that fits perfectly so it stays secure in the wind and rain—this Osprey Ultralight Raincover matches mine.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Clothing

  • Convertible hiking pants: They may be nerdy, but they’re also necessary in a region with so many weather changes.
  • Long-sleeve shirts: You won’t need short-sleeve shirts unless you’re warm in 40-degree weather. Stick with technical long-sleeve shirts—I brought one base layer and two lighter hiking shirts.
  • Tights or leggings: I brought two pairs of tights since that’s what I prefer to hike in—one at mid-calf and one long pair.
  • Cozy lounge wear: I saved one pair of joggers and one fleece pullover for relaxing around camp.
  • Socks: Get yourself several pairs of wool socks for hiking, and at least one for relaxing.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Toiletries

  • Sunscreen: It’s a must since you can burn even when it’s cloudy.
  • Multi-purpose soap: One of the best perks of hiking the “W” is that you can shower at almost every campsite and refugio. I love Bronner’s since it’s multi-purpose—shampoo, body wash, and clothing wash all in one (plus, it’s environmentally friendly).
  • Face wipes: On days without showers, these will get the grime and dirt off your skin.
  • Moisturizer: With so much wind, don’t leave it behind.
  • Over-the-counter medications: No matter where you travel, always bring some over-the-counter medication with you, especially remedies for upset stomach and pain, as well as an antihistamine in case of an allergic reaction.
  • Bandages: Taking care of blisters can make a big difference in your comfort level when you’re walking in hiking boots all day.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Gadgets

  • Headlamp: These are handy to help you get around camp and the refugios once the electricity goes out at night.
  • High-quality camera: Photos won’t do Patagonia justice, but it’s worth a shot (pun intended).
  • Universal adapter: Chile and Argentina use different plug setups and voltages.
  • Portable phone charger: Because you won’t always have electricity.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Accessories

  • Hat: I mostly used my baseball cap, though mornings at camp definitely warranted a warm hat.
  • Multi-purpose buff: I love hiking with one of these because they’re suitable for just about every type of weather.
  • Micro-towel: I follow the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy philosophy and always travel with a towel.
  • Large water bottle: You can drink the water right out of the streams and rivers on the trails in Patagonia. Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Sunglasses: Glaciers throw off glare, so when the sun does come out, you’ll want some shades.

What to Pack for Patagonia (That I Didn’t)

  • Collapsible trekking poles: These would have been handy on some hikes. Note that airlines require you to bring them in a checked bag, or you can rent a pair in either Puerto Natales or El Chalten.
  • Rain pants, rain pants, rain pants: They will make your life less miserable than mine was, and significantly drier, too.
  • Poncho: I’m glad I stuffed an extra trash bag into my pack at the last minute, but next time I’d bring a poncho. Did I mention it rains a lot in Patagonia?

What Not to Pack for Patagonia

Unless you’re going off the beaten path, you won’t need traditional backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping pad, pots and pans, mess kit, or a stove on your Patagonia packing list. You can rent these items from almost any refugio or gear store in town if you feel like you need them once you’re there.

Chileans and Argentineans are very casual, so you won’t need anything dressy (even jeans) unless you’re planning on going to one of the major cities before the hiking portion of your trip. Otherwise, save that space for an extra layer or two.

Overall, when packing for Patagonia, keep in mind that less is more when you’re carrying everything on your back. While it may be tempting to bring lots of clothes or accessories, just remember that every ounce counts—and you wouldn’t want anything to distract you from the incredible scenery.

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”308″ type=”3-mod”]

Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

Categories
Airport Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience Money Packing

The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling Abroad

Traveling internationally is an adventure best planned ahead of time, and not just when it comes to booking flights and packing. Sure, showing up at your gate sans passport or forgetting melatonin for your red-eye flight can put a damper on your long-awaited escape, but most of your preparation should be dedicated to ensuring health, safety, and financial necessities are covered. To save you some prep time, I’ve compiled this international travel checklist for your next long-distance journey.

Focus on Safety First

One of the easiest and most important items on an overseas travel checklist is also arguably the most ignored. Travel insurance and State Department alerts can be incredibly important in emergencies abroad, but many tourists bet they won’t become part of the small percentage of travelers who require evacuation assistance or protection from hotel or flight cancellations.

Subscribing to the State Department’s STEP alerts for your destination can help you stay up to date on upcoming and current travel restrictions, strikes, and areas of political unrest. Any alerts you receive will let you know whether or not to plan for some unexpected obstacles in advance.

Travel insurance can cost as little as a few dollars per travel day and cover anything from replacing a broken camera to emergency medical attention, potentially saving you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars.

[st_related]Health Care Abroad: How to Find an English-Speaking Doctor or Clinic[/st_related]

Get Your Travel Documents and Credit Cards in Order

Make sure your passport and any necessary travel visas are up to date. Some countries require a passport to be valid for at least six months after your scheduled return, so make sure you won’t be turned away or delayed at customs because of an old passport. Not sure if you need a visa? See this list of every country that requires a visa for Americans.

Keep physical and digital copies of your passport and all your paperwork in case anything is lost, and give copies as well as your itinerary and contact numbers to family and friends whom you can contact in case of an emergency.

Notify your bank and credit card companies about your travel dates so they don’t deny your purchases, and ask about international ATM fees so you can find out which ones won’t charge you. It’s always a good idea to bring multiple cards in case one stops working.

Don’t underestimate how helpful a cell phone photo of your passport can be. Whether you have to go to the consulate and report it lost, or are just filling out a customs card and need your passport number, it will likely come in handy. Email the image to yourself to have an extra digital copy in case your phone runs out of batteries or goes missing. You may also want to bring a spare copy of your passport photo on your trip; having it handy will speed the processing of a new document.

[st_related]How to Take Your Own Passport Photo[/st_related]

Get Vaccinated

It’s best to get the necessary vaccinations out of the way as soon as possible since it can take a few weeks to build full immunity. Some also require multiple doses, which may need to be administered over days, weeks, or even months. Talk to your doctor about getting the CDC-recommended shots, as the protocol for vaccines varies by country. For example, dozens of countries require proof of a yellow fever vaccination if you’ve been to at-risk areas. A travel clinic can help you sort out which vaccinations and medications you might need.

Keep your vaccination certificate in your carry-on in case customs requires you to present it when entering the country.

[st_related]5 Weird Diseases You Can Catch While Traveling[/st_related]

Study Up on Your Destination

Whether you’re a travel app connoisseur or more of a paperback guidebook person, having some source of knowledge about your destination is invaluable. Read about the region you’re traveling to in advance to gain insight into important information such as currency exchange rates, useful phrases, tipping norms, appropriate clothing, and cultural/legal customs. It’s best to be prepared so you don’t land yourself in a compromising situation.

[st_related]How to Be Safe and Culturally Sensitive When You Travel[/st_related]

Make Sure Your Home Is Cared For

There’s nothing worse than realizing once you’re six time zones away that you forgot to stop your mail delivery or ask someone to water your expertly cultivated house plants. Make sure your daily tasks are covered before you leave, or appoint a trusty friend to do them for you.

You can find a house or pet sitter to do your chores if you’re willing to list your home on TrustedHouseSitters.com. Plus, you could find lodging through the site for your trip abroad if you’re willing to spend some time with someone else’s furry friends.

[st_related]Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation: 9 Essential Tips[/st_related]

Stay Connected

Want to stay in touch while traveling abroad? If you haven’t taken your phone overseas before, call your mobile provider to make sure it will work in the country you’re visiting and to ask about international phone plans that might be available. If your carrier’s plans are expensive, a mobile hotspot can be a cost-effective alternative.

Download the Necessities

Sometimes the most important thing you’ll pack is in your smartphone rather than your suitcase. Offline maps are your best friend when it comes to traveling with limited data or battery. You can find Wi-Fi in many places, but downloading offline maps through Google Maps or CityMaps2Go will allow you to follow your GPS without using up battery life and roaming data.

Downloading in-flight entertainment could also save you if your TV malfunctions on the long-haul flight. Streaming won’t be available without consistent in-flight Wi-Fi (which you shouldn’t ever depend on) but you can pre-download movies and TV shows through Amazon Prime, and music streaming service Spotify allows paying users to download tracks for offline use with the press of a button.

Don’t forget a portable backup charger. Watching hours of your favorite TV show is sure to drain your battery life, and there’s nothing worse than finally finding a Wi-Fi spot only to have your phone die.

[st_related]10 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Probably Aren’t Using[/st_related]

Pack These Essentials

While the contents of your checked bag will largely depend on the climate you’re visiting, you’ll want most of your trip’s essentials on hand in your carry-on. Start with this international travel checklist of items to pack:

For more ideas, see this international packing list.

Consider taking photos of your packed suitcase (both inside and out) in case it gets lost. That way, airline employees will know what to look for, and you’ll know what was inside in case you don’t get it back and need to file a claim.

[st_related]Lost Luggage? Here’s What to Do[/st_related]

What’s on your international travel checklist? Share your tips in the comments below.

Pin the Checklist for International Travel

Good Walking Shoes for International Travel

For Women:

[st_product products=”295146,295138,295154″]

For Men:

[st_product products=”295186,295178,295170″]

More from Smarter Travel:

Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Packing

16 Packing Hacks That Will Change How You Travel

When we invited you, our readers, to reveal your best packing tips, we were flooded with umpteen ingenious hacks for packing well. Here are 16 of our favorite pieces of reader-submitted packing advice.

Bring a Backpack

“Backpack suitcase is where it’s at for traveling light! If you like to streamline and skip the baggage claim like me, it is a great way to go. Much lighter and easier to manage. I can even hang it on a bathroom stall hook while I go and not have to worry about it being stolen!” —Janet

[st_related]The 8 Best Rolling Backpacks for Savvy Travelers[/st_related]

Make Your Own Packing Cubes

“Use 2.5-gallon resealable bags for packing. Use one bag for same-type clothes or for each day’s outfit. Before completely sealing, sit on bag to release all excess air; it’s a fraction of the expense of ‘official’ packing bags.” —Christina

Back Up Your Prescriptions

“When traveling outside of the country, keep an essential set of all prescription drugs in a second purse or carry-on in case one is lost or misplaced.” —Donnalyn

[st_related]Traveling with Medications: What You Need to Know[/st_related]

Leverage Your Partner’s Bag

“Add an outfit of your own to your travel partner’s bag in the event your luggage is lost or delayed.” —Kimberly

Pack a Smart Snack

“Always keep some sort of lightweight, dry foodstuff in your bag. Instant oatmeal can come to one’s rescue in a hotel room with the addition of hot water from the coffee maker. Nuts and dried fruits are handy too.” —Ella

[st_related]10 Tasty Snacks You Can Bring on the Plane[/st_related]

Plan Ahead

“I start assembling ‘potential’ clothes/shoes/accessories about three weeks before a trip. Put them in a spare-room closet or section of a portion of your closet. When it comes time to do the final pack, you already have everything in one place. You can then pick what you want to take easily.” —Mary

Make Your Own Padded Hanger

“This is actually an UNpacking tip. If you have something like a blouse or sweater that is delicate fabric but needs to be hung, take a hand towel, fold it in thirds lengthwise, and then drape it back to front over a hanger (like a shawl). Presto! Instant padded hanger.” —Margo

[st_related]8 (More) Pinterest Packing Hacks Using Household Items[/st_related]

Simplify the Kids’ Clothes

“Put children’s daily outfits together and pack each in a Ziploc bag so all they have to do is grab a bagged outfit each day to get ready.” —Liz

Pack Door Decor

“When I go on a cruise, where all the rooms in the hallways look exactly alike, I attach a bow or balloon to my room door to find it easily. I just look right and left when I exit the lobby and see the colorful decoration down the hallway.” —Patricia

[st_related]The Ultimate Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for a Cruise[/st_related]

Bring Bling

“Bring one small piece of inexpensive jewelry or a scarf to dress up a travel outfit for a nice dinner instead of bringing an extra outfit you may only wear for a few hours.” —Jaeann

Remember to Pack Earth-Friendly Bags

“Be sure to pack a cloth bag for any kind of shopping in Hawaii; plastic bags are banned.” —Paula

[st_related]This Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Hawaii[/st_related]

Pack a Poncho

“Rain ponchos solve the umbrella problem. They keep me drier than umbrellas. I buy them at the dollar store. Two in a pack! Weighs nothing and takes no room. It dries in the hotel room, but doesn’t fold up well after opened, so I leave it behind when packing to go home. The quality is disposable quality, anyway. I love them for travel.” —Lorraine

Plan (and Photograph) Your Outfits

“I take pictures with my cell phone of the clothes combinations before I leave on a trip.” —Sulma

[st_related]7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-on Bag[/st_related]

Pack Twice

“First pack everything you think you can’t live without, then remove 50–75 percent of everything you thought you couldn’t live without (with the possible exception of underwear).” —Rhonda

Use a Glasses Case for Jewelry

“Use an eyeglass hard case to pack jewelry. Cases are small and easy to pack and do a good job of protecting jewelry. It’s also easy to find the jewelry you’re looking for.” —Betty

[st_related]A Clever Way to Pack Your Jewelry[/st_related]

Simplify Your Toiletries

“When my husband and I travel we like to go from region to region. So we stay at multiple hotels for one trip. To save packing and unpacking time and room, I bring a flat plastic folded bag (mine came with my luggage) that has multiple compartments and hangs up. I pack it with ‘samples’ of toiletries, makeup, I even ask my stylist for sample-size shampoo, hairspray, conditioner. Then when we arrive I simply hang it in the bathroom. Voila. When we depart I simple fold it right back into my suitcase.” —Susan

Traveling? Consider Bringing These:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends

7 Travel Electronics the Least Tech-Savvy Travelers Will Love

Not all travelers are packing high-tech travel electronics or plugging in every chance they get, but there are plenty of everyday items that travel better when they incorporate some technology. These travel electronics provide low-tech solutions to common travel challenges like staying in touch, easily sourcing potable water, and protecting your personal property while traveling.

These are the best travel electronics, ranging from those with charge-free simplicity to low-tech gadgets that require little to no tinkering.

RFID-Blocking Wallet or Purse

 rfid-blocking-wallets

Safeguard yourself from electronic pickpockets looking to lift personal data from chips inserted in passports, IDs, and credit cards. Simply put those important documents in RFID-blocking wallets like this spacious women’s leather clutch or this men’s passport wallet, which makes room for cash and cards, too.

Water-Filtering Bottle

 LifeStraw go water filter bottle

A low-tech solution to sourcing clean, potable water, a filtration water bottle means you can hydrate at just about any water source. The LifeStraw Water-Filtering Bottle claims to filter out 99.9 percent of water-borne bacteria, making even the grossest water drinkable. That includes water from questionable sources such as ponds and lakes when you’re camping, and tap water in destinations where you’d normally not drink from the faucet.

[st_related]12 Things You Should Never Pack[/st_related]

Universal Power Adapter

 BESTEK universal travel adapter 220v

It’s time to upgrade your universal power adapter. Today’s adapters simultaneously perform prong-adapting and power-converting duties, so your gadgets don’t get fried in nations with different voltages. Amazon’s most popular power adapter/converter is the Bestek Universal Power Adapter, which can charge seven items at once. 

Charging Phone Case

Lonlif battery case for iphone

You can map your destination, stay in touch with everyone, and keep your entertainment accessible while traveling—but you can only do that if your phone has battery life. The best way to keep your phone charged without having to carry all those cables is by popping your phone in a charging phone case. Make sure to get a charging phone case that fits your particular phone’s model, and one that’s waterproof, to boot.

[st_related]10 Waterproof Travel Tech Accessories That Could Save Your Next Trip[/st_related] 

E-Reader

amazon prime perks reading

Who has space to spare in their luggage when we’re all just trying to avoid paying bag fees? Lighten your load by trading in paperbacks for an e-reader. The latest iteration of the Amazon Kindle holds twice the amount of content, is waterproof, and starts at $129 (check for sales during the holiday shopping period).

Tracking Device

tile key finder

Ever get distracted by the sights and suddenly realize one of your valuables is gone? Quickly locate lost items with a tracking device like Tile. The tracking device will ring when in range of a member of the Tile community, and its location will be shown on the Tile app even if you’re out of range. Attach a tracking device to your luggage, camera, keys, phone, wallet, purse, or anything else you’d be hard-pressed to replace.

[st_related]How to Check for Hidden Cameras in Your Hotel Room[/st_related] 

Fitness Tracker

Use a fitness-tracking device such as the Fitbit to keep key health metrics such as heart rate, spent calories, and sleep patterns at your fingertips. Achieving weight-loss goals is easier thanks to fitness trackers that help you count steps while you’re on the road. Fitbit Pay on newer models also now offers the ability to pay on-the-go. If you’re willing to go a little more high-tech, Smartwatches can also be used as fitness trackers.

Travel in Comfortable Style

No matter where you’re headed on your next trip, comfort is key during travel. Show off your high-tech gear with a cozy yet fashionable style to pair.

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Patricia Magaña refuses to succumb to travel electronics like e-readers and instead makes room in her bag for a good book. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Packing Travel Technology

9 Tiny Travel Accessories Fit for Your Keychain

Your bag is packed. Your carry-on is arranged. But is your keychain ready? With so many travel-friendly items that can ride along with your keys, customizing your ring for each trip can be the highlight of your travel-prep routine.

Bauble-sized items spanning the spectrum from speakers to sunscreen mean it’s easy to grab and go when you’re on vacation. Here are 9 of our favorites.

Tiny Travel Accessories Fit for Your Keychain

Key-Shaped USB Drive

Talk about going paperless. Add this key to your keychain and you’ll always have the information you need. A flash drive shaped as a key discretely holds four to eight gigabytes of confirmation documents, scans, presentations, and whatever else you might need on your travels. Look for one that’s water- and scratch-resistant, so your data will remain safe even if you drop your keys or leave them in a soggy pocket.

Try: The Kootion Metal-Key Shaped Memory Stick.

Speaker

The party is always within arm’s reach when you’ve got a tiny speaker to plug in to your smartphone. Turn a trip to the beach into a dance party, or an airport layover into a dance party, or a short wait at the bus stop into a dance party. You’ll either make a lot of friends or many enemies with this kind of power harnessed to your keychain.

Try: CHUKCHI’s Portable Waterproof Mini Cube.

[st_related]10 In-Flight Essentials You Should Never Travel Without[/st_related]

Change Purse

A night out. A day at the beach. Anytime you want a bit of money, a credit card, and a spot to stash a small item or two without lugging an entire bag along on your adventure, look to the humble change purse. Long a fixture of bus-riding grandmothers and elementary schoolers, this keychain pocket has gotten a style update in recent years.

Try: This sturdy change purse with an attached O-shaped key ring.

Flashlight

Mini flashlights might just be the best thing to ever happen to keychains. They take up almost no space and come in handy all the time. Say you’ve arrived at a vacation rental after dark and you’re trying to unlock the door without the help of a porch light. Or you’re trying to get to the bathroom in an unfamiliar hotel room but you don’t want to turn on the light and wake anyone else up. Or you need a little extra help navigating a poorly lit sidewalk on a dark night. Tiny flashlight to the rescue!

Try: The Energizer LED Keychain Light.

[st_related]9 Best Basic Economy Personal Items to Hold All Your Stuff [/st_related]

Multi-Use Tool

You can’t fly with it on your keychain, but once you arrive, wherever you arrive, you’ll be prepared for picnics and fix-its with a keychain-sized multiuse tool. Scissors, tweezers, bottle openers, files, and more are built into the folds of these tiny tool kits. When they’re not needed, they fold up small and stay out of the way.

Try: Leatherman has a keychain-sized multi-tool.

Pen

When you need a pen, nothing else will substitute. It’s a lesson learned by travelers thousands of times every day, in customs lines at airports and on rail-pass trains rattling through faraway countries. A small keychain pen won’t run out of batteries and will be there whenever you need to jot down a vital piece of information in a hurry.

Try: The Fisher Space Trekker Space Pen. We’re big fans of the Space Pen, and this one is meant to be a trusty keychain companion, there for you even in zero gravity (should that situation arise).

Hand Sanitizer

When it comes to eliminating germs, nothing beats soap and water, but hand sanitizer can be a good on-the-go substitute. The CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Carry a small bottle on your keychain and you’ll be ready the next time you’re in a place where running water is scarce but, say, delicious street food is plentiful.

Try: Purell’s Hand Sanitizers in Jelly Wrap Carriers are one-ounce bottles cradled in stretchy webbing that you can attach to a keychain. For these, you’re likely to find better prices in drugstores than online.

[st_related]How to Cope with Lost Luggage on Vacation [/st_related]

Lip Balm

There are few things more chronically distracting than dry lips. But when you’ve got lip balm attached to your keychain, the only time you’ll find yourself without a quick fix is if you forget your keys. And if you’ve forgotten your keys, dry lips will likely seem like a minor issue in comparison.

Try: Adapt your existing lip balm by using a holder with a keychain attachment, such as the Zip Stick Retractable Lip Balm Holder.

Sunscreen

Never sunburn again. With just enough sunscreen to protect you from a fierce midday sun, you’ll be toting the backup skin care you need when you find yourself without a larger bottle. Surprisingly, there are only a few companies making small-sized sunscreens for your key ring. But simply refill one of these keychain-ready bottles with your preferred brand, and you’ll be ready for any sunscreen reapplication eventuality. Your dermatologist will be so proud.

Try: Aloe Gator‘s 1.5-ounce tube with a carabiner.

 

More from SmarterTravel:

[amazon_native_ad tracking_id=”smartrav-20″]

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors Packing Sustainable Travel Travel Technology

What to Pack for Hiking: 38 Essentials

Don’t hit the trails without packing these hiking essentials that could save your life, or just your summit attempt.

Hiking Essentials: Gear

Hiking essentials: backpack

[st_content_ad]Backpack: A good backpack is key to a comfortable hiking trip. Pick one that’s lightweight and big enough to hold all your hiking essentials, but not so big that you’re tempted to over pack. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak Ultralight Daypack is one of the lightest daypacks out there, weighing in at just 1.26 pounds. The light weight doesn’t mean that important features are skimped on—it still has comfortable padded straps, a hip belt that can be stashed away, a water-resistant exterior, and a padded back panel. Keep your backpack organized with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Stuff Sacks  which are equally lightweight. Bonus: All Hyperlite gear is hand-made in Maine.

[st_related]The 11 Best Waterproof Backpacks for Travel[/st_related]

Water Bottle: If you don’t want to carry a ton of water on a long hike, or just want to be prepared in case of an emergency, the Lifestraw Flex is a good choice for a water bottle. The included filter removes bacteria, parasites, and chemicals, so that you can safely and quickly drink from any water source you find. The soft bottle is lightweight, easy to pack, and simple to drink from.

Portable Battery: Don’t be stuck with a dead phone in an emergency. The Sherpa 15 Power Bank won’t take up too much room in your pack, and gives your phone a full charge without needing to pack extra cables. If you get lost, having a charged cell phone is essential.

Trekking Poles: A good set of hiking poles can help save your knees from strain on the descent, and prevent slips and falls on tough terrain or muddy trails. I like the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles, which fold down small to fit in your daypack, and fast thanks to a simple push-button release system. These poles can adjust to fit almost any hiker, and weigh a mere 8.25 ounces.

[st_related]SmarterTravel Shopping Guide[/st_related]

Hiking Essentials: Footwear

Hiking Shoes: Low-top hiking shoes are designed for shorter day hikes. The Keen Terradora Waterproof shoes are designed specifically for women hikers, offering a more narrow fit that’s completely waterproof but still breathable. For men, the Keen Targhee II is a similar choice, with the same breathable waterproofing and lightweight design.

Hiking Boots: Opt for hiking boots over shoes when you’re facing a longer, tougher hike, or for those times when you’ll be carrying a heavier pack—like on an overnight trip. Hiking boots offer more ankle support, as well as additional protection from bites, scrapes, and water. I love the Scarpa Hydrogen Hike GTX, available for both women and men. These boots are waterproof and breathable, and have a Vibram sole that gives traction that’s lightweight. I especially appreciate the understated and stylish design of these hiking boots.

[st_related]7 Spring Travel Shoes That Can Handle Any Type of Weather[/st_related]

Hiking Essentials: Clothing

Hiking Tights: Tights are a tempting choice for hikes. You probably already own something similar to these super-flexible leggings in your wardrobe for running or yoga, but a hiking version are designed to withstand the rigors of an intense hiking trail. Fjallraven’s Abisko Trekking Tights are tough enough for hiking thanks to a super durable four-way stretch fabric that has extra reinforcement over the rear and knees to protect your skin when you’re scrambling over rocks or sitting on the ground. Plus, unlike most leggings, these trekking tights come with plenty of pockets and are available in a men’s version as well.

Socks: Good socks are the key to comfortable hiking. They keep your feet dry, prevent blisters, and provide cushioning and warmth. Smartwool’s Hiking Socks are available for both women and men, and use merino wool to wick away moisture, prevent chafing, and help regulate your temperature.

Hiking Pants: For serious backcountry hikes you’ll want some heavy-duty hiking pants, like Arcteryx’s Sabria Pant. These pants are lightweight, durable, and boast 50-plus SPF. The Sabria’s are specially designed for women with a lower adjustable waist and a slim silhouette feminine.

Base Layer: For cold weather hikes, add a layer underneath your hiking pants with lululemon’s Fast & Free 7/8 Tight II, which are made from patented Nulux fabric that’s quick-drying and sweat-wicking, yet designed to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. For trail running or less-intense hikes that don’t involve scrambling these can be worn alone.

Sunglasses: Enjoying the view at the summit means protecting your eyes with sunglasses like these ones from Maui Jim, which wrap around for full eye protection. The lenses are also scratch-resistant, so you can be tough on them.

Hiking Underwear: Your favorite delicates might be comfortable, but they aren’t immune from the wear of lengthy hiking trips. Look for underwear that’s moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, like these pairs from ExOfficio for both women and men. For women, Patagonia’s Switchback Sports Bra is a soft and supportive option that’s also quick-drying and won’t cause chafing.

Hiking Shirts: If you’re planning on carrying a backpack, opt for a t-shirt over a tank top to prevent any irritation from your backpack straps. Smartwool’s Merino 150 Base Layer Micro Stripe Short Sleeve tops for both women and men can be worn alone or layered for cooler days, and merino wool fabric means it won’t smell, even on a longer backpacking trip. For warmer days, Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-Shirts for women and men are an ultra-light option that’s moisture-wicking, breathable and features patented Polygiene for odor control.

Hiking Shorts: For hot trail days, Fjallraven’s Abisko Shade Shorts are designed to keep you cool, with ventilation for air circulation. The lightweight fabric is quick-drying and stays cool even as the temperature rises. The shorts are made for hikers, with zippered hand pockets and a loop to secure your gear to.

Jacket: Even if it looks like it’s going to be a warm day, packing a jacket is always a good idea on hikes, especially ones with a summit above the tree line (where it can be significantly colder/windier than it is  at the base). The weather can change quickly: Prepare by bringing along a lightweight jacket like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, available for both women and men, which delivers an impressive amount of warmth and wind-resistance for the weight.

Hat: You’ll want a hat to keep the sun off of your face, but a regular ball caps can get very sweaty after a while. Get a hat that’s made for activities and wicks away moisture, like Fjallraven’s High Coast Vent Cap.

Gloves: On chilly fall hikes or cool summer mornings, a pair of lightweight, waterproof gloves are essential. These picks for both men and women will keep you warm and dry, even in a sudden downpour.

Gaiters: Although not very fashionable, gaiters, waterproof covers that slip on over your boots to protect your ankles and calves from rain and mud, are very practical. I like this pair from Outdoor Research which easily slip on and off.

[st_related]Athleisure Clothes You Can Wear in First Class or the Gym[/st_related]

Hiking Essentials: Miscellaneous

Snacks: Peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, and trail mix are also good options for packable sustenance.

More from SmarterTravel:

[amazon_native_ad tracking_id=”smartrav-20″]

Caroline Morse Teel loves to hike, especially in New England. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the summit.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Active Travel Fashion & Beauty Packing Travel Trends

The Best Labor Day 2019 Sales and Deals Right Now

The national holiday is just a few days away, but Labor Day sales and deals are already here and run throughout the three-day weekend.

AllModern

Happening between 9 a.m. on August 28 and 9 a.m. EST on September 3, the AllModern Labor Day sale will discount up to 65 percent off select home furnishings. Boost your savings by 25 percent with code GOFORIT.

Some of Our Favorites from AllModern:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Smartwool

Save 30 to 50 percent off select sock styles with the cult-favorite brand, Smartwool. The Smartwool Labor Day Sale runs from August 29 until September 2.

Some of Our Favorites from Smartwool:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

prAna

Enjoy up to 25 percent off and free shipping during prAna’s sale, running between August 29 and Labor Day.

Some of Our Favorites from prAna:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Wayfair

Thousands of items will be on sale with the limited-time Wayfair Labor Day Clearance Sale. The closeout sale provides steep savings: up to 80 percent off bedding, 75 percent off mattresses, and 70 percent off major appliances. This national holiday may be the right time to finally upgrade your vacation home furnishings.

Some of Our Favorites from Wayfair:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Birch Lane

Save up to 70 percent off with the Birch Lane Labor Day Presale, happening right now. Look for even steeper discounts during the furniture curator’s limited-time flash deals taking place on September 2. Get free shipping with code LDAY. 

Some of Our Favorites from Birch Lane:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Tarte

Buy one cosmetic or beauty-care item, get the second 50 percent off with the Tarte Labor Day BOGO sale—valid between noontime August 30 and 3 a.m. on September 3 EST. Use promo code BOGO50; some exclusions apply.

Some of Our Favorites from Tarte:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Nordstrom Rack

The Rack’s favorite sale is back: Get up to 25 percent off select designer sunglasses through September 2.

Some of Our Favorites from Nordstrom Rack:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Sur la Table

Sur La Table’s Savor Summer Sale runs through September 2. Save big with brands like Vitamix, Shun Knives, Le Creuset, Duralex, and more.

Osprey

Osprey’s End-of-Summer sale discounts up to 25 off select gear and up to 50 percent off last season’s items, but only through Labor Day. Shipping is free on all orders.

Some of Our Favorites from Osprey:

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Vasque

Use code LABORDAY on already-reduced items from last season’s Vasque footwear. The shelf time on this Labor Day promotion is between August 29 and September 2.

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble’s BookHaul Blowout sale discounts the most books ever at 50 percent off. The promotion ends Labor Day, September 2, and is also valid in-stores.

 More from SmarterTravel:

[amazon_native_ad tracking_id=”smartrav-20″]

Senior Editor Patricia Magaña Figueroa writes about travel. Follow her @PatiTravels.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

I Let the Pros Pack For Me: Hiking Edition

On a recent hiking trip to Yosemite, I did something I’d never done before: I let the pros pack for me.

I take packing very seriously (probably too seriously, the effect of having written packing tips for 15 years), so it was a pretty big leap of faith to turn my suitcase over to JAM Collective, which represents companies that have been making beloved outdoor gear for decades.

What I Would Have Packed (left to my own devices): I have a few key pieces of what I think of as my outdoor adventure wardrobe: Title Nine Clamber pants, my trusty Tilley hat, and an old leather pair of Vasque hiking boots that just keep on keepin’ on. But beyond that, my spring and summer hiking go-tos look a lot like my casual-weekend staples: cotton T-shirts and shorts, sports socks, and the like. I’ve long accepted that this approach yields imperfect results: cotton T-shirts, for instance, don’t wick sweat, stay damp for longer—and in the worst case scenarios, are dangerous. But I didn’t think there would be that much of a difference, so I hadn’t invested in additional key pieces of hiking clothing.

The Pro Gear: I received Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX hiking shoes, Prana Halle Straight leg pants, SmartWool Everyday Exploration T-shirt, Prana Eileen Long Sleeve Sun Shirt, SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew, SmartWool Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoodie.

[st_related]11 Must-Haves for Your Carry-On Bag[/st_related]

The Testing Ground: My big hike on a recent trip to Yosemite was the round-trip Nevada Falls hike, which covers 2,000 feet of elevation change over 6.5 miles of gorgeous, rugged terrain. The trek includes the famous Mist Trail, an enchanting but treacherous stretch of 600 steep and slippery granite steps that’s constantly showered by the heavy mist flowing off the adjacent Vernal Falls. It also includes a four-mile stretch on the famous John Muir Trail, a 211-mile trail that takes hikers through some of California’s wildest and most beautiful lands. (Note: If you’re visiting Yosemite and are in reasonably good shape, you should do this hike. Especially if you can do it in late spring when the waterfalls are raging.)

The Results: It turns out wearing the right gear for the job makes a huge difference. Not only did having the right layers mean I could adapt easily and comfortably for temperature changes, but it allowed me to dry within minutes after reaching the top of Vernal Falls soaking wet after finishing the more-like-a-firehose-than-mist Mist Trail. And having lightweight, sun-protective layers kept me comfortably cool and sunburn-free throughout the long day. A few years ago, while traveling the wild western coast of Sweden, a wise grandmother told me there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. After traveling with the exact right clothing for the situation, I finally understand.

[st_related]The Best Travel Swimsuits[/st_related]

The Details:

Vasque breeze lt low gtx hiking shoes

Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX Hiking Shoes (also available for men; and comes as a hiking boot for women and men): My first pair of Vasques has lasted me 25 years and counting. In that quarter century, however, Vasque has been busy making hiking shoes and boots lighter and more supportive. These shoes required very little breaking in—I wore mine around town three or four times before hitting the trail, which was a good but not totally necessary move—and were comfortable from the get-go. Their grip—aided by custom Vibram outsoles—was exceptional; I felt surefooted even on wet granite. They stayed comfortable all day, and supported my feet and ankles on uneven trails.

Halle straight

Prana Halle Straight leg pants: These hiking pants are durable but stretchy—a winning combo on hiking trips that include scrambling up rocks and snack breaks on boulders. The back pockets (which button) were wide and deep enough to hold a phone in a case, and the roll-up legs made it easy to shift gears for hot afternoons and stream wading. After getting completely soaked on the Mist Trail, these pants remained comfortable and dried quickly.

SmartWool everyday exploration t-shirt

SmartWool Everyday Exploration T-shirt: When I first tried this on, I appreciated the well-styled touches like the split hem bottom and the flattering fit. But wearing it on a hike that included a cold morning, hot afternoon, and thorough waterfall-induced soaking gave me a new level of appreciation for the wicking power and temperature regulation of this 50 percent Merino wool, 50 percent polyester shirt.

woman wearing prana eileen shirt

Prana Eileen Long Sleeve Sun Shirt: Having relied on always-too-hot cotton long-sleeves shirts as a sun layer for years, I was surprised at the impressive functionality of an actual sun shirt. Wearing this ultralightweight top that’s rated UPF 50+ was an aha moment that made me embrace the right-gear-for-the-job mentality. Even as the day heated up and I sweated my way up the granite switchbacks, I stayed comfortable and sun protected thanks to the lightweight, wicking fabric. Bonus: the contrast stitching gives this practical shirt a bit of style, and a zippered pocket makes it easy to stash an item or two and travel light.

 

Women's merino 250 base layer crew

SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew:  Warmth without bulk; that’s the magic of this best-selling baselayer. It’s comfortable, it’s cozy, and when you don’t need it anymore, it takes up almost no room in a day bag. Because it’s such an effective base layer, it allowed me to rely on thinner, lighter outer layers—which freed up space in my day pack.

Glerups

Glerups: When I first saw Glerups, I wasn’t quite sure how to use them. They look not unlike slippers with rubber (or leather) soles, but they’re more rugged and hip in a confident Scandinavian way. It wasn’t until someone explained to me that these Danish mainstays are the perfect recovery shoe—the ones you keep in your car and slip into after you return from a day of hiking—that I experienced the life-changing power of socially acceptable outdoor slipper wearing. After hiking all day, these ultra-comfortable felted wool shoes (that come in boot, shoe, and slipper styles) offered sweet relief. And since they’re made to be worn both out- and indoors, I wore them for the rest of the day—right through to the s’mores and whiskey campfire end of the evening.

Hiking with the right gear—as opposed to with approximations of the right layers—was a vastly more comfortable experience than I’m used to. Since I wasn’t bouncing between being too hot and too cold, I could concentrate on the hike—which yielded Yosemite Valley views, two bear sightings, and waterfall dousings. I used to think that performance-wear was really only worth it for people who were hiking all the time. But now I see the feedback loop: outdoor performance-wear makes hiking more comfortable and pleasant. We’re all more likely to repeat activities that are comfortable and pleasant. The Swedish grandmother was right: outfit yourself well, and you’ll always be ready for the outdoors no matter what the weather.

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis visited Yosemite as a guest of Jam Collective. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

 

 

Categories
Cities Health & Wellness Packing Solo Travel Student Travel Travel Technology Travel Trends

What to Pack for China: 27 Essential Items

Soaring skyscrapers in high-tech cities, ancient walls in surreal natural settings, and delectable cuisine made by hospitable locals are all part of the bucket-list appeal of China. But from the 15-hour plane ride to air pollution and intermittent Internet access, it can feel like another world—one that you need to be prepared for. Some items that you probably don’t usually consider bringing on vacation are must-have essentials when it comes to packing for China.

What to Pack for China

Here’s what I discovered about packing for China on a recent trip to Shanghai and Suzhou. Once you’re prepared for the semi-unique conditions you’ll encounter in China, you can relax and enjoy the journey.

[st_related]The Ultimate Packing List[/st_related]

The Suitcase

Away carry on suitcase

Opting for a carry-on bag frees you from the worry of losing your luggage on any layovers—you don’t want to land in China without your must-have items. A suitcase with a portable charger that you can remove and use in-flight, like an Away hard-side spinner, is ideal for the long flight. A good carry-on suitcase is a must-have, and Away has a lifetime warranty, so you’ll never need to buy another.

The Personal Item

Dagne-Dover-carryall-medium-personal-item

Dagne & Dover’s Medium Landon Carryall duffle bag is my go-to personal item for long flights. It’s roomy with plenty of organizational pockets, yet it fits comfortably under the seat in front of you. The best feature is its wide-mouth zippered top that unbuttons from the sides so you can easily see your in-flight necessities without needing to rummage around. As for what to fill it with, useful things for a 15-hour flight include:

[st_related]15 Best Airplane Books for Long Flights[/st_related]

China Packing List: Clothing/Accessories

Eddie bauer outfit and cole haan cloudfeel espadrille shoe what to pack for china.

Dressing in China is a little more complicated than on your typical vacation. Some colors have offensive or controversial cultural meanings, so it’s best to stick to neutral or muted colors, avoid wearing all white (which is typically worn to funerals), and skip loud colors like yellow and neons. Muted reds, greens, blues, and most neutral tones (black, grey, tan) are generally safe.

  • Comfortable walking shoes: I relied on closed-toe Cole Haan Cloudfeel Espadrilles, which have a thickly cushioned foot bed, for most of my trip.
  • Performance fabrics: Casual pieces made of high-performance material, like Eddie Bauer’s Departure Ankle Pant and Infinity Split-back Top—both of which I wore again and again thanks to their breathable, quick-drying, and wrinkle-resistant fabrics perfect for long walks in high humidity.
  • Sun protection: A wide-brim hat is an on-trend way to protect yourself from the strong sun in China; or throw a sunscreen stick in your daily bag for long walks and river cruises.
  • Sunglasses: Especially in summer, the sun is strong and makes even overcast skies glow in a harsh way that will have you constantly reaching for some shades.
  • Pashmina scarf: Even warm, humid days turn to cool nights, and you never know when you’ll need to cover up for a pagoda or temple visit.
  • A light, hooded jacket: For cooler nights and rainy days, you’ll want a hooded, high-performance option like Eddie Bauer’s Atlas 2.0 Jacket, which comes in many neutral shades, and has a back vent that keeps you cool—plus hidden pockets for travel necessities

Lesser-Known Essentials to Pack for China

Air pollution and the technicalities of getting online in China require some important essentials, ranging from simple toiletries to niche gadgets and apps you’ll need to acquire before landing in the Internet-restricted country. Here’s what toiletries you’ll almost definitely need:

  • Air-quality and other travel medications: If you have asthma or allergies, you may need medicines to deal with high air pollution levels in urban areas. Talk to your doctor about what allergy or respiratory aids you should keep on-hand, like Zyrtec or a prescribed inhaler.
  • Tissues: Public bathrooms and casual restaurants don’t always provide paper, so it’s smart to always have some on-hand.
  • Saline eye drops and nasal solution: Another good way to avoid complications from air pollution is to use saline drops and nasal solution daily.

[st_related]The Ultimate Carry-on Toiletry Kit for Travelers[/st_related]

Gadgets to Get Ahead of Time

  • Download a VPN: the most important thing to download before you leave for China is a virtual private network, which will establish a private connection to any Wi-Fi you use and allow you to access Internet sites that are blocked in China. I used ExpressVPN for about $7. (Note: VPNs are a legal gray area in China, but are still widely used by tourists without issue.)
  • A mobile hotspot: Wi-Fi isn’t available in many rural places in China, so if you’re dependent on yours and not exclusively sticking to the cities, it could be worth purchasing a portable hotspot before you depart.
  • Portable charger: Running a VPN and troubleshooting Wi-Fi can drain your battery fast.
  • A banking solution, if needed: If you’re an American Express cardholder, you might need to acquire a preloaded debit card that will work in China. American Express isn’t largely accepted, but services like eCard make it easy to acquire an alternative before you land.
  • Alternative map and translation apps: Google is blocked in China, so you’ll be out of luck if you’re planning on using Maps or Translate. Download alternative options that Chinese locals use: Osmand Maps for offline map navigation (that can be switched to English) and Beijing NetEase for verbal-to-text translation.

What to Pack for China That I Didn’t

  • Reusable face mask: Face masks are commonplace in China because of the air pollution, and returning home with bronchitis I developed thanks to breathing big-city air while I had a cold made me wish I had used one while I was there. Masks rated as N95 filter out 95 percent of PM2.5 particles, and are the bare minimum for pollution protection.
  • Air purifier: Getting sick from the pollution in China might not have happened if I had remembered to bring my trusty Portable Air Purifier by The Pure Company, which I use nightly at home. On top of its filter-less aromatherapy and ionization, it’s a nice source of white noise that can help lull you to sleep.
  • Insurance Card: Don’t forget to pack a hard-copy of your medical insurance card in case, like me, you need to pay a visit to the international clinic. Luckily I was able to get in touch with my insurance company while I was in China, but if yours doesn’t have 24-hour support, you’ll want to have proof of insurance in case of a medical emergency.

[st_related]8 Places Where Air Pollution Could Ruin Your Trip[/st_related]

Miscellaneous

  • Travel umbrella: Hotels in China don’t usually provide umbrellas, which can be a near-necessity if you’re visiting in rainy season (which varies depending on the region).

What Not to Pack

  • Water bottle: My reusable canteen got virtually no use and only took up space since China’s tap water isn’t potable unless boiled. Even though it’s disappointing to not be able to use a reusable bottle to cut down on plastic use, buying purified water is the only option. There are hot (read: boiled) water stations at some public places, like train stations and airports, but I wasn’t willing to risk drinking any on my trip.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s Note: Some products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. She visited Shanghai, Suzhou, and Nanjing courtesy of Travel to Suzhou. Follow her on Instagram for more China travel insight @shanmcmahon.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Experiential Travel Group Travel Health & Wellness Outdoors Solo Travel Sustainable Travel Travel Trends Women's Travel

REI Launches New Under-35 Millennial Trips

It’s no secret that millennial travel is a huge trend, with many group tour operators offering special budget-conscious trips, or ones with age limits. REI is the latest to join game, with nine new tour offerings across four different geographical areas.

For now, REI is focusing on a few bucket-list-worthy adventure trips. From Colombia off-the-beaten-path (think Medellin, not Cartagena) to camping in the Sonoran Desert, the trips are focused on “prioritizing experiences over things.” All of the options have an emphasis on local and active travel.

[st_related]5 Myths About Millenial Travel and Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them[/st_related]

Each trip is crafted with the millennial mindset. “Our team has taken great care to design highly active itineraries with the right balance of downtime, and most importantly that facilitate a community for younger travelers to travel deeply and responsibly with their peers,” said Justin Wood, senior manager of adventure travel at REI, in a press release.

Budget and value are front of mind, with trips offering modest accommodations, cheap meals, and no hidden fees. Prices start at $850 for REI members. And if saving money is on your mind, REI is expanding its used gear and rental programs, so you can save more by renting your active gear through the company’s retail locations.

For fun, I asked some of my SmarterTravel millennial-aged colleagues their thoughts on the matter: Nevin Spearman, who hasn’t been on an organized group tour before says he’d consider an REI trip and, “I like the active offerings, and some in the U.S. mean cheaper airfare.” His top pick is the Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids itinerary.

Cara Sweeney, who has been on an organized group tour with her family about 10 years ago says she’d consider an REI trip and, “[the options] seem really unique and awesome. I would likely want to encourage a friend or two to attend the same trip as me.” Her trip of choice is also the Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids itinerary.

Why the 35 age limit? According to the press release, 20 percent of REI members are in the 21 to 35 age range, but REI’s website says, “we won’t card you.” So if you have the mindset of millennial and these trips are attractive to you, you’ll probably fit right in.

two men white water rafting

Find more information on REI’s Under-35 adventures here, and below.

REI Under 35 Trips:

Latin America

  • Colombia Explorer – Medellin, Lost City Trek, Tayrona Beaches | Under 35
  • Peru Multisport – Machu Picchu to Rainbow Mountain | Under 35

North America

  • Sonoran Desert Stars – Hike, Camp, MTB, Repeat | Under 35
  • Backpacking Joshua Tree | Under 35
  • Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids | Under 35
  • Wild Whistler Backpacking | Under 35

Europe

  • Amalfi Coast & Sicily – Hike, Eat, Summit | Under 35
  • Greek Islands Wanderer – Hike, Feast, Explore | Under 35

Asia

  • Vietnam Multisport – Spectacular Spelunking | Under 35

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_newsletter]

Categories
Beach Booking Strategy Student Travel

The 10 Top Destinations for Spring Break 2019

Ah, college spring break. The noblest rite of passage for our nation’s future leaders. With March around the corner, college students across the country are preparing for a week of fun and relaxation (much of which their parents will hopefully never hear about). So, whether you want to avoid them or join them, where is everyone going this year?

CheapOair looked at where 18 to 25-year-olds are traveling this year, and found that while “many are still traveling to popular spring break destinations, such as Mexico and Florida, booking data shows a significant increase in European destinations among travelers ages 18 to 25.”

[st_related]What to Pack for Spring Break: 35 Essentials[/st_related]

England, France, Ireland, Spain, and Croatia are the most popular destinations for spring breakers eschewing the traditional beach party scenario.

“For spring break, travelers are still spending an average of 5-6 days in popular destinations such as Florida and Mexico,” said Tom Spagnola, Senior Vice President of Supplier Relations at CheapOair. “An overall trend we’re seeing with this age group is that they’re taking longer international trips of 10-12 days in destinations such as Spain and Netherlands, and up to 22 days in destinations such as Thailand.” (Serious question: Which colleges give students 22 days off for spring break?)

Here are the top destinations and average airfares for spring break 2019, courtesy of CheapOair:

Domestic Destinations Average Airfare International Destinations Average Airfare
Orlando, Florida $291 Cancun, Mexico $434
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida $304 London, England $841
Los Angeles, California $268 Paris, France $669
Miami, Florida $354 Dublin, Ireland $596
Las Vegas, Nevada $281 Barcelona, Spain $542
Denver, Colorado $283 Bangkok, Thailand $797
Tampa, Florida $291 Amsterdam, Netherlands $674
San Juan, Puerto Rico $369 Zagreb, Croatia $520
Fort Myers, Florida $317 Mexico City, Mexico $372
Phoenix, Arizona $328 Madrid, Spain $620

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_deals_search search_type=air]

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors Packing

Osprey’s Daylite Sling: The Perfect Pack for Day Hiking

On active trips, I always struggle to find a packable daypack or a bag that can do double duty as a personal item. Whether it’s lack of pockets, no place for a water bottle, or the size is just too small, I haven’t been able to remedy this packing problem … until now. The Osprey Daylite Sling is the ideal day bag for an active trip and won’t take up too much space in your carry-on. It can even double as a bag insert.

Osprey Daylite Sling Review: 

[st_product products=”250798″]

Price and Where to Buy: $40 on Amazon, currently on sale for $21, and Osprey’s website.

How the Osprey Daylite Sling Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. This pack solves a common problem for travelers who go on frequent day hikes or excursions. Its organizational pockets fit a camera, light layer or scarf, water bottle (either clipped or inside), as well as daily essentials. Plus the strap’s mesh material doesn’t cause you to overheat, even in humid climates.
  • Value: 10/10. At only $40, this bag is a steal. Most technical daypacks from a trusted brand go for well over $50.
  • Portability & Durability: 10/10. The smartly designed bag won’t add weight to your luggage and is made from sturdy material.
  • Cool Factor: 9/10. While it’s not quite a fanny pack, the Daylite sling does have an outdoorsy style, which doesn’t bother me. It fits in more on the trail than in the city, but can also be a secure option for travelers in either environment since it can be worn in the front.

Final Verdict: The Osprey Daylite Sling is the ideal bag for day hiking or for an active vacation. It’s comfortable due to the anatomically-shaped shoulder strap and the pockets couldn’t be more easily accessible.

[amazon_native_ad search=”day pack”]

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Editors' Choice Packing

Editors’ Choice Awards: Best New Travel Backpacks 2018

Backpacks are the ideal travel bag. They’re easy to carry, can cram into the overhead bin or under a plane seat, and provide easy accessibility to your items no matter where you are. But not all backpacks are created equal. That’s why SmarterTravel’s editors have tested all the newest ones to find the best travel backpacks, and judged them on the following Editors’ Choice Awards methodology:

For the best new backpack for travel category we sourced 14 different backpacks from 10 different brands. The backpacks had to be a new style released this year, and had to be over 32-liters in volume size. We ranked each style on a variety of metrics, including packability, style, usefulness, price, size, and durability. These rankings were determined by a pack test and road test in which testers traveled with the backpack on the road. From this, a winner and two finalists were determined.

Meet the outstanding winners, finalists, and runners-up of the best new travel backpack category for 2018.

Gold: REI Ruckpack Series

The REI Ruckpack Backpack is the ultimate backpack. It has tons of pockets and an easy-to-access main compartment. Complete with technical features like a survival whistle, rain cover, and hydration bladder compartment, it still looks sleek—not fussy. REI Ruckpacks come in two larger options: 40-liter and 65-liter sizes available in both men and women’s styles. And smaller 28-liter and 18-liter day packs are also available.

The women’s style includes features like shaped harness straps and shortened torso length, while the larger 65-liter option (not carry-on friendly) is actually two packs in one thanks to an included day pack. The clamshell main compartment ensures you don’t have to dig for that pair of socks, and we also love the bottom compartment for packing dirty clothes or shoes separately. Given the variety of options to choose from, its inherent functionality, and its sleek design, we’ve chosen it as the winner for our best backpack category.

Silver: Eagle Creek Wayfinder Backpack

Eagle Creek’s cleverly designed Wayfinder Backpack is a sturdy carry-on-sized companion for just about any adventure. The pockets are specifically designed for your laptop (up to 17 inches), tablet, phone, and powerpack, including a passthrough for earbuds so you can listen to your tunes even when your phone is stowed away. A generous main compartment (40 liters) is accompanied by numerous other sleeves and compartments to keep you organized—including an exterior pouch with a drain hole for a rain jacket or other wet clothing. The waterproof fabric is made of recycled materials, and the backpack is available in both a “unisex version” and one that’s slightly tailored to better suit a woman’s body. It’s comfortable to wear and serves as a decently sized carry-on bag.

[st_related]SmarterTravel Shopping Guide[/st_related]

Bronze: Timbuk2 Never Check Duffel Backpack

The Timbuk2 Never Check Duffel Backpack is a travel backpack for the non-backpacking crowd. This sleek and chic duffel hybrid offers much of the traditional functionality of a carry-on while ditching the wheels for multi-carry options. Zip it fully open to reveal a surprisingly roomy clamshell construction interior, including two zippered compartments for easy access. Stay organized on the road with exterior pockets that can take the place of a separate personal item.

Choose among a variety of carrying options: Haul it as a duffel with the shoulder or hand straps, or hook on the stowable back straps and transform it into a comfortable backpack complete with padded back panel. While it’s not a backpacker’s backpack—there’s no hip belt to help distribute weight for walking longer distances— it scores big on space, organization, and style. It’s a practical option for business and leisure travelers.

Finalist: Aer Travel Pack 2

The Aer Travel Pack 2 has a lot of features that help create a more comfortable travel experience: a separate, roomy shoe compartment, thickly padded shoulder straps and back panel, and enough pockets for organization. What it does better than most backpacks, however, is keep it sexy. This is a very sleek bag with a nylon exterior of military-grade fabric—and that’s its best quality. The Aer Pack 2 is among the best-looking bags in its category, but loses points on utility: The zipper jams around the corners, and that’s too important a feature to overlook. This bag is a finalist for style and comfort, but not as much for its function.

Finalist: Baboon Go-Bag

Baboon’s Go Bags are stylish and functional backpacks that look more like a duffel. Available in a 40-liter and 60-liter size—we tested the carry-on version (40 liters)—the hybrid duffel-backpack is durable and lightweight. The additional handles and loops made it easy to pick up during any transfers or when waiting in a security line. There are also three interior pockets for convenient organization, plus the waterproof material gives you peace of mind.

The larger size could be difficult to carry on your back when it’s full, as the bag doesn’t have traditional technical features of most backpacks, like a back panel or hip belt. When packing for a three day weekend, it was a little difficult to find the best place for a pair of shoes; whatever you back at the very top, you feel on your back. We can’t rave enough about the style of this bag though, which is available in eight bold colors so you won’t misplace it.

Finalist: Gregory Proxy

The Gregory Proxy 65 backpack is fantastic for camping and long hikes. It has all the components you would need for outdoor adventure and is durable enough to endure rough terrain. It’s suitable for a range of activities, like hiking to day trips for its comfort and spaciousness. You can easily fit enough for more than a three-day trip, including shoes and toiletries. Its useful mesh pockets separate items as well as the waterproof section for things like damp bathing suits or wet/muddy hiking boots.

This backpack doesn’t have a super strong outer shell, so it might not be best to keep toiletries in the waterproof section for fear that they may get crushed. The pack is geared more towards adventure seekers over anyone else, and would be best used for a single-use trips, like hiking, rather than something you can use on a mountain one day and bring to the office the next. Note that due to its size the Gregory Proxy is too big for a carry-on, but can fit a lot and provides helpful weight distribution via shoulder and hip straps.

Finalist: Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack

The Tortuga Setout Divide fits as much as a suitcase but never needs to be checked. Awkward hip straps make this bag slightly uncomfortable to carry, but with lots of inner pockets and a large compartment that opens on three sides, you can squeeze a surprising amount of stuff in. It also has laptop sleeves, zipper locks, and pockets on the shoulder straps. The Tortuga Setout Divide is a useful option if you’re only bringing one bag on a trip, but isn’t very comfortable to carry on your back.

Finalist: Eddie Bauer Adventure Trail Pack

Eddie Bauer’s Adventurer Trail Pack is an attractive, sporty backpack that’s ideal for day hikes or short overnight camping trips. It’s comfortable to wear thanks to a well-padded and ventilated back, a waist band for support, and numerous straps and clips to help you compress your load. The material feels sturdy and is resistant to rain (though not waterproof). It currently comes in only one color, “true blue.” It’s tough to get to things near the bottom of the pack because the only access is via the top (and the zipper doesn’t go very far down on either side.) It comfortably holds three days of stuff, but not much more. And while it’s too large to use as a personal item, it fits most airlines’ carry-on size restrictions.

Finalist: L.L. Bean AT Expedition Backpack

The L.L. Bean AT Expedition Backpack is the backpack to choose for a long weekend away—when you need enough room to pack for a activities like a light hike, a night out, and a Netflix binge night in. While it’s not the most stylish of bags, it allows you to pack much more than a weekender bag does. Similar to Mary Poppin’s magical purse, it fits more than seems possible. However, it’s inconveniently a bit larger than the standard carry on. The weight distribution is its best feature, and the back insert allows the weight to be shifted to your lower back and less on strain on your shoulders.

Finalist: Osprey Ozone Duplex Women’s Travel Pack

The Osprey Ozone Duplex is one of the most comfortable, form-fitting bags we tested. It also provides two bags in one—a cargo bag and a detachable daypack. Its clothes-compressing capabilities and a side strap for duffel bag-conversion makes it seem convenient. But the features we appreciate about this bag (two bags in one, and straps for added comfort while wearing) also could use some improvement—there is an excess number of hanging straps everywhere, giving it somewhat of a sloppy look. Since it does meet carry-on requirements and you can fit so much in it, this bag is ideal for traveling on budget airlines with hefty baggage fees. Its comfort and the detachable daypack make it an ideal choice for an international trekking trip, but it might not be the best fit for the average traveler.

Finalist: L.L. Bean AT Day Pack

The L.L. Bean AT Day Pack for men is a multi-functional carry-on and daypack that can fit about a weekend’s worth of clothes. Our favorite feature is the top pocket which easily detaches to lighten your load if needed, but also provides security and extra pockets for your travel day essentials. The large and flexible mesh pockets on both sides are useful for storing like layers, a water bottle, snacks, and umbrella. Features like a ventilating back panel, a hydration bladder compartment, and comfortable hip and shoulder straps also make this a technical pack. While it’s 40 liters, it doesn’t fit too much more than the essentials for a weekend. But if you’re looking for one pack to take with you on a hiking trip, this is it.

Finalist: Eagle Creek Global Companion Travel Pack

A common problem with most backpacks is trouble accessing items at the bottom of the main compartment. Eagle Creek’s Global Companion solves this problem by zipping all the way around, so you can pack it and open it like a suitcase. The main part of the pack is split by mesh dividers into two zipping smaller compartments, like built-in packing cubes. While organized travelers might love this feature, it does cut into your usable space—and other parts of the bag, namely the exterior pockets, feel similarly cramped. While the backpack has some handy features—such as a rainfly, a safety whistle built into the sternum strap, and a well-padded hip belt with a zipper pocket for your phone—its overall design doesn’t make the best possible use of space.

Finalist: L.L. Bean Carryall Travel Pack

The L.L. Bean Carryall is a utilitarian solution for a casual two-night getaway, whether it’s a short-flight away or within driving distance. The amount of compartments is perfect for storing everything from socks to laptops to shoes. The main compartment has the shape of a packing cube and zips shut to create different storage areas and keep clothes separate for supreme organization.

We do wish there was more boning so the backpack had a bit more shape. Similarly, this bag is suited for a casual getaway as the clothes inside probably wouldn’t stay wrinkle-free. This bag, as most L.L. Bean products, holds up against the elements, over packing, etc., and is lightweight, comfortable to carry, and fits most airline’s carry-on size requirements.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s Note: Some products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Arts & Culture Booking Strategy

6 British TV Shows to Inspire Your Next Trip

Those dreamy, far-off places you see on your favorite shows aren’t actually out of your reach. Do some brainstorming for your next trip while you watch these six British TV shows.

Downton Abbey

[st_content_ad]Downton Abbey sweeps viewers into the dreamy and dramatic world of early 20th-century English aristocracy. The Crawley family navigates life and politics in a gorgeous castle, while their servants downstairs have drama of their own.

The show is set in historic Yorkshire, and viewers are treated to views of quaint cobblestone streets when characters dare to mingle with commoners in the town. The Crawleys’ residence is the real-life Highclere Castle, a Victorian palace in Berkshire with 1,000 sprawling acres of green space. The castle is only a 90-minute train ride from London.

Broadchurch

This gripping murder drama follows the small town of Broadchurch as its residents come under suspicion for killing an 11-year-old boy. The fictional town is like a character itself, with each episode featuring stunning views of the Dorset coastline, beaches, and rugged cliffs.

The town that plays Broadchurch is Clevedon, a small and elegant seaside town in Somerset. Recreate the drama as you go for a swim at the famous West Bay, or see the iconic cliffs where the victim’s body was found. The cliffs are on the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site along the English Channel.

[st_related]11 Beautiful English Villages to Discover Before the Crowds Do[/st_related]

The Crown

The Crown traces Queen Elizabeth II’s journey from young princess to the longest-reigning British monarch. Learn about the Windsors’ private drama and how the royal family ended up where they are now.

Most of The Crown’s drama occurs in London or the queen’s countryside homes. See the place Queen Elizabeth was reluctant to move into: Buckingham Palace. Hop on a train to Norfolk to visit Sandringham House, where the queen spends the holidays and broadcasts her annual Christmas Message.

Game of Thrones

 

Based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling books, this international hit follows noble families competing to sit atop the iron throne. Episodes offer inspiring looks at Northern Irish landscapes as the families fight to control the mythical lands of Westeros.

Some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful locations are on full display for this show. Check out Castle Ward, a dramatic 18th-century country home overlooking the lake of Strangford Lough. The residence doubled as Winterfell in the first two seasons. Remember the Haunted Forest in the pilot where Ned and his children stumbled across direwolf pups? That was actually Tollymore Forest Park, and it’s open for visitors.

[st_related]6 Australian and New Zealand Shows to Inspire Your Next Vacation[/st_related]

Victoria

This lavish costume drama tells the story of Queen Victoria, the 19th-century sovereign who ruled for 63 years. Follow this young leader as she balances the influential forces around her and establishes herself as one of Britain’s most beloved monarchs. The series showcases many of the country’s most regal and iconic locations.

Since Victoria is a show about British royals, of course it features London’s Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. After you see these famous royal locations, pay a visit to Harewood House in Yorkshire. Queen Victoria visited this breathtaking residence in 1835, and it’s one of the show’s key filming locations.

Harry Potter

Sure, Harry Potter isn’t a TV show, but is any list of inspiring British film and television complete without the Boy Who Lived? This eight-part movie series filmed all over Britain, so there’s no shortage of destinations to satisfy your Harry Potter-induced wanderlust.

Recreate Harry’s magical journey to Hogwarts aboard the Scottish Highlands’ Jacobite steam train. You’ll wind your way through mountains, lochs, and the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. You can even buy butterbeer and chocolate frogs from the snack trolley onboard. Once you’ve disembarked from the train, head south to Edinburgh and visit Elephant House, the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books.

More from SmarterTravel:

SmarterTravel co-op Alyssa Lukpat loves exploring new places. Follow her on Twitter.

Categories
Adventure Travel Health & Wellness

SteriPen Adventurer Opti Review: Clean Water Anywhere

SteriPen adventurer opti

It’s easy to get clean, safe-to-drink water anytime and anywhere with the SteriPen Adventurer Opti.

SteriPen Adventurer Opti Review

Price and Where to Buy the SteriPen Adventurer Opti: The SteriPen Adventurer Opti is normally $89.95 on Amazon, but was on sale for $62.96 at the time of writing.

How the SteriPen Adventurer Opti Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. Many water purification methods have downsides, whether it’s a chemical taste from drops or the time-consuming mess that pumps can be. Not so with the SteriPen Adventurer Opti, which is easy to use, works quickly, and doesn’t change the taste of the water. It also doubles as an LED flashlight, which saves space in your bag.
  • Value: 9/10. Water purification can be expensive, but this is a great price, especially if you buy it on sale.
  • Portability: 10/10. The SteriPen Adventurer Opti is one of the smallest purifiers on the market, weighing just 3.8 ounces (with batteries). It measures 6.1″ x 1.5 ” x 1″.
  • Durability: 10/10. The pen works by using UV light, and the lamp is good for 8,000 treatments.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. The SteriPen protects you from diseases like typhoid and dysentery, which is pretty cool.

Final Verdict:

[st_product products=”248834″]

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to see what she wears around the world. 

[st_content_ad]

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.