New year, new gear. As 2020 begins, we look forward to another 12 months of travel and adventure. Whether it’s a weekend in the city or a month in the wilderness, the right equipment will ensure a trip runs smoothly, so we sample some of the best new travel gear to take along on your next journey. From high-tech gadgets to help you find your way or stay in touch off-grid, to perennial favorites like backpacks and boots, we’ve got it covered.
Keen Innate Hiking Boots
If your journeys in 2020 include hiking or trekking, treat your feet with the new Innate boots from adventure footwear specialist Keen. They’re made from natural leather with a waterproof lining that’s also breathable, meaning your feet stay dry as you splash through puddles but they don’t get sweaty when the trail gets steep. An eco-friendly additive helps keep them odor-free as well.
These boots are available in male and female forms, and in standard or Sherpa style (the latter with extra detailing and a donation to good causes in Nepal). We tested the women’s version; after several miles on muddy trails, our tester reported that the boots had great grip, were fully supportive around instep and ankle, and immediately comfortable. “Like a cuddle for your feet” were her very words. US$160, GBP139.99, keenfootwear.com
Nathan VaporKrar Race Vest
When travel includes pushing the limits – like tackling an Ultra Trail in France or the Marathon de Sables in Morocco – then saving weight while keeping hydrated is a big part of the story. The Nathan VaporKrar Race Vest, a cross between minimalist backpack and close-fitting garment, carries water and supplies without loading you down. The vest has strap-mounted pouches for small bottles, rear compartment for hydration bladder, rain jacket or sun hat, plus other pockets to carry phone, energy gels and other essentials.
We tested the 4L model. For long-distance competitions, Nathan race vests come in larger capacities, and also in male/female styles. The tight fit means no bouncing but runners my find their back sweats more than with a normal running backpack. US$164.99, GBP80-100, nathansports.com
Eagle Creek Wayfinder 30L Backpack
Every journey needs a backpack, and the Wayfinder from Eagle Creek is perfect for weekends away, or for essentials on longer travels, with well-designed pockets and compartments to help you stay organized on the road.
The main compartment has padded dividers to protect laptops and tablets – or to keep clothes neatly pressed if your trip is more city-break than urban commute. A second compartment has small pockets for phones, pens, documents, chargers and cables, while a large external pocket is ideal for stashing the stuff you need quickly, like a rain jacket or lunch (depending on your priorities).
There’s also an elasticated side pocket and a small fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses or camera. The final stroke of genius is a hidden valuables pocket beyond the reach of pilfering hands on crowded public transport.
The backpack is available in various colors, and padded straps make it comfortable for all-day carrying. Other plus points include securable zippers and the panel of tough material to protect against damage from dirty sidewalks or other less-savory locations. We tested the 30L version, including on a flight where it easily passed cabin bag size requirements. For longer or shorter trips it’s available in 20L or 40L sizes. US$99, GBP90, eaglecreek.com
Somewear Global Hotspot
The main reason for off-grid travel is to relish true wilderness, but sometimes you need to stay in touch, especially in emergencies. With the Somewear Global Hotspot you’re connected via satellites covering every square inch of the globe. It’s palm-sized, lightweight and links to your phone by Bluetooth, and you send messages via an app just like normal texts. The recipient hits “reply” to get a message back to you. It’s all extremely straightforward.
For emergency situations, press the Somewear’s SOS button and a message goes to GEOS (a global emergency response organization) and is routed to the local rescue agency.
You can send messages to email addresses (already in your phone’s contacts), then recipients must use Somewear’s webmail app to reply. Nice to have, but in testing we found it easier to stick to texts both ways. You can also use the Somewear as a tracking device, but that impacts battery life. Most travelers will find the best use for Somewear is simply remote-area communications, and at that job it excels. Unit cost US$349.99 plus data package $15 per month to $100 per year. somewearlabs.com
Moral Code Alder Backpack
For those times when you need a backpack, but you don’t want to look like a backpacker, raise your game with the Alder Backpack from Moral Code, the self-styled purveyor of “gentlemen’s provisions.” This bag combines timeless style (premium leather), old-school looks (brass buckles) and modern twists (roll top) to be an excellent choice for stylish and practical travels, equally at home if you’re checking into fancy hotels or hopping buses across town.
Features include soft canvas lining, discrete padding in the shoulder straps, spacious main compartment, and a small internal pocket for important items. US$289, moralcode.com
Wahoo Elemnt Bike Computer
Along with ATMs and wifi, the humble bicycle is one of the world’s great gifts to travelers. You can see city streets like a local, tour Europe’s mountain roads, or enjoy epic bike rides across continents. For those longer trips, navigation and keeping tabs on your progress is easier with the Wahoo Elemnt bike-specific computer.
Using GPS technology, the device shows distance covered and average speed (plus other metrics like power output if required). You can also create your own route and upload it to the Elemnt, or choose “take me to” like a car turn-by-turn navigation, then simply follow turn-by-turn instructions or the on-screen map to reach your destination. US$250, GBP229.99, wahoofitness.com
Swiftwick Pursuit socks
Adventure travel is all about footwork, from sightseeing in cities to hiking up mountains. With socks from Swiftwick, your feet will stay comfortable so you can focus on the scenery.
We tested Pursuit socks, plus the Pursuit Hike variation, and found both ideal for travel. Thanks to skillful construction the socks fit well, provide support and don’t bunch up. Thanks to merino wool, any unpleasant odors are reduced – even when worn for several days – for which our travel companions were very grateful. The socks are available in men’s and women’s styles, various lengths and a great range of colors. US$16.99-34.99, swiftwick.com
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