Travel is all about discovering the new, surprising and slightly surreal. And so it is with travel equipment.

In our latest gear reviews, we test a wide range of innovative kit that pushes the boundaries and makes our journeys easier – or just more fun. From reworkings of the fundamentals like underwear and socks to the things you never knew you needed, like an umbrella that sends you a text message if you leave it behind at a bar.

G-RO Carry-On Classic bag
Unique wheels on the G-RO Carry-On bag means it rarely needs carrying © David Else / Lonely Planet

G-RO Carry-On Classic bag

Wheeled luggage makes life easier during transit, but a downside can be external wheels catching on objects or breaking after long-term use. Not so with the Carry-On Classic bag from G-RO. Its giant, robust wheels (which come with a lifetime guarantee) are built snugly into the sides of the bag (not protruding out) and thus avoid damage, while the large diameter means easy rolling over rough ground. Additional features include a capacious main compartment, an integrated lock system and a telescopic handle with adjustable height – all combining to form a highly practical and sleek-looking luggage receptacle.

  • Plus points: external USB ports connect to an internal power bank (supplied)
  • Worth noting: wedge shape and wide top may be over some airline cabin bag regulations
  • Cost: £449, US$449
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info:
The Steamfast SF-717 travel iron
The Steamfast SF-717 travel iron is roughly the length of a pen © Jack Palfrey / Lonely Planet

Steamfast SF-717 travel iron

Wrinkled clothing may not be the primary concern when living out of a backpack, but if you want to smarten up for dinner at a fancy restaurant or find yourself invited to a millionaire's 18th birthday party, the Steamfast travel iron is a handy device to have in your arsenal. Despite being roughly the length and width of a mobile phone, this tiny iron (reputedly the world's smallest) performs just as well as any other: it heats up quickly, has a long chord and offers dual voltage, meaning it works in most countries. Though the compact size may mean ironing takes longer, we found the small size and palm-grip handle actually makes it easier to manoeuvre around tricky areas, like shirt buttons, than traditional models.

  • Plus points: Incredibly compact; comes with travel bag and water measuring cup
  • Worth noting: Created for American plug sockets, will need an adaptor to work in Europe
  • Cost: US$29.99
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 10/10; value 9/10
  • More info:
BAM Bamboo socks and underwear
Hard-wearing kit that’s soft on the skin: bamboo clothing from BAM © David Else / Lonely Planet

BAM Bamboo socks and underwear

It might not spring to mind as an aspect of travel that requires revolutionising, but, as anyone who has spent prolonged periods backpacking can attest, traditional underwear does not stand up all that well to the challenges of long-term travel. Attempting to undress this issue are the folks from bamboo fibre clothing company BAM with their underwear range. Their pants and socks are soft to the skin, moisture-wicking, hard-wearing and naturally anti-bacterial. We tested them on several trips – from Sri Lanka to the French Alps – where they passed with flying colours, remaining comfortable and – crucially – hole free.

  • Plus points: bamboo as a crop offers environmental benefits over cotton
  • Worth noting: available in male/female cuts and a multitude of colours
  • Cost: underwear from £10; socks from £4 per pair
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info:
Outdoor Research Stormtracker heated gloves
Plug in, go out, stay warm: Outdoor Research Stormtracker heated gloves © David Else / Lonely Planet

Outdoor Research Stormtracker heated gloves

With their Stormtracker heated gloves, Outdoor Research aims to have consumers waving goodbye to the common grievance of cold hands. In non-extreme conditions, the water-resistant gloves protect against the elements with insulated linings and Windstopper outer fabric. But if temperatures plummet then you simply hit the ‘on’ switch and small batteries in the cuff send a welcome burst of heat across the back of your hand and down to your fingers. Extravagant? Perhaps. But it certainly makes those chilly mornings on the mountain easier to handle.

  • Plus points: three heat settings: high, medium, low – the latter lasts 6 to 8 hours depending on outside temperature
  • Worth noting: batteries rechargeable via mains power, so not suitable for off-grid multi-day treks
  • Cost: US$265, £200 approx
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info:
KEEN Evofit One Sandals
Combining venerable brand with innovative design; KEEN Evofit One sandals © David Else / Lonely Planet

KEEN Evofit One Sandals

On multi-activity trips with minimal baggage, selecting suitable footwear can be a struggle. The designers of the award-winning KEEN Evofit Ones, a shoe-sandal hybrid, are attempting to alleviate this issue with a shoe designed to tackle ‘virtually any outdoor activity’. The stretchy upper moves comfortably with the foot (so no chafing), and also boasts a supportive insole, grippy outsole and elasticated lace for fine-tuning the fit. The shoes do feel very versatile, however, in testing, we did find one disadvantage: the position of the sandals’ holes resulted in a protruding little toe, causing occasional painful pinkie stubbing; this could be a one off, but make sure to try before you buy.

  •         Plus points: versatile, breathable, quick-drying with odour control
  •         Worth noting: available in male/female designs and wide range of colours
  •         Cost: £99.99, €130, US$130
  •         Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  •         More info:
Kitsound Diggit outdoor speaker
Thank you for the music: Kitsound Diggit outdoor speaker © David Else / Lonely Planet

Kitsound Diggit outdoor speaker

Every journey needs a soundtrack, and the Diggit outdoor speaker from Kitsound is perfect for spreading the musical love on boat trips, campsites or impromptu beach parties. The durable speaker is compact, water- and sand-resistant and comes with a removable telescopic spike, which, ingeniously, can be dug into mud or sand to keep the speaker elevated, ensuring the device is kept clean and the sound unmuffled. Bluetooth it to your phone, press ‘play’ and you’re sorted; the sound is crisp and the eight-hour battery life impressive.

  • Plus points: an LED light ring keeps the speaker visible in darkness
  • Worth noting: rechargeable via mini USB port
  • Cost: £39.99, €47.99
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info:
Standard Luggage Daily Backpack
Standard Travel Daily Backpack; small, smart, stylish © David Else / Lonely Planet

Standard Luggage Daily Backpack

For city breaks, the Daily Backpack from Standard Luggage is a smart companion. The outside is compact and understated, while the inside is packed with features including numerous pockets, separate compartments for laptop and tablet, and an anti-RFID pouch to protect credit cards. There’s also an external USB port so you can charge your phone on the go. We especially liked the unusual position of the zip to the main compartment, at the back of the bag, which helps prevent pilfering and keeps straps clean when you put it on the ground to rummage for your camera or, ever-essential, Lonely Planet guidebook.

  • Plus points: zip-away straps turn the Daily into briefcase or messenger bag
  • Worth noting: external USB port connects to battery pack on the inside (sold separately)
  • Cost: US$119, £91, €100
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info:
Weatherman Collapsible Umbrella
Stand firm against storms (and lapses in memory) with the Weatherman Collapsible Umbrella © David Else / Lonely Planet

Weatherman Collapsible Umbrella

The world is full of smart phones, smart watches, even smart backpacks. What next for the digital-savvy traveller? A smart umbrella of course. The Collapsible Umbrella from Weatherman has a tracker device in it which connects to your phone, with an app that notifies you if you leave a venue without it, helps you relocate it if lost and also sends alerts regarding forecasted weather conditions. Testing in stormy weather, we were impressed to see it shrug off wind and downpours thanks to the strong frame, Teflon-coated fabric and ingenious vents to let air escape and prevent inside-out disasters. The telescopic design also means it’s neat and easy to carry when not in use.

  • Plus points: available in various colours and non-collapsible versions
  • Worth noting: umbrella is excellent; app and tracker we found glitchy and of limited use
  • Cost: US$59, £45 approx, €50 approx
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 8/10
  • More info:

More travel gear reviews:

How we review products

Our opinions are by definition subjective. Our testers (male, female, young, old) trial products in the real world, then give their honest opinion and scores for quality, practicality and value: 5/10 = mediocre; 6/10 = fair; 7/10 = good; 8/10 = very good; 9/10 = excellent; 10/10 = perfect. We don’t include anything that scores less than 5/10.

We aim for gender balance, and over a year cover an equal number of male- and female-specific items. We state where kit is available in male and female versions, or for everyone, unless it’s obvious.

Prices are quoted in at least one major currency. Where possible we include other currencies. We take prices from manufacturers’ websites; information was correct at the time of publication, but you may find different prices online or in specialist stores, particularly after a period of time when products are discounted.

Manufacturers supply Lonely Planet with test products for review. We do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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