As a new year dawns, it’s the perfect time to start planning your travels in 2019. And for this, you need the right gear, whether you’re a long-haul backpacker, off-grid wilderness hiker or short-break city-slicker.

In our latest set of gear reviews, we look at a range of equipment to get your travel juices flowing, from stylish shoes and street-savvy backpacks to a pair of board shorts that’ll make for a great conversation starter.

the Cardiel ORP Backpack, shown in grey
Stay organised and on-trend in the city with the Cardiel ORP Backpack © David Else / Lonely Planet

Chrome Cardiel ORP Backpack

Designed by skateboarder John Cardiel, the Chrome Cardiel ‘Operation Readiness Pack’ is essentially a light 25L backpack trimmed down to the bare essentials, with no padding, no external pockets, just one internal pouch and a roll top rather than a zip. We tested the ORP while sightseeing in London and found it comfortable carrying soft items (rain jacket) or flat items (tablet and books) but not so great for our usual mix of irregular stuff (camera, water bottle, haul of souvenir fridge magnets).

  • Plus points: light and highly compact, making it good as a secondary daypack while travelling
  • Worth noting: our sample is ‘camo’; black and grey also available
  • Cost: US$80; £75; €90
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 7/10; value 6/10
  • More info: chromeindustries.com
Two pairs of Riz Board Shorts, shown in plain blue and a wave pattern
Doing their bit for a plastic-free ocean: Riz Board Shorts © David Else / Lonely Planet

Riz Board Shorts

Not only will these quirky board shorts from British brand Riz have you looking snazzy on the sand, but they also provide a wonderful conversation starter, being made from recycled plastic bottles. Available in three lengths, the shorts, which include pockets and a cord waistband, are light and comfortable and offer a unique satisfaction that comes from hitting the beach in a garment actively helping to protect the ocean.

  • Plus points: Loud patterns are bang on-trend but more sombre tones also available
  • Worth noting: handy shorts for lightweight travel even when far from the sea
  • Cost: £95
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 7/10
  • More info: rizboardshorts.com
Three Go Travel wallets; one denim, one grey and one with a hard plastic shell
Guard against digital pickpockets with Go Travel wallets © David Else / Lonely Planet

Go Travel RFID wallets

Wherever your travels take you in 2019, you’ll need to protect your dollars, pesos, pula and yen – both those you physically carry, and those stored in your bank account. Go Travel’s wallets are durable and compact and boast anti-RFID (radio-frequency identification) shielding, which prevents your cards from being scanned by thieves, especially on crowded public transport. Choose from the denim-styled Micro, the solid case-like Protector, or the super-slim Slip.

  • Plus points: larger version available which also holds a passport
  • Worth noting: Slim and Micro available in different colours
  • Cost: £4.99 (Protector); £7.99 (Slip); £12.99 Micro
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: go-travelproducts.com
A pair of Vans SK8-HI MTE high-top trainers shown in an eye-catching colour design that includes splashes of brown, blue, yellow and red
Stylish and sturdy: Vans SK8-HI MTE trainers © Jack Palfrey / Lonely Planet

Vans SK8-HI MTE shoes

Cool Californian skate brand Vans continues its foray into the world of outdoor footwear with its MTE range – a collection of high-top shoes that are designed to withstand the elements. The leather shoes may look a little chunky for travel, but are surprisingly light and impressively comfortable. A ‘thermal retention layer’ means the trainers should be compatible to most climes, but realistically are best-suited to colder parts of the world, where the quality materials help keep out the cold and ensure durability, meaning they won’t fall apart in the middle of a winter ramble. The grippy sole is also a big plus.

  • Plus points: cool and comfortable casual shoes in a wide variety of colours
  • Worth noting: also come in a water-resistant variety for heavy-duty tramping
  • Cost: US$90; £90
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info: vans.com
A pair of purple Explore Capris three-quarter length trousers draped over a wall
Stride out in comfort: Explore Capris from Mountain Warehouse © David Else / Lonely Planet

Mountain Warehouse Explore Capris

For journeys where luggage must be minimal, the Explore Capri trousers from outdoor clothing giant Mountain Warehouse are a perfect one-pair-does-all. With their three-quarter length, they’re especially useful where long trousers are too hot but shorts are culturally inappropriate. We tested them on a trip to Sri Lanka which included visiting temples, strolling on the beach, hiking in the hills and even white-water rafting. They didn’t miss a beat.

  • Plus points: easy to wash, quick to dry, no iron needed
  • Worth noting: the Explore Capri are female cut, though male equivalents are stocked
  • Cost: UK£39.99; €40 approx
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: mountainwarehouse.com
Sunglasses with prescription lenses from Sport Rx
Highly effective and stylish looks: sunglasses with prescription lenses from Sport Rx © David Else / Lonely Planet

Sport Rx sunglasses

A reliable pair of sunglasses is a mainstay of any traveller’s arsenal. But if you require glasses simply to see clearly, your options in this department can be limited. Sport Rx offers a solution by combining prescription lenses with sunglasses frames from well-known brands like Oakley and Bolle. On our test model, the suns rays were muted while vision was pin-sharp and the lenses stayed clear in the rain and sweaty conditions thanks to good ventilation and a protective coating. We also tested progressive (‘varifocal’) lenses and found them ideal for trekking (see the distant peak and the map), cycling (see the road and the GPS on the handlebars) or just sightseeing in Paris (see the Eiffel Tower and the horrifying price of a baguette from a nearby vendor).

  • Plus points: for skiers, Sport Rx make prescription goggles too
  • Worth noting: photochromic options also available
  • Cost: from US$153
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: sportrx.com
The eco-friendly Lefrik Foldable Trolley Bag, shown in grey
Save weight, save the planet; eco-friendly Lefrik Foldable Trolley Bag © David Else / Lonely Planet

Lefrik Foldable Trolley Bag

The Foldable Trolley Bag from Lefrik does what it says on the label – and more. With a generous 50L capacity, it easily holds all your kit, but the lightweight material means it weighs less than 2kg and neatly rolls down to save space when not in use (or turns into a cabin bag). There are numerous pockets and pouches on the inside and two main carry-handles on the outside, plus wheels to help lug loads through the airport. And if you need to move fast, simply unzip shoulder straps from behind a panel and use it as a backpack.

  • Plus points: waterproof fabric made from recycled materials
  • Worth noting: not particularly comfortable when used as a backpack
  • Cost: €119.90
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 7/10; value 7/10
  • More info: lefrik.com
The Ostrich Pillow Go
Make overnight travel less of a nightmare with the Ostrich Pillow Go © Jack Palfrey / Lonely Planet

Ostrich Pillow Go

It doesn’t matter how excited you are for your upcoming trip, that first day in a new destination can be ruined by a fraught long-distance bus ride or restless overnight flight. Hoping to make slumbering on the move less of a nightmare is manufacturer Ostrich Pillow, with their travel-friendly Go pillow. The sleek-looking cushion essentially wraps around your neck (secured by velcro) and is made from memory foam to make sleeping in an upright position more comfortable. It does work and is certain to be a hit with regular neck pillow users, but probably isn’t innovative enough to win over long-term neck-support sceptics.

  • Plus points: looks great and rolls down into a small, compact size
  • Worth noting: comes with a useful travel bag
  • Cost: $50; £45; €50
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info: ostrichpillow.com

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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