When you’re traveling, you probably have certain go-to clothes and items you bring along, yet you may also switch them up sometimes and test out new travel products. As someone who mainly lives abroad and works remotely, switching countries every month or few, travel accessories are always at the forefront of my mind. After all, do I really want to lug something around town — not to mention through train stations and foreign cities — if I’m not using it much? Personally, I’ve found that traveling light is the way to go. That said, lately I’ve been testing out some travel products to see how they do in action — on the road — and if they’ll become a routine part of the travel items I bring along.
“Being mobile is the priority, and at the end of a long day, a light pack is the best thing to have,” Glenn Murray-Prior, founder of ACTION CULTURE, an adventure travel agency, tells Bustle. He says to lay everything out and be judicious when deciding what you’ll take with you. For instance, regarding the tech gadgets you’re going to bring, only keep one type of cable needed for any of them. “Also consider which gadgets can charge the others, and you’ll need less power adapters then, too,” he says. “The key is only packing what you absolutely need or that will make you happy.”
No matter what kind of traveler you are, sometimes you’ll want to switch up what you bring with you. Below are some products I’ve tried out recently and have since added to my travels.
1. Tortuga’s Setout Backpack, 45L, $199
Tortuga Setout Backpack, 45L
The right backpack can literally make or break your trip, whether you overpacked and cannot carry it one step further, or you wish you’d gotten a bag without wheels (which add convenience, but also weight). After I lost my favorite backpack due to an unfortunate bed bug incident, I decided to test out a few new ones — but one was too big and one was too small. When Tortuga, a company that was started by two digital nomads such as myself, asked if I wanted to try out their Setout Backpack, I was game.
I particularly liked that the Setout was only 45L (and just 3.9 pounds!), which means it’s considered to be a carry-on size with most airlines. Plus, it encourages you to pack smart and stay organized: not only does it have several pockets for everything from your laptop to passport, but the zipper opens like an actual suitcase, so it’s easy to locate everything without it getting lost as it could with a top-loading backpack.
All in all, I’d recommend the Setout to my fellow digital nomad friends, as well as those who want an exercise in packing light; if I can do it, so can you! Fun fact: The navy and black versions of the Setout Backpack are made from recycled water bottles, so you can not only travel with a comfortable, convenient backpack but also know it’s an environmentally friendly one — a win-win!
2. Unbound Merino Wool Shirt, Price Varies, $65-78
Merino Wool V-Neck T-Shirt
Speaking of clothing to pack, when Unbound Merino asked if I wanted to try out their lightweight Merino Wool V-Neck T-Shirt, I said yes simply because they said it stays clean and wrinkle-free for days. In fact, the shirt can apparently be worn for 14 days or more without needing to be washed. If you’ve ever vacationed and needed to wash a certain shirt, but knew it wouldn’t air-dry by morning, this shirt can be the solution you’ve always wanted. Since it’s wool, I was expecting it to be on the thick side, but it’s thin and comfortable. Plus, it comes in both short-sleeved and long-sleeved versions (the latter of which is a crew neck), so one can be worn in warm weather while the other can make a good layering shirt if you’re in colder climates.
As an experiment, I hand-washed it before the 14 days were up — just to see how long it would take to air-dry — and it was dry within a few hours. The only challenge I had with the shirt was the sizing — with Unbound Merino’s shirts, the women’s medium was too snug yet the men’s small was too loose. Aside from finding the right fit, literally, I love how the solid-colored shirt can mix and match with other pieces of my wardrobe, which is key when you’re traveling light.
3. Dr. Plotka’s Mouth Watchers Travel Toothbrush, $5.99
4. Yaasa Elements Blanket, $169
Yaasa Elements Travel Blanket
If you’re one of those travelers who’s always cold, this travel blanket could help, whether you use it on a plane, bus, or as an extra blanket at your Airbnb. The Yaasa Elements Blanket is not only made from organic cotton, which makes it soft, but also from SeaCell™ fibers, AKA organic seaweed that’s sustainably harvested from the shores of the Icelandic Fjords. These fibers contain antioxidants; hence, part of the wellness aspect of the blanket. But it also contains recovery supporting FDA-determined Celliant® technology; the latter recycles your body’s energy, so it helps give you more energy, as well as helps with your blood flow and circulation, which is important when traveling.
Yaasa also said the blanket promotes sleep. As an on-again/off-again insomniac, I tested this promoting-sleep clause and it’s true! Every time I use the blanket when napping or on my bed at night, I seem to sleep more soundly.
5. HubPlus Charger, $79.99
Traveling without a charger is nearly impossible these days. While many boast being able to charge your phone or tablet multiple times, that’s not always the case. However, when I tried out HubPlus on behalf of myCharge, I was pleased to see that their promise was true: with its 6700mAh, it provided up to four times extra battery life. Plus, it charges my phone quickly and also turns itself off when its not in use.
Another perk of the charger is the fact that you can charge multiple devices at once, including your friend’s iPhone when they forget to bring their power bank. The HubPlus Charger has been great to use while traveling within the U.S., as well as great to keep on hand in my backpack at all times; however, I’d opt for a universal travel adapter when traveling outside the states, but bring along the HubPlus as a backup.
6. Skyroam Solis, $149.99 To Buy, $9.99+ for WiFi
If you’ve ever been in a dead zone without access to WiFi, Skyroam Solis could be the magical wireless solution you’ve been looking for. Although I tend to get a new SIM card in each country I’m in, Skyroam Solis will come in handy if I can’t immediately buy a SIM card or if I’m in a remote area and must get online. Although I think SIM cards are more cost-effective, the benefit of having a Skyroam Solis device is convenience, especially in case of an emergency. So, that’s exactly why I decided to try out the 4G LTE global WiFi hotspot when the company asked. Plus, it doubles as a power bank (6000 mAh), which is always needed.
Price-wise, currently, the rates start at $9 per day — you get unlimited data, only pay for what you use, and there are no roaming fees. The device itself costs $149.99 (and the company is currently offering a free one-day WiFi pass); however, you can also rent it. The circular device is also small enough to put into your purse or backpack, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up space.
7. nodpod, $29.99
Initially, I tried the nodpod weighted sleep mask as part of an insomnia round-up. Since the mask is heavier than your average sleep mask, I didn’t think about bringing it along on my travels … until I fell in love with it. Now, it’s with me on everything from planes and trains to buses and cars. I have the black one, and it blocks out light amazingly. It goes around your entire head — you fasten it in the back — and the microbead padding is in the sections over your eyes and on the sides of your head. The bean bag feel was unusual at first, but became therapeutic more than anything else. Although tying it just right took some getting used to, I finally managed to sleep all night without the mask coming off at some point. Now, it’s become my favorite sleep mask.
Although the products above ended up working in my favor — and I’d highly recommend them — everyone’s go-to travel items will vary. At the end of the day — or trip — it’ll be a trial-and-error method to see which ones stand the test of (travel) time. Meanwhile, bon voyage!