August 26, 2016
Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip to some distant lake with the kids or just heading outdoors for a little R&R before bowhunting season begins, here are a few items to help make your travels more fun and comfortable.
Some are available now while others are previews of products you won’t see until spring 2017. But all are worth a serious look.
Stay Hydrated, Drink Up!
Everyone needs to stay hydrated and with a dearth of water bottles on the market today, it’s hard to find anyone who’s really being creative. This flask from Liberty is a little different. It’s made of tough, super lightweight aluminum but what makes it different is the tapered neck the mimics the pour you get from a fine bottle of wine.
A wide mouth, threadless design is super easy to clean and winged cap design opens with just an easy quarter turn. Best of all, Liberty allows you to build your own water bottle from the ground up with your own artwork.
Liberty Flask (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
For stepping in and out of canoes or just running around your campsite, a good pair of sandals is hard to beat. These new arrivals come from Superfeet, the makers of quality orthotics that many runners use in their training shoes to fight shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
Like other Superfeet products, these sandals are built to shift your weight to the outsides of your feet, taking strain off your knees and ankles. They’re very well made and come in black or stylish burnt-orange webbing. One word of warning, though. I’ve been wearing these all summer and frankly, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to give them up once fall weather starts.
Superfeet Sandals (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
Super Bright Headlamp
Led Lenser is a relative newcomer on the American lighting scene. Very popular in Europe and precision made in Germany, the NEO model I tested is one of brightest headlamps I’ve ever tried. Two brightness settings offer an incredible 150 degrees of beam. The front beam also has a blinker setting and there is a red blinker on the back, so you’re super visible. But what I really like about the Neo is that it’s super lightweight.
For those late-evening runs, when you’re trying to get in shape for bow season, this is just the ticket. And it stows easily in your pack for those early-morning hikes into your deer stand. This model runs on three AAA batteries but Led Lenser also has a full line of rechargeable headlamps as well.
Led Lenser NEO Headlamp (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
All right; everybody can stop giggling now. These two new brief designs bring a whole new level of comfort. The first, called Saxx, were designed by a former baseball player who got tired of chafing after long hours spent in damp conditions on an Alaskan fishing trip. And, as an athlete, he wanted briefs that offered support without feeling restrictive. After working with a designer and seamstress and going through 14 different prototypes, Saxx was his solution and trust me, this guy got it right. Super comfortable, wicking to the max and easy to just rinse out and dry, Saxx are perfect for traveling when you don’t want to bring 10 pairs of briefs.
Exofficio has been dominating the travel clothing market for years with all sorts of innovative designs and fabric introductions that are built for comfort and wearability. A lot of thought went into their boxer briefs, which are made of an ultralight mesh fabric that dries fast and keeps you super cool. And because these briefs have an antimicrobial treatment they do not retain any of the stinky odors that come from polypropylene materials. How well do they work? Well, polar explorer Eric Larsen, who journeyed to the North Pole on an expedition, wore a single pair as his baselayer for 55 days straight!
When asked by a colleague at a recent outdoor trade show how the briefs worked Larsen replied: “Great! I still have them on!”
Try a pair of these new kinds of briefs. They may cost you a few bucks more than regular cotton briefs, but they more than make up for the ante in comfort.
Saxx and Exofficio Briefs (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
Amazing Mini Light
Everyone in the backpacking world has heard of Biolite stoves – the cool, wood burning stoves that not only boil water but also generate energy to recharge things like your cell phone. Now they’ve cracked the code on lighting with one of the coolest, multi-function lights I’ve ever seen. Yes, the PowerLight Mini functions really well as both a task light and emergency flasher, but it does a lot more. Clip it on your fly vest for a little extra light at dusk when you need to tie on a fly at night or clip it on your hat or pack in emergency flasher mode (both white or red) if you need to get found.
It even comes with a slick little mounting bracket to clip it onto your bike for night riding. But several other engineering tricks make this light unique.
First, the study clip-type fastener on the back can be used in multiple ways to clip the light on a pack or piece of clothing. It also rotates so the light can be freestanding. But what’s really cool is that it is so beautifully designed that when folded back to hold the light horizontally, you can clip it up inside the roof of your tent for perfect down lighting.
Finally, because the battery is rechargeable, the PowerLight Mini has a handy USB port built in so that if your phone is about to quit, you can plug it in and use the PowerLight Mini as an emergency power source. No one heading into the back country (or even commuting to work on public transportation) should be without one of these in his or her pack. The best insurance I’ve seen yet for always having power when you need it.
PowerLight Mini (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
We’ve all heard of the great Merino wool blends, which are revolutionizing the backpacking and running-sock market because they’re naturally anti-microbial and moisture wicking to keep your feet dry. Heck Merino wool is even fire resistant. So what’s so great about FITS? Well, these are the first socks that are designed specifically with the shape of your foot in mind. FITS have a dynamic toe cup, full-contact cuff and a heel lock that surrounds and supports your feet like nothing you’re ever worn. Run in a pair of these or try one of their hiking sock styles. Your feet will thank you.
FITS Socks (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
Affordable Mini Lighting
For those in search of budget lighting, check out the products from Nite Ize. They offer a full array of lighting gadgets and reflective wear. The Nite Ize mini flashlight performs as a flashlight, lantern and safety light and comes in a sturdy/lightweight package weighing a mere 2.7 ounces – perfect for throwing in the glove box of your truck or in a daypack.
The 80 lumen flashlight has both low and high modes – run time is 2 hours on high and 9-plus hours on low – and the red safety light has three settings, glow, blinking and SOS mode.
Simple, lightweight and it runs on a single AA battery.
Nite Ize Mini Flashlight (Photo courtesy of Todd Smith)
Super Sun Protection
You don’t need to be a bald guy to appreciate solid sun protection. The folks at Buff have written the book on how to keep your skin protected with a variety of head, neck and skin wear. Now they’ve added these ultra-light Buffs for summer in some wild new designs.
I wore one of these for four straight days on a trip to the Florida Keys and it saved me from getting scorched. And you can wear these in all kinds of ways to vary the type of coverage you want from full balaclava to pirate’s bandanna style. Soak one in cold water before you step out onto the flats for permit or bonefish.
Buff also is making complementary sleeves in tarpon-scale patterns to protect your hands and arms while still allowing you to wear a short-sleeve UV-protective shirt so you stay cool. Guys are even shoving ice cubes up the sleeves to stay extra cool on those days when it’s scorching outside. Mosquitoes a problem, buy a Buff with Insect Shield protection. Check out all the new sun-protective products at Buffusa.com.