By Laini Miranda & Dave E. Leiberman, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
We just returned home from two months living out of our converted Subaru while we traveled 8,300 miles around the country. We outfitted our Subaru Forester with a platform bed and two drawers underneath to maximize storage, which we designed and built ourselves, and brought along enough creature comforts so that we didn’t miss a thing while we were on the road or wild camping.
These sunglasses are probably the most important gear we own and the most noticeable improvement to this trip versus our previous desert adventures. Dave has enjoyed Warby Parkers in the past and both of us are usually very happy with our standard >$20 sunglasses. These Smith glasses, however, are game changers. I have the rose gold lenses, Dave the green/grey, and we both love how they don’t change the color of the world outside but just enhance it. The polarization is different from any other “polarized” glasses we’ve tried.
Outside almost all day everyday on this trip, we notice that the way the Smith Chromapop Sunglasses filter intense sun while balancing shadows and contrast throughout the day is nothing short of magic. They are also light enough that you don’t notice you’re wearing them all day. Dave even wore them inside a few times without realizing they were still on.
Good hiking shoes are everything. Laini initially bought these Keen Targhees for a 6-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu and has sworn by them for the past 11 years. The soles have just finally started to come loose a bit, but it wasn’t anything that some Shoe Goo (another recommendation) couldn’t fix. Dave has also owned his Merrels for many years and had a similar issue with his sole towards the end of our road trip. Both shoes provide so much comfort and support that we barely even notice our feet on 7+ mile hikes. We especially love these shoes for their Vibram soles that seem to let us scale pretty vertical slickrock boulders with zero slippage. They are also both waterproof, making them perfect for creek hikes (for deeper or more frequent waters we’d recommend an actual water shoe like Keen’s Newport style).
We bring multiple pairs of socks with us, but find ourselves washing these out overnight to reuse them since they’re the most comfortable, lightest weight socks we’ve tried. The merino wool lets you wear them for two or three days straight before you even need to wash them (we try to stick to no more than two). These work great for our low hiking shoes, but they also make them in mid-calf for boot styles.
This collapsible water bottle/bag is indispensable for us on our long hiking days. We fill up with our water pump, throw it in a backpack on our way out, and roll it up when we’re finished with it. The super durable handle is also useful for clipping to a backpack and the large threaded mouth is both pleasant to drink out of and compatible with most 42mm threaded filters. The BPA & PVC-free material can also be frozen or filled with hot water. Generally this 4L container plus two water bottles hydrates both of us for 6-7 mile hikes. On longer hikes we bring a water cube and stash it after a mile or so. They also sell a handy Plug-N-Play Cap Kit that can turn your Seeker into a solar shower or camp tap.
Made from 50% recycled plastic, this water bottle is super lightweight, has a great drinking spout, and doesn’t spill when closed tightly. It touts a “patented twist cap that provides an experience like drinking out of a glass”, and as someone who hates drinking out of Nalgenes, I can attest to that branding. It’s so lightweight and comfortable to carry with its durable and flexible handle, I usually prefer to hold it while hiking instead of clipping to my backpack.
These fans are indispensable in desert camping. We did a ton of research to find ones that were rechargeable, kept their charge throughout the night, and didn’t make too much noise. We prefer the convenient hook and fan/light combo of the $29.99 model and find that this is all we need for most nights in the tent, but the Karacel is a great second fan for extra hot nights in the tent or car.
Does just what the name suggests and makes a delicious cup of coffee. We also love that it’s the same height as a standard 16oz Propane tank and our mess kit so all three fit perfectly side by side in the front compartment of our car kitchen drawer.
This may not be the best mess kit out there, but for the price you really can’t beat it. We’ve used this for the past 3 years and love it. The food-grade anodized aluminum is super lightweight, compact, and everything nestles inside each other to fit in one small carrying case. On our road trip we only take with us the two pots, sponge, and spatula, and keep our mugs inside the pots.
Again, there are certainly better versions out there, but we love how lightweight and inexpensive these mugs are. They fit perfectly in the pot of our mess kit and can be clipped to our backpack if we’re on the move.
We shopped around a bit, but I ended up going with Wirecutter’s pick for best solar shower. With the hooks on each edge of the bag and some reusable zip ties, we strap this to our roof rack clear-side-up and by the time we reach our campsite the water is as hot as our home shower (sometimes after extra long summer drives we actually need to leave it in the shade for a bit to cool it off before using––the thermometer on the bag is really helpful for this scenario). The durable strap is made to hang from a tree, but we use it just as much from the roof of our car. In the backcountry of the desert when no one else is around for miles you don’t even need to worry about a privacy tent. Pull the nozzle down from the hose to open the valve, push it back up to close. Two of us can shower (one of us with long knotty hair), and we still have water left in the bag.
You might wonder where one goes to the bathroom when backcountry camping. If you must know, this portable toilet is actually excellent. The accordion wall design collapses to a mere 2 inches and fits in its own carrying bag when traveling. When we set up camp, we pop in the bottom circle which makes the accordion take its cylindrical form, place the seat over the top, and it can apparently hold up to 330 lbs. The seat is surprisingly comfortable for being so small, and it closes so tightly that you really can’t smell a thing when it’s latched. We use these compostable toilet bags (only for solid waste) and tie them to the roof rack until we get to a dump station. TMI? Sorry.
This is perhaps the best $15 we spent in our car living. We stick one of these in each shoe when we take it off and don’t even notice we have several pairs of sweaty sneakers and sandals in our car. These things may actually be magic.
Ok, so our secret to comfy camping is that we bring our big pillows from home because we generally prioritize our sleep, but a last minute thought to throw one of these in the car was great for our long driving days. We continue to keep this in the car since it compresses into such a compact log, and even becomes a nice lumbar support. In the future we may just bring two of these on longer road trips since they are actually quite comfortable––just make sure you give it enough time for the shredded foam filling to fully expand. The attached cover is so soft you don’t even need an extra pillow case.
This 1oz tube is a lifesaver for when you need a quick shoe repair on-the-go. Parts of both of our soles came loose at certain points with all the hiking we do between slickrock and loose dirt. We use this goo at night, hold it in place with some masking tape (painter’s tape, really), and the shoe is good to go the next morning.
We use these for so many things while camping we can’t leave them off the list. The 10” ties hold up to 50 lbs, and are sturdy enough to secure our solar panels and solar shower to our roof rack even while driving on major highways.
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
We just returned home from two months living out of our Subaru while we traveled around the country. Without much pre-planning, our route took us 8,300 miles from upstate New York through Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, The San Juan Islands, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and back home to New York.
We outfitted our Subaru Forester with a platform bed and two drawers underneath to maximize storage, which we designed and built ourselves, and brought along enough creature comforts so that we didn’t miss a thing while we were on the road or wild camping (other than friends and family, of course!).
Here’s a round-up of some of the things we learned we can’t live without, in no particular order:
We keep the Jackery Power Bank on the floor behind our front seats, plugged into the 12V cigarette lighter in the rear of the car. The Jackery powers our car fridge, cell phones, laptop and fans. The 2.4A in the USB outlet charges our phones so much faster than the car USB does, we’ve actually been keeping it in the car even when not on a road trip. While driving any substantial distance, the Jackery stays at a healthy 99% and rarely drops below 50% even overnight when not drawing power from the car. We use the 60W solar panels to top off the Jackery on days we aren’t driving.
Our car fridge sits next to the Jackery on the floor behind the driver’s seat and stays plugged into the 12V plug on the Jackery at all times. We keep the fridge on “Eco” mode, which fluctuates between about 38 and 44 degrees. We opted for the C9 because that was as much space as we could dedicate in our Subaru and it worked well for us, but I definitely see the benefits of the larger C20 model with the raised lid if you have the extra room. Most days our Alpicool stored: 1L milk, 1 block of cheese, turkey, 4 or 5 string cheeses, jam, hot sauce, and 3 beers, with a little room to stuff random things on top if needed. This refrigerator is miraculously quiet. We almost never notice it while driving, and even when sleeping in the car, the compressor isn’t loud enough to be heard over our earplugs, even with it located just below our heads. The great thing about keeping the Alpicool behind the driver’s seat is that the passenger can easily access its contents with the lid on top. We love never having to deal with melted ice as we used to with our cooler, and find that this size fits enough for a week in the desert.
This is a cleverly designed, high quality solar “briefcase” that we use to top up our Jackery when not driving. The 20-25 watts we get with full sun keeps our Jackery from depleting even when powering our Alipicool fridge throughout the day and night. It’s easy to position it for optimal sun exposure on top of or beside the car, especially with the two kickstands attached to the back. It then folds up into a slim briefcase we can quickly slide into any free gaps in our car.
This 4-inch foam mattress is what kept us on the road for 7 weeks and has us wanting to go right back out. The tri-fold feature of this mattress allows us to keep it semi-folded when not in use, and easily move it between the car and our tent to make every night as comfortable as sleeping in our bed at home. The twin is 75 x 39” and perfect for two small adults. We purchased this for $89.99, but it does seem to fluctuate on Amazon so we recommend grabbing it whenever you see a good deal, even if you’re not car camping anytime soon! We plan to use this in place of an air mattress whenever we need an extra guest bed.
This is an integral part of our kitchen and bathroom setup. We cut a hole in our pull-out wood counter exactly the size of this sink, pop it in, and immediately have a basin for washing dishes, brushing teeth, doing laundry, and everything in between. It has a push drain to release water when ready, and collapses down to a perfect sized cutting board. At just over an inch collapsed, it’s easy to store anywhere. It does drip a bit with the drain plugged, but since we only use it outside that doesn’t really bother us. We now can’t imagine ever camping without this.
Did you think you can’t have running water in your car?? We bought a longer silicon tube for this pump, inserted it into our 7 gallon water container and have water on demand. We use this baby constantly–filling up our water bottles while driving or before hikes, making food, washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc., and we only had to charge it ONCE in our 7 weeks on the road. While these water pumps are generally made to be used on top of a water cooler jug, we fashioned a bottom for it with inspiration from a YouTube video by Todd Parker: cut a notch in a roll of electrical tape, stuff that inside the base, add adhesive neodymium rare earth magnets to the bottom, affix a metal plate to the surface you want to hold the pump, and you have a beautiful faucet with running water! We most often use this pump either from the front seat to fill up water bottles during long drives, or affixed to the metal plate next to our pop-in sink in the back of the car for cooking or washing up. We bought this 25-ft braided sleeve so we can move the long hose back and forth without the silicon tube collecting dust and grime, also a brilliant Todd Parker recommendation. (Note: we do not personally know Todd Parker.)
This is a simple product that lets us turn our car windows into screens. On the nights we opt to sleep in the car instead of setting up our tent, we put one of these window sleeves on each door, open the window, and voila, great airflow without the mosquitoes. We also leave one of these on the rear window above the refrigerator during the PNW heat wave to reduce the heat in the car, but we don’t recommend them on any other windows while driving since they also reduce visibility (an added plus for when you have to sleep in the Cracker Barrel parking lot).
Sun Shades are a must when leaving the car in the desert sun. We tried two different kinds and like these the best. It takes about 10 seconds to stuff these two rounded rectangular pieces into our windshield and just as long to collapse them back into a small circle that fits in the car door pocket. We use ours so frequently we just keep it in the slot between the seat and the door.
This tent is brilliant. Its color-coded poles and ingenious architecture enables us to pitch it in under 2 minutes. Usually one of us pitches the tent while the other starts the fire or preps food. The upper portion of the tent is full mesh, which allows for optimal air flow and viewing of the Milky Way. In the desert we tend to not need the fly, but for the few days of torrential downpours and strong winds we encounter in the Colorado mountains, when we are thrilled at the durability and protectiveness of the fly and footprint. We used to use the 2 Plus model, but the 3 Plus is extra luxurious and easily fits our 4” tri-fold foam mattress plus plenty of room to hang out on rainy nights (Note: the 2 Plus would also fit the twin 4” tri-fold). We also love the location and quantity of pockets and hanging loops for all our tent gear.
We use this blanket daily, whether it’s the rug by our tent (the 2P is the exact length of our REI Half-dome 3), or a blanket on a pebbly beach. The fabric side is extremely soft and delightful to lay on, while the under-side is waterproof and more durable. Though it is thick enough to keep us comfortable even on a lava rock ground in Craters of the Moon, it is light enough that I barely notice carrying it on a 2 mile hike to Third Beach in Olympic National Park. It even dried remarkably fast after 2 straight days of torrential downpours in Colorado. One of us remarks almost every day about how much we love this blanket.
This brand has nailed the compact solar light game. We highly recommend their Luci Solar String Lights and the Luci Lux Inflatable Lantern. Both give off warm light and offer 3 different brightness settings, as well as a battery level indicator. The string lights are long enough to provide light to our tent between a couple trees, and the Luci Lux (which flattens to less than an inch) is the only lantern we now use while camping. The attached strap lets us easily hang it from the opened hatch of our Subaru or the tent ceiling. The lowest setting, warm light, and frosted/matte finish also makes for a perfect pillow-side lamp.
The gift of travel is the gift of together, of time, of memory, of life-changing, life-enhancing experience, of new perspectives and new awareness – of self, of others, of our place in the world and time itself. It is the gift that keeps giving.
Travel destinations and providers get into the holiday
spirit with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and special deals and make it easy to
package The Gift of Travel.
Hotels in national parks are in such high demand they rarely offer discounts…but they do during Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Xanterra Travel Collection’s annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale features up to 40 percent off hotels in Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Zion and Yellowstone. Also on sale: tickets on the historic Grand Canyon Railway, luxury hotels (The Broadmoor and Sea Island), Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling Vacations and Country Walkers. Details: www.xanterra.com/Thankful.
Whole countries are on sale: Ireland is promoting special offers of its
partners including Great Value Vacations, The Irish
Tourism Group, Brendan Vacations, CIE Tours, Railtours IIreland, Tenon Tours,
Authentic Vacations and Insight.
More than 20 hotels, resorts and villas in Saint Lucia are offering significant Cyber Monday booking specials (up to 60% off!) on luxury resorts, family-friendly accommodations, private villas, hotels overlooking the iconic Piton mountains, beachfront accommodations, and more. Most of these limited-time specials are available for booking starting on Cyber Monday and several are offering these deals to “early birds” who wish to book before then. (www.stlucia.org/specials/cyber-monday-specials for details)
Perillo Tours and resorts like Woodstock Inn & Resort in Vermont, as well as chains like Hilton all have special timely offers.
Even themeparks like LegoLand California Resort is discounting its various pass offerings starting at 12 a.m. Friday, Nov. 29 through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, exclusively through its website.
Basically, anything that
you have been thinking about, fantasizing about, anything on your bucket list,
check out the company’s website to see whether there are holiday specials.
Many tour operators, including Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold and other sister companies of The Travel Corporation (ttc.com) are offering enticing discounts for early bookings and many travel entities – hotels and resorts, cruiselines, tour companies, spas (Spafinder), ski resorts (think about gifting ski passes like EpicPass, Ikon Pass or Liftopia) and cruiselines (cruisecompete.com is a good source) – have gift card programs and are offering special discounts for the holidays.. Some have gift registries where multiple gift-givers can contribute.
Liftopia’s annual Cyber Monday sale begins Nov. 26 at 5 pm PT through Dec. 3 at 9 pm PT. Give the gift of ski this holiday, or simply use this opportunity to snag the best deals of the season by purchasing lift tickets online and in advance. Purchase a Liftopia Gift Card and get a bonus credit up to 25% (spend $100-$199, get a $15 bonus gift card; spend $200-$299, get a $40 bonus gift card; spend $300 or more, get a $75 bonus gift card). Purchase at www.liftopia.com.
Many of the grandest Historic Hotels of America members, each one distinct with deep connections to place, offer gift cards – like Wentworth by the Sea, NH; Omni Grove Park Inn, Mission Inn & Spa (the list goes on and on) – just inquire. To see members, visit historichotels.org and its European counterpart, Historic Hotels of Europe, www.historichotelsofeurope.com.
Sebasco, a fabulous
resort on the mid-Maine coast that manages to be rustic and luxurious at the
same time is offering a deal where if you purchase a$150 Sebasco Gift Card by December 13, you get a $25
gift card for free or for a $500
gift card, a $100 bonus gift card free (sebasco.com, 877-636-0085).
These are just examples. The key here is that if there is a destination, a cruise, a resort you want to “gift” to your loved one, just ask if a program is available. Check expiration dates and how the gift card can be used.
Trips That Make a Difference
Often, just showing up is a way of sustaining, revitalizing communities with tourism supplanting obsolete extractive and exploitative economic pursuits. Many travel programs and tour companies are now designed to sustain the environment and heritage of local communities, hire locally, donate a portion of the tour costs to benefit local communities (building schools, creating water projects) and even are organized around opportunities for travelers to participate in local life or projects.
Pure Adventures (pure-adventures.com), a boutique biking and hiking tour operator offering private, custom, independent and guided travel in Europe, Asia, South and North America, as a member of the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund, contributes a portion of the trip fee to support conservation efforts around the world. (Check out this year’s projects)
Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), which is part
of Boston-based Grand Circle Corporation’s family of travel companies, supports
the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation established in 1992 by owners Alan and
Harriet Lewis to support communities in which Grand Circle works and travels,
including some 300 humanitarian, cultural, and educational endeavors worldwide,
among them, 100 schools in 50 countries. The Foundation is an entity of
the Lewis Family Foundation, which has pledged or donated more than $169 million
since 1981 (www.oattravel.com).
Off Season Adventures (offseasonadventures.com, 619-971-0823), a Hoboken-NJ based tour company which is specifically organized to support local communities.
There is a whole category of “sustainable travel” companies and projects that not only structure their travel programs with social responsibility in mind, but leverage the power of travel and tourism to improve the lives of people and their environment. Many are represented by Center for Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.org), Global Sustainable Tourism Council (gstcouncil.org), Earthcheck (earthcheck.org), the Rainforest Alliance (www.rainforest-alliance.org) and Sustainable Travel International (sustainabletravel.org).
The very act of traveling benefits communities by spurring an
economy that sustains culture, heritage, the environment, community, and forges
a mutual understanding that can translate into foreign policy.
But for those who want to go even beyond to improve conditions
for people, there is a category of travel, Voluntourism, that
organizes travel to a destination to volunteer for good purpose – whether it is
participating in scientific research, working to save a species from extinction
or save the planet, or helping disadvantaged communities, or rebuilding after
some disaster, as in Puerto Rico.
launched philanthropic-focused itineraries in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa to
give guests a first-hand look at its core ethos of caring for
the land, wildlife, and people. The activities range from
adopting an elephant at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya to
participating in local school conservation lessons in Tanzania to visiting the
Grootbos Green Futures College in Cape Town, an organization that provides
educational training to unemployed young adults in the city (www.andBeyond.com)
Earthwatch Expeditions enable you to join
scientists in the field as they research urgent environmental issues, in places
that would otherwise be closed to visitors. Expeditions address wildlife and
ecosystems, climate change, archaeology and culture, and ocean health, for example,
researching lions and their prey in Kenya, rewilding the Scottish Highlands and
studying orcas in Iceland. (800-776-0188, 978-461-0081, www.earthwatch.org),
Sierra Club arranges around 90 affordable volunteer trips each
year through its Sierra Club Volunteer Vacations to engage in
hands-on conservation work like building and maintaining trails, removing
invasive plants and assisting on archaeological digs. For example: park
maintenance in Hells Canyon, Idaho (with transportation by jet-boat up the
Snake River Canyon), forestry service at the New York Botanical Garden (a
50-acre urban old-growth forest) and native-bird habitat restoration on the Big
Island of Hawaii (with hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). (https://content.sierraclub.org/outings/volunteer-vacations)
Adventure Life incorporates voluntourism
into some of its trips. For example, on its trip to Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano,
travelers lend a hand with reforestation efforts, painting interpretive signs
and performing trail maintenance; a trip to Costa Rica’s Pacuare Reserve for
whitewater rafting also includes two nights with biologists for research at an
important nesting ground for leatherback turtles; a cruise to the Antarctic
Peninsula enables travelers to take part in citizen science projects aboard the
Village Experience expanded upon its
fair-trade retail shop (which supports local craftsmen) to create an ambitious
program that brings travelers into their villages, creating another stream of
But don’t expect that because you are volunteering your services
the trips are cheap, sometimes you pay for the privilege of doing good and your
fees help support the mission.
On the other hand, during the holiday season, many of the operators
offer substantial discounts for early bookings.
For example, Lindblad
Expeditions-National Geographic has a new Alaska Family Offer,
where with discounts for up to two children 22 and under traveling with two
full paying adults on select 2020 Alaska departures: save 50% departing in May
and August and save 25% departing in June and July. Also, there is Free Air for Adults from Seattle to
Alaska for booking select 2020 Alaska departures by Dec. 31, 2019. .
There is a whole category of experiential trips that not only
enrich and inspire and make the world a better place, but support important
institutions like National Geographic, the Smithsonian (which also offer
student and family programs); Outward Bound, Road Scholar, Sierra Club (sierraclub.org), just a few examples.
Through the National Geographic Global Explorers Program, kids and teens learn to develop the skills and curiosity of an explorer while working alongside our certified field instructors -observing the behavior of blue-footed boobies, painting watercolors using glacier ice, or filling a field journal with wildlife sketches of all kinds (www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions). Traveling with National Geographic helps further the work of its scientists, explorers, and educators around the world (natgeo.com/giveback).
wedded to the idea of a material gift? There are umptium possibilities for the
travel-bound, especially where some special-interest or activity that requires
special gear or equipment is involved like skiing, biking, hiking, scuba diving
or safariing is involved.
You can purchase some needed gear while also supporting the cause. For example, go to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s trail shop for all-new Great American Rail-Trail jerseys, gift memberships and trail guidebooks and help realize the dream of an a nation connected by rail trails (railstotrails.org).
are big on the list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key
criteria. Some of the new smaller, mirrorless cameras have as much functionality
as the larger digital SLR and use interchangeable lenses but tend to be fairly
costly (in the $1000 range). What I look
for when purchasing a camera for travel: decent digital zoom, ISO range, image
stabilization, video capability, battery life, how fast the camera focuses and
shoots and WiFi capability.
For something like a safari, you would need a good DSLR with great lenses to cover the various focal lengths, but for, say, a biking or hiking trip, that is, what can I wear around my neck, shoot with one hand while riding a bicycle that gives excellent quality images, image stabilization, decent zoom lens, auto focus, is fast and responsive on/off/shoot, and is reasonably priced. I have found the Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS70 to be ideal for this kind of travel (offered at $100 off, $298, at B&H), Panasonic Lumix DMC AZ100 (now on sale at B&H; B&H consistently has best inventory, prices, and holiday specials, plus excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800.606.6969, 212.444.6615).
experts at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo also recommended: Canon PowerShot G1 X
Mark III (24.2 megapixel; 3x zoom, 24-072mm, ISO 100-25600); Canon PowerShot G5
X Mark II (20.1 megapixel, 5x zoom,
24-120mm f 1.8 lens, Canon PowerShot G1X Mark III (24.2 megapixel, 3x zoom,
24-72 mm); Nikon Z 50,s Nikon’s first DX-format mirrorless camera.
20.9 megapixels, ISO 100-51200, which uses interchangeable lenses; Olympus OM-D
E-M5 Mark III features dustproof, splashproof, freezeproof construction in a
compact and lightweight body.
and GoPro-style cameras are also great gifts, as well as new accessories (like
attachable lenses) that enhance the excellent photo capability of smartphones
to give them more of the functionality of a camera.
getting your traveler a waterproof camera for those adventures into the
rainforest, snorkeling, whitewater rafting and such.
Gift giving can support important institutions at the same time. Many of the great museums and institutions of the world offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their endeavor by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials): the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), the American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org), the Art Institute of Chicago (855-301-9612), Smithsonian (Smithsonianmag.com). The Nassau County Museum of Art and New-York Historical Society usually have special items oriented around major exhibitions (www.nyhistory.org), to list just a few.
and aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for
kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has
eco-friendly items. There are also Adopt-an-Animal programs. The Bronx Zoo has
similar programs and an online store (www.bronxzoostore.com). And you don’t have to
visit the Kennedy Space Center, to get space-related items (www.thespaceshop.com),
though visiting offers incomparable experiences. You might also consider
gifting special experiences, like Zookeeper for a Day or an Overnight Campout
at a Museum.
Another gift idea is to purchase family memberships in these entities, which gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits. Just call or go online to your favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction. Often the memberships give you broad access like the Smithsonian Institution, Sierra Club (they produce a catalog of trips), National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org)and its sister organization Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.org), Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Parks & Trail NY, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
Darn Tough: Made in
America socks for just about every purpose, that comes with a lifetime
guarantee and the benefits of Marino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away
moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm). Socks tailored to hiking, running,
endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Founded by Ric Cabot in
2004, a third-generation sock maker, the company operates out of Cabot Hosiery
Mills, in the Sock Capital of the World, Northfield, Vermont. Colorful, a great
stocking stuffer. (www.darntough.com).
Lowa Boots, a
Connecticut based company that is in partnership with a German company founded
in 1923, is famous for four-season specialized outdoor footwear for hiking,
backpacking, mountaineering and walking, as well as everyday use. Available at
Paragon, REI, Zappos and 450 independent specialty stores as well as online (www.lowaboots.com).
Ecco Outdoors creates
ergonomic footwear that have their own version of natural motion, unique to
each foot. The shoes are produced in factories in China, Vietnam, Indonesia,
Thailand, and Portugal and sold in 90 countries from over 2,200 ECCO shops and
more than 14,000 sales points. (www.eccousa.com).
For the hardcore adventurer, consider the Bivystick, a recently launched two-way satellite
communication device that works with your smartphone with a flexible data plan,
and offers the benefits of a GPS unit and satellite two-way communicator to
send messages, track/share location information, access GPS maps, get updated
forecasts an d notify EMS in the event of an emergency when otherwise off the
grid. The company also produces Bivy, a software application that identifies
the details, location and full path of tens of thousands of trails, waterways
and climbing routes. (www.bivy.com).
Holiday shopping for anyone on your list who travels presents infinite possibilities. Travel is as specific and specialized as the traveler, with all sorts of gear to add to the success and sheer enjoyment of any trip. Here are just a few suggestions.
Darn Tough: Made in America socks for just about every purpose, that comes with a lifetime guarantee and the benefits of Marino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm). Socks tailored to hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Founded by Ric Cabot in 2004, a third-generation sock maker, the company operates out of Cabot Hosiery Mills, in the Sock Capital of the World, Northfield, Vermont. Colorful, a great stocking stuffer. (www.darntough.com).
OluKai brings the spirit and style of the Hawaiian Islands to premium footwear, ideal for travel. Olukai was named the best travel shoe by several publications, with a drop-in heel, and styles that go from daytime to nighttime, to be worn with jeans or shorts or a dress. Pehuea walking shoes are a breathable mesh, slip-on, with a signature drop-in heel (TSA easy). New for spring, a laced Penueali, like a sneaker, is also breathable mesh but laces give it a more structured feel. Peluealau is a leather shoe with a micro-fiber foothold, so you can wear it without socks. The shoes are designed for great support, inspired by “wet sand technology” – they will cup the heel, support the arch and allow the toe to splay out naturally, as if you were walking on a beach in Hawaii. Each style is handcrafted. The shoes are anatomically designed and last forever. “It’s an investment.” Retailed through REI, Nordstrom, Paragon, in 2014, the brand formed the Ama Olukai Foundation, a nonprofit that works to preserve the Hawaii culture. The company is B-Corp-certified, meaning that they meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance and accountability. Gift cards available. (www.olukai.com)
Lowa Boots, a Connecticut based company that is in partnership with a German company founded in 1923, is famous for four-season specialized outdoor footwear for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and walking, as well as everyday use. The backpack boots are made in Germany; mountaineering in Italy; lighter weight boot in Slovakia. They are made with care – direct-attach polyurethane midsole, one for shock absorption and comfort, one for stability; invisible foot technology with Gortex; a backpack boot with lacing and rivets under tab so it flexes for mobility. “Everything for different level of outdoor fit, comfort and performance.” Prices are $150 and up, averaging $200-250; available at Paragon, REI, Zappos and 450 independent specialty stores as well as online (www.lowaboots.com).
Altra produces 30 different styles of running shoes, for roads, trails, track, gym and everyday use. Altra’s latest release includes four new styles of its popular Lone Peak trail shoe in mid-height and waterproof versions (www.AltraRunning.com).
Arcteryx, a global design and manufacturing company based at the foot of the Coast Mountain Range in North Vancouver, Canada, specializes in technical high performance outwear and equipment (tested for the rigorous conditions right outside its door). “Sleek, technical outerwear with urban appeal.” The company is famous for its Cerium jacket, with a Gortex shell that is “super technical” and intricately made. Available at Paragon, REI, at its own New York store, and online, through Backcountry.com, Moosejaw.com, and www.arcteryx.com.
DUER, based in Vancouver, creates apparel ideal for travel by fusing performance and style, fashion, function comfort and versatility. Jeans are designed as a hybrid across active lifestyles – five times more stretch and 30% lighter and stronger than traditional denim. “You can take a plane ride, wear to dinner; anti-microbial, you can wear every day.” The brand has now expanded to men’s and women’s pants, jeans, and shirts, all with proprietary fabrics that offer power stretch, moisture-wicking, breathability and durability, with the look and feel of premium streetwear. The company is debuting its Weatherproof Denim and fleece-lined denim for men, as well as denim and pants to launch its DUER Women’s collection (www.shopduer.com).
Machines for Freedom, launched in 2014 out of Jean Kriske’s living room, is one of the first and only high-performance cycling apparel brand focusing exclusively on women, with a combination of athleticism and feminine aesthetic. The company is now partnering with Specialized. Gift cards available. (www.machinesforfreedom.com).
The newest craze in biking are e-bikes, even for mountain biking. Specialized is responding with a selection of e-bikes that start at $2100 (www.specialized.com).
Priority Bicycles aims to make cycling simple for everyday riders. The company designs and manufactures bicycles that are free of routine maintenance. Founded in 2014 with money raised on Kickstarter, the company now offers 10 models of low-maintenance, belt drive bicycles, and is now introducing a low-maintenance e-bike, the Embark (powered by an industry-leading, latest generation Bosch motor, an enviolo Trekking CVT hub, and a Gates Carbon Drive Belt – a signature feature of all Priority Bicycles’ models. The Class 1 Priority Embark can smoothly propel the rider up to 20-miles-per-hour with over a 50-mile range on a single charge. $3999) and a stylish Stack Folding helmet, priced at $80, that is light and breathable, ideal for packing (in a backpack, briefcase, tote, great for bike or scooter share riders or when taking a plane to a bike tour (available under Priority’s 174Hudson brand, in time for shipping before Xmas. (prioritybicycles.com).
Smith Optics, rooted in Sun Valley, Idaho, produces high-fashion and active sunglass styles featuring their proprietary ChromaPop technology. The company was founded in 1965 with the invention of the first snow goggles with a sealed thermal lens and breathable vent foam. It has grown into an industry leader that pioneered advancements in eyewear and helmets (www.smithoptics.com).
Hydro Flask is a leader in high-performance insulated products, ranging from beverages and food flasks to soft-good carriers (ideal for camping, hiking, picnicking, roadtrips, commuting or just going to the gym) – “inspiring an active, joyful lifestyle.” Its products incorporate TempShield double-wall vacuum insulation that locks in temperature for 24 hours – durable, nonporous, stainless steel, with no flavor leaching. “We started with an outside mind set.” But a collection was designed with urbanites in mind. The soft goods – cooler pack and totes – are anti-microbial (no odor). Available on Amazon, REI and at www.hydroflask.com.
IFit Nourish is a spinoff from NordicTrack training machines. Nourish is a personalized protein powder made with all-natural ingredients, tailored to each individual, based on responses to a questionnaire which asks their goals (weight loss, recovery after injury, muscle, weight loss, athletic performance). The 20 questions ask about weight, gender, goals, how much sunlight you get, whether the drink will replace a meal or supplement, affecting the calorie count (a serving averages 130 calories), with a vanilla or chocolate flavor, easily prepared as a shake (you can also bake with it). “It has lower carbs, higher protein than Ensure. It’s tailored for you – with vitamins and minerals. We don’t hyperdose – we give the right amount of vitamins and minerals. We are passionate about being safe.” It costs $79 a month for 30 servings (that’s about $2.50 a serving), and you can change your “goal” each month which will alter the composition. (www.iconfitness.com).
Ecco Outdoors creates ergonomic footwear that have their own version of natural motion, unique to each foot. The company owns its own tanneries and produces innovative leathers for performance, lifestyle and fashion brands, combining form and function, craftsmanship and technology. Developed by ECCO over three decades, FLUIDFORM™ is a technology to create ergonomically advanced soles. By injecting a resilient, shock-absorbent material directly into the shoe mould, the sole is bonded to the upper instantly and seamlessly, without the compromises common with glued or stitched assemblies. The result is a reliable and durable union between the upper and the sole unit, which offers a finely-tuned balance of cushioning and rebound. The shoes are produced in factories in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Portugal and sold in 90 countries from over 2,200 ECCO shops and more than 14,000 sales points. (www.eccousa.com).
Kuju is premium coffee you travel with – designed to be exceptionally easy. All you need is hot water – it has its own packet, filter in a single-serving. Kuju Coffee. The Pocket PourOver is pre-filled with specialty-grade coffee so you can make a really good cup of coffee from anywhere (small kitchen, while traveling, in the office, when you’re the only one who wants a cup, etc.) There are currently two collections – an Ethically Sourced collection with light, medium and dark roast coffees sourced from a farm that employs former victims of sex-trafficking as well as a Premium Single Origin collection with coffees from Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. (kujucoffee.com)
For the hardcore adventurer, consider the Bivystick, a recently launched two-way satellite communication device that works with your smartphone with a flexible data plan, and offers the benefits of a GPS unit and satellite two-way communicator to send messages, track/share location information, access GPS maps, get updated forecasts and notify EMS in the event of an emergency when otherwise off the grid. The company also produces Bivy, a software application that identifies the details, location and full path of tens of thousands of trails, waterways and climbing routes. (www.bivy.com).
Fowndry produces a Matador DayLite16 Weatherproof Packable Backpack ($64), designed for the toughest weather conditions, summer or winter. The lightweight and waterproof backpack comes with a compact storage bag which shrinks down to the size of a pair of socks but offers 16 liters of capacity (www.thefowndry.com/products/matador-daylite-16l-backpack)
The Foldable Solar Panel ($49.99): Whether you’re hiking, camping or travelling, this portable solar charger is ideal for those tech enthusiasts who also love the outdoors. To send a surge of energy to all your gadgets and gizmos, you simply open it up and place in direct sunlight for optimum charging potential. Shower-proof and lightweight, for both IOS and Android devices so you can stay connected. (Available online from Amazon).
Cameras are big on the list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key criteria. Some of the new smaller cameras have almost as much functionality as the larger digital SLR, but are compact, light, easily carried and in most cases even have quality video. (For really important trips where photography is a big element, like a safari or expedition, you will still want to have the best quality DSLR as well as a smaller, versatile point-and-shoot.) Look for a wide-range digital zoom, ISO range, image stabilization, video capability, battery life, how fast the camera focuses and shoots and WiFi capability).
After consulting with experts at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo, I have a list of cameras for when I don’t want to pack my DSLR that fulfill my criteria – that is, what is small enough, light enough to wear around my neck when biking, shoot with one hand while riding, that gives excellent quality images, image stabilization, decent zoom lens, auto focus, is fast and responsive on/off/shoot, and is reasonably priced. Here’s my list: Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS100 (which I use), Panasonic Lumix DMC AZ200, Canon G9X, Canon G7X, Sony RX100V.
Drones and GoPro-style cameras are also popular for travelers, as well as new accessories that enhance the photo capability of smartphones.
Consider getting your traveler a waterproof camera for those adventures into the rainforest, snorkeling, whitewater rafting and such; or specialized cameras or lenses for the astrophotographer, the astronomer, the birder, the survivalist, the underwater photographer, the adrenalin junkie.
Take advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday savings deals at major camera stores and online sellers like B&H, www.bandh.com, 212-465-4018, 877-865-9088 and Adorama, www.adorama.com, 800-223-2500.