Tag Archives: travel gear

Gearing Up for Summer Travel

Hiking in Death Valley National Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whether you are adventuring or beach going, cycling or sightseeing, travelers need gear that is flexible, light, durable, portable, packable and as much as possible, versatile and multi-purpose. The right gear can make such a difference in a safe, memorable travel experience.

Here are some that have come to my attention, some of which I was able to sample:

Travel in Comfort

Coalatree’s Trailhead Pants ($99, Affiliated with ShareASale/SkimlinksImpactAvantLinkAmazon). I really liked Coalatree’s waterproof, tear-resistant and antimicrobial Trailhead Pants.  Versatile and flattering, you can wear them whether you are hiking, exploring the city, or on the plane. Coalatree strives to use sustainable materials throughout the production process – even recycled coffee grounds.

Core Tee by Forme ($178, ShareASale/Skimlinks) Avoid neck and back pain from slumping over in those low-quality seats in Economy. The eco-friendly made Core Tee by Forme® is an FDA-registered patented posture activewear thatimproves your alignment and effectively rehabs neck, back, and shoulder pain commonly associated with poor posture and spinal disorders. Made from eco-friendly Tencel fabric, the Core Tee is constructed of different materials and thin layers that are stitched together. The Forme tech inner layer is fused across the shoulder blades, creating an elastic-band sensation.When you put the Core tee on, the fused section wants to remain tight no matter how broad you are across the shoulders. This makes your shoulders pull back to their natural position, teaching your body and diaphragm to open.

CEO Active  (Racer Back Top: $30, Flare Legging: $45): If you are looking for a travel day outfit that is more trendy and comfy, check out CEO Active’s Artemis Set which combines functionality and style. The Artemis Flare Legging in green is a tribute to the goddess of the hunt and wild nature.

COR Surf – Huakai Travel Jacket ($99.99):I always travel with an extra layer and COR Surf, maker of outdoor gear and accessories, has designed a jacket that is comfortable, functional, great in almost any weather condition and very packable in my backpack.  It is constructed with lightweight, 10K, PFC-free DWR water-resistant microstretch fabric that gives you freedom of movement and comfort; great for layering in cold and warm weather; has hidden pockets on the sleeve for credit cards; has a large hidden pocket on the back for passport or money (this pocket is velcro so that it will be louder and harder to access for a pick-pocket); two inside chest pockets that are designed to fit a cell phone; and exterior chest pocket that easily holds a large cell phone with a water-resistant zipper. It also comes with a carrying pouch.

NEW Ankle Guard Socks by Forme ($35, ShareASale/Skimlinks)  Reduce strain, tension, and pressure on your ankle joints from long flights with the new Ankle Guard Socks by Forme®. These patent-pending high socks just launched on January 12th and are made with biofeedback technology designed to align and stabilize the ankle and foot muscles for reduced pain and inflammation.

Protalus – Green T-100 Elite ($64.95/pair, Amazon): Protalus insoles are designed to promote proper whole-body alignment when traveling for long periods of time. The T-100 Elite is constructed with patented rebound foam & patented alignment technology. This insole provides superior relief by allowing your body to distribute pressure properly by keeping your ankle aligned and in a safe range of motion.

TheraICE *NEW* Sleep Mask + Cooling Gel ($29.95,Amazon): Great for the plane ride, block out sunlight and overhead reading lights with TheraICE’s new Sleep Mask with a 3D bucket blindfold design. It is made to provide both cooling relief and comforting warmth and weighted to provide a gentle, soothing pressure that aids in faster sleep induction and better sleep quality. Made with premium materials, it provides a plush, soft rest for your eyes, ensuring maximum comfort throughout your rest period.

Hiking, Camping, Outdoors

Deckers X Lab’s ENDURO MAX ($199-$249,  Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): Deckers X Lab’s ENDURO MAX is engineered for speed, comfort and fluidity on the trail. Featuring a V-shaped carbon plate, a Vibram® Litebase outsole, ​ a nitro-infused shell, and a heel-to-toe rocker, the ENDURO MAX offers durability and agility to excel on rugged terrain and light enough to turn a hike into a trail run.

Nocs Provisions Standard Issue Binoculars ($95, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): Nocs Provision’s Standard Issue 8×25 Waterproof Binoculars offers 8x magnification a completely waterproof seal and compact design for easy and lightweight transport. The high-impact rubber grip and the fog-proof, nitrogen-filled internal chambers are optimal for when the weather turns and it’s time to eye alternative routes.

Knog Bilby 400 Headlamp ($64.95, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink) is designed from for serious outdoor adventure and is powerfully bright, tough, and intuitive, casting a powerful beam up to 100 meters and a boost mode.

Mission Workshop Speedwell ($335, Avantlink / Skimlinks / ViglinkThe fully weatherproof Mission Workshop Speedwell is a versatile backpack utilizes the same breathable floating harness system used on the MW hydration packs to provide generous airflow, stability and comfort in the most adverse conditions and features the ASP pocket system for efficient storage and ease of use.


ARTILECT Sprint Tee ($85, ARTILECT) is made with Nuyarn 115gsm Speed-Lite, one of the world’s lightest-weight merino fabrics. This fabric features superfine 18-micron merino wool with a high-performance nylon filament carrier for performance and comfort. With reflective tape embedded in the side seams, the Sprint offers a level of safety for early morning and evening workouts.

Odlo -X-Alp Performance Wool 115 trail running t-shirt – Men’s and Women’s ($75): Natural performance made for the mountains. Lighter, stronger and faster drying than traditional merino, the ODLO X-Alp Performance Wool 115 trail running t-shirt is a modern, high performance merino that’s unlike any other. Crafted from Performance Wool powered by Nuyarn® – a wool blend that closely mimics wool’s natural performance characteristics – this tee is naturally temperature regulating (keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool) and naturally antimicrobial (which cuts down on scents). Sourced from non-mulesed merino wool, the fabric dries 5 times faster, perfect on long runs in the mountains. Features a stylish micro-stripe.

ORNOT Men’s Merino Tech Shirt ($72, Avantlink / Skimlinks / Viglink): A mix of Australian RWS-certified Merino Wool and provides a soft hand that keeps you cool while drying quickly. The contoured back panel for coverage while in a riding position. Superior temperature regulation and odor control. Stretchy and soft against the skin. Made in California using renewable fibers and Certified with the Responsible Wool Standard, pre-shrunk, 42.5% 19 Micron Merino Wool 42.5% Tencel 10% Nylon 5% Elastane.

Black Diamond – Women’s Rhythm T-Shirt ($90): Built for freedom and mobility, the Rhythm tee features Nuyarn merino wool technology making it significantly lighter than other wool shirts, while increasing performance, dries five times faster than standard merino, while providing 35% more stretch. Certified non-mulesed Australian Merino Wool. Machine washable. Slim. 95g.

KUIU -Active Merino 105 SS Crew-T ($69): This high-performance active tee leverages Nuyarn® Merino Wool for unmatched stretch, rapid recovery, fast wicking, quick drying, and odor resistance. Reflective print logo. Raglan sleeve for unrestricted mobility and comfort. Flat-lock sleeves for no chaffing. Nuyarn Merino Wool (55% merino wool / 35 % Polyester / 10% Nylon).

Trew – Men’s Lightweight Nuyarn Merino Basic T ($69): Nuyarn enhances the natural benefits of merino by innovating the construction of the yarn, allowing Trew to build garments that are stronger, lighter, warmer, stretchier and quicker to dry.120 gsm Nuyarn Merino Wool. 70% merino wool / 30% nylon (core filament). 100% certified non-mulesed wool. Open range sheep shorn annually. Spun in Bluesign and Oeko-tek 100 certified facilities.

Socks are really important no matter what kind of travel pursuit you pursue – hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Our favorites: Bombas (https://bombas.com/) and Darn Tough (www.darntough.com).


Hiking Shades from adidas Sport eyewear: No hiking outfit is complete without a pair of performance sunglasses. offers Engineered to withstand the rigors of the trail, adidas Sport eyewear offer durability and protection against the elements. The sleek design ensures a comfortable fit, while the high-performance lenses provide exceptional clarity, so you can see with enhanced contrast and vividness:

adidas Sport ACTV SP0083 ($65.38, Eyeons): The adidas Sport ACTV SP0083 is a squared injected sunglasses with a dynamic, sporty design. This easy-to-wear style has functional elements to optimize comfort and performance, including a ventilation system on the front and temples and maximum grip temple tips. Safety and fit are combined with great protection guaranteed by the option of mirrored or polarized lenses.

adidas Sport eyewear CMPT Ultralight Shield, SP0077 ($99, REI.com): The adidas Sport CMPT Ultralight Shield is a rimless shape with a bold line and sophisticated design. This versatile, easy-to-wear sunglass is characterized by exceptional lightness and a large transparent lens. Contoured temples feature the adidas Sport logo and rubber tips improve comfort and grip.


Visor Skincare ($19) I confess I am pretty bad about putting on sunscreen, but I really love Visor – it may be the only 100% clear sunscreen that is oil-free, alcohol-free and fragrance-free.It goes on so easily and feels light and cool.  Visor has 80 minutes of sun protection compared to Goop’s 40 minute; Is a fraction of the cost ($19 compared to $38 with Goop); Infused with anti-aging and skin-brightening ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C; Is actually clear (Goop’s is cloudy) making it inclusive to all skin tones.The tube is also packable, at under the 3oz limit for air travel.

Wholesome Hippy – Lemon-Aid Whipped Wonder Balm with Limonene 2oz ($16.99) No need to pack a multitude of creams and ointments in your first aid kit. This wonder balm is a versatile remedy for sunburns to real burns. This 2oz wonder balm ingredients include Lemon Essential Oil, Lime Peel Oil, Soybean Oil, and Medium Chain Triglycerides, creating a nourishing foundation for skin health.

Reveka Skincare’s Tea Tree + Peppermint Body Bar ( 4 Pack/$38.97, Available on Amazon) This3-in-1 body bar has a rich lather and can be used as shampoo, soap, and shaving cream. It’s made with tea tree, peppermint and shea butter to best hydrate your skin. Made with Magnesium Chloride from the Ancient Zechstein Seabed, Reveka’s soap is one of the best topical magnesiums to promote new tissue growth; soothe the skin and makes it glow; and alleviate common skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis & acne. Reveka is a new woman and veteran-owned business. Their products are crafted with clean ingredients with no preservatives or dyes and are 100% made in the U.S. The soap bar is a bit hefty and would be ideal to stock your vacation home or cabin.

Timeless Glow Bundle by Sun Chlorella ($92.99,Available on Amazon and Walmart): After an airline trip, your skin can feel really dry. Revitalize with Sun Chlorella’s Astarella Primetime Skin Cream. It contains Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), an ingredient that helps to even out skin tone. Sun Chlorella Cream combines CGF with other ingredients like clove and grapefruit seed extract to promote healthy-looking skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and retain moisture. TimelessGlow bundle comes with 2 bottles of their Astarella Primetime Skin Cream so you can leave one at home and bring the other while you travel, and a complimentary compact mirror. 

NOMATIC’s Toiletry Bag 2.0 ($39.99):Hold all of these toiletries in NOMATIC’s hanging toiletry bag.Madewith durable, water-resistant materials and zippers to ensure there are no leaks and your toiletries stay protected. An optional hanging strap and dedicated toothbrush pocket are a few of the many features that make these the most functional toiletry bags ever.

One-Stop Shopping

Camping in Watkins Glen State Park, New York © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love REI for all things active and outdoors – I am a member of the coop and constantly get great offers (you join once and are a member for life), discount coupons. REI offers excellent quality, selection for all the activities you want; in-store service is superb and so is their online customer service. You can purchase in the store or online and have a whole year to return. Returns and exchanges have been excellent. Love my tent , my hiking boots, my headlamp; and the outfits I purchased for my Incan Trail hike. I like to search in their sales and outlet listings. I find it easy to purchase from the catalog and online, but also at their retail store which is nearby.  REI also has an amazing catalog of adventure travel trips. (REI.com)

I love LL Bean for the quality and selection (they also tend to have a great selection of petite sizes which is rare) for all things active. I tend to shop online with them because they do not have an outlet near me, but I have been happy with everything they have, especially the hiking pants purchased. They have excellent quality but tend to be a bit pricey, so I take advantage of sales and end-of-season promotions. (llbean.com)

For brands that I like, great selection, decent prices and good promotional deals and sales: Academy Sports + Outdoors (academy.com, chat; free shipping available).

Also: Sun & Ski, sunandski.com, 866-786-3869; Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com; Tennis Express (TennisExpress.com), Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com; Patagonia (Patagonia.com); Paragon Sports (paragonsports.com).

Photo gear: What trip doesn’t involve photos! B&H consistently has best inventory, prices and specials, efficient delivery, excellent customer service, delivery and return policies on all sorts of camera and video gear and electronics,especially if specialty gear is needed (like waterproof camera for that snorkeling trip): www.bhphotovideo.com, 800.606.6969212.444.6615).


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Gift of Travel: Put a Bow Around Wanderlust

Gift of Travel: Give experiences, like a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The gift of travel is the gift of life-enhancing even life-changing experience, lifelong memories, connection with family, friends and new friends. There are lots of ways to give the gift of travel:

Gift of Travel Experiences:

Gift experiences that come to mind include pre-arranging special experiences:

Arrange a cooking class for a couple going to Paris (cooknwithclass.com)

Arrange a cooking class in Paris (cooknwithclass.com) © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A hot-air balloon experience over Cappadocia, Turkey (see tripadvisor.com)

Visit to museum exhibit (some now require pre-purchased tickets), attractions, like the recently opened world premiere of Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru, on its first stop of a worldwide tour at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, through March 6, 2022 (A/$29.95 C/$19.95, VIP Access: $100 https://bocamuseum.org/art/machu-picchu-and-golden-empires-peru).

The world premiere of the traveling “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” exhibit is at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, through March 6, 2022. Capacity is limited and  tickets need to be pre-purchased.

Organize a spa/wellness visit (SpaFinder.com has a compendium of resorts and day spas and offers gift certificates)

The Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan on Palm Beach Island, Florida. You can book spa resorts and day-spas on SpaFinder.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set up a walking tour (Context Travel provides private or small group immersive tours for travelers who love to learn, in 60 cities globally, contexttravel.com) or arrange for a local guide (https://www.toursbylocals.com/find_guide has access to 4,488 guides in 193 countries; also offers gift certificates)

Context Travel guide leads a private walking tour of Athens  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Book a rock climbing experience to get your special someone out of the gym and onto the real rocks (A day in the Gunks of the Mohonk Preserve, $350 for two for a full day program, 9 am to 4:30 pm, High Xposure Adventures, 800-777-CLIMB, high-xposure.com; Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School, acadiamountainguides.com, 888-232-9559)

Prearrange a food tour (Private Street Food Tour by motorbike with local students, Saigon Back Alley Tours, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).

Schedule a sea kayak nature tour in Van Damme State Park, Mendocino, (www.kayakmendocino.com) or Bar Harbor, Maine ( National Park Sea Kayak Tours, https://acadiakayak.com) or Albania.

Sea kayaking excursion in Albania © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tripadvisor.com and viator.com are excellent sources for finding and booking visits to local attractions, sightseeing.

Arrange a bike ride (Visiting San Francisco? Blazing Saddles, blazingsaddles.com) or in Budapest.

Rent a bike to see Budapest © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pre-arrange special zoo and theme park experiences like Wild Encounters at the Bronx Zoo and Animal Encounters at Busch Gardens Tampa including Keeper for a Day tours, Australia Insider Tour and Gorilla Insider Tour (https://buschgardens.com/tampa/tours/).  Book an animal interaction at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to “Winter” of “Dolphin Tale” fame: Dolphin Encounter (you work alongside a trainer during a training and feeding session), Trainer for a Day (where you shadow a trainer), Feed Rufus (the actual movie star!), and Shark Encounter (SeaWinter.com, 727-441-1790).

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of “Winter” offers special dolphin encounters and behind-the-scenes experiences © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Get tickets to iconic holiday experiences like the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker (30 performances from Nov. 27-Dec. 26, washingtonballet.org); George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet, November 26–January 2 (www.nycballet.com/the-nutcracker/tickets, 212-496-0600; or the Philadelphia Ballet, at the Academy of Music Dec. 10-31, https://philadelphiaballet.org/2021-2022-season/nutcracker/0

Give the experience of special holiday events, such as the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs and ship wine selections, for example, Imagery Wine, which we visited recently (877-550-4278, www.imagerywinery.com/store) and its sister winery Benziger (benziger.com).  Find more on sonomawine.com and napavintners.com.

You can gift favorite wines enjoyed at a wine tasting, like Imagery in Sonoma, which makes it easy to ship © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Arrange for a private chef to prepare a special meal in your home in New York City (Chef Omakase, 646-612-7790, [email protected], www.chefomakase.com).

Memberships Have Benefits

These days, with capacity restrictions and advance-purchase ticketing requirements at major museums, zoos, preserves, conservancies, sites, attractions, ski areas, and organizations think about gifting pre-purchased tickets or better yet, memberships or season passes – these have the advantage of not only making the recipient happy, provide discounts and special access to events and experiences (campout!), but also do good by supporting important and worthy organizations.

Membership gives a sense of “ownership” and engagement, and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits including magazines and discounts on gear and experiences and members-only events and access to their catalogs.

Not able to visit? Many of the great museums and iconic institutions of the world offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their mission by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials, discounts). For example:

The Smithsonian Institution (si.edu),which just introduced Galactic gifts from its new  FUTURES exhibition in the Arts & Industries Building, “for all your past, present, and future needs” (https://aib.si.edu/futures/ — Shop Now, Smithsonianstore.com).  

Also, Sierra Club (they produce a catalog of trips, sierraclub.org); Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such, railstotrails.org), Parks & Trail NY (ptny.org), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA.org); The Nature Conservancy (nature.org) National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org) which offers  Great Experiences & Tours, (nationaltrusttours.com); and its sister organization Historic Hotels of America, with some of most interesting and iconic hotels (www.historichotels.org).

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy celebrates opening of the Jim Thorpe bridge, linking the Delaware-Lehigh Trail. Programs, memberships and purchases of cycle gear support the mission of organizations like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which is working to repurpose obsolete rail trails into recreational trails, and ultimately connect 3,700 miles of trails to create the Great American Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Members of the American Museum of Natural History enjoy free admission, special access with limited-capacity Member hours, exclusive previews of new exhibitions and galleries, and more. Get $20 off when you use promo code MEM21. (www.amnh.orghttps://shop.amnh.org/featured/holiday-gift-ideas). 

T. rex The Ultimate Predator at American Museum of Natural History, NYC. Members have benefits. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Membership at the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art brings free entry for members and one to four guests, private access to exhibitions outside of public hours and discounts on dining and store purchases (www.metmuseum.org).

Membership has benefits at iconic institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, like after-hours visits © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wildlife Conservation Society members get free admission to Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Prospect Park Zoo; other memberships add in the NY Aquarium, free parking and other special benefits like guest passes (https://bronxzoo.com/shop/catalogs/memberships; most popular is Family Zoos Plus Aquarium: $210 (2 adults, 4 children, 1 guest). You can also purchase gift certificates for Wild Encounters – in-person and virtual behind-the-scenes look at the Bronx Zoo and Bronx Zoo gift ticket vouchers ($39.95/adult, $29.95/child).

Zoos, 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.

Retail sales, memberships, special events sustain the mission of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

National Wildlife Federation has a whole catalog of gifts you can buy (30% off with promo code 938800, but you can also make a donation to a particular cause that is symbolized by a stuffed animal or some other acknowledgement: Holiday Gift Guide (https://www.shopnwf.org/collections/shop-specialty-shops-holiday-gift-guide); Sustainable holiday gifts (https://www.shopnwf.org/collections/shop-cards-and-gifts-gifts-sustainable-products); Create a sustainable garden (www.shopnwf.org/collections/Shop-Home-and-Garden-Garden-for-Wildlife), You can give the “gift of nature” and sponsor a forest with Trees for Wildlife program, in which NWF partners with schools, local government and nonprofit organizations to plant trees (https://www.shopnwf.org/category/Shop-Cards-and-Gifts-Tree-Gifts-Trees-for-Wildlife).

Similarly, World Wildlife Federation has a great selection of gifts that support the organization’s conservation efforts: Gifts.worldwidlife.org/gift-center/gifts/.

Stocking Stuffers, Gift Cards, Travel Gear

Hotels, resorts, tour companies even cruise companies offer gift cards (great stocking stuffers) which can be used to pay toward stays or amenities and experiences (some, like Catania Hospitality give extra discounts during holiday sales and some give the giver a special gift as well), and can be purchased on line.

Xanterra Travel Collection, for the first time, is offering Xanterra Travel Collection Gift Cards redeemable across all its properties and brands for accommodations, tours, experiences, and retail purchases (Xanterra.com/GiftCard).

You can purchase gift certificates for Xanterra Travel Collection iconic lodgings in national parks such as Grand Canyon’s crown jewel, the El Tovar, and experiences such as the historic Grand Canyon Railway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can purchase actual tickets or gift certificates for Broadway theater at Broadway.com. Gift certificates can be redeemed for tickets to any Broadway or Off-Broadway show currently playing in New York City. (www.broadway.com/gift-certificates)

You can purchase actual tickets or gift certificates for Broadway theater at broadway.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

SpaFinder has gift certificates for resorts, hotels, wellness centers and day spas (www.spafinder.com/best-of/resorts-and-hotel-spas), as well as gift cards can be used to buy gift sets (spafinder.com).

Skiers, snowboarders will really appreciate lift tickets (get discounted rates at liftopia.com; also EpicPass.com, IKONPass.com, Ski New York’s Ski3 pass, iskiny.com) or pre-paid lessons and rentals. Or if you feel really ambitious, purchase the season pass.

Skiers, snowboarders will really appreciate lift tickets or a lesson or rental, or even a season pass. I Ski NY offers the Ski3 which includes Gore Mountain as well as Whiteface Mountain and Belleayre com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For stocking stuffers there’s no better than actual socks, so crucial for walking tours, hiking, biking, skiing, and packing, like Darn Tough (www.darntough.com) and Bombas (which come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, https://bombas.com/).

Darn Tough socks make great stocking stuffers and are really appreciated by travelers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you get into clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff. Among our favorites (especially when you catch sales and closeouts):

REI operates as a co-op, and members have access to really excellent sales and discounts, plus earn credit toward future purchases. REI products have excellent quality (we love our tents) and allow no-questions asked returns for a year. Excellent customer service. Free shipping on $50 (including skis and snowboards). Also, when you make a purchase with a REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard®, REI makes a donation to the REI Cooperative Action Fund, which directly supports organizations that promote justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors, this year, REI will donate up to $1 million (www.rei.com/s/gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840).

REI makes it really easy to outfit for a camping trip or any outdoors activity © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Patagonia also has excellent selections, free shipping over $75, and has “Patagonia Action Works” to facilitate donations to worthy causes, contributing 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. You can also buy used, trade-in and fix your gear through Worn Wear (WornWear.com), and can purchase gift cards. (Patagonia.com);

Also: Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com;  LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, 866-786-3869, sunandski.com; Tennis ExpressTennisExpress.com; Bass Pro Shopswww.basspro.com. And of course, luggage (ebags.comLuggageonline.com).

As for travel wardrobe, baggage fees have presented a challenge for travelers to confine all their packing to carry-on luggage, and people like me who have trouble finding pants to fit poses an additional challenge. Red Thread makes clothes to order that are comfortable, versatile, stylish, and pack well (pants, the essential black dress,  jackets etc) and are tailored specifically to your measurements using 3D technology from your phone, and delivered within two weeks, and have a lifetime guarantee if they need to be re-sized to fit. I loved the Red Thread resort pants–with a Saint Tropez stylish flare (redthreadcollection.com, [email protected] 800-710-0835).

 Photography & Camera Gear

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones but they don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts).

Cameras and photography gear are big on the wish list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key criteria. Some of the new smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras have as much functionality as the larger, heavier digital SLRs and use interchangeable lenses but tend to be fairly costly (over $1000). Take advantage of sales to purchase slightly outdated models that have great reviews (I love my newest acquisition, full-frame mirrorless Nikon Z5 with 24-200 mm lens for $1696; Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel, and for wet or harsh conditions, Olympus Tough TG6, which is very small, rugged, water, shock, dust and crashproof, and has a sensational macro feature and good zoom range, 25-100mm (now $50 off at $399). B&H consistently has best inventory, prices, and holiday specials, plus excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800-606-6969212-444-6615).

Photos rank high on travelers’ list of essentials. Cell phones only take you so far. For special trips like wildlife safaris, bird-watching, kayaking, more ambitious camera equipment would be appreciated © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are endless opportunities to satisfy photographer’s wish list, from memory cards (great stocking stuffer) and external hard drives, to backpacks, lenses (you can even get lenses for cell phones), lighting, the list goes on and on.

Another idea is to gift a photo album (Milkbooks, based in New Zealand, does an excellent job of reproducing high-quality photo albums and books, has excellent customer service and frequent sales, milkbooks.com.) Or consider high-quality professional printing and framing a photo that is particularly meaningful and memorable from their travels (bayphoto.com).

Or more spectacularly, what about a photosafari or a trip led by a master photographer, such as offered by Photo Workshop Adventures (150 carefully curated small group photo tours in 150 countries with “The Art of Seeing” approach” (www.photoworkshopadventures.com); Photo Safaris (www.photosafaris.com‎); National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com); ‎Back Country Journeys (https://explore.backcountryjourneys.com/photography-tours-workshops-safaris/landscape-wildlife/gs-l1); Lindblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com/plan/expedition-photography); and Nomad Photo Expeditions (www.nomadphotoexpeditions.com).

I couldn’t get this photo of tigers in India’s tiger preserve in Khana without long lenses (300 mm) and an SLR (Nikon D500) which could accommodate the long distance, fast exposure and low-light of dusk conditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gifts to Inspire

Give gifts that last the year, bring the world and the planet into their world and inspire wanderlust. For example:

National Geographic Kids magazine for 6-9 year olds ( $20/yr for 10 issues) and or National Geographic Little Kids designed especially for children ages 3-6 ($20/yr for 6 bi-monthly issues).

National Wildlife Federation produces Ranger Rick (age 7+), Ranger Rick Jr., (407) Ranger Rick Cub (0-4); Zoo books (7+); Zootles (4-7), and Zoodinos (5+); for holiday promotion, any title $12 – 76% savings. (rangerrick.org/magazines/)

For adults: Smithsonian Magazine is a treasure and also provides membership benefits and access to gifts. Subscribe for $34 and get a free gift subscription to share with someone else (smithsonianmag.com).

Another great source: PBS, which supports public television, which offers gift catalog and gift certificates (I’m loving the Mona Lisa “Women’s Fine Art” socks, $8) (https://shop.pbs.org/gifts, 833-565-0292).


© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Our Favorite Hiking & Camping Gear for 2 Months On the Road in our Converted Subaru

Wild camping in our REI Half Dome 3 Plus tent by Little Payette Lake, ID © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

*Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals*

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.

Our wild camp spot outside of Silverton, CO, just before the rainstorms © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here’s more of our round-up of our favorite hiking and camping gear (See also: Car Camping in Comfort: How We Turned our Subaru into Our Home On the Road):


Smith’s Chromapop Lowdown Slim 2 are the perfect polarized sunglasses to enrich every day of our 7 weeks on the road. There’s not a day we spend without these glasses © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Smith Chromapop Sunglasses – $179.99

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.

The true otherworldly colors at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park come through with our Smith Chromapop Sunglasses © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

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 © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Keen Targhee – $130-150

Merrell Moab Ventilator – $100

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).

Dave has been hiking in his Merrels for years and the shoes provide so much comfort and support that we barely even notice our feet on 7+ mile hikes © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Darn Tough No show Lightweight Hiking Sock – $17

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.


Using our Hydrapak 4L Seeker to fill up water bottles on our hike through the Dry Fork Slot Canyons of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hydrapak 4L Seeker – $28

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, the Recon Hydrapak water bottle is super lightweight, has a great drinking spout, and doesn’t spill when closed tightly, great for this hike at Craters of the Moon National Monument © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Recon Hydrapak Water Bottle – $17

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.

Hiking with the Recon Hydrapak water bottle in hand © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com


Karacel Battery Operated Rechargeable Fan – $16.99

Rechargeable Tent Fan with Light – $29.99

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.


The Classic Coleman 2-Burner Stove with our Stanley Boil & Brew bring comforts of home to our wild camping at Badlands National Park © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Stanley Boil + Brew French Press – $25

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.

Overmont Lightweight Mess Kit – $28.99

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. 

2-piece Stainless Steel Travel Mugs – $17.99

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.

Coleman Classic 2-Burner Stove – $43.99

It’s a classic for a reason. 


Advanced Elements Solar Shower is also handy for washing our feet after a trip to Third Beach in Olympic National Park © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

5 Gallon Solar Shower – $34.99

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.

Triptips Portable Toilet – $38.99

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.

Our makeshift powder room with “HI NINGER collapsible sink by Little Payette Lake, ID (the sink collapses to a cutting board for food prep) © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com


Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags/Shoe Deodorizers – $14.79/12-pack

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.

Thermarest Compressible Travel Pillow – $25.99 (bought for $14.99 at Mountain Steals)

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.

The soles of our hiking boots have just finally started to come loose a bit after many years of wear, but it wasn’t anything that some Shoe Goo couldn’t fix © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shoe Goo – $3.98

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.

Reusable Zip Ties, 100 pack – $13.99

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. 

See also: Car Camping in Comfort: How We Turned our Subaru into Our Home On the Road


© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Whether A Hard-Core Adventurer or Frequent Traveler, These Make Great Holiday Gifts

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.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 socks make a great stocking stuffer © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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).

Lowa boots can make the difference for a successful expedition © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.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).

Jean Kriske launched Machines for Freedom in her living room; the women’s high-performance athletic clothing brand now partners with Specialized © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.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).

Priority Bicycles has just introduced a collapsible bike helmet, ideal when traveling to a bike tour © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.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.

HydroFlask soft goods – cooler pack and totes – are anti-microbial © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.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).

Among our online favorite retailers: REI, www.rei.com/s/holiday-gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840)Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com;  LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, 866-786-3869, sunandski.com; Tennis Express, TennisExpress.com), Bass Pro Shops (www.basspro.com). And of course, luggage (I had a good experience with Luggageonline.com, 888-958-4424).

Best Cameras for Travel

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).

Criteria for a travel camera: small enough to wear around your neck, easy enough to shoot with one hand, sharp and fast enough to shoot while riding a bicycle, Venice to Istria. The Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS100 fits the bill © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.


© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures