Tag Archives: travel gear

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

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):

WEARABLES

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.

HYDRATION

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

FANS

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.

COOKING ESSENTIALS

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. 

PERSONAL CARE 

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

MISCELLANEOUS

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

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© 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 FamTravLtr@aol.com. 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.

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© 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 FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures