Travel Gear to Go


Road-tested recommendations and reviews on the best gear for travelers.

SLEEK AND CHIC: Merrell Veranda Ankle Boot.

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SLEEK AND CHIC: Merrell Veranda Ankle Boot.

My search for a cold weather travel boot began as soon as my husband and I made the decision to spend the winter in the mountains of central Mexico.

A previous winter stay in Cusco, Peru, where I’d given away a favorite pair of boots, had taught me that I wanted a boot that would provide stability on uneven, cobblestone streets, was warm and comfortable and versatile enough to be worn with jeans or dress pants, leggings or skirts. 

The Veranda Mid by Merrell ticked all the boxes. Sleek and chic, they look fabulous and felt like a natural fit straight out of the box. 

Ultimately though, I balked at the hefty price tag ($160) and assured myself that I could do without. Instead, I decided to give the money to a friend who works hard and rarely splurges on herself. 

I’d waited until the evening before our Mexico departure to slip a check into a beautiful card and give it to my friend. It felt good to have forfeited something I desired. To give instead of get. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
What Happens When Your Suitcase Dies?

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What Happens When Your Suitcase Dies?

I admit it: I’m tough on luggage. 

I’ve trailed suitcases across bumpy cobbled streets, down muddy rainforest trails, up sand dunes and along frozen tundra. I’ve watched my luggage be tossed atop third world buses, piled into donkey carts and jungle canoes. 

So, after my Eagle Creek carry on rattled around in a safari trailer for a few weeks and loosened some screws and years of dust and dirt eventually clogged the telescoping handle, guess what happened when I returned it? 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
WEARABLE SECURITY: Pick-Pocket Proof Travel Pants

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WEARABLE SECURITY: Pick-Pocket Proof Travel Pants

These P^cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants™ by Clothing Arts, with an ingenious design for surreptitiously carrying passport, credit cards, mobile phone, etc., are perfect for modern day nomads like me. Cold weather or warm they go well with sweaters or T-shirts, boots or sandals. Better still, they’re durable and lightweight. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
BINOCULARS: What's Best for Adventure Travel?

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BINOCULARS: What's Best for Adventure Travel?

Imagine bobbing in the icy waters of Alaska on an expedition cruise expectantly waiting for a brief turn at the naturalist’s binoculars to get a closer look at a mama grizzly and her cubs on the distant shoreline. Or sitting frustrated in the safari vehicle squinting to see a tiny spec across the landscape as those with binoculars gleefully describe every detail of a rare yellow-billed stork. Not fun.

So you vow to purchase binoculars before your next adventure. But how to choose? How do you know what pair will best fit your needs?

Lodge guest looking through binoculars, Melimoyu Bay, Melimoyu wilderness lodge, Patagonia Sur, Chile, South America

To help take the mystery out of buying, here are a few expert tips by Heidi Krajewsky, a naturalist at wildlife cruise outfitter Maple Leaf Adventures

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
WHAT TO PACK for an African Safari.

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WHAT TO PACK for an African Safari.

“What to pack?” is the number one question I hear from friends, family and travelers who are setting off on a new adventure.

So, as I prepare for dual safaris in Namibia and Botswana, here are my 10 packing essentials for an African safari

 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
TRAVEL FAVORITE: Eagle Creek Packable Daypack

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TRAVEL FAVORITE: Eagle Creek Packable Daypack

Magicians pull rabbits from a hat to impress. Savvy travelers pull out Eagle Creek’s packable daypack. 

At least I feel like a magician each time I arrive at a destination and take out this lightweight pack that transforms from a compact pocket-pouch into a full-size daypack. No matter where I’m going, this handy extra is in my luggage.  

Favorite feature: Perfect for sightseeing or day hikes, it takes up little room in my luggage. Better yet, it weighs only 6.5 ounces and is made from a durable, water-resistant ripstop nylon fabric that stretches easily and resists puncturing.

Not-so-favorite feature:

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
COLD WEATHER FAVORITES: Stylish Winter Essentials

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COLD WEATHER FAVORITES: Stylish Winter Essentials

 

Winter: It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s wet. So what. 

It may not be the easiest season to pack for. But with a few chic essentials, it’s not as difficult as you think to stay warm and stylish, no matter how frosty it gets or how small your suitcase.  

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
GALS ON THE GO: El Naturalista Yggdrasil Clog

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GALS ON THE GO: El Naturalista Yggdrasil Clog

That these clogs are stylish and comfortable, that much I knew. What I didn’t know was the story behind their manufacture and the El Naturalista brand - an environmentally and socially responsible footwear company.  

I saw a shoe that looked different yet functional, sturdy and well-balanced. A shoe that once I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off. Footwear that was made for traveling with perfect slide-on-and-off ease for airport security and long-haul flights. 

Who knew they were crafted in Morocco by a Spanish company with social projects in Peru and that Nordic mythology was the inspiration behind its unusual name?

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
WHEN WEIGHT MATTERS: Osprey Packs Ozone 22"

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WHEN WEIGHT MATTERS: Osprey Packs Ozone 22"

It’s not often I mistake a suitcase for shoes. But at only 4-pounds, 7-ounces the über-light Ozone 22-inch rollaboard had me fooled.

At a glance, the delivery box waiting for me on the front porch looked to be about the right size for the new Osprey Packs carry-on I’d ordered. But I picked up the box and quickly changed my mind: guessing instead that it contained the new pair of hiking boots I was also expecting. Wrong.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
Cozy Warm in Cusco: KEEN Prescott Boot

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Cozy Warm in Cusco: KEEN Prescott Boot

As a North American, June has always been flip flop and sunshine weather. But June is wintertime in South America and the coldest month of the year in the ancient Inca city of Cusco, Peru, where we’re spending the next few months. So, in place of my usual sandals and flip flops, this June it’s alpaca socks and KEEN’s Prescott Boot keeping me warm and comfortable in cold Cusco.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".
Perfect for Hot Climates: Horny Toad Travel Skirt

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Perfect for Hot Climates: Horny Toad Travel Skirt

With the right clothes, hot and sticky is easy breezy. 

It’s 88ºF with 71% humidity right now in Granada, Nicaragua, where my husband, Hank, and I are spending the winter.

With weather forecasts back home showing snow and freezing temps, I couldn’t be happier to be hanging out in a hot place. 

It’s been a month since we arrived and I’d looked forward to supplementing my travel wardrobe here, but clothing choices in Nicaragua are surprisingly limited. So, I’m grateful to have packed the Horny Toad Oblique Skirt, which has turned out to be perfect for daily wear. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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Hats Are Forever: The Helen Kaminski Raffia Classic 5

Nineteen years ago, during a summer stay in Santa Fe, my husband surprised me with the surreptitious purchase of a hat I’d admired in a storefront window. It was a case of love at first sight (hat & husband) and has been ever since. 

Aside from one Russian-style faux-fur cap that I’m rarely feeling cheeky enough to wear, unless it’s raining or snowing I’m not much of a hat wear kind of girl. But, I’m forever thankful to that strong Santa Fe sun for providing the inspiration behind what’s now my number-one, hot-weather travel essential - the Helen Kaminski Raffia Classic 5 braided hat. 

Favorite feature: Whether I’m hiking windy mountaintop trails or sailing the high seas, thanks to built-in adjustable string sizing, this hat stays snug. 

Not-so-favorite feature: The Classic 5 comes with a black-and-white polka dot hatband that’s just a little too prim for my not-so-proper taste. So I jazz it up a bit by purchasing fun, colorful hatbands wherever my travels take me. 

Bottom line: Handcrafted from 100% Raffia that lasts forever and can be rolled for easy packing, this is the perfect hat for any sunny getaway.

Part of the Helen Kaminski Raffia Braid collection, the Classic 5 is available for purchase at www.HelenKaminski.com. Suggested retail price; $165. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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More Than A Backpack: Osprey Momentum 26

With the right gear, leading an active, mobile lifestyle is more than possible - it’s fun.   

As a freelance writer/photographer specializing in travel, every trip is a blend of work and play. So, when an assignment took me to South West England for a walking tour, I needed more than a backpack. I wanted a multipurpose bag that could double as a carryon laptop and camera bag en route to England, and lightweight trail pack once I’d landed. 

Enter the Osprey Momentum 26. Originally designed with the bicycle commuter in mind, it also offers a savvy alternative for active adventure travel. Specifically it is:

Waterproof. This was England afterall and in a sudden downpour I needed to know that my camera equipment would be protected. On the trail, the neon yellow built-in raincover performed beautifully, keeping contents dry while assuring I was highly visible in even the most inclement weather. 

TSA-sized. For air travel, I wanted a pack that fit easily into the overhead compartment and had ample space for travel necessities, laptop computer, and camera equipment. Once there, it needed to transition easily to the needs of the walk’s daily activities. The momentum’s dedicated laptop sleeve, padded top and side travel handles, stowable harness and hipbelt, and top-load access made it a perfect choice. 

Quality designed. I see no reason to compromise quality or comfort for travel convenience.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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Summer Essential: Sanita Nina Sandal

I’ve always had a soft spot for shoes. But as any traveler will tell you, when it comes to packing light, shoes are not your friend. So, any footwear that’s going in my bag not only has to look and feel good, but it also has to go the distance, anywhere in the world. 

I chose these Sanita sandals because I thought they’d be a cute and comfy way to add a little punch of color to my tried-and-true travel classics. 

Now that I’ve been wearing them non-stop for two months—ahhhh!—life is good. I love the breathable footbed, the 30% recycled outsoles, and airport-security-friendly slide-on design.

At home, or on the road, they look great with everything from skinny jeans and summer capris, to flowy skirts and casual dresses

 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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The Perfect Little Black Travel Dress

No matter how many time zones I cross, this quintessential travel essential goes the distance.

I’m forever on the lookout for clothing that’s not only figure flattering, versatile, and über comfortable, but that also packs down to nothing, breathes well, is machine-washable and doesn’t need ironing. 

Enter Icebreaker’s Superfine Villa Dress, a lightweight merino wool classic that moves easily across seasons and continents. Perfect for travelling and packing light.

During a recent adventure yacht cruise in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, the superfine merino fabric of this dress was ideally suited to the desert climate: keeping me cool in the heat of the day, and warm at night. Add leggings and a wrap, and I’m as comfortable in Alaska as Baja. 

As I write this review, I’m in the process of packing for a year (or two) of nomadic exploration in Central and South America; an endeavor that requires me to fit only my most essential goods and gadgets into one checked bag, one carry-on and one laptop/camera bag. Be assured - this dress WILL be in my bag.  

 

Available at www.Icebreaker.com as well as the Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon. Suggested retail price: $110.00. 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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WEARABLE CARRY-ON: SCOTTeVEST Travel Clothing Debuts Six New Styles

SeV’s Multi-pocketed Clothing Helps Travelers Beat the System and Save on Baggage Fees

SCOTTEVEST/SeV maker of my favorite travel vest, has announced  a whole new lineup of stylish choices for wearable carry-on clothing. Now you can beat the system, save on baggage fees AND look good doing it. NICE!

One of the newest designs is the Women’s Trench, a stylish trench coat with 18 travel-friendly pockets available in four colors.  Taking cues from SCOTTEVEST’s female fans, the product was developed after repeated requests from SeV customers for a women’s equivalent of the popular SeV Carry-On Coat™.  LOVE THIS!

The full line of SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing ranges from jackets to vests, pants, hoodies and shirts, with their latest introductions adding:

  • Women’s Trench Coat ($130) - SeV developed the SeV Women’s Trench with an eye for fashion-forward lines contained within a classic, belted trench silhouette, all without sacrificing any of the hidden functionality of SeV’s pockets. Designed to supplement or replace a purse while traveling - around town or around the globe - this coat’s 18 NoBulge™ Pockets maintain a smooth appearance regardless of what is carried.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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INSIDER SECRET: Eddie Bauer Expedition Small Duffel Bag

Remember the Russian nesting dolls, where a set of dolls of decreasing sizes were placed one inside the other? These days, thanks to rising airline baggage fees, the nesting doll model forms the essence of my packing strategy:

In the pocket of my travel vest, I carry reusable shopping bags

In my camera backpack, is a laptop sleeve

In my carryon, travels an Eddie Bauer small duffel

Lightweight and durable, I find the multi-purpose duffle to be the perfect stowaway. 

Favorite feature: The water-repellent duffel stuff sack works great as an extra interior section for wet towels or dirty hiking shoes.

Not-so-favorite feature: I’m stumped. Short of solar powered iPod ports, Eddie Bauer seems to have thought of everything from the perfectly positioned grab-and-go side handles, to the side pocket deep enough for gym shoes, and interior mesh top, great for see-thru access to toiletries. 

Bottom line: Whether I’m returning home with a few too many souvenirs, hitting the gym, or needing to slim-down my carryon weight for small plane island hopping, the small duffel saves the day. 

Available at www.EddieBauer.com as well as the Travel Essentials section of the Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon. Suggested retail price: $49.50

 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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All I Want for Christmas Is A Helmet Cam ...

Hint: It’s not diamonds! From a helmet cam and collapsible wine bottle to insect-shield clothing and a sweet all-purpose dual sport bike, check out the gifts I’m asking Santa for this season - and steal these ideas for the adventure traveler on your list!

 

 

 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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Carry-on Essential: Eagle Creek Tarmac 22

Paying an airline extra to transport your luggage is hard enough to swallow, but paying them to lose it is the ultimate insult. So more of us are bypassing the baggage carousel altogether.

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Throw in $8 blanket fees, $45 carry-on charges, and $25+ for checked luggage, and there’s no question that less is more.

But packing light hasn’t always been my forte. Until recently I was a one checked bag, one carry-on and one personal item, kind of girl. 

Enter Eagle Creek’s Tarmac 22, the perfect carry-on solution for travelers, like me, who are looking to lighten their load.

The ease and efficiency of this bag has made me a true carry-on only convert. 

Favorite feature: The built-in shoe, toiletries, and dirty laundry compartments help to keep things organized. Gone is the chaos that repeated packing and unpacking once resulted in. 

Not-so-favorite feature: I wish the exterior front pockets were deep enough to accommodate a laptop. I’d also like to see the addition of an exterior back pocket big enough for a paperback or travel document holder. 

Bottom line: The Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 is my bag of choice for carry-on only air travel. 

Available at www.EagleCreek.com as well as the Adventure Traveler section of the Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon. Suggested retail price: $285.00

FYI - See also Eagle Creek’s Hovercraft Upright 22”, currently my husband Hank’s bag of choice. Product comparison below:

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The Eagle Creek Hovercraft Upright 22 is available at EagleCreek.com and The Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon. Suggested retail price: $250.00.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".

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Patagonia, You Had Me At H2No

I’m a longtime Patagonia fan, so I probably would’ve bought the waterproof Rain Shadow jacket and pants anyway. But with a tagline like H2No*, well, that’s just clever. Throw in the Patagonia Ironclad Lifetime Guarantee, and purchasing the gear for back-to-back Alaska adventures was a no-brainer.  

Favorite feature: Love the roomy female fit, fun color choices, spacious pockets, and the fact that it layers well, even over a Patagonia down sweater

Not-so-favorite feature: It isn’t quite as breathable as I’d hoped. Could turn out to be uncomfortably warm for tropical explorations. Will keep you posted.

Bottom line: From sea kayaking to glacier hikes, light drizzle to heavy downpours, this jacket/pant combo said H2No® to Alaska’s liquid sunshine.

Patagonia Rain Shadow Rainwear: Jacket:$179.00 suggested retail price; Pants $149.00: www.Patagonia.com Also available at The Travel Store at EllenBarone.com powered by Amazon: Women’s: Jacket; Pants : Men’sJacketPants

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".