In January I visited winter Outdoor Retailer (OR) 2014 — the biggest trade show for outdoors and travel brands in North America — in search of the newest, most innovative, products that help people to travel longer and better with less baggage. This list contains the most innovative, versatile, travel-friendly products that I found.
Disclaimer: This article contains several affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and buy something I will be paid a small commission on the sale. Those links, however, had no affect on choices. Products in this list were chosen solely because I think they’re amazing.
1) The Eagle Creek Convertabrief
I travel for business quite a bit, usually to conferences. I often have to stuff my laptop bag until it’s overflowing — such as at Outdoor Retailer where I was carrying a laptop, tablet, notebook, jacket, video camera, DSLR camera, and various items that I picked up for review during the show. The Convertabrief is perfect for a guy like me.
- Large storage space and sturdy construction
- Optional shoulder and backpack straps (wearing a heavy bag with a shoulder strap gets very uncomfortable)
- Laptop and tablet sleeves that are exposed when the bag is fully unzipped and laid open, enabling the owner to simply open the bag when passing through airport security, rather than having to remove electronic devices for x-ray inspection.
To see a demo of the Convertabrief jump to 0:45 in the video at the top of the page.
Available: July 1st
2) The Craghoppers Compresslite Jacket
It’s hard to pack for trips where you’ll encounter a wide variety of weather conditions. Clothing for the cold is usually exceptionally bulky and heavy. That’s where the Craghoppers Comprsslite jacket comes in. It’s a great all-round jacket made especially for travel that can be packed down into a pouch small enough to fit in even the smallest of daybags. And, at $85, it’s an affordable enough to buy specifically for a trip.
- Good down to -10°C
- Packs down into a tiny compression bag
- Simply designed and comes in numerous colors
To see a demo of the Compresslite jacket jump to 1:40 in the video at the top of the page.
Where to find it: Craghoppers.com
3) The CamelBak All Clear Water Purifier
I’ve spent a lot of time in countries where the tap water is not fit for consumption. It’s a huge nuisance to have to buy bottled water constantly. Water bottles are also an enormous source of waste. I would have loved to had one of these on my trip. The All Clear water purifier uses UV rays to render bacteria, viruses, and protozoan cysts infertile so that they are unable to reproduce and make you sick. Saving the hassle and waste of buying water is totally worth it to me. It could even save you money in the long run if you use it enough.
- Charges via USB
- Purifies water in 60 seconds
- Capable of thousands of purifications–enough to last years longer than you’re likely to actually use it
To see a demo of the CamelBak All Clear jump to 2:13 in the video at the top of the page.
4) The Jetboil Flash Compact Cooking System
Eating in restaurants is pretty much unavoidable while traveling. I, however, don’t care much for restaurant food. It’s often overly greasy, fatty, and salty, because those are cheap ways to make it taste good. Eating in restaurants is also pretty much always more expensive than cooking for yourself, but that’s difficult to do on the road. Enter the Jetboil Flash system. Want to cook oatmeal and coffee for breakfast? (That’s my favorite breakfast.) Jetboil has you covered. Want soup, stew, or pasta for dinner? No problem. The characteristics that makes the Jetboil especially travel-friendly are the ease and speed of use, and the design, which enables both the stove and gas to be packed in the pot without wasting any space.
- Compact, packable design
- Goes from packed to boiling water in about 45 seconds (literally, that’s how long it takes the guy in my video)
- Jetboil provides tons of recipes for its customers
To see a demo of the the Jetboil Flash system jump to 3:09 in the video at the top of the page.
5) Switch Interchangeable Lens Sunglasses (with Prescription Lenses)
Good sunglasses and eyeglasses are expensive. So, when traveling, you want to keep them protected. That means carrying bulky hard-cases to protect your eyewear. Well, that’s what it used to mean. Switch Sunglasses have a magnetic interchangeable lens system that enable you to carry only one set of glasses that allows you to simply pop out the lenses (held in place by strong magnets) and switch them for different ones. The lenses are carried in a hard case about half the size of a deck of cards. Director of Switch Sales, Sport Retail Division, Marc Sanford, who I know personally, is a quality zealot. Switch Sunglasses, despite their exceptional design and top-of-the-line polarization, cost a fraction of the price of other big-name sunglasses of comparable quality. I’ve had a pair for years, and have never wanted another.
- Magnetic interchangeable lenses
- Functional, comfortable, stylish design
- Low price compared to other sunglasses of comparable quality
- Prescription lenses available
To see how easy it is to change lenses, I strongly recommend watching the demo of the the Switch interchangeable lens system at 4:13 in the video at the top of the page.
Price: Standard sunglasses with 2 sets of lenses: $139 – $149. Custom prescription glasses with one pair of polarized lenses are around $700 – $800.
6) Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar-Powered Device Charger
Travel — especially my personal brand of way-off-the-beaten-path-working-in-the-middle-of-nowhere travel — often results in long periods of time depending on unreliable third-world, power-surge and outage-prone, power. Or, even worse, with no power at all. If you’re traveling for pleasure, this is an annoyance at best. If you’re traveling for work it creates enormous logistical problems. Goal Zero is dedicated to creating portable, sustainable power solutions for people like me. They have several different solar chargers and batteries that I’d love to try out, but the most broadly appealing is the Switch 8 Kit, which includes one felt tip marker-sized battery (which can be charged by USB as well as the solar panel) that can be used to charge your phone, tablet, or camera. The solar panel is small, compact, and, apparently, fits very will in an airplane window, which is pretty great for frequent travelers.
- Battery will charge in 4 hours by USB and 4 – 8 hours by solar power
- Full battery can charge a smartphone 1 – 2 times
- Full battery can charge a GoPro 1 – 2 times
- Full battery can charge a DSLR camera once
- Whole kit takes up the space of one thin notebook and on thick felt marker and weighs just 1 lb
To see a demo of the Switch 8 Kit jump to 6:02 in the video at the top of the page.
Price: Switch 8 Battery: $39.99 and Nomad 7 Solar Panel: $79.99
7) XShot Pro Camera Extender
This simple yet ingenious product is one of the most useful photo accessories I’ve ever come across. It’s a simple telescoping with a handle on one end and an attachment on the other end (they have models that can hold a GoPro, smartphone, or point-and-shoot camera) for taking selfies. The attachment on the end even has a ball-joint for full manoeuvrability. So simple, yet so useful for a person like me who travels alone frequently, but still wants some good photos for Facebook.
- Telescoping rod with handle
- Models that can accommodate GoPros, Smartphones, and point-and-shoot cameras
To see a demo of the XShot Pro jump to 6:46 in the video at the top of the page.
Price: Around $30 for the normal XShot and $74.95 for the XShot Pro
8) Pacsafe Metrosafe Bag Line
Pacsafe specializes in making anti-theft travel bags for everyone from the round-the-world backpacker to the weekend tourist. Their newly updated Metrosafe bag line is a set of affordable, inconspicuous, and stylish bags created for your average day or night out on the town that include all of their unique anti-theft features.
- Hidden wire exomesh to prevent anyone from slicing through the material
- Zippers with smart-lock security, which requires two-hands to open (as a deterrent to pickpockets) and can also be fully locked
- Slash proof straps that can easily be looped around a stationary object to prevent bag snatching
- An RFID-blocking pocket
To see a demo of the Metrosafe jump to 7:21 in the video at the top of the page.
Price: $60 – $100 depending on the model
9) Arc’teryx Carda Jacket
The older I get, the more I find that I need to travel with clothing that’s both functional when I’m doing outdoors activities but also looks good enough to wear to a business meeting or a fancy dinner. That’s why I get so excited when I find gems like the Arc’teryx Carda jacket. This beauty is water and wind resistant, layers well, doesn’t wrinkle, and packs down to a tiny little bundle that I can put in the bottom of my day pack. It’s one of the most functional travel garments I’ve seen yet.
- Arc’teryx soft-shell wind- and water-resistant technology
- Small packing
- Exceptionally good-looking
To see a demo of the Carda Jacket (done by yours truly) jump to 9:20 in the video at the top of the page.
Available: Fall, 2014
10) Nau Tech-Nique Dress
This product requires a disclaimer: Nau is my all-time brand crush. This Portland company was started by a group of former employees from some of the biggest brands in outdoors with the goal of creating outdoor clothing that is not only functional, but also ultra-stylish and 100% sustainable. All of their products are made from innovative recycled materials, are super comfortable, and look amazing. The Tech-Nique dress just happens to be one of this season’s highlights. This urban dress is super low-maintenance, looks good with a wide variety of clothing, and is stain resistant and wrinkle-free.
- Recycled polyester stretch fabric
- Spill resistant
- Packs small and light
- Looks fantastic
To see a demo of the Tech-Nique dress jump to 10:24 in the video at the top of the page.
Available: Fall, 2014
11) Kelty Flyway 43 Backpack
If I were to travel with only one carry on backpack I would definitely take the Kelty Flyway 43. Kelty has long been one of my favorite companies because they know how to design for travelers’ needs, and the Flyway 43 is one of their finest achievements. This backpack, when stuffed full, pretty much exactly hits the limit for carry-on size bags. It fully unzips exposing the main compartment for easy packing and unpacking. There are numerous compartments for keeping your electronics and other accessories organized. It also has a built-in rain cover and a laptop sleeve.
- Spacious, easy-to reach, main compartment
- Fully-packed it meets carry-on requirements
- Laptop sleeve
- Built-in rain cover
To see a demo of the Flyway 43 backpack jump to 11:17 in the video at the top of the page.
Where to find it: Kelty.com and other major retail outlets
Have you tried any of the products on this list? Do you have any suggestions for awesome travel gear that you’ve found useful? If so, let me know in the comments so I can include it in future round-ups!