Gadling Gear Review: Incase EO Travel Roller

The Incase EO Travel RollerChoosing the proper luggage for travel can be a very personal experience. After all, with any luck you are selecting a travel companion that will be with you for many years to come and will accompany you on everything from weekend escapes to longer excursions abroad. A good set of luggage can be quite an investment too, which is why it needs to be stylish, versatile and durable. The new EO Travel collection from Incase has been designed from the ground up to meet that criteria and so much more. I recently had the good fortune to test their EO Travel Roller and found it to be a fantastic option for modern travelers looking for a great bag for both business and pleasure.

The first thing that caught my eye about the Roller was the clean, classic looking exterior design. Unlike many other bags, the Roller isn’t cluttered with numerous zippers and pockets that are tacked on without thought for form or function. In fact, with just one exterior pocket, I wondered if this bag would have enough storage options to keep everything well organized while on the road. Turns out I needn’t have worried, but more on that later.

In addition to the clean look of the EO Travel Roller, I was also immediately struck by the high quality handle and wheels, both of which have a very solid and rugged feel. The handle easily slides out at the touch of a button, extending to the perfect length for rolling it through the airport, which is made all the easier thanks to the smooth and steady wheels. Two additional non-telescoping soft handles on the top and side make it a simple affair to grab the bag from either side when it needs to be hefted into or out of a vehicle, or retrieved from the baggage claim.The Incase EO Travel RollerThe exterior of the Travel Roller doesn’t give much of an indication of what to expect from the inside, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it up. As I mentioned above, the lack of exterior pockets was a concern at first glance, but opening the bag put those fears to rest quickly. Incase has put a great deal of thought into the layout of the interior of the Roller and it shows. In addition to a standard large main compartment, they’ve also included a second storage area that has multiple integrated organizational pockets that are perfect for the modern traveler who never leaves home without his or her gadgets. This area of the bag features a laptop sleeve capable of holding a 17″ laptop, several pockets for cables and chargers, and even a compartment specifically designed for an iPad or other tablet. The entire section is lined with thick padding that keeps our favorite tech toys safe and sound, even while they are jostled about in transit.

The bag is designed to be used as a carry-on and complies with the size restrictions for most airlines. But for those times when you need just a little extra storage, the entire Roller expands by an additional 35% with just the simple slide of a zipper. This comes in particularly handy on those trips when you’re returning home with newfound treasure and could use the extra room to safely carry those items. It also adds a nice level of versatility to the bag, which can pull double duty as a carry-on or something larger as needed.

As someone who typically travels out of a backpack, the Travel Roller came as quite a breath of fresh air. Classy and refined, this is a piece of luggage that is prefect for the business traveler who is regularly on the road or someone who likes to travel as light as possible while still enjoying a real piece of luggage. I was impressed with how much the Roller can carry and the fact that it has room for a laptop and other tech gear means that it is possible you could travel with just one bag, leaving the laptop case behind.

I was also impressed with how durable this bag is. Its exterior features a weather resistant front panel that helps repel rain and snow, while the rest of the body is made of rugged materials that won’t scuff, tear or rip easily. That helps deliver a certain piece of mind that this is a bag that you’ll still be using years down the line.

The EO Travel Roller comes with a $249 price tag, which puts it out of the budget of most casual travelers. But for those of us who spend a great deal of time on the road, its impressive design, high quality construction and extra features make it well worth the money. Its integrated laptop sleeve and other organizational pockets help to make this bag stand out from the crowd and make it a fantastic choice for anyone who hits the road with plenty of tech gear in tow. For the modern day road warrior, I can’t think of a better option.

Gadling Gear Review: Ozone Ultralight Roller Bag

Ospery Ozone Superlight Roller BagI look for three things in a roller bag. The bag should be easy to handle, easy to pack and be as light as possible. Osprey has tacked the weight issue head on with their new Ozone line of roller bags, and they score on handling and packability, too.

The bag comes in three sizes: an 18-inch (backpack size), a 22-inch (maximum carry-on size), and a 28-inch (you’ll have to check this one, fliers). I tested the 18-inch bag for four days of late summer travel.

The bag holds it shape well enough when you’re packing it and it held almost everything I needed. I could not get a second pair of shoes in without sacrificing something else. I’m not a heavy traveler and most of the items I packed were for summer weather, so if you decide to go with this bag as your carry-on travel bag, get the 22-inch version. The interior is lined with mesh pockets so there are good places to stow your odds and ends, your cables and gadgets – that kind of thing. There are two exterior pockets on the front for stuff you need access to, like your bag of three-ounce liquids, for example. And there’s an external pocket on the back of the bag that was the perfect size to hold my netbook. Compression straps cinch everything down when you’ve closed the bag, so it’s a very neat little piece of luggage. That’s a nice feature in a soft-sided bag.

A single telescoping handle runs down the center of the back of the bag, but it’s easy to pack around. And the bag handles very nicely, the hardware is smooth and everything works well. Part of the ease of handling is, I’m sure, in the barebones weight – it’s much easier to wheel around a bag that’s half the weight of your typical denier fabric roll-aboard.Because the fabric is so light, you’ll want to pack really smart when it comes to your crunchables. This isn’t an issue with the bag so much as it is with what you’ll be doing with it, but be aware that if the baggage guys are hurling out of the hold on to a cart, there could be collateral damage. This is not a bag for protecting your belongings; you’re going to want hard-sided luggage for that.

I liked traveling with this bag a lot. I really appreciated how light it was and how easy it was to move around. The grips are in the right place, it’s easy to pack, and it’s well designed. There’s one feature the bag doesn’t have that I’d like: a shoulder strap or stowaway backpack straps. Let’s face it; sometimes you have to carry your bag. You can’t always wheel it and weaklings like me can’t carry a grip for very long.

The Ozone comes in two colors, a bright green and a gray. The 22-inch (that carry-on size) lists for $199.

Gadling Gear Review: Vaya Pannier Hybrid Bicycle Bag

Vaya Hybrid Pannier Bicycle BagOnce upon a time I was a hardcore bicycle commuter. This means I still know what I like in bike gear because when you do enough time in the saddle, you get opinions about these things. Vaya makes good looking bike bags that will help you get your gear from point A to point B – and make it easy for you to carry your stuff around when it’s off your bike. I checked out their Pannier Hybrid, a bag that goes from your bike rack to your back.

Their pannier is a bucket style roll top back that closes with a big clip. I like the sturdy hardware and I like the easy to use clips that attach the bag to your rack. The liner is waterproof and the roll top closure makes sure your stuff will stay secure. The strap that keeps your bag from swinging around when it’s on your bike converts to a shoulder strap, so when you’ve unclipped it from your bike, it’s totally manageable, unlike my old Ortlieb bags.

There’s something about the configuration of this thing that I didn’t love, though. It doesn’t quite hold what I need for commuting – or perhaps I need two, as I can’t get away with just one. I put a pair of shoes (I ride in cleats) and a clean shirt in the bag and it was almost full. It’s a little narrow to hold the kind of stuff I haul around on commuter days. While my Ortlieb panniers are not great for carrying around, they’re easy to load and unload and hold lots of stuff.

There’s an external pocket on the back (the side that would be up against your bike or your back). I’m a little confused about what I’d use it for, though. Because it doesn’t seal, I don’t think I’d put my wallet or my phone in there. Maybe it’s for stowing a candy bar or other small things that you won’t be stressed about if they should go missing.

The bag is great looking, totally sharp, made from recycled bike tube material and super heavy-duty scrap canvas. You can pick your colors – that’s cool – and which way you want the bag built, for slinging over your left shoulder or your right. I really wanted to like this bag but my years of commuting mean that it’s not quite the bag for me. If you don’t need to carry around a lot of stuff – you want to stow your lunch and your laptop and maybe a book – then it will absolutely work for you.

The messenger hybrid is $135 from Vaya. While you’re poking around in their site, check out their other bags too. I didn’t love the hybrid, but the other bags look totally hot. Really.

Gadling gear review: Hummingbird Carry-on Zip

The Hummingbird Carry-on Zip duffel bagPicking the right bag to carry with us on our travels can be almost as important as selecting the items we put inside of it. Our baggage must be versatile, rugged, distinctive, and now days, easily fit inside an overhead compartment. The Carry-on Zip from Hummingbird meets all of those criteria, and then some, providing travelers with a simple, but very useful, bag for active excursions. Especially ones involving water.

Before getting into what the Carry-on Zip brings to the table, it is important to understand what it doesn’t. In terms of design, this is most definitely a no-frills, minimalist bag. There aren’t a lot of pockets – in fact there is just one large 40-liter compartment – and the bag doesn’t have wheels or feature a retractable handle. It is, for all and intents and purposes, a simple duffel bag.

But to call the Carry-on Zip “just a duffel bag” is to greatly underestimate its value for travelers. This bag is designed for those that prefer to travel light and are looking for something they can take with them anywhere they go. Made from a tough, but flexible, vinyl material, the Carry-on Zip takes a beating without showing the wear and tear that comes from frequent travel, and its large, comfortable shoulder straps make it a cinch to carry, even when packed to the brim with gear. Those same straps can be easily adjusted to wear the bag like a backpack, and its single, cavernous, compartment has plenty of room to store everything you need for weekend escapes, or even week long adventures.

The vinyl material that makes the Carry-on Zip such a tough, durable travel option also makes the bag waterproof as well. Hummingbird has matched those materials with heavy duty zippers that when locked into place, they seal the bag up tight, keeping everything inside safe from the elements. The waterproofing is so good in fact, that I recently carried this bag on a trip to the Virgin Islands, where I spent my days snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing the beautiful ocean waters there. Thanks to the Carry-on Zip, I was able to take my camera, cell phone, and laptop with me where ever I went, without fear of damaging those expensive items within. On more than one occasion, I found myself wading into chest and neck deep waters to meet a waiting boat, and each time this bag kept my gear completely dry. It was very reassuring to know that I could trust this pack with my most fragile gear, even while swimming in the Caribbean.As the name implies, this bag was designed to carry-on any flight, and it does indeed store nicely overhead. But upon returning from the Islands, circumstances dictated that I check the bag on my return home. Waiting at the baggage carousel as the luggage was unloaded from the flight, I discovered another great feature of this bag – it is very easy to spot in a crowd. The distinctive bright yellow coloring and unique shape of the Carry-on Zip allowed me to identify it from a distance and grab and go very quickly. That might not be a feature on the manufacturers spec sheet, but being able to quickly pick-out your bag from the sea of other luggage is greatly appreciated, especially when you’re not use to waiting for the airline to offload it in the first place.

Hummingbird designed the Carry-on Zip to be highly packable in its own right. That means that while it may not be your primary bag on an extended trip, it can still be taken along very easily. This is piece of gear that is highly useful in a variety of situations ranging from a simple day at the beach to an extended kayaking excursion through remote regions of the world. The waterproof nature of this bag makes it very unique and useful for adventure travelers and beach combers alike, and with a price tag of just $149.95, it is affordable enough to add to your gear closet without breaking the bank.

The Carry-on Zip certainly isn’t for everyone, but anyone who spends a decent amount of time in or around water will definitely appreciate what this bag has to offer. Paddlers, surfers, and scuba divers will especially find it valuable, although I think plenty of other travelers will as well.

Knocked up abroad: international travel with a baby

travel with a babyThis is the third in Knocked Up Abroad‘s guide to traveling with a baby. Before you go, see tips on planning travel and flying with a baby.

So you’ve decided to travel abroad with your new family addition, well done! You’ve chosen the best baby-friendly destination, packed light, and even survived the long flight. Now that you’re on the ground, possibly recovering from jet lag and hopefully learning new foreign phrases for “what a cute baby!,” how can you ensure you and your baby have a fun and relaxing vacation? After five countries in under four months (several of them without other adults), I can say it mostly comes down to attitude and planning. Here are my tips for international travel with a baby:

-Don’t expect the world to cater to you. The most important thing to bring on a trip with a baby is the right attitude. If you travel expecting every restaurant to have a baby-changing table in the bathroom (which they probably won’t, especially in Europe) or that public transportation should be stroller-accessible, you can be sorely disappointed. Keep your expectations low and get creative. I’ve changed my baby on many toilet seat lids, on top of and even in sinks (stuff your diaper bag in to make a flat base), and occasionally in her stroller. Allow yourself to be surprised by people, too. In New York, I was prepared to carry my stroller up and down stairs at some subway stops by myself, yet I was helped by strangers every time. A restaurant owner in Italy set up a makeshift table on top of their deep freezer when she saw me struggling to change the baby on a sink top. Look at inconveniences as part of the adventure rather than a sign you should have stayed home.-Plan your logistics carefully, and then let the rest of your plans go. As noted previously, it pays to do your research before departing. Each day of your trip, plan out where you want to go, how to get there, and what you might need but realize that you might not do any of it. In Malta, there was a wine festival in the next town with cheap tastings and free food, but a cranky baby meant we stayed within walking distance of our apartment (good thing too, or we could have missed a great parade). In Slovenia, we had to make a detour back to our hotel after a diaper incident meant I had to strip my baby down to just her winter coat and diaper. Babies can be unpredictable, so you may need stop at a cafe to feed a baby, take an extra walk around the block before bed to soothe crying, or go back to your room early when the weather turns bad. While combination transit or tourist passes might be a good value, they won’t be if your baby won’t go in a museum without screaming or prefers an open-air stroll to a bus ride.

-Find favorite rest stops. When you need to take a time out from exploring to feed or change your baby, there can be some comfortable places to stop that exist in nearly every destination. Museums and large hotels tend to have nice bathrooms, sometimes with changing facilities. Large baby stores may have a private nursing room or a place to change the baby, plus plenty of gear and gadgets if you need them. Pharmacists generally speak English and carry nearly all of the necessities. At night, however, you may have to be creative again. I tend to visit the same cafes in Istanbul again and again not just for the food but for the bathrooms, the waiters who rush to coddle and play with the baby, and comfy seating while I feed her.

-Breast is best when traveling. While it’s a personal choice how you feed your baby, if you can and want to breastfeed, there is evidence both anecdotal and scientific to support that breastfeeding is preferred while traveling. According to the CDC, it provides needed immunities, nutrition, and hydration for the baby. Even if the mother gets traveler diarrhea, breastfeeding can help to protect from contaminants and rehydrate the baby. It’s also convenient: perfectly packaged, the right temperature, and nothing goes to waste! Nursing mothers may still want to carry a manual pump and store a spare bottle or two. So far, I’ve found every country to be friendly to breastfeeding mothers, though I carry and use a scarf for modesty and spit-up. La Leche League has resources in many countries if you need help, check their map for local groups.

-Document your baby’s trip. It goes without saying that you’ll take plenty of photos and perhaps journal, blog, or tweet your trip, but it helps to document the more mundane activities too. When my baby was born, I got a set of cute notebooks to help me keep track of her feeding and sleeping schedule and diaper changes. I maintained it faithfully only for the first month or two, but now try to revive the records when I travel. Especially if you’re dealing with a big time change, it can help you to figure out how the baby is adjusting by keeping track of how often they eat and how long they sleep at a stretch. It’s also useful when deciding how many diapers to buy so you don’t get caught short or hauling around a mega pack. In the event that your baby gets sick (fingers crossed that they don’t!) during or after your trip, you can tell the doctor if anything is out of the ordinary and help pinpoint causes. You don’t need a fancy notebook either, you can jot down notes on the back of a museum ticket or restaurant receipt while you’re making a pit stop.

-Pack “in between” clothes. If your baby has clothes that he is about to grow out of, bring them along on your travels. If they have only one or two more wears left in them, you won’t mind if they get left behind in a hotel room, will have less to launder or carry, and you’ll probably take many photos of your baby so you can remember a favorite outfit before it gets too small. Keep a spare in your diaper or day bag in case of a changing emergency.

-Know your conversions. Do you know your baby’s weight in kilograms? Does 39 degrees sound hot or cold to you? If you’re American, you probably suffer from the disadvantage of not knowing the metric system used by the rest of the world. You’ll need to know measurements when buying diapers as size numbers might change between countries. My baby was born weighing 3.4 kilos (about 7.5 pounds) and wears a size 2 Pampers in every European country, but wore a size 1 in the same brand of American diapers. In case of a fever while traveling, you should know what temperatures require a visit to a local doctor or just a dose of Children’s Tylenol (which is called Calpol in many other countries, by the way). This info is all online, of course, but it can’t hurt to jot it down in your wallet just in case.

-Carry lots of bags. One of the more useful items to pack and/or collect on your trip is bags disposable, resealable, and reuseable. Bottles can be kept clean and stained clothing can be kept separate from the rest of your stuff in a Ziploc bag (bring a stash from home, they are harder to find in some countries). Supermarket store plastic bags are useful for laundry and diapers until you can deal with them properly. You’ll be going to the store more than usual for baby supplies, and many countries don’t supply bags for free, so bring your own reuseable tote for groceries, carrying gear from your luggage on an outing, or bringing souvenirs home. Bags are useful even without a baby but can also make a huge difference if you have a wet baby miles from your hotel.

What are your secret weapons for traveling with a baby? Leave us your success stories (and mistakes) in the comments.