Slideshow: Souvenir Travel Clothes That Don’t Translate Back Home

We’ve all done it. Caught up in the excitement of a great trip, we find ourselves “going local,” and buying an article (or wardrobe) of indigenous clothing to show our love for a place. Sometimes, as with vintage aloha shirts, pretty kurtas, handcrafted leather sandals or Latin American peasant blouses, these looks play well back home. At their worst, however, they make the wearer resemble a clown, costume party-refugee or garden variety idiot.

I understand the urge to wear groovy clothes that scream, “I’m a world traveler!” But more often, bad sartorial choices are the result of too many margaritas, too much pakalolo or the shopping frenzy that results from visiting foreign craft fairs and artisan markets. God knows, I could stock a Goodwill with past purchases. But, like cornrows on white girls, male sarongs or anything from Hilo Hattie, most wearable souvenirs are better off left in their place of origin.

View the slideshow for a selection of frequent travel fashion violations.

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Gadling Gear Review: Travel Pants And Shirt From Clothing Art

Clothing Arts P-Cubed Pants
Clothing Arts

Awhile back we reviewed a pair of pants from a company called Clothing Arts that were specifically designed to keep your valuables safe and secure while traveling. At the time, we were impressed with their pickpocket proof pants, giving them high marks for security, comfort and style. Since then, the company has continued to evolve its line of travel clothing making subtle improvements to their designs and expanding their offerings. The result is a new generation of apparel that improves on previous offerings in just about every way.

P-Cubed Adventure Pants ($109.95)
The core product in the Clothing Arts line-up remains the P-Cubed travel pants which have seen some nice upgrades since we first took a look at them. For instance, the pants are now available in your choice of two fabrics, the original cotton-nylon blend and the new “nature-like” nylon. The latter of those options is soft and feels a bit like cotton, but has all the benefits of modern high-tech materials. It is lightweight and breathable, dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. It also resists wrinkling and is very durable. In short, it is the perfect fabric from which to make a pair of travel pants.

This new fabric is a fantastic addition to the P-Cubed design but the product hasn’t lost its focus on security in any way. The pants feature six pockets: two on the front, two on the back and two cargo style pockets on the legs. Each of them is deep and spacious, allowing them to safely carry plenty of small items such as keys, a passport and a wallet. There is even plenty of room for a mobile phone, a small camera or just about anything else you may want to take with you on a walk about town or on a trek through the Himalaya.Travel pants with plenty of pockets are nothing new, however, and what sets these apart from the competition is the level of security that Clothing Arts has built into them. Each of the pockets – including the two on the front – have two methods for sealing them shut, making it extremely difficult for would-be pick pockets to actually gain access to the valuables inside. The front and back pockets have zippers and snapping flaps, while the cargo pockets forgo the zippers in favor of traditional buttons. A would-be thief has to be able to penetrate two layers of defense if he hopes to lift something from any of the pockets on these pants.

In addition to the six pockets already mentioned, Clothing Arts has also built in two hidden pockets as well. These compartments are useful for holding your extremely valuable items, the ones that you absolutely can’t afford to lose. For instance, they are excellent for holding a smartphone, mp3 player or a point-and-shoot camera, keeping those devices both out of sight and out of reach from thieves. While these pockets aren’t particularly large they are still very useful. It is a bit like having a small safe installed inside an already secure vault.

Put to practical use, the P-Cubed pants are comfortable, durable and certainly provide good piece of mind while traveling. There is a lot of comfort in knowing that your personal items are secure when visiting places that have less than savory characters looking to separate you from your valuables. But I will admit there were times while wearing these pants that I was a little frustrated with having to hop through hoops just to get to the interior of the pockets. It wasn’t so bad unzipping and unsnapping the rear pocket to get to my wallet, but getting coins in or out of your front pockets can be an exercise in frustration when you have to do it multiple times per day. This is a small price to pay for the level of performance that these pants deliver, but it is certainly worth mentioning nonetheless.

These pants are a piece of clothing that every traveler should have in their closet. They are available for adventure and business travelers alike and Clothing Arts even offers P-Cubed shorts and a pair for women as well. With a price tag of $110, they are admittedly a bit of an investment but that seems a small price to pay for what could be the last pair of travel pants you ever buy.

Clothing Arts P-Cubed ShirtP-Cubed Travel Shirt ($69.95)
Clothing Arts had so much success with their line of travel pants that they decided to expand their offerings to include shirts as well. The company’s designers have created a product that fits in nicely with their approach to travel-specific apparel by developing a shirt that is comfortable and highly packable, while still offering options for keeping your valuables safe. The result is the P-Cubed travel shirt, an article of clothing that is the perfect compliment to the P-Cubed pants.

Made from the same “nature-like” nylon as the P-Cubed pants, this shirt is lightweight, attractive and extremely comfortable to wear. The fabric delivers the same level of performance as the pants in terms of drying quickly, resisting wrinkles and keeping the wearer cool and dry in warm conditions. Those qualities are even more greatly appreciated in a shirt, however, as I’d argue it plays a more direct role in keeping us comfortable when in a difficult environment.

The P-Cubed shirt features two generously sized breast pockets for keeping a few personal items very close at hand. They are large enough for a passport, smartphone or similar small items. But again, this is a characteristic of many travel shirts and really doesn’t set it apart from the competition. What’s different is that Clothing Arts has cleverly hidden two additional zippered pockets behind these traditional pockets, creating secure places to hold valuable items. Like the P-Cubed pants, these pockets are nearly impossible for someone to gain access to and the contents are extremely safe inside.

When paired with one another, the shirt and pants look smart together. Clothing Arts has designed a set of clothes that look great out and about in town or traveling to the ends of the Earth. No matter where you go, the P-Cubed shirt and pants will see you through your adventure and keep you looking good in the process. What more could you ask for from your travel apparel?

Travel Hacking: Best Holiday Gifts For Low-Tech Travelers

I’m an unapologetic Luddite. My colleagues at Gadling will attest to this. The fact that I write for AOL is both cosmic luck and hilarious irony given my initial reluctance to embrace the digital era.

I can’t help it; it’s hereditary. At least, that’s what I tell myself, whenever I watch my dad pecking away on my grandparent’s 1930s Smith-Corona (not a lie), or fumbling with the remote.

It’s unsurprising that when I travel, I try to keep things as low-tech as possible. It’s a matter of both practicality and part of my old school aesthetic that leads me to eschew costly devices and other gadgets. I’m also incapable of figuring out how to use them, so I look at it as less items to get stolen or malfunction.

I know I’m not alone, so I’ve compiled a list of holiday gifts for the die-hard travelers on your list who refuse to change their old-timey ways. Just remember, one of these days, us minimalists are going to be cutting-edge for being retro.

Gift card to an actual bookstore (preferably independently-owned), or travel store.
Yeah, books are heavier to lug than a Kindle or a Nook, but as a writer, I value the written word. So do a lot of people, and one of the joys of traveling for us is exchanging books with fellow vagabonds or trading in at a guesthouse or hostel.

Prepaid international phone card
Cheap, abundant, and a hell of a lot less of a hassle than dealing with Verizon overseas (in my experience). A prepaid international card is easy to purchase, although do note it’s usually less expensive for travelers to purchase cards at their destination. It’s the thought that counts.

Netbook or airbook
I may be tech-challenged, but I’m not crazy. I can’t earn a living if I don’t travel with a computer. My inexpensive little Acer has seen me through a lot of countries and fits neatly into my daypack, along with its accessories. Don’t forget a wireless mouse to go with it.
Waterproof journal
Many travelers keep journals, and some of us who travel occupationally still carry notebooks (I don’t even own a tape recorder). It’s a huge bummer, however, when the inevitable rain, beer, wine, or coffee renders covers soggy or writing illegible. An all-weather notebook is the solution.

Ibex undergarments
I used to work in a mountaineering/ski shop in Telluride, and I swear by Ibex. Their 100% merino wool, American-made boy shorts, long johns/long “janes,” cami’s, sports bras, and adorable, long-sleeve, stripey tops are the ultimate underlayers for cold weather adventures. I road-tested some items on a month-long backpacking trip through Ecuador, from the Amazon Basin to one of the highest active volcanoes on earth. I was able to do laundry exactly twice. Ibex: 1, Stench: 0. Men’s and women’s items available; they also make outerwear.

Travel scarf/shawl/blanket
Many women get cold on airplanes and long, AC-blasted bus rides. Since I backpack, I’ve found several different drapey items in my travels that pull triple duty. Depending upon what part of the world I’m in, I’ll use a soft, alpaca shawl to dress up outfits, as a lap blanket, or an impromptu pillow. In the Andes, I sub a llama wool poncho. In the tropics, it’s a pretty, airy sarong. When I get home, I have a wonderful souvenir.

If you’re buying for someone departing on a trip, any department store will have a wide assortment and price range of pashminas or scarves. Just be sure it’s a dark color, to hide dirt and stains, and that it’s made of soft, preferably natural-fibers, so it won’t absorb odors as readily. The item should be able to withstand sink-washing.

Multi-purpose beauty products
Regardless of gender, everyone loves multi-purpose travel products: more room for souvenirs! I like Josie Maran Argan Oil, which can be used as a lightweight, yet rich, face or body moisturizer, or to condition hair (use just a few drops for soft, gleaming strands). Rosebud salve comes in cute, vintagey tins, smells lovely, and soothes everything from dry lips and cracked heels to flyaways. Many top make-up brands produce multi-use products: I crave Korres Cheek Butter, which is also gorgeous on lips (all available at Sephora).

Lush makes luxe bar soaps that work on body and hair, but perhaps the kindest gift for the female adventure traveler? Inexpensive fragrance that does double duty as perfume and clothes/room freshener. I never leave home without Demeter’s Gin & Tonic Cologne Spray.

[Photo Credit: jurvetson]

Comfortable and Stylish on the Airplane? Ladies, It’s Possible

I’ve been told I can’t wear my jammies on the plane. I’ve done so anyway, though with certain limitations. I wear the penguin flannel pants and a long sleeved t-shirt; I don’t go for the full on two piece set with the pink elephants. I change on the plane — and I change back into my street clothes before we land. I wear jammies on long haul flights only. I bring slippers, too; I toss my shoes up into the overhead bin right when I board. I fly coach, mostly, and it’s damned uncomfortable. Changing in to my jammies helps me relax and enjoy the flight as much as I possibly can given the situation.

But the jammies, they’re still considered a nonstarter by folks who have opinions about what to wear where. A person should dress presentably for flying, “they” say. I fail to see where the sweats with a word on the butt fit in to this scheme, and yes, people are still wearing those, I see them nearly every time I fly. I don’t understand why I can’t wear my jammies, yet the high school tennis team can wear track suits and flip flops. Whatever.

Still, in a play to dress like a grown-up (and to support my failed attempts to charm way into frequent flyer lounges and upgrades), I’ve been on the hunt for clothes that look nice but feel like pajamas. Here are a few items that totally make the cut for looking cute and dressed like an adult but are still perfectly comfortable for slouching in your coach seat while wondering where the hell is transporter travel, already, and what is WITH coach seats, anyway? A-hem.

Horny Toad Traipse Trousers: I want, like, nine pairs of these pants. They’re cut like something between a pair of jeans and a pair of cargo pants without the bulky side pockets. But they’re made out of a cotton knit that’s soft and a little stretchy and feels like your favorite sweats. You totally look like you’re wearing Actual Trousers but ho-ho, you feel like you’re wearing yoga pants. The zip front and snap fly hide the drawstring waist and they’ve got the same five pockets that your jeans have. They’re $95.00 from Horny Toad, they come in two colors, and I wear mine all the damn time now, including on planes.Nau Randygoat Hoody: Yeah, I’m still a sucker for merino, while I’m hearing that alpaca is the Next Big Thing. This hoody from Nau, once you get past the slightly weird name, is a fine substitute for that worn out sweatshirt you’re wearing. It’s got a big shawl collar that doubles as a hood. It’s big and drape-y and soft without being overly bulky. You can absolutely curl up and take a nap in this thing, it’s somewhere between a wooly blanket and that old soft t-shirt, but it doesn’t look like you pulled it off the top of the laundry basket before pulling it on. It’s pricey at $180, but you’ll have it for a good long while. And yes, it washes up just fine, just don’t put it in the dryer.

Icebreaker Maya Skirt: I’m still freaked out by the sight of that guy in boxers wearing a ram’s head at the Icebreaker booth at the Outdoor Retailer show. But not so freaked out that I am prepared to break up with their clothing. The Maya skirt, which I can’t find on their website (but is still available on Amazon) has a wide, flat, waist band and is made from a super fine merino (again with the merino) knit. It’s the one skirt I own that competes with my penguin jammies for comfort and because it’s made from a beautiful material, it looks great. It’s been through the wash lots — again, don’t put it in the dryer — and it’s still got a nice shape. Amazon lists it at up to $75.00, but there are some great clearance prices to be had if you shop around.

Gadling gear review: Outdoor Research women’s Frescoe Hoody activewear

women's activewearI love hoodies, and ever since I was old enough to waddle around in my brother’s hand-me-downs (which unfortunately included his tighty-whiteys, until I was old enough to realize that, while my mom’s thriftiness was admirable, clothing your daughter in boy’s underwear was not), I’ve worn them. The versatility, quirky style, and marsupial-like comfort a great hoody can provide make it an unbeatable wardrobe staple for travel or at home.

When I started running a decade ago, zip-up sweatshirt hoodies were my favorite layering accessory. Unfortunately, they’re bulky, and one of the reasons I took up running was so I could exercise while traveling. Thus, like most active women, I require workout gear that fulfills my various needs.

That’s why I love Outdoor Research’s Frescoe Hoody. This lightweight pullover debuted last spring in the Seattle-based company’s women’s apparel line, just in time for me to give it a test-run on a monthlong backpacking trip through Australia.

For this particular trip, I needed a piece of activewear that could perform well in a variety of climates (it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere). It also needed to serve as sleepwear in a Sydney backpacker’s, and at a friend’s Arctic-like, 120-year-old stone cottage in the rainy Barossa Valley. Most important: I would have little opportunity to do laundry, so the hoody needed to, as advertised, deliver moisture-wicking, “quick-dry performance,” and remain stink-proof.women's activewearThe Frescoe Hoody is made of Dri-Release® E.C.O. fabric: 83% recycled polyester, 15% organic cotton, and 2% Spandex. New for 2011 is Built-in FreshGuard® odor neutralization. I have no idea what that last part means from a manufacturing standpoint, but it’s a huge selling point for someone (that would be me) who has been known to travel for weeks at a time in climatic extremes ranging from tropical jungle to high-altitude blizzard, sans access to laundry services. My test hoody didn’t have FreshGuard, and still miraculously kept stench at bay.

Pros

I confess that when I first received my Frescoe in the mail and unpacked it, I was dismayed by both the color (see Cons) and size. Although I’d ordered an XS (sizes go up to L), the “relaxed fit” was still generous. I’m 5’2″, and wear a 32A bra, so the V-neck (which is double-layered, to help prevent gaping, I presume) was a bit too low for me, but I’m used to that. How the flat-chested do suffer.

  • From the first time I wore it, however, I decided I loved the Frescoe’s slouchy design, in part because the bottom hem has a wide, flattering, slightly stretchy band. It’s slimming, but also retains body heat. The fabric is soft, light, and unbelievably comfortable, and the hood stays put but doesn’t constrict (there are no drawstrings). When I got too warm on a run, the hoody was easy to whip off while maintaining my pace, due to its loose fit. Once tied around my waist, it didn’t hinder my movement with weight or bulk.
  • women's activewear
  • What really made me fall in love with the Frescoe, however, are two fantastic features: a tiny, hidden zippered pocket ideal for holding keys, a Chapstick, and a couple of bucks, and cuff fold flaps. For cold-handed types like me, these are ideal when it’s too warm for gloves.
  • I’ve worn my Frescoe in Seattle drizzle, hiking and camping in Shenandoah National Park, and on the windy beaches of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. On that trip, I was only able to do laundry once, 10 days into my trip. Yet the top survived daily runs for two weeks, before being crammed in my backpack for four days while I was in the blistering heat of the Ningaloo Reef region in Western Australia. On day 20, the Frescoe emerged, still smelling reasonably fresh, to accompany me on a long run around Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. I even slept in it that night because it passed the “sniff test.” What? Like you haven’t done the same thing.
  • The $55 price tag may seem a bit steep for what is essentially a glorified long-sleeve T-shirt. But when you take into consideration the bells and whistles, performance ability, durability, and responsible manufacturing materials, it’s a steal.

Cons

  • At 11.8 ounces, the Frescoe isn’t as lightweight and compressible as some activewear, but it’s not bad and it kept me warm. Given how well it performs, I don’t mind a little extra bulk in my baggage.
  • women's activewearMy only other nitpick are the colors. I admittedly have a pet peeve about women’s gear that only comes in impractical, pastelly or bright hues. I do, however, like the little flower graphic on the Frescoe’s right hip. New 2011 shades (available starting in February) include Mist (light blue), Fuschia, Mandarin, and Mushroom (brown-grey).

My own hoody is Fossil, a not-terribly flattering greyish-green that makes me look somewhat cadaverous. It’s practical, however, and never shows dirt. If OR could make this baby in charcoal, burgundy, forest green, or black, I’d buy another one in a heartbeat to wear on the street, or while tossing back an apres-ski cocktail or four.

In summary, I was really impressed with the Frescoe Hoody. It delivered on its promises to stay dry and not get stinky, and the hidden zip and cuff fold features totally rock for practicality, cleverness, and cuteness. I highly recommend this top as a multi-use travel wardrobe staple. P.S. It’s also great to wear for lounging or while typing up Gadling posts.