The Gadling gift guide for the lightweight traveler

Traveling light is a challenge – I’ll admit that it is the kind of challenge I usually avoid, but with rising luggage costs and more exotic destinations, people are starting to pack as lightly as possible.

In this list, you’ll find a couple of gifts that can reduce your luggage load, and help make your trip more enjoyable.

Of course, every lightweight and “one bag” traveler has different needs, so if you have a great tip for a lightweight travel item, let us know and leave a comment below!

Don’t forget to check out our other gift guides:

Gift guide for the iPod and iPhone

Gift guide for famlily travel and kids
The top ten travel products of 2009

Joey Totes

Earlier this year, I took a look at the Joey Totes – and was really impressed at how convenient they are. Joey Totes are bags made from parachute style nylon, that can fold into themselves, AND each other. End result is a 4 ounce pouch of three super strong waterproof bags. They are perfect for carrying up to 40 lbs in excess stuff, or as a backup if your main luggage abandons you.

Price: $20 for three bags
Product page: Joey Totes

Eagle Creek HC2 Hovercraft Upright 22″

Before you bombard me with complaints about lightweight travelers and rolling luggage – I know that hardcore one-bag lightweight travelers hate rolling bags – but there are still plenty of us that are always on the lookout for the newest piece of luggage that won’t add to your overall weight.

The Eagle Creek HC2 Hovercraft is such a bag. At just three kilos (just over 6 lbs), it is the first ultra-light bag I’ve seen that does not make all kinds of compromises. It has a massive front pocket large enough for a laptop, it expands, it features a side-mounted water bottle pocket, inner compression straps and handles on the top and side. In every possible way, this is a normal rugged rolling suitcase, just a very light one.

To make a great bag even better, the HC 2 Hovercraft comes with a “no matter what” lifetime warranty.

Price: $250
Product page: Eagle Creek HC2 Hovercraft upright

SCOTTEVEST Pack Windbreaker

SCOTTEVEST has long been a personal favorite, and not just because the owner shares my first name. SCOTTEVEST products are the ultimate travel garment, something fellow Gadling Blogger Annie recently discovered.

Imagine a windbreaker with 17 pockets and an interlinked cable routing system. Now imagine that same windbreaker turning into a travel pillow, all by folding it into itself and closing a zipper on the back. With all those pockets, you can indeed turn your jacket into your third carry-on bag, without the airline even noticing.

Price: $75
Product page: SCOTTEVEST Pack Windbreaker

Dell Inspiron Mini 10 with GPS

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell any lightweight travelers about the advantages of a netbook. But I’ll explain it anyway – lightweight, decent power and great battery life all make the netbook a travelers best friend. And the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 with GPS adds one more great feature for travelers – GPS. The GPS receiver is an optional extra on the Mini 10, and the option comes complete with a full navigation package. Of course, with a machine equipped with GPS, you can also do other neat tricks, like photo geotagging and Twitter location updates.

The GPS chip inside the Mini 10 is actually a tad smarter than many other receivers, because it takes advantage of WiFi signals in addition to regular GPS satellites. Of course, the

Price: From $299 + $70 option for GPS
Product page: Dell Inspiron Mini 10

Humangear GoToob travel bottles

Back in July we took a closer look at the GoToob lineup of silicone bottles. These things are ideal for the few remaining toiletries you still want to carry, plus they are the right size for the TSA. The larger of the bottles comes with an integrated suction cup, making them ideal for holding shampoo, and sticking to the shower wall.

Price: from $6 each
Product page: Humangear GoToob

Patagonia Men’s Capilene® 2 Crew

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to travel – for example, I’ll never go anywhere that requires large amounts of thermal underwear. That said, several of my fellow Gadling team members swear by the Patagonia Capilene Baselayer. This is an extremely lightweight garment, but provides excellent insulation and built in odor control.

Price: $40
Product page: Patagonia

Gadling’s gift guide for the outdoor and adventure traveler

In this first of several Gadling gift guides, we’ll follow the tradition of all other sites by suggesting some great gift ideas for travelers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some impressive kit for the outdoors and adventure traveler.

Since I am more geek than adventurer, you’ll notice a trend towards battery powered gadgets. Some of these great products were featured here on Gadling this year, others will be reviewed in the coming weeks, so keep paying attention to our product reviews!
Contour HD camera

The Contour HD is a lightweight HD digital camera that can be attached to almost any surface. It features a really impressive wide angle rotating lens. To top it off – the camera also features 2 lasers, which help adjust the camera so you know exactly what you are shooting.

One of the coolest features of the ContourHD is its large sliding record button, which allows you to immediately start recording whenever you want, without having to fiddle with small knobs. The slider is large enough to operate when you are wearing gloves.

The camera itself is only part of the package – once you have recorded some awesome adventure footage, you can share it with the world on the VholdR ContourHD community. If you have recently paid attention to Mike Rowe on “Dirty Jobs”, you’ll have noticed him climbing off the edge of a building using one of these cameras to record his antics. We’ll have a full review of the ContourHD here on Gadling next week.

Price: $279.99 (Contour HD) and $329.99 (Contour HD 1080p)
Where: ContourHD retailers

180s Quantum Vent gloves with Tec Touch

There is very little “high tech” about most gloves, unless those gloves are the new Quantum Vent gloves by 180s. These gloves are obviously designed to keep your hands warm, but they also feature an adjustable venting system and a goggle wipe.

The really cool feature comes from 180s patented “Tec Touch” system. This nifty invention allows you to control your iPod or other capacitive touch screen device without having to take your hands out of your gloves. Metal conducting fabric on the inside of the gloves, and a metal tipped finger make it possible to switch tracks or start your iPhone fart app on the slopes.

Price: $75
Where: 180s product page

Garmin Oregon 400t

You can tell I’m not much of an outdoors person, because I’m the kind of person that would pick a GPS unit before even thinking about good boots. Still, a good outdoors GPS device can be a real handy piece of kit.

One of the best outdoor units is the Garmin Oregon 400t. This device combines a waterproof touchscreen GPS unit with a compass, barometer and even wireless connectivity with other Oregon devices. You can plot tracks, view topographic maps and of course, find your way back to basecamp (or your car).We reviewed the 400t earlier this year.

Price: $499.99
Where: Garmin product page

Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk 28

Adventure travel is not always lightweight travel. If you need to haul a lot of gear, then check out the new Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk. This large rolling case features 2 separate compartments, with enough room for a ton of kit. The bag works as a rolling trunk, or as a shoulder bag (with the included shoulder strap). If holds 49 liters of stuff, and weighs just 12lbs when empty, which is really impressive for a bag this large.

Compression straps help reduce its bulk. and “off road” wheels let you pull it through smooth hotel floors as easily as through muddy trails. A full review of this bag is coming up later in December.

Price: $350
Where: Eagle Creek product page

SPOT Personal satellite messenger

If you really love the outdoors, you’ll regularly find yourself well out of range of cellphone signals. This is where the SPOT personal satellite messenger can help. This small device communicates with a constellation of satellites to relay your position, inform people that you are “ok”, or send an emergency message in need of immediate assistance.

Sure, it may not be a replacement for a true emergency beacon, but at just under $150, it is a really handy tool, with a proven track record of saving lives. We reviewed the previous (larger) generation SPOT unit last year.

Price: $149.95 + $99 annual subscription
Where: SPOT retailers

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX1 waterproof camera

Heading to cool locations is great, but if you’d like to share your trips, you’ll need a camera that can survive the elements. The Panasonic DMC-TX1 is a waterproof and shock/drop proof digital camera. Its internal 4.6x wide angle zoom lens shoots in 12 megapixels, and allows you to record HD video clips. We reviewed the Lumix DMC-TX1 here.

Price: $379.99 (MSRP)
Where: Panasonic Lumix retailers

Packing light for a cold trip

I’m a proud packer, but until now my longer trips have either been in warm places, or to countries where I planned to be very stationary (and didn’t care if I looked like a 20-something grungy backpacker, because that’s what I was). Flimsy skirts and tank tops were the norm. My task this time around, however, is to maintain my packing pride while making sure I stay warm and manage to look somewhat professional.

I’m heading out for a three-month trip to China, where I probably won’t wear my swimsuit or flip-flops one time. I’m going to use Kunming as my base, and that city is at 6000 feet elevation. I hope to do a some trekking while I’m there, so a bit of gear will be necessary.

First, I need to choose my luggage. Instead of my fabulous Eagle Creek Switchback, I’ll cram my Marmot Diva 36L with all my stuff. It’s not as convenient for travel, but it’s a great pack for trekking. Next, I decided to bring my light down sleeping bag (rather than my thick synthetic bag, or nothing at all). It should be sufficient for sleeping in huts and will also be my bedding when I get an apartment.

Finally, the hard part: shoes and clothes. My running shoes will double as trekking shoes and, well, running shoes, while a pair of red Keen Mary Janes will fill in all the other shoe duties. Hopefully I won’t have to get fancy. As for clothes, I’m bringing stuff I would normally never dream of packing: jeans, cords, long underwear. No light cotton pants and only one strappy tank top (a girl needs to go out every now and then). One fleece pullover, several long sleeve shirts and a few t-shirts. My packing pile is growing, but overflow will get discarded and my Eagle Creek packing cubes will tidy the rest.

Gadling Gear Review: Eagle Creek Thrive 65L

I’m a long-time fan of Eagle Creek. I’ve raved in the past about their superior customer service skills, but my love for the company doesn’t end there. Most importantly, they create impressive, well-thought-out backpacks for the independent traveler. I can’t imagine traveling with anything else.

The Eagle Creek Voyage 65L was my first pack from the company. It’s a rugged, durable, innovative bag that has lasted me many years and proven itself invaluable for nearly every one of my trips to various parts of the world.

So when Eagle Creek announced an update to their Voyage series with the new Thrive model earlier this year, I knew I had to give it a go.

The Thrive 65L — the updated model in the 65-liter size — looks very similar to my older Voyage. It still offers many of the features that made me fall in love with its predecessor: a modular, removable day pack, front-loading panels, multiple grab handles, and numerous external and internal pockets. But many new features and upgrades lurk inside of this nifty pack.

The most noticeable upgrade is its Zip-away X-ACT Suspension. Like the Voyage, the hip belts and shoulder straps can be zipped away to give more of a duffel bag appearance. But the new suspension system becomes truly invaluable when you place the fully-loaded pack on your back. Various bits of mesh-covered foam keep the main load away from your back, creating a refreshing flow of air between the pack and your tired traveler torso. That’s right — no more sweaty backs! The shoulder straps are even more ergonomic than the previous version, and each is adjustable at numerous points throughout the system.

Perhaps my only complaint with the new suspension system in comparison to the old is the rigidness of the hip belts. The Voyage series hip belts were much more pliable, which made it easy to tuck away behind your back when they’re not needed. (Ever walked down an airplane aisle with the hip belts unstrapped, slapping the faces of seated aisle passengers on your way to the back? Not fun.) The new hip belts are much too rigid to comfortably place behind your back. However, with a fully-loaded pack, the Thrive does a much better job at supporting your lower back with its rigid belt — so not all is lost.

The removable day pack has proven to be my favorite feature of every Eagle Creek pack I’ve owned. The Thrive offers many small upgrades this unit, making it not only a great addition to the entire system as a whole, but also a stellar 2-3 day pack on its own. A secret compartment near the top of the back, directly behind the upper grab handle, holds all of the smaller valuables that you want hidden away, like a passport, plane tickets, keys (it has a handy latch for those), mobile phone, cash, and even your mp3 player. A handy headphone port completes the secret compartment, allowing you to run the phones conveniently up to your ears without having to remove the device.

One of the few negative upgrades to the daypack are its shoulder straps: you can no longer unhook them for easy storage in the back pocket, which is strange because they still include the pocket. Folding away the shoulder straps without being able to unhook them ends up making the day pack bulkier than necessary. The main, front compartment of the pack is large enough to fit my Macbook Pro along with 2-3 days worth of clothes. Unlike the third compartment on the older Voyage, the Thrive has a a much larger third pocket for easy access to any other small items you might want to take out on your day trip.

On to the main pack itself: Wow, this thing is huge — but not too huge. I normally pack no more than 5-6 days worth of supplies for trips lasting at least as long as that, and the 65L offers more than enough room to fit that, and any souvenirs I decide to hide away for friends back home. The front-loading panel means I can grab something from the bottom of the pack without removing everything on top of it — a necessary feature for every hostel-goer who is in and out of his or her pack numerous times a day, but still wants to use it as a locker of sorts. Pair it with some packing cubes as I’ve done, and you’ll end up like me: more organized on the road than you are at home.

Another invaluable upgrade to the 65L line is the built-in rain cover. I purchased a detached rain cover for my older Voyage, but that was a pain to keep track of and stuff away when it was wet. The Thrive’s rain cover unrolls from the bottom of the pack to cover itself, and easily stuffs back away into its own compartment when you’re done.

Eagle Creek has also put a lot of thought into security with their newer line of backpacks. Each and every zipper offers a lash point which allows you to zip together the openers and run each through a grommet so a security lock can be attached. If you’re hauling around a lot of expensive gear like I usually am, this is invaluable. It won’t help fend off that jerk with a pocket knife who plans on slicing through the material to snatch your booty, but it’ll keep crowded-market hands away. You’re no longer the easy target.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the upgrade. Eagle Creek continues to prove to be one of the best choices for the independent backpacker, and I can’t imagine running across a more well-thought out, quality backpack in the near future.

Thrive 65L – Eagle Creek. MSRP $200.00.

How I keep my backpack organized

I’ve become such a smug packer. On my last trip, I packed for three states, two countries, and three climates, which varyied from Alaska winter to springtime Mexico, and I would proudly show off display my bag (which I carried on each flight) to anyone who was (or wasn’t) interested.

What’s ironic is that I’m a total mess – I’m famously disorganized, and the contents of my bag will spew over the floor and bed of my hotel room in a colorful vomit until it’s time to move on. So, in order to contain my sloppy piles, I’ve implemented a packing strategy that has changed my travel life. Well, it’s less of a strategy and more of a product: Eagle Creek’s packing cubes. (Full disclosure – I receive a pro-purchase deal on Eagle Creek products, but I was buying packing cubes long before that privilege.)

For my round-the-world trip, I used a Marmot Diva backpack, which is thin and deep, and only has a top opening. With the packing cubes, I could color-coordinate (pants in the yellow cube, shirts in the blue one) and grab exactly what I needed rather than dig blindly through the black cavern of the backpack. Though the pack is cylindrical and the cubes are square, I could use the empty space along the sides of the cubes for stuffing dirty clothes, books, and shoes.I found that the half-cube size works better for me than the full size. The full one is so big that it ends up becoming just as disorganized as my pack would be without one, unless I’m taking bulky winter gear. The half cube is perfect for my lighter clothes: I simply roll everything up into tubes and line them up inside. I use a long tube cube for my underwear and one or two pairs of socks. Once I’m home, I’ll throw all my travel accessories (pack towel, hand sanitizer, headlamp, etc) into a cube or two and keep it in a drawer, where it’s all in one place.

I would have included a picture of my own stellar packing job, except that I’ve been home a month now and my stuff is currently spilling out of my cubes and pack on my bedroom floor….