How To Turn Your Daypack Into A Traveling Office

No one is ever going to accuse me of being a tech junkie. But as a journalist, I’ve had to temper my Luddite proclivities so that I can earn a living while on the road.

Compounding the issue is my essential frugality and innate dirtbag tendencies. I only travel with a backpack, using a daypack in lieu of a purse. For low-maintenance or business/pleasure-combo travelers such as myself (although I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of ditching business attire and trappings; I’ve been known to stuff a nice computer bag and dress-to-impress items into my backpack), a daypack easily transforms into a portable office.

Because I also keep my passport, money, credit cards, camera, cellphone, adaptor, and other essential documents and items on my person at all times, it also means my netbook is never left behind. This serves the dual function of ensuring I have access to a computer should I need to edit a story or file a deadline, as well as alleviates theft concerns due to entrusting my valuables to my room or hotel safe. If you’re a budget traveler, I firmly believe it’s better to risk carrying anything of value on your person than entrusting them to the vagaries of youth hostels, dodgy guesthouses, or cheap hotels.

The key to creating a user-friendly portable office lies in choosing the right daypack. I’ve written before about my preference for using hydration packs, because if you remove the bladder, it creates a space to safely store documents. I’m 5’2′, so I also require a woman’s pack, and because most of my trips include some form of outdoor activity, I like having a hip belt (the zip pockets of which double as holders for my mouse and cellphone cord), and multiple exterior and interior pockets.

I highly recommend the hydration daypacks made by Osprey and Gregory. They’re incredibly durable, and have useful bells and whistles. I’m not a fan of CamelBak, as I’ve found they don’t hold up well. The brand and style are up to you, but do check to see if the pack you’re contemplating comes with a raincover. If not, it’s a wise investment, and will spare you the anguish of waterlogged gear and devices.

[Photo credit: Flickr user incase]

Gadling gear review: Camelbak All Clear water purification system

The Camelbak All Clear water purifcation systemFinding safe and clean drinking water while traveling can often be a real challenge, particularly if you’re visiting some of the more remote destinations on the planet. Wandering off the beaten path may be one of the more rewarding elements of travel, but it can also be detrimental to our health as many of the world’s water sources contain bacteria, viruses and even parasites. Fortunately there are a number of ways to treat potentially contaminated water, making it safe to drink, including water purification tablets, micro-filters and treatments of ultraviolet light. Of those, UV light is the most effective and has become a much more viable option over the past few years.

Camelbak, the company that practically invented the hydration pack, has recently introduced a new product called the All Clear that looks to marry a high-quality water bottle with a UV purification system. The company has cleverly integrated an ultraviolet light into a specially designed lid for the bottle that when activated will kill more than 99.99% of all bacteria and viruses found in water. That makes it an incredibly useful item to have in our bags when visiting destinations where clean water can be at a premium.

Using the All Clear couldn’t be easier. You simply fill the bottle with water from any source you have at hand, secure the lid on top of the container and activate the UV light by pressing the power button. That will initiate a 60 second countdown timer on the integrated LCD screen which serves as a prompt to begin slowly rotating the bottle back and fourth in 180 degree turns. That motion helps to ensure that all of the water inside the bottle receives equal exposure to the purifying light, which is vital for killing off the harmful bacteria. When the countdown has finished the UV light shuts off and the contents of the bottle should be ready to drink.The All Clear is powered by an integrated battery pack, which is recharged using an included USB cable. That means the device can be powered up by plugging it into your laptop, a USB battery pack or even a portable solar panel. This adds a great level of versatility for travelers but brings a bit of unevenness to the process. Recharging from my laptop took about 4 hours but Camelbak estimates that it will take 15-20 hours using the sun. When fully charged the All Clear is good for about 80 uses, which is enough to purify 16 gallons of water.

Camelbak has clearly taken great care to consider the needs of travelers and backpackers while designing the All Clear. For instance, they have included a second lid that is better suited for drinking from the bottle and have added a convenient carrying case for the UV lid to the package as well. They’ve also printed step-by-step instructions on how to use the device on the outside of the bottle making it nearly impossible to get the process wrong. Those little touches may not seem like much, but they are greatly appreciated when packing for a trip.

For many of us a good water bottle is almost a mandatory piece of travel gear these days and having one with an integrated UV purification system is a great option. That said, the All Clear’s UV lid is a bit on the heavy side – especially when compared to the competition – although it isn’t particularly large or bulky. The heavier cap does include a more powerful ultraviolet light, however, and is designed to work well in a variety of conditions including colder weather.

If you frequently find yourself traveling to destinations where the drinking water is suspect then the Camelbak All Clear is the kind of purification system you’ll want to take with you. It is an easy to use system that knocks out nearly all of the harmful bacteria and viruses that we could potentially encounter on our journey and it does so in a fairly compact and rugged package. The system comes with a $99 price tag and includes a good water bottle, two lids, a carrying case and a USB charging cable. That is a very good package for the price and one that I think you’ll appreciate on future excursions.

Gear Tip: Store your hydration bladder in the freezer

If you love hiking, cycling, mountain biking or any other outdoor activities, you need a good hydration pack. Carrying your water in a bladder stored in your pack keeps your hands free and you hydrated. The problem with hydration packs, however, is keeping the bladders clean. Try as you might, you won’t be able to get all of the water out of them when you get home. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria, which will make water stored in your bladder taste funky and potentially unsafe to drink. Bladders aren’t cheap, so you don’t want to replace them the minute they start to smell poorly. So, how do you keep your water bladder clean and safe? Here’s a simple trick to avoid bad smells and worse bacteria.

Store your hydration pack’s bladder in the freezer. The bladders aren’t that big when they’re empty (even a three liter bladder, like the one in the Osprey Raptor 14 that we reviewed), so you’re bound to be able to find some space in your ice box for one. Go ahead and put the hose in there, too. Any part of the bladder that might have water left in it should get put in cold storage.The frigid temperatures will kill any bacteria and prevent odor from forming. The next time you need your hydration pack, simply take the bladder out of the freezer, fill it up as you normally would and enjoy how cold your water stays because of the temperature of the bladder. Your water will taste fresh and smell pure. Assuming, of course, that you’re filling your bladder with good water.

Sure, you can spend the money on a cleaning kit, but even those aren’t perfect for killing bacteria and don’t ensure that you get all of the water out of the bladder once you’re finished. Plus, they cost money.

You already have a freezer. Storing your bladder in there is free, easy and a way to keep your gear fresh.

You’ll thank us the next time you hit the trail.

New travel gear from Outdoor Retailer

Last week, Salt Lake City played host to the latest Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a bi-annual event that gives outdoor gear and travel companies the opportunity to unveil their latest creations. The expo is jammed packed with row upon row of backpacks, boots, climbing gear, and other items for the outdoor enthusiast and world traveler. Here are five great items that debuted the show that may find their way into your pack the next time you hit the road.

Outdoor Retailer Travel Gear: The CamelBak All ClearCamelBak All Clear Water Purification System
CamelBak, the company that specializes in hydration systems and water bottles, has introduced a new water purification system that uses ultraviolet light to kill 99.9% of the bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that lives in water. The device connect to the top of the included bottle, and with the touch of a button, it goes to work, making your drinking water safe to consume. The All Clear operates on rechargeable batteries that are good for 70 uses between charges, cleaning up .75 liters at a time. The lamp is rated for 10,000 cycles as well, meaning it will last for years before needing to be replaced.

The All Clear will be available next February with an MSRP of $99 and is ideally suited for travelers headed to destinations with tainted water or backpackers hiking through the backcountry on an extended trek.

Adventure Medical Kits World Travel
Adventure Medical Kits have long set the standard for lightweight, yet well equipped med kits designed for all occasions. They offer ultra lightweight and waterproof kits that are perfect for adventure racers, and they have a line of med kits for the world traveler too. The kits are recommended for travel in remote, developing countries, where travelers have the potential to be hours away from a doctor, and they come equipped for nearly any situation. There are a wide variety of bandages, treatments for blisters and burns, medications for stomach ailments, and so much more. In fact, they’re so well stocked, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.

The World Travel medical kit is available now with an MSRP of $70.
Outdoor Retailer Travel Gear: The Adidas Fast R SoloAdidas Terrex Fast R Solo
One of the surprises for me at Outdoor Retailer was the impressive line-up of gear coming from adidas. The company that is well known for its athletic shoes is moving into the outdoor market in a big way, beginning with their Terrex Fast R Solo hiking boot. The design on the Fast R is so impressive, it looks like it was sent back in time from the future. It is lightweight, rugged, and comfortable, and perfect for hikers looking to go fast on the trail. With a specially designed sole that was built for performance, even in wet conditions, and a Gore-Tex lining, the Fast R is poised to become a favorite amongst travelers and backpackers alike. Depending on your destination, this may be the only shoe you’ll need to take with you.

The Fast R Solo is due out this fall with an MSRP of $195.

The North Face Havoc Performance Layer
As you would expect from a company like The North Face, there was a lot of gear on display in their OR booth. But what really caught my eye was the new Havoc jackets for both men and women. These versatile mid-layer garments are designed to move with you, whether you’re on the trail or just hanging around town, giving you the comfort and temperature control you need. Both versions of the Havoc will keep you warm and dry in inclement weather, but are also built to breathe and offer ventilation when needed as well. This is a lightweight, highly packable, technical jacket that will work well on it’s own over a base layer or as a mid-layer under a shell.

The new Havoc for men and women will be available next spring for $70.

Outdoor Retailer Travel Gear: The Brooks-Range Foray TentBrooks-Range Foray 3-Season Tent
Brooks-Range came to Outdoor Retailer looking to show off their new line of four tents, each of which was very impressive for backpackers, mountaineers, and cold weather explorers. Perhaps most impressive of all however, was the new Foray, a two-person, three-season shelter that weighs in at just 2 pounds, 10 oz. That’s extremely light for a tent of this quality and design. The freestanding tent takes just minutes to assemble and comes with an optional rain fly for when the weather turns especially bad. This is the kind of shelter that is perfect for any backcountry escape and will serve you well in all but the coldest of conditions.

The Foray is due to hit stores in the spring of 2012 with an MSRP of $475.

This is just a sample of some of the many things that were on display at Outdoor Retailer. Expect more information and gear reviews in the weeks ahead.

Daily deal – Camelbak FlashFlo 1.3-Liter Hydration Pack (pink) for $11.41

My daily deal for today is for the Camelbak FlashFlo 1.3 liter hydration pack. This waist mounted hydration pack has an insulated 1.3 liter pouch and a drinking tube that attaches to your shirt.

The FlashFlo even has room for your keys, wallet and an iPod or other MP3 player. The front of the pouch also has reflective striping to help increase visibility on the road.

Products like this are perfect for hikers, runners, or anyone else who enjoys being outdoors and understands the importance of staying hydrated. The Camelbak FlashFlo lets you drink without having to stop and dig a water bottle out of your backpack.

The Camelbak FlashFlo hydration pack normally costs $40, but if you don’t mind wearing a pink waist pouch, you can pick one up today for just $11.41. Amazon Prime members can get the product shipped for free, anyone else will have to pay shipping, or add another $12.59 in products to reach $25 and qualify for free shipping (Amazon is currently offering a free one month trial of Prime)

When you get to the product page, be sure to select the PINK version of the pouch from the dropdown menu to get the low price as none of the other colors are on sale.

(via Fatwallet.com)

Edit: the price has gone up to $17.99, which is still a good deal, but obviously not as “hot” as the original price.