SkyMall Monday: SunCap Hat

Sure, it’s nice to look a little bronzed in the summer. Who doesn’t enjoy being just a bit “sun-kissed” when they’re showing off more skin in the hot weather? However, the sun is a fickle bitch-goddess and things can go from tan to burnt quicker than you can say SPF. It’s always important to protect ourselves from the sun (which is why we’ve stopped using our foil reflector when we have our SkyMall Monday Tanfests). Beyond sunscreen, doctors recommend wearing a hat to shade your head and face, along with sunglasses to prevent damage to your eyes. But who wants to carry all of that stuff around? And how many pairs of sunglasses have you lost over the years? Thankfully, SkyMall is here to keep us from turning red. The next time you’re ready to hit the beach, pool, music festival, picnic, sporting event, festival, monster truck rally or poker tournament, be sure to don your very own SunCap Hat.Who wants to attach one of those lanyards to their glasses? Those things are just for the elderly and boat owners. Flip up sunglasses haven’t been hip since we graduated from Hillman College. If you need sunglasses and a hat (both of which are essential travel items), it’s best to combine them so that you never lose either (or, you know, to ensure that you lose both).

Think that combining a hat and sunglasses makes as much sense as attaching a watch to gloves? Believe that the words ‘cap’ and ‘hat’ mean the same thing and are redundant when used together? Well, while you apply some zinc to your nose, we’ll be reading the product description:

The unique design of the SunCap incorporates stylish polycarbonate sunglasses that slide up and down through a slit in the hat’s bill with just the push of a finger.

Don’t worry about losing, forgetting or damaging your sunglasses. They’re always there when you need them, fastened to your cap.

It’s the most fun you’ll have sliding something through a slit all day.

So, if you have fair skin and an icy stare that needs to be revealed, be sure to protect yourself in the most stylish way possible. If you can’t do that, then get the SunCap Hat.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

11 tips for sleeping on planes

I have been blessed with the gift of being able to sleep on virtually any moving vehicle. I’ve slept in large airplanes, small propeller planes, trucks on unsealed roads, cars, trains and boats. I sleep without the help of drugs, herbal supplements or any other gimmicks. I find my seat and my brain seems to decide, “Hey, this is going to be boring; let’s just skip it.” Several hours later, I wake up as my plane is on final approach.

My personal record for continuous sleep on a plane is 11.5 hours on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Granted, that was in first class on V Australia, so the conditions were optimal. But my coach class record is 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a flight from Detroit to Tokyo. I followed that up with a 2.5 hour nap later in the flight. I would say that, on average, I spend 85% of my time on airplanes in an unconscious state. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, how do I do it? Well, if I could guarantee a solid slumber on a flight, I’d be hosting an infomercial right now selling the Mike Method for two easy payments of $49.95. Sadly, I think I am just lucky that I can sleep anywhere. However, there certainly are a few things that you can do to create an environment more conducive to sleeping on a plane (or any mode of transportation, really).1. Relax
Whether you’re on your way to an important meeting for work, visiting your in-laws or just going on vacation, the act of transporting yourself from one place to another can, in and of itself, be stressful. The same things that keep you awake at home – stress, anxiety, pressure – will keep you awake on the plane. Clear your mind and sleep is more likely to come.

2. Remove Contact Lenses
I always fly with my contacts out and my glasses on. Plane air is dry and sleeping with your contact lenses in is never fun. I’m much more apt to fall asleep if my contacts are out and my eyes are comfortable. In fact, when I’m ready to go to sleep, I take my glasses off and clip them on my shirt. They’re close by for when I wake up, but without them my body knows that it’s time power down.

3. Familiar Music
An iPod (or other portable music device) is a great way to block out the noise around you. But for optimal results, create a playlist purely for sleeping. Fill it with music that is soothing (for you) and, most importantly, very familiar to you. If you listen to music that is new to you, your brain will stay active trying to pay attention to the unfamiliar stimuli. Find some comfort music that you know backwards and forwards so that your brain can listen to it on autopilot. I have a playlist on my iPod entitled “Sleep.” I’ve listened to that 400+ song playlist on countless flights over the years. It has changed minimally and the moment it starts, my mind begins to shut off.

4. Earplugs/Noise-Canceling Headphones
If music isn’t your thing, simply block out the noise with good old-fashioned foam earplugs or new-fangled noise canceling headphones. Whatever you need to block out the crying babies, sniffling germ-carriers and endless announcements from the flight crew about how the in-flight entertainment system needs to be reset.

5. Dress Comfortably
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SWEATPANTS IN PUBLIC ARE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE! However, packing a change of clothes for long flights can be very helpful. If you don’t want to carry around a pair of pajama pants, wear an outfit that is comfortable and breathable. Bring layers so that you can handle whatever the plane’s climate control system throws at you. And take off your shoes when nap time comes. But trust me, put them back on when you visit the toilet.

6. Have a Drink
Notice that I said a drink. Drink too much and you’ll only guarantee yourself numerous trips to the lavatory and some fitful half-sleep followed by dehydration and a headache. If one glass of wine makes you drowsy, don’t feel bad. Just don’t let that one drink turn into a party at 35,000 feet.

7. Travel Pillows
This is going to shock many of you, but I do not use a travel pillow. At least not on planes. But I know more than a few people who swear by them. If you’re one of those people, find one that works for you and stick with it. The more you make it a part of your routine, the more likely you are to get comfortable with it.

8. Sit With Friends
Every little creature comfort can help when you’re not used to sleeping on planes. Having friends around you rather than strangers may help you relax and get comfortable. Plus, you won’t feel bad if your snoring keeps your husband awake. He probably deserves it.

9. Sleep Masks
Again, this one isn’t in my toolkit, but it may work for you if you are easily distracted or are a very light sleeper. Sure, you’re going to look like a moron, but if you need to block out everything in order to sleep, then you need to make sensory deprivation your top priority. What’s more important to you: Looking cool in front of people you will never see again or arriving at your destination well-rested?

10. Pack Snacks
Many people eschew sleep out of fear that they will miss the in-flight meal. While microwaved chicken is pretty underwhelming, it is often the only substantial meal you’ll receive on a long-haul flight. Pack a few filling snacks (ie, trail mix, dried fruit, a sandwich or Handi-Snacks) and you can eat whenever you stomach desires. Once you’re not held hostage by the flight’s feeding schedule, you’ll be able to relax, sleep and wake up to a treat of your own choosing.

11. Sleeping Pills
Call me a purist, but I consider sleeping pills and herbal supplements to be cheating. However, if you genuinely cannot fall asleep naturally and truly need to sleep on a flight, then I suppose I can understand going the pill-popping route. But I will put an asterisk next to your name in the record books.

It’s not rocket science, but falling asleep on planes can be challenging for some people. Hopefully these tips help you drift off to your happy place rather than enduring the mundanity of air travel. Your mileage may vary, and I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a plane sleeping machine like me, but utilizing some or all of these suggestions should help you get comfortable and sleep through almost any flight.

Do you have your own method for falling asleep on planes? Any tricks worth sharing? Drop us a line in the comments.


SkyMall Monday: Deluxe Prism Glasses

I love to read. Nothing beats relaxing in the SkyMall Monday headquarters curled up in my Slanket while reading my favorite catalog. But reading involves so much effort. First I have to pick up the catalog (back strain alert!). Then I have to recline in my chair or bed (argh!). And finally, I have to tilt my head to see the page! Tilt my head!? Do you think I can just tilt my head for long stretches of time and endure that type of stress on my body? Do I look like some kind of Olympic athlete? Head movement is not for weekend warriors like you and me. No, sir. People like us, we need to tone down these hardcore physical endeavors to make them safe. That’s why we should never even attempt to read without the Deluxe Prism Glasses.

The Deluxe Prism Glasses allow you to read while appearing to stare up at the ceiling. But you’re not counting the tiles above you. No, you’re actually reading your book thanks to the mirrors in these glasses. You see (pun intended), the Deluxe Prism Glasses shift the words and images on the page 90° so that you don’t have to tilt your head towards the book. Finally, reading is a passive activity!

I know what you’re thinking: “But, Mike. Surely this product can’t be as mind-blowing as you are describing.” You’re right. It’s even more mind-blowing than that. Just check out ye olde product description and prepare for even more blowing:

We’ve found the perfect solution for those who like to read in bed or watch TV while lying flat on your back…The prism turns the page to a 90 degree angle right before your eyes, eliminating the need for head movement. Lie on your back with your head upon the pillow as normal, and you’ll be able to read the book which rests comfortably on your chest.

You didn’t even know that you had a problem and now you have a solution! And they’ve eliminated the need for head movement, which, as you know, is the fifth most common cause of death amongst Americans age 3-112.* My only concern is resting the book on my chest. I was about to read “War and Peace” and I worry that it will affect my ability to breath comfortably.

Oh, why think about that? My neck muscles will begin to atrophy in no time, making any other issues pretty meaningless. Now, if only I knew how to read.

* That is patently untrue.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Plane Answers: Medical issues for pilots and the FAA

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Tom asks an interesting question:

Hi Kent,

I am a big fan of your website and your weekly additions here. Great stuff. But my true question comes down to this. I had a seizure two weeks ago and they did all the testing and EEG and MRI and CT scans and blood work and all came back negative. They are thinking that it was once in a lifetime type of thing. So I started wondering will I be able to still receive my First class medical if I have no seizures and I am on no medications and the doctors told me I am fine?

Hi Tom,

I checked with my AME (Aviation Medical Examiner) and he pointed me to this document from the FAA. It seems the FAA will look at your specific case and after you submit all pertinent medical records and a current status report, they’ll render a decision.

Good luck! I’d love to hear what you find out.

Steve asks:

I’ve been told that I’m red/green colorblind. Will this disqualify me for an FAA medical? Would I even be able to fly private aircraft just for fun?

Hi Steve,

In the U.S., apparently 8% of males have some sort of color deficiency. That percentage drops to just .04% of females.

Most have Deuteranomaly, which occurs in 5% of males. It’s more commonly known as the red/green color confusion.

Only .0005% of the population is totally color blind.

Most people won’t even realize they’re color blind until they try to get an FAA medical. If they can’t read the numbers in the color blind test, they’re given a restriction on their medical that says, NOT VALID FOR NIGHT FLYING OR BY COLOR SIGNAL CONTROL.

Take a look at this picture. What number do you see?

With normal color vision, you’ll see a five and If you’re red/green color blind, you’ll see a two. Of course, different monitors may affect the test, so you’ll want to be tested by an eye doctor to be sure.

If a pilot applicant is color deficient, they can apply for a waiver by demonstrating to an FAA representative that they are able to see the lights associated with a Farnsworth lantern test or, alternatively a light ‘gun’ test that’s beamed from the tower to aircraft that have lost radio communication, an extremely rare situation to be in as a pilot, but it’s an effective test apparently.

If the prospective pilot wants to get a first class medical, which is needed to fly for an airline, they would also have to fly with an FAA inspector to come in contact with the lights most commonly encountered inflight. If they can demonstrate proficiency during this flight test, they will then be issued a waiver.

I have met a number of pilots at various major airlines who’ve successfully gone through this process.

So for most U.S. pilots, the color vision issue is not disqualifying. You might want to try to get the waiver early on in your flight training, to be sure you’re able to continue commercially. Of course, this is all based on the current FAA U.S. rules which are rumored to be changing soon. I don’t know what the requirements are in Europe or Asia. Good luck!

Luke asks:

Do pilots need to have perfect vision to fly at the airlines?

Their vision needs to be correctable to 20/20 or better to be eligible for a first class medical. Most airlines have long since dropped the requirement for uncorrected 20/20 vision, but the military still requires it at the time you begin your flight training. After getting through your flight training, you’re allowed to wear glasses, from what I understand.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and he’ll try to use it for next Friday’s Plane Answers feature.

Staying in a hotel? Bring your own drinking glasses

I wouldn’t call myself a major germaphobe or anything, but like most people, I like to know that the things I eat and drink are somewhat hygienic. So this video really grossed me out — you too? I usually bring my own Nalgene bottles with me when I travel to drink from and thank goodness I do. Bleh.

What’s living in your hotel room?

Click… if you dare.