Backpackers tend to think of the hike itself as the ultimate goal. But on a long trip, whether abroad o
Backpackers tend to think of the hike itself as the ultimate goal. But on a long trip, whether abroad or domestic, getting to and from the trail—and enjoying the moments in between—is an important part of the experience. Our top picks for travel products will take you safely, comfortably, and efficiently from plane to town to trailhead.
Best Portable Power Bank: Einova Ultra Fast Power Bank
- Price: $70
- Weight: 15.7 oz.
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We would love to know the percentage of power outlets in airports and hostels that actually work. For when they inevitably don’t, the Ultra Fast has more than enough power to keep everything juiced: On a road trip to Alaska, it kept our laptop, phone, tablet, and other gadgets fully charged between coffee shops and last-minute trailhead power top-offs thanks to a massive 20,000mAh capacity. That’s enough to charge a typical iPhone six times or a Macbook Pro about 1.3 times—a lot for a power bank that’s only slightly larger than a phone itself. The Ultra Fast can fit in any backpack without crowding other electronics, and a display on the front gives a readout of exactly how much power it still holds. You can charge devices simultaneously from two USB-A ports and one USB-C port. Plus, after more than a year of use, the canvas-covered outer isn’t showing any wear and tear.
Best Phone Case for Photographers: Peak Design Mobile Line
- Price: $40 (case); $40-$100 (accessories)
- Weight: 1.4 oz.
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Everyone’s a photographer these days, and keeping a phone handy for documenting a trip is key for most travelers. Rather than buying a $10 case from a checkout line, up your game with Peak Design’s “Mobile” ecosystem. The slick nylon canvas-backed phone case is made from durable plastic and is available for a slew of Apple and Samsung phones. It pairs with a web of accessories like an (unfortunately pricey) mini tripod ($80; 2.7 oz.) that folds down slightly thicker than a credit card (perfect for watching a movie on your tray table or taking a time lapse on the beach) and a minimalist wallet ($50; 1.4 oz.) that attaches to the case magnetically. The case also works with Peak Design’s Creator Kit ($50; 3.8 oz.)—a single mount with interchangeable base plates that will affix your phone to everything from a full-size tripod to a GoPro mount to Peak Design’s Capture Camera Clip. All the components are surprisingly small, which makes them the perfect additions to your carry-on if you want to bring home a sick vacation edit.
Best Duffel for Adventure Travelers: Exped Radical 60
- Price: $180
- Weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz.
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The best duffel bags will swallow all your gear, carry it comfortably, and won’t fall apart in the process. Exped rethought how to achieve those goals with the Radical, creating a roomy gear-hauler with backpack DNA. Thoughtful features include a generous zipper (the bag pinches outward at the top, creating a funnel-like opening), zippered pockets (big enough for a few pairs of socks) on three sides, and even internal gear loops that can rack climbing gear or organize other odds and ends. But what really differentiates the Radical is on the outside: An asymmetrical shape—the part near your shoulders is broader than the part by your waist—ensures that it carries more like a backpack than a bulky duffel. Compression straps on the sides (top and bottom in backpack mode) suck in any loose material, and the padded shoulder straps are more plush than those on any other duffel we’ve used. Plus, they’re removable or convertible into an over-the-shoulder carry: ideal for going from the airport to the trailhead. Water-resistant 420-denier nylon (on the ends and one side) and 600-denier polyester (on the bottom) have remained pristine, even after regularly being tossed on the ground at campgrounds across Colorado. The Radical also comes in an 80-liter version for more gear-intensive trips.
Best Backpack for Adventure Travel: Matador Freerain28
- Price: $125
- Weight: 12.3 oz.
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Less bulk, more fun: That’s an adage to live by when you’re traveling, and the Freerain28 delivers on that promise. This pack can carry everything you need for a dayhike—its rolltop main compartment is augmented by hipbelt pockets, a zippered stash pocket on the front, stretch side pockets, a reservoir compartment, and trekking pole loops—and yet it still folds up in an included mesh stuff sack to slightly larger than a softball. The Freerain28 lacks suspension, but we found that its 3-inch-wide shoulder straps and hipbelt were more than adequate on a kitted-out ascent of 13,745-foot Fremont Peak in Wyoming. On that trip, it served well as a snack-holding pack in the car, compressed inside a larger overnight pack for the hike in, and remained sway-free when deployed on its own for the scrambly ascent. Major bonus: The Freerain28 is waterproof (but not submersible), so feel free to walk the trail or skip down city streets in downpours. After all, it’s vacation, you can do whatever you want.
(Photo: Matthew Stacey)
Best Adventure Travel Shoes: Oboz Bozeman Low
- Price: $120
- Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz. (m’s 9)
- Sizes: m’s 8-14, w’s 6-11
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If you’ve ever worn a pair of hiking boots for a long day of travel, you’ll understand the difference between footwear designed for shuffling through airports versus hitting the actual trail. The Bozeman Low is definitely geared for travel (it’s ubercomfy and relaxed when big-time support isn’t what you’re looking for) but has the chops to handle light-load dayhikes once you reach your destination. We had no problem hiking all day in the Bozeman Low on the flowy Dallas Trail outside Ridgway, Colorado, thanks to the shoe’s finely tuned EVA midsole (soft in the heel but stiff elsewhere) and a proprietary rubber outsole with deep lugs. A low-cut, lightweight nubuck-and-textile upper, medium volume, and a quick-drying recycled polyester lining (since your feet can get almost as clammy at the airport as on a hike) keep the Bozeman Low nimble for travel when not on the trail. Oboz’s proprietary, supersupportive insole also meant our feet were less likely to ache after long days both in the backcountry and on city streets.
Best Travel Pants: Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Pant
- Price: $99
- Weight: 13 oz. (m’s 32 regular)
- Sizes: m’s 28-46 (short/regular/long), w’s 0-16 (short/regular/long)
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Stretchy, comfortable, and versatile materials are key in travel clothing, and the Chockstone Pant is all three. Its DWR-coated nylon/elastane fabric ensures it’s durable enough for hiking, thanks to notable thickness: Our tester wore it through the airport and then immediately into the Adirondack High Peaks for two days of backpacking. (The material also proved stretchy enough for the steep trails of the Great Range.) Good water- and stain-resistance was helpful when he brushed past wet leaves on narrow trails, and the pant has a built-in belt with a plastic buckle that you won’t need to fumble with at airport security. Two deep front pockets (even on the women’s version) and a zippered back pocket keep your items secure. Elastic cinches around the ankles keep junk out of your boots on a hike. Bonus: With matte tones and a classic, straight-leg cut, the Chockstone doesn’t look nearly as dorky as your typical techy trail bottoms.
Best Tee for Adventure Travelers: Ibex Merino Tencel Short Sleeve Tee
- Price: $85
- Weight: 4.8 oz. (m’s L)
- Sizes: m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL
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You won’t want to take this basic tee off, which means you can get away with packing fewer of them. “It has become my go-to airport and road-tripping shirt,” one tester says. The Merino Tencel also became a favorite of ours for hiking and backpacking trips in the Tetons and Wind River Range. The two performance materials—merino wool and tencel, a material made from dried wood pulp (45 percent each, along with a dash of nylon for durability)—are ultrasoft and stretchy for comfort on the go, and they allow the shirt to layer well or play nice on its own. Wool’s well-known ability to handle moisture and odor keeps the shirt usable day after day. You can wear the Merino Tencel into town without looking like Rambo: The shirt has a clean cut and comes in colors way simpler than your neon rain shell, so it can pass if that dinner turns out a little fancier than you expected. Only downside: It wrinkled noticeably after being rolled up in a duffel for a week.
Best Travel Mug: GSI Outdoors MicroLite JavaPress
Coffee snobs rejoice: The MicroLite will let you make fresh French press coffee without the need for carrying a ton of redundant equipment. Don’t have the time? The barista at your local coffee shop can fill the MicroLite just as easily as any other mug. The vessel has a heat-safe plastic cylinder with a mesh filter attached to the lid that slides down into the main vacuum-insulated body, pushing out grounds and leaving you with ready-to-drink coffee. Or, the spill-resistant lid unscrews from the carafe for top-filling. Our tester loved the 15-ounce MicroLite for fast-paced mornings when she wanted to make a single quick cup of coffee and hit the road without leaving a dirty French press in the sink. It was ideal for a car camping and climbing trip to the Pacific Northwest—she could make a single cup for herself on the tailgate without dirtying any dishes, then take it in the car or on a hike. On the road, the MicroLite seals up like a regular mug, giving our tester confidence to jam it in the side pocket of her pack and get going.