Connect Carbon 5 Poles
If you’re heading into the mountains this summer, TSL Outdoors make light and well-built trekking poles to go the distance. A case in point is their new Connect Carbon 5. They’re super-lightweight, and they come as three-piece collapsible carbon sections that fold down to 16.5 inches, making them a breeze to pack in a carry-on bag. They’re adjustable, they have Tungsten tips for durability, and I really like the magnetic Strap Concept, which makes it easy to get a grip yet also remove the straps easily. The long EVA foam handle is designed for walking downhill, which is when you’re most likely to need them. Made in the French Alps, where they know a thing or two about mountain hiking. $169.95.
BioLite Charge20 PD
When you’re traveling, a charger is always a good idea. The problem is that they’re either too heavy or they’re super small and made with cheap electronics. Enter the BioLite Charge 20 PD , which was designed to power high-performance personal electronics. It also comes in Charge 40 and Charge 80 models, larger and designed for laptops, tablets as well as phones. I like the 20 PD because it’s small and perfect for charging a smartphone. It’s a 6,000 mAh rechargeable battery that provides you with approximately 1.5 smartphone charges. It has one USB-C PD port, up to 18W and two USB-A Quick Charge Out ports. It weighs about six ounces and is perfect for travel. $29.95
Nocs Pro Issue
I’ve been a big fan of Nocs since there were introduced in 2020 and I wrote about the original pair here in Forbes. Those were Nocs Standard Issue, 8×25, and retailed for $95. For binoculars of that quality, they remain a smart buy. The company followed up with a Monocular, also well-priced at $75.
Now along comes the Pro Issue 42mm, in 8X42 and 10X42, sizes appreciated by serious birders, adventure travelers and anyone else who likes to bring the outside world up close and personal. Once again, the grip is one of the most notable design aspects of these Nocs. They are designed to fit in the palm of your hand and have thick ergonomic rubber ribbing to ensure a good grip. In terms of technical chops, they have a Phase Coated BaK4 Prism, and multilayer phase-correction coatings applied to the prism surfaces ensure accurate image contrast and avoid unwanted interference effects. The glass has a broadband anti-reflective coating, which provides a crisp and color-correct image. They’re also waterproof and fog proof. Heavier than the originals? Yes, of course, But they’re also better all-around binoculars and can take your viewing to another level. Smartphone compatible, they retail for $295.
Gregory Quadro Pro Hardcase
Gregory is known for making a large variety of well-designed backpacks for serious through-hikers and day-hikers, gear designed for rugged mountain trips. Yet the company has also entered the field of hard-sided roller suitcases and I was eager to test-drive their new Quadro Pro Hardcase 22” roller. Sized for carry-on, it’s a well-designed hard-shell that feels roomier inside than you might think. The 22″ x 14″ x 9″ manages to packs 42 liters into its tight frame. I credit part of that to the polycarbonate shell, which is strong, thin and somewhat flexible. The inside holds a nice surprise, an ActiveShield Compartment, a fully removable and cleanable compartment (built from recycled auto glass, no less). It has a Polygiene Stays Fresh anti-microbial technology, designed to inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria. You can use it for wet or dirty clothing, and it separates them from everything else in your suitcase. Think workout clothes, bathing suits and hiking clothing. Mesh zippered pockets are another bonus. It has the expected 4-wheel system, multi-stage trolley handle, and molded grab handles. The built-in TSA lock and USB charging port are smartly integrated. For anyone who likes their travel with a side of adventure, this is a solid choice. $229.95.
Eagle Creek Tarmac X-E Two Wheel International Carry-On
I’m a long-time fan of Eagle Creek products and I like this new soft-sided carry-on, a lightweight alternative to its hard-shell counterparts. The Tarmac X-E Two Wheel International Carry-On tips the scales at less than six pounds, making it ideal for those who want to travel really light. Measuring 13.25 x 21.5 x 8, it still manages to pack in 35 liters. The two wheels are oversize, all-terrain, and designed for cobblestones or other rough pavement. It has a 15” padded laptop sleeve, an interior zippered mesh pocket and adjustable compression “wings” to keep clothes in their place. The matte finish exterior is 100% recycled Bi-Tech™ and 1000D Poly, and both weather and abrasion-resistant. The top pocket is great for stashing small items but the bag is still sleek, thankfully lacking the extra external pockets that can make such a suitcase ungainly. $289.00.
Gregory Inertia H20 18L
My new favorite pack for day hikes is the Gregory Inertia 18 H2O daypack. I was a fan of Camelbacks when they came out a couple of decades ago but this new pack from Gregory made me rethink the concept. It has a 3D Hydro reservoir and perforated 3D foam back panel that provides space for airflow, which means that hydration and perspiration are taken care of. The 2 liter 3D Hydro reservoir is stashed in a dedicated zippered compartment and there’s an inline hose and a Drylock bite valve. There’s a removable webbing hipbelt for those days when it’s simply not needed. Add a top zippered pocket with a key clip, a side zippered pocket and even a side mesh bottle pocket, presumably to top up the reservoir. The bag is big enough to stash extra layers and lunch, and then grab it and go. $99.95
Eagle Creek Explore Backpack 26L
Sometimes, a 26L pack is all you need. The Explore Backpack 26L is a multifunctional new pack from Eagle Creek that comes with a detachable hip pack, which can be worn solo when you only need a small stash. It has an adjustable sternum strap with a built-in safety whistle and there are other nice details, like the reflective tags on the zipper garages so you can quickly find them at night. The side pockets can fit your water bottle and easy to grip zippers when you need to access the main compartment, which thankfully can open fully. The external compression straps can be used to secure a jacket or umbrella. There is a 16″ padded laptop compartment and a Trolley Sleeve on the back to secure it on top of a wheeled travel bag. The main body is made from RENU™ fabric, which is 100% recycled textiles and garments. This could be a daypack for hiking, a work pack or a travel backpack for your next jaunt. $149.00
I have no use for expensive leather Dopp Kits, or elaborate toiletry bags with hangers, attached mirrors, and too many pouches. My preference is to keep such bags small, light and simple. The Sea to Summit Toiletry Cell ($29.95) has a stand-up design and a fully opening lid for easy access, with three internal mesh pockets. Made of light and water-resistant Ultra-Sil fabric and CORDURA® Nylon yarn. Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Isolate Quick Trip is small indeed, measuring just 10 x 5.25 x 3.25 inches. Yet with one main compartment and two zippered side pouches, it gets the job done. The material is super lightweight, durable and treated with Protx2®, an antimicrobial agent that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria on the fabric. Think weekend getaway. $19.95. Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Reveal Quick Trip ($19.95) is made of slightly heavier material and measures 10 x 4 x 5.5 inches. With two full compartments and a side mesh zippered pocket, it can handle a lot in a small space. The 300D Poly fabric is 100% post-consumer recycled, water-resistant and washable. It’s my choice for a two-week jaunt in Europe this summer.