A funny think happened as I began packing my new Briggs and Riley 20-inch Carry-on Expandable Wide-body Upright for a recent multi-week, winter into spring trip to Europe: I became convinced that its designer had been reading my mind. I had long harbored the fantasy of one versatile suitcase that would be the only piece of luggage I would need; a suitcase that would, as circumstances required, instantly morph from carry-on to checked baggage and vice-versa. Now, there it was, sized to meet most major airlines current carry-on requirements for domestic as well as international travel. Yet it was wide enough to accommodate side-by-side two neat stacks of sweaters, shirts and other travel necessities, plus a mesh and nylon side pocket to keep small items within easy sight.
With airlines issuing ever more restrictive luggage regulations in recent years, I had gradually adopted a rolling duffle bag as my checked baggage for long trips; but I yearned for the stable, tidily organized suitcases of earlier times. Until the recent demise of my latest duffle led me to consider the Eagle Creek Hovercraft 25. Its firm, heavy gauge Cordura nylon shell, coupled with the packing convenience of a hard-sided suitcase and the reduced weight of a duffle made it especially attractive. The broad wheelbase, sturdy knurled wheels (four inches or ten centimeters in diameter) and adjustable height telescopic top handle made it a breeze to steer.
The base also featured a long front stabilizing bar to keep the case upright even when it was heavily loaded. This efficient stabilizer doubled as a grab-bar, which in addition to the large padded top and side handles facilitated retrieval from the most chaotic airport luggage carousel. The front flap of the suitcase had two external high-capacity front pockets with three-sided U-shaped zippers for easy access. The exterior of the Hovercraft 25 was designed to avoid handling damage. It included thoughtful details such as a streamlined shape with no sharp angles or visible seams, deep wheel wells and a rear kick-plate that provided extra protection to the base of the suitcase.
Finally, an adventure travel vest designed with a woman’s figure in mind! After trying several that I found to be mere scaled-down versions of the men’s counterpart, I was delighted by the Scottevest Women’s Travel Vest. With its discretely tapered waist, the hip-length vest was flattering enough for casual wear about town, while its lightweight brushed cotton blend water-repellent outer shell made it well suited for sport activities. Since my original intent was to use this vest as a substitute for an adventure travel daypack, I was immediately attracted by its many pockets, 21 in all, inside and out.
They came in a variety of sizes and purposes. The manufacturer conveniently delivered the garment with suggested use cards in each pocket and also stitched tiny cloth reminders in the seams. There were pockets inside of pockets, with Velcro, snap and zipper closures.
The Eagle Creek ORV (Off Road Vacation) Gear Bag was everything I ever hoped for in a duffle bag! Compact enough to meet airline carry-on requirements, it also managed to hold everything I needed to take along on two-week African safari. Its oversized, three-sided top opening and its two internal zip-up divider panels made packing a breeze. Contents were neatly stowed, readily visible and accessible. It stayed put even when the bag was tossed from the hold of a small airplane into the back of a land cruiser, and then taken on an hour-long rocky ride. The exterior organizer front panel kept my travel documents and reading material close at hand. Two interior zipped pockets were fitted into the top flap of the bag. One was lined with heavy plastic, making it an ideal place to store toiletries. The bag was lightly padded for optimum contents protection.
With its SPF 20+ rating, this lightweight wide-brimmed hat delivered superior sun protection without sacrificing style or comfort. Its generous three-inch brim offered excellent face and neck protection, and featured a navy lining that effectively reduced glare. The hat was made of patented loose-weaved Solvarveil® fabric, a complex yarn structure touted for its superior breathability, wicking properties and the ability to block UVB and UVA rays.
The U.S. State Department began issuing passports embedded with radio-frequency identity tags (RF-ID) in August 2006. These are also becoming the norm in a growing number of countries. While the new RF-ID passports are expected to enhance border security, enough concerns have been raised by computer security experts about the privacy risks they pose to the passport holder that I felt compelled to secure mine. The RF-ID Blocking Passport Wallet, made of fine leather with a protective shield inner lining to ensure the RF data cannot be accessed unless the wallet is open, provided an inconspicuous way to protect my new passport from potential data-stealing hackers.