Awesome Travel Gear, Gizmos, and Services (2014 Edition)

by Nora Dunn on August 14, 2014

I’m amazed at the variety of travel gear, gizmos, and services that make life on the road easier, more secure, and generally awesome. Here is some of the cool stuff I’ve discovered in 2014.

 

Ultralight Water Bottle with Filter

In spending three months in Peru, I had not one, but two gut-wrenching bouts of parasites and bacterial infections. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say it’s debilitating, and incurable without medication. One of the leading causes of this yucky-ness? Water. In retrospect, I suspect even the “drinkable” water in my hotel in Lima was the cause of my second illness.

So, I went out and found an ultralight water bottle with a filter that removes 99.9999% of water-borne bacteria and parasites – the Vapur Microfilter Water Bottle. I already have a Vapur water bottle and love it since it collapses and is light as air when empty, holding a formidable litre of water when full. This particular model also has a straw-like filter that ensures I never suffer a parasite again. It’s perfect for everyday drinking, as well as any future treks I do in the wilds of Peru – where I plan to return soon (more on that in another post).

A longer-lasting alternative to this is the Steripen, which I owned years ago, but I sold it as I had the (bulky) solar rechargeable version and had to make some sacrifices when I downsized my full-time travel entourage to carry-on size. I’m still contemplating getting another one (without the solar recharging case), but for now I can sip water safely from my Vapur Microfilter Water Bottle.

 

ion5 Solar Ionic Toothbrush

Ironically and unwittingly, while in the throes of my second bacterial/parasitic infection, the folks at Soladey introduced me to their ion5 oxygenating solar-powered ionic toothbrush. I thought it might be gimmicky, but with their selling point of being usable without water (or toothpaste), I decided it was worth a shot since living in places with contaminated water is (obviously) problematic for me.

They asked me to use it for 4-6 weeks before exercising judgement on it, but to be honest it was love at first brushing – so much so that I immediately purchased a package of additional replacement heads so I can use it wherever I am in the world for months and years to come. I’ve been using it for over 6 weeks now, and not only do I feel noticeably fresher with each brushing, but my teeth seem whiter and less…fuzzy.

It’s a Health Canada and FDA approved Class 1 Medical Device that removes plaque and yucky mouth stuff (yes, that’s a scientific term). Where possible, I use it with water and toothpaste (bonus: you only need half as much), but when I’m in countries where the water is questionable or when I’m out camping in the wilds, at least I can have a clean mouth.

 

TunnelBear VPN

Now with clean innards and a clean mouth, it’s time to have a clean computer. I wouldn’t want to travel and live without a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt my internet activities and protect my computer from hackers. (See also: Financial Travel Tip #96: Using a VPN Service). For the last year I’ve been using HotSpotShield Elite on my laptop and mobile devices, and although it’s the cheapest service at $30/year, it has also been glitchy with my email, and unusable for most downloads and uploads – arguably when a VPN is needed the most.

So when TunnelBear approached me to test their service for a month, I gave it a shot – and now I plan to get their full year service – a very worthy $50 investment.

It’s ridiculously easy to use, and I haven’t encountered one glitch yet. You can test it out with their free version, which offers 500mb of coverage per month.

 

International SIM Card

A few years ago I tested out an international SIM card and thoroughly disliked it. It was difficult to make and receive calls with a confusing array of dial-out access numbers and cryptic call-in numbers. The rates were also far from competitive; it was considerably cheaper for me to simply buy a local SIM card in each new country.

But in coming to North America for the summer, buying local SIM cards isn’t as cheap or easy as in other countries, and I knew I’d be hopping around in both North America and Europe. So I put aside my initial dislike for international SIM cards and decided to give G3 Wireless a try; I’m so glad I did – I love it.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered using the G3 Wireless international SIM card:

  • No roaming charges (glory hallelujah)
  • Easy for people to call (with a regular US or Canadian phone number)
  • Seamless to call out (just dial the number)
  • It’s pay-as-you-go, no contract
  • Worldwide coverage (not all countries are covered, but a lot are)
  • It’s perfect for country-hopping or a round-the-world trip
  • One easy (local) number for friends and family at home (in North America) to call no matter where you are
  • Free incoming texts globally

The rates are competitive, but as with most international SIM cards, it’s still generally a bit more than you would pay to use a local SIM card. And when you’re abroad, locals have to dial/text long distance to reach you down the street. But you save the hassle and cost of buying local SIM cards everywhere, you can take a North American number abroad without incurring roaming charges (good for family and friends at home to reach you), and it works for both phone and data usage. I’m sold.

 

Evolve Top by Encircled

Since getting Encircled’s Chrysalis Cardi last year (more on that here), every single time I wear it without fail, at least one person (usually a complete stranger) compliments me on it. So when Encircled came out with their next super-comfy and chic design, the Evolve Top, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s not quite as multi-functional as the Chrysalis Cardi, but there are still about 10 ways to style this very flattering shirt. Check out this video to see the Evolve Top in action.

 

Dr. Segal’s Compression Socks

When I fly, my feet swell, often for days. It’s uncomfortable and ugly (and evidently I’m vain). So when Dr. Segal’s (a family-owned Canadian company) approached me, I knew it was time to get these compression socks I’d often heard of but never tried. They make 15-20 and 20-30mmHg true graduated compression therapy socks that reduce blood clots, ankle and foot swelling, leg pain, and increase energy. I was skeptical that a pair of socks could do all that, but then again the $35 price tag should have clued me in that they can do more than keep your feet warm.

The acid test was a 24 hour journey, including a 10.5 hour flight followed shortly thereafter by a 4.5 hour flight. Before I even arrived at the airport I was doing a little jig in them – they really do energize your feet and legs. After the first flight I was free of swelling (but then again I was feet-up in first class); the second flight (no bed) tested the socks more, and although I was a wee bit swollen, it was markedly better than usual and totally gone the following morning. I’ve also used them working out to add a spring to my step, and I look forward to using them for hiking. Dr. Segal’s compression socks have officially earned a spot in my travel bag.

 

 

Are you a Travel Gear Geek?

Join the club! I am too. Here are some posts you might find interesting:

Perfect Travel Gifts: 2013 Edition

Anatomie: My New Favourite Travel Clothing

My Search for the Perfect Travel Sandal

The Ultimate Packing List for Full-Time Travel

Best Luggage for Long-Term Travel: Backpacks vs Rolling Luggage

Smartphone Camera Showdown: Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Stashbelt: A New Take on my USB Stick Trick

25 Smartphone Apps for Full-Time Travel: 2014 Edition

SteriPEN: Clean Water…and Not From a Bottle

 

 

Editor’s Note: Some of these products and services were provided to me for free or at discounted rates. There are also some affiliate links in this post. All opinions are my own, and I practice what I preach.

 

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

The Guy August 15, 2014 at 10:06 am

What a fabulous range of finds Nora. I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of what people create and they clearly have practicality and the traveller in mind.

I’m intrigued by that first water bottle (sorry to hear of your illness). Health is something we should never compromise on.

I practise a bit with VPNs so it is great to hear what you use. I might give it a try in the future.

Reply

Nora Dunn August 16, 2014 at 6:10 am

Hey Guy,
I too love to see what the next big travel gadget to come out will be; as much as I have limited space in my bag, I am a bit of a gear nut. ;-)
Yes, I’m stoked to have found the Vapur water bottle with a filter – perfect for an ultralight traveler like me!
And I couldn’t be happier with TunnelBear; check them out.

Reply

Nomadgirl.co -jasmine August 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

Interesting list. I love travel stuff like this, I saw your steripen post and purchased one of those to save on using so many plastic bottles. Great purchase. The top looks interesting,ma bit dressier than merino wool tee shirts :) :)

Reply

Nora Dunn August 16, 2014 at 6:11 am

Hey Jasmine,
Glad you love the SteriPen! I think it’s a great piece of gear if you’re traveling in areas where the water is dodgy. And the top rocks! Sooooo comfy. :-)

Reply

Vanessa August 16, 2014 at 8:41 pm

I am obsessed with travel gear and gadgets and I am loving that water bottle. When I lived in Malawi (10 years ago!) I had a hard water bottle designed with a similar concept and I also had collapsible Platypus brand water bottles in which I would decant boiled water. I love that there is now a soft side version of my two old favourites!

Reply

Nora Dunn August 18, 2014 at 5:23 am

Hi Vanessa – It was a real boon to find this water bottle for me too! It ain’t cheap, but even when the filter stops working it’s a useable water bottle. Parasites: be gone! :-)

Reply

rebecca August 27, 2014 at 2:04 am

got to look into that top – its pretty cool

Reply

Nora Dunn August 27, 2014 at 6:01 am

Rebecca – I’m wearing it right now! ;-)

Reply

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