There’s a great debate raging among outdoor adventurists, explorers, and people who call themselves influencers, and at the very heart of it is the type of gear we carry. Some people believe that national parks, jungles, forests, and even beaches are sanctuaries of nature that shouldn’t be bothered by modern technology and our favorite gadgets and doodads. Others contend that it’s all about personal preference.
We think both sides are right to some extent. A copout, yes, but certain people have specific expectations for any environment, be it a luxury hotel villa or a patch of dirt in the middle of a Costa Rican jungle. The key is to know what’s appropriate, as every aimless wanderer needs to not only respect the next explorer on the trail, but also think about the natural beauty surrounding them.
To put it more simply: take it easy out there. Bring the gear that makes your outdoor adventure everything you hoped for, but make sure to keep your impact low. And if you need some inspiration, boy, do we have the goods for this gear guide.
This is Good Baggage
Why We Love It: When you’re traveling solo or simply keeping it light, you won’t even think about checking bags. That means you need the right carryon gear, and we all know the rules: one above and one under the seat. And what’s up above can often raise concern because we never know if we’re going to have overhead space or not, thanks to those families that bring 19 bags for four people.
A set like Hex’s Aspect Backpack, Duffel, and Sling is ideal for minimalist travelers who never worry about the perils of overpacking and want to be sure they’ll almost always be able to cram their stuff between two giant duty-free bags and an oversized roller that really should have been checked. The Hex gear is also great for people who don’t believe that style should be sacrificed for convenience, as the basic black design is just flat out cool.
We Also Love: Photographers will especially want to check out the Hex Cinema DSLR backpack in ranger camo.
The Bag: Able Carry Daybreaker
Why We Love It: Able Carry’s Max Backpack has been on quite a few trips with me over the last two years, as it is durable and stylish, with plenty of pockets and space for all the gear I bring for testing purposes. What this brand does so well is create bags that work in any situation, from the office to the gym to the beach, and the model that reflects this more than any is the Daybreaker.
At 25L it’s a little smaller than the Max, and the design is also simpler, which is great because if your only cargo on a day of running around town is a laptop, gym clothes, headphones, and a water bottle, this is the backpack that will keep it all together in a sleek design that won’t be flopping around your back and shoulders like a loose saddle.
The Bag: Matador Freefly16 Packable Backpack
Why We Love It: It wasn’t until I started playing a lot of golf in the Caribbean and Mexico that I realized bringing an extra pair of shoes, several sleeves of balls (okay, at least five), multiple gloves, and my GoPro gear wasn’t exactly conducive the minimalist agenda I try to maintain. It certainly makes the backpack tighter, even with a dedicated shoe compartment, but it’s even worse when I rely on rentals and therefore need a bag to carry these accessories to, from, and on the course.
The answer: the Matador Freefly16 Packable Backpack. It sounds silly to carry a bag within your bag, but this miracle of design rolls up smaller than a softball and unwraps to carry up to 16L, which means all that aforementioned golf swag can be properly organized before hitting the links. And when it comes to durability, this backpack just feels strong, leaving no doubt that it can handle even rough terrain as well as those stronger rainforest showers.
The Bag: Yeti Hopper M20 Soft Cooler Backpack
Why We Love it: This isn’t your typical piece of luggage, but whether heading to the college football tailgate or the beach for a day of lounging, you’re going to want a good cooler to keep the beverages ice cold. The problem with that is that coolers have always been a hassle to carry and store when it’s time to leave or head inside, so thankfully some absolute geniuses made one that you can actually wear.
My biggest concerns with the Yeti Hopper M20 Soft Cooler Backpack was that it would be uncomfortable on my shoulders and sloppy, like carrying a giant water balloon around; however, the design was clearly conceived to eliminate those problems. The straps are comfortable enough that you don’t feel like you’re giving a large child a piggyback ride, and the structure inspires confidence that this backpack will make it to the game for seasons to come.
The Bag: Stnky Washable Laundry Bag
Why We Love It: Sometimes the best bags are those that save our gear from smellier gear without our luggage. Longer trips require more clothing and that means we run a greater risk of sweaty, sandy, and downright skunky shirts and unmentionables funking up the clean or “clean enough” apparel on the return trip.
Leave the plastic grocery bags at home and pick up the Stnky Washable Laundry Bag, which was designed (quite well) to keep odors locked inside so you won’t have to throw the entire suitcase into the washing machine as soon as you get home. It is also very easy to pack, even when full, because it is basically a large packing cube, and you know we can’t get enough of those.
The Bag: Nomatic Packing Cubes
Why We Love It: Did someone say packing cubes? We typically reserve these modern marvels of luggage organization for larger suitcases, but the Nomatic Packing Cubes are smaller and slimmer, which makes them great for backpacks and duffels, especially because these were designed with a zippered compression system that helps save even more space. It’s such a simple concept—like a vacuum sealed bag but it’s just an extra zipper—and yet somehow I was blown away by how much easier these cubes made packing a small bag for a four-day trip.
Look the Part
The Gear: Deckers x Lab Ko-Z Ba Da Da 25 Sandal
Why We Love It: With great flip flops comes great responsibility, but I first want to focus on the most important aspects of footwear before I get preachy. As a lifelong Floridian, flip flops are basically my religion, but I have been through some really bad pairs over the years. What drives me crazy is that this style doesn’t have to neglect details like comfort and durability, but some brands don’t get that.
Fortunately, the Deckers x Lab Ko-Z Ba Da Da 25 flip flop (it’s a mouthful, yes) was designed with a larger platform to take it easy on your feet. That means it’s easier to keep on when you’re sitting on long flights, so you won’t have to be that guy who ends up on Flight Shaming for having his bare feet all over the place.
The Gear: Chillos Clog
Why We Love It: Okay, some people will probably disagree with my flip flop assessment and that’s fine. I get it. Still, it pays to have an easy “on and off” shoe style for navigating security lines when you’re hopping from airport to airport, so that’s one way in which the Chillos Clog is superior to your regular pair of shoes.
The other way—perhaps even more important—is that this is all-purpose footwear that can go almost anywhere on your outdoor adventures, from the beach to the nature trail, and it will keep your feet very comfortable and mostly dry.
The Gear: Arcade Repreve Belt
Why We Love It: The other thing that makes a nice pair of flip flops so convenient is they’re easier to take on and off when you’re going through TSA, and you don’t have to be that guy who stops traffic at the screening point to put everything back on as bags are backing up on the conveyor. But the one accessory that I have traveled with longer than any other is my Arcade belt, which boasts a plastic buckle that doesn’t need to be removed for the screening process.
The new Arcade Repreve Belt is even cooler because it is manufactured with recycled yarn, which repurposes more than 30 million plastic bottles (keeping them out of landfills and the ocean) and still manages to look nice and last a long time.
The Gear: Dragon Opus LL H20
Why We Love it: It just cannot be said enough how important it is to own a pair of floating sunglasses. I’ve lost three pairs on trips in the last two years—one pair mysteriously vanished from my bag while switching planes at an international airport while the other two very pricy name brand styles are sitting at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. After that second one got away from me so quickly, I vowed that I’d never leave another pair behind.
After recently (intentionally) dropping my Dragon Opus LL H20 sunglasses in the gorgeous blue water off Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos, I feel more confident than ever that I have my forever pair. Unless, you know, a fish or bird snatches them, which would stink but leave me with a funny story. But whomever or whatever is wearing them will also love the style, because the rounded frames just look fantastic.
The Tech that Makes the Trip
The Gear: Via Lactea Waterproof Phone Pouch
Why We Love It: When it comes to your travel gear, there’s nothing more important than protecting your phone. It is your device for communication, organization, entertainment, and, perhaps most importantly, documenting the best moments of your trips and preserving wonderful family photos and amazing selfies on your Instagram for the rest of eternity. The last thing you want is to drop your phone in the pool or ocean and then pray that a bowl of rice will fix it.
Some waterproof phone pouches just feel risky—like you’re putting your phone in a sandwich bag—which is why I’ve personally tested at least 10 of them. Via Lactea’s Universal Waterproof Phone Pouch most recently made it through a snorkeling trip with my son and I’ve never felt more confident. Not only does it keep the device safe, but it is also easy for pressing buttons, which is often the biggest annoyance with even the fanciest pouches and cases.
The Gear: Nokia T20 Tablet
Why We Love It: I can’t believe it’s almost 2023 and we still have airlines that don’t offer seatback video sets for streaming movies on flights longer than two hours. Sure, there’s a clip for my phone above the tray, but I have always strategically packed a pair of corded earbuds just so I can plug and watch. Alas, this is the reality of air travel, so I once again had to go tablet hunting. Fortunately, I struck affordable gold.
The Nokia T20 tablet is an enticing option because it is affordable and has a good screen size, all while coming with a brand name that inspires confidence. But I have enjoyed this device so much for its convenience alone that I added a Bluetooth keyboard and standing case to make it not only my airplane movie theater, but also my travel laptop.
The Gear: Treblab WX8 True Wireless Earbuds
Why We Love It: The only other accessory I’ve gone through as much as sunglasses is earbuds, and that’s not because I drop them in the ocean. Instead, it’s because a certain popular brand makes a pair that seems to lose battery life by the day and mine got to the point that I couldn’t watch half a movie on a flight without getting that annoying “your battery is toast” ping.
So, I turned once again to a reliable brand that makes affordable accessories with excellent battery life, and now I’ve used the Treblab WX8 True Wireless Earbuds on multiple flights without having to recharge the pod case in between. And they have the added benefit of easy touch control, so they’re perfect for when I need to pause a movie, answer a call, and tell certain people that I’m totally working on my trip.
The Gear: eyeVue Smart Binoculars
Why We Love it: There are some devices that I normally wouldn’t try if not for this gig, and so I feel extremely fortunate when one makes its way into my gear bag, and it becomes an instant personal favorite. In this case, the eyeVue Smart Binoculars has given my phone’s photo and video capability a huge boost, all while serving as a very fun learning tool for my 6-year-old son.
Using the eyeVue app, the binoculars allow you to zoom in even more, which is great for two of my favorite pastimes: animal spotting and yacht watching. And we all know how much the cool kids love to live stream from amazing destinations, so everyone will love the ability to do that for the sake of sharing the majesty of nature with friends and family.
The Gear: iLive Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers
Why We Love It: While this pair is great for pretty much any location, I’m absolutely loving the iLive Outdoor Bluetooth Speakers in my own backyard right now. For example, an outdoor TV has the disadvantage of competing with the world around us for sound, and that’s annoying when you’re trying to listen to the Manning brothers bicker throughout Monday Night Football. These speakers, paired to my TV, were not only the solution for that, but the ease with which I can switch from that to my phone to someone else’s phone makes these a true editor’s pick.
Even better, just for the sake of my own curiosity, I have left them outside for two days (they should be stored inside), which means they’ve already been through two afternoon Florida storms. Thanks to great design and their solar power, they turned right on and proceeded to play my son’s favorite songs while he worked on his cannonballs.
A Little Bit of Everything Else
The Gear: Breeo Y Series Portable Fire Pit
Why We Love It: I’ve been beating the drum for Breeo’s fire pits for some time, because they’re just fantastic. The design is sharp and cool for regular outdoor use, and the sear plate and Outpost are awesome for outdoor chefs who want to be creative and show off for friends and family. The only problem with the X Series fire pit that I have in my own backyard is that it’s a pain to move from Point A to Point B. We’ve done it and it has been worth it, but it’s still very heavy.
Fortunately, Breeo is a company built on innovation. Enter: The Y Series, which is a truly portable fire pit that is lighter and easier to carry (a built-in handle is a sublime addition), making it a phenomenal addition to your tailgates and camping trips. Best of all, it still offers the same creativity in cooking as the other models, so kebabs and burgers are always available.
The Gear: Fuego Box
Why We Love It: My favorite hobby is collecting hot sauces from the Caribbean, but there are only so many I can acquire before I demand more fire. I’d been eyeballing the Fuego Box subscription service for a while, but I have a “one in, one out” rule in my house that applies to both hot sauces and mezcal, so I needed to clear some fridge space first.
When my first box finally arrived, I was the happiest I’d been since I restocked my Pica de Papaya in Aruba. As if they read my mind, the first batch included a bottle of Secret Aardvark, which falls under the “put it on everything” category, but I’m also discovering new favorites, like the spectacular Friendly Fire Guava and Habanero sauce from Seattle.
The Gear: MoonShade MoonWall
Why We Love It: The MoonShade Portable Vehicle Awning is already an Editor’s Choice Hall of Famer because of how much easier it is to use for tailgating than a traditional four-post portable tent. Being able to attach it directly to my Wrangler or any SUV is a huge bonus, and the ease with which it can be broken down and stored cannot be understated. Still, there is always room for improvement.
The MoonWall is a simple concept that goes a long way in making outdoor rest and relaxation a little more tolerable. It is, as its name suggests, a wall attachment that is available in short and long, all for the sake of providing a little more shade. Bring a portable fan and it’s basically a mansion!
The Gear: GoSun Breeze Portable Fan
Why We Love It: I can’t mention a portable fan without providing an example of one that is fantastic for everything from your kid’s soccer game to reading a book on a beach lounger. Some portable fans come with battery packs that really don’t pack much of a punch for a morning and afternoon escape, so the Breeze Portable Fan excels by offering the versatility of using the 12V outlet in your car, connecting to the included chargeable battery pack, or getting juice from a GoSun portable solar panel.
The Gear: Geekey
Why We Love It: There isn’t much more to say about this handy little gadget that I haven’t already previously written, but I also can’t overstate how helpful it is. We’re limited in what we can have in our carryon bags, so a Swiss Army Knife is a no-go for minimalist travelers. The Geekey is a great replacement that can handle everything from cutting wire to popping open a celebratory beer when the group makes it back to the resort from a zip lining tour.
The Gear: Coalatree Packable Hammock
Why We Love It: What’s not to love about a hammock? Especially one that fits in your backpack and doesn’t take up much space or require a lot of effort to hang. In fact, the hardest thing about having the Coalatree Packable Hammock is teaching myself how to tie a square knot again. Thank goodness for YouTube!
The second hardest part was convincing my son that we can’t leave it hanging in the backyard 24/7. And the only way I was able to do that was promising he can bring it on our next trip to Lake Reynolds Oconee.
The Gear: State Bicycle Co. x Corona Klunker
Why We Love It: A new bike is always a good idea for when it gets a little cooler outside, but a beach cruiser brings us right where we belong. This version of the State Bicycle Co. Klunker is the result of a collaboration with Corona, but it’s hardly the only option worth considering.
After all, there’s also a Wu-Tang Klunker (presumably for the children) and a Grateful Dead version for Deadheads who need to work off the brownies. And there’s a regular black and metallic ride for when you want to be your own band.
The Gear: BOTE Deus Aero Inflatable Kayak and Stand-up Paddle Board
Why We Love It: We can’t always be at resorts where kayaks and paddle boards are readily available for our every beachy whim. For those weekends when we need to make our own water-based fun, it helps to have our own watercraft that is not only durable and safe, but also convenient for transporting.
The BOTE Deus Aero Inflatable Kayak and Stand-up Paddle Board is all that and then some. It transitions easily between kayak and board—it’s just a simple process of removing the top part—and when the day is done and it’s time to sit at the fire pit and make some burgers, it quickly packs down into its own travel bag.
The Gear: Floyd’s of Leadville
Why We Like It: Getting older doesn’t always mesh well with traveling. More time spent in small airplane seats means more aches and pains, and I’ve been dealing with soreness for over a year since a fellow passenger on a flight to Cabo was kind enough to drop his carryon directly on my shoulder. Add in the golf rounds and swimming and it all makes for morning routines of stretching and trying just about anything under the sun, including balms and nontraditional lotions.
Finally, a golf buddy recommended I try the sports cream from Floyd’s of Leadville, as he claimed it has been great for his knee problems. You don’t have to tell me twice, so I grabbed a bottle and a few days later I applied it for the first time. The science of it will never be clear to me, but I’m elated that a week of using it has had me almost entirely pain free. Now I just need to look up when those overhead bins are opening.
The Gear: DNA Vibe JazzBand Light Therapy Wearable Wrap
Why We Love it: Like the eyeVue, this is another device I never would have discovered if it hadn’t been blessed upon me by the angels, but, so far, I am really happy that it’s in my gear bag. Again, I don’t pretend to know the science of these things, but I believe in results. In addition to my shoulder woes, I also have a sore knee that always aches on long flights, so anything that brings that throbbing pain down is a bonus.
A half hour a night with my knee (followed by my neck) wrapped in the DNA Vibe JazzBand is as simple as it is effective, and my only wish is that there was a cordless version so I can wear it on airplanes.