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The 2021 Islands Holiday Gift Guide

Travel gift guide
From luggage to accessories, there’s always something just right for the picky traveler who has one of everything. Islands

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales behind us—or at least the first round of what feels like a dozen extensions—it’s time to wrap up our holiday shopping by figuring out what to buy for arguably the hardest person to shop for: the world traveler. We’re a quirky bunch for sure, as our taste supersedes traditional style, design, and comfort in favor of utilitarian concepts that last from one adventure to the next.

We’re also very loyal to certain products, so getting us to try something new might feel like pulling teeth. So, if you’re stuck on what to purchase for your special traveler, take it from us that this gear should do the trick.

A Bag for Every Occasion

delsey cactus
Every traveler needs one bag to rule them all. Delsey

Delsey Cactus Upright Spinner

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A popular brand for budget-conscious travelers, Delsey’s logo is a common sight on most airport baggage carousels (I have accidentally grabbed someone else’s Helium Aero a few too many times), and the main reason for that is reliability. These bags can handle the rigor of long-distance air travel like the best of them, and they look good while doing it. So, this holiday season we’re upgrading to one of the best-looking styles in the Delsey arsenal, the Cactus upright spinner.

This is a hardcase roller that was designed for adventurous travelers (not prickly passengers) who still care about bringing style as much as toiletries. And with three sizes to choose from—weekend, week, and two weeks—the adventure can last longer with the comforting knowledge that this suitcase won’t let anyone down.

Level8 Luggage
Style and durability go hand in hand with this cool set. Level8

Level8 Matte Luggage Set

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If romance isn’t already in your plans for 2022, then light the spark by choosing a new luggage set for the couple on the go. Now, when you think of luggage sets, your mind might recall old episodes of The Price is Right, when Bob Barker (really showing my age here) and his showcase models would wow contestants with a bevy of prizes, including six matching suitcases of various sizes. Just thinking about that today makes my skin crawl, not just from the idea of lugging so many bags through an airport, but the fees. My goodness, the fees!!!

Fortunately, modern luggage wipes that nonsense from our brains. Specifically, the Level8 Matte Luggage Set, which includes 20- and 24-inch rollers that are as stylish as they are convenient. These bags are ideal for minimalists who like to leave a little space for a bottle of Blanton’s from the duty-free shop, but they’re also fantastic for those of us who pack like we’ll somehow need the actual kitchen sink. And did I mention they’re stylish? Because, hoo boy, these things look nice.

Carl Friedrik carry-on
You don’t have to be a billionaire to travel like one. Carl Friedrik

Carl Friedrik’s Carry-on Pro

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Have you been enjoying HBO’s phenomenal series Succession? Of course you are (and if you’re not, you need to be, because it’s awesome). Now, we would hardly ever suggest that we should look to the Roy family for inspiration, least of all for family bonding, but they do have really good taste in luggage. Specifically, they’re known to travel with Carl Friedrik luggage, and that’s something we can get behind for everyone from savvy professionals to flat out ballers.

But for the pro’s pro, well, we roll with the Carry-on Pro, which, if we’re being purely superficial, looks like the luggage choice of James Bond in the year 2099. The hard-shell design is all business, like an armored truck that won’t wear out your shoulder in busier airports. But inside it’s like a portable office, with brilliantly conceived space for everything from your Montblanc pens to a MacBook Pro. And the soft, durable lining will keep every item safe and secure so you’ll look great for every important billionaire meeting.

solo ny tote
Quick trips aren’t easy to pack for, unless you have the perfect bag. Solo New York

Solo New York Austin Hybrid Tote Backpack

What you bring on the airplane is just as important as what you check, and with ever-decreasing space below the seats and in the overhead (or when families are somehow allowed to board with four bags each while my one bag somehow has to be checked… end rant) what matters most is what you do with the bag space you have. Laptop, tablet, headphones, book(s), charger, passport, and wallet—these are some of the key essentials, and they all fit perfectly into the Solo New York Austin Hybrid Tote Backpack.

The really cool thing about Solo New York’s bags is how they’re not just heavy on eye appeal. They were certainly designed to look good on campus, in an office, or several miles in the sky, but because these bags are meant to go anywhere, they are also built for efficiency and utility. (That’s why the Grand Travel TSA backpack, Highline Duffel, and especially the Packable Backpack have joined me on a variety of Caribbean adventures.) Compact yet stylish, the Austin is one of this brand’s best at doing a lot of everything.

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chrome barrage
Getting there can be as tough as the actual adventure. Chrome

Chrome Barrage Cargo Backpack

One kind of trip we’re excited for in 2022 is the solo dayventure, be it a quick jaunt to our favorite local beach or a spur of the moment overnighter in Bermuda. Take us anywhere there’s a bike to rent and a path or trail to be explored and the Chrome Barrage Cargo Backpack is the bag we’re bringing with us, because the extremely durable and eye-catchingly stylish cargo net makes it easier than ever to bring a helmet along.

In most backpacks, a bike helmet would be like Galactus, devourer of worlds, taking up all your precious space. However, the incredible design here ensures that not a single millimeter or milliliter is lost, and the expandable rolltop guarantees a place for everything, from clean socks and a toothbrush to your laptop and headphones.

Hex Ranger
Just don’t call this a fanny pack to anyone wearing it. Hex Brand

Hex Ranger Black DSLR Sling

Easily embarrassed spouses and children beware: the fanny pack is back, whether you like it or not. So, the only thing you can do now is embrace it and make sure that dad has the MacGyver of miniature bags, so he’s actually serving a purpose out there and not just bragging to other dads about how he brings two beer cozies everywhere he goes.
 
Hex’s Ranger Black DSLR Sling is the Cadillac SUV of slings, as it boasts an incredible variety of storage spaces, from the quick and convenient front organizer to the hidden Velcro stash products. This thing is so versatile and impossibly vast that it can even replace a backpack for minimalist travelers who get by with their phones and airbuds, as opposed to tablets and over-ear headphones. All in all, this sling is an absolute must-own for smart, adventurous travelers.

Gadgets, Gear, and Goodies

GoPro
An action camera is only as awesome as its accessories. GoPro

This is normally where I’d stump for the GoPro Hero10 Black because I think every traveler should own an action camera, and this is the Swiss Army Knife of action cameras. They’re just awesome, okay? However, this time I’m more in love with the accessories, because the device is only as good as the pieces that turn it into a full-blown artillery of awesomeness (dibs on that as a band name). 

For starters, the GoPro 3-Way 2.0 might be the most crucial accessory for this camera, because it combines the always necessary handheld mount with a selfie stick (or a simple extender) and a tripod. It’s as simple as it should be and yet it’s so impressive in how well it works, and I say that as someone who has bought one of those mega accessory kits from Amazon and failed spectacularly at getting everything to work. Simplicity is an amazing gift for those of us who merely want to press record and go.

But add the Media Mod to the mix and you’ve got a movie camera in your hands. Suddenly, your ziplining footage becomes the action-adventure thriller of the summer, and everyone on your Facebook page is even more impressed at how you handled that giant waterslide in Costa Rica.

Treblab headphones
A great pair of headphones goes a long way. It goes anywhere, actually. Treblab

Treblab Z7 Pro Wireless ANC Headphones

The biggest thing we look for in headphones is sound, but when it comes to finding the right pair for travel, we have two other equally important factors to consider. First and foremost, are they comfortable on your ears? There’s no reason to invest in a set if we end up taking it off halfway into the first movie of a long flight because they’re either irritating or too warm (sweaty ears are the worst). A perfect pair should be lightweight and snug without making us feel like we have one of those Alien babies on our heads. Basically, to quote Ned Flanders, it’s like wearing nothing at all.

The Treblab Z7 Pro Wireless ANC Headphones solve this problem with ease, while also offering a variety of perks, from on-ear detection to a built-in mic. And yes, the sound quality is stellar. Oh, and the second factor? That’s battery life, and this pair can play for up to 45 hours, which is great news for the vagabond who doesn’t always make it back to the resort in time to recharge the essential devices.

Bonus recommendation: TotalMount Removable Mount for Headphones

nebula projector
Never underestimate the good times that can be had with a spontaneous movie night. Anker

I know, it still sounds crazy to suggest packing a portable projector in your luggage, but technology has made these things smaller and smaller by the year. I was already a huge fan of the Nebula Capsule Max, so I wasn’t sure the Nebula Solar Portable Projector could top it, but I’m constantly amazed at the things that prove me wrong.

For starters, as a cord cutter, I’ve adapted to a routine of flipping from app to app, and that plays perfectly here, as the Android system on this projector allows the seamless download and organization of all my favorite channels and streaming services. For comparison, the Capsule version acts more as a storage system, and hopping from Netflix to Prime, for example, is a bit clunkier on the older model. 

When it comes to the picture, the Solar is crystal clear (I use it on a 16-foot inflatable screen, for context) and the three-hour runtime makes it ideal for a spur of the moment movie night in the backyard or catching the family’s favorite team when you’re miles from the nearest sports bar.

SeaLife SportDiver iPhone case
It’s a whole different world down there, and that means so many more memories to capture. SeaLife

“Underwater photography is serious business,” said anyone who has ever put an iPhone in one of those plastic pouches and dunked it under water for a blurry shot of some kind of fish. Or maybe it was a rock. Who knows? (There were a lot of daiquiris that day.) Pulling the phone back out without it being ruined feels like a coin flip, so when it comes to diving a little deeper and getting the best of what photography gear we have, we need the real deal.

And there is no deal realer than the SeaLife SportDiver iPhone Case, which is basically a submarine for your iPhone. In fact, I’m not even sure that submarines are made this well. The convenient installation feels like you’re locking the device in a clear vault, and that can lead to apprehension that it will be difficult to use. Fear not. It’s as easy as it is safe, and it’s guaranteed to make casual divers want to spend as much time underwater as possible.

Liteboxer
Not only is punching great exercise, but it’s awesome after a long, stressful day of work. Liteboxer

One of the most common descriptions of fitness gear over the last two years has been “it’s the Peloton of…” followed by the activity. That’s not a bad thing at all, because I never really enjoyed the actual Peloton, as cycling isn’t my thing. But if there’s a Peloton for punching and kicking, now you’re speaking my language, and it turns out that there is—the Liteboxer.

As anyone who owns a classic punching bag will tell you, you need enough space and hanging the dang thing is a real pain in the neck. Even a freestanding MMA bag can be a hassle, so a convenient contraption like Liteboxer not only allows you to unleash fury after a long day of work, but it lets you do so in limited spaces (it’s basically the size of a treadmill) and without doing more work lifting the bag than punching it.

As for the Peloton comparison, that’s because of the interactive training sessions—fighters and athletes are standing by—but if your thing is simply blasting a soundtrack of rage and allowing your fists to do the talking, the Punch Tracks option will have you glistening with combative satisfaction in no time.

Fluid Running pool
Is it really exercise if it’s in the nice, warm pool? Fluid Running

Fluid Running

If you want to save space and take your fitness outdoors, there are very few better ways to burn calories and build muscle than in a swimming pool. Fluid Running is a very simple workout system that consists of a flotation belt and waterproof Bluetooth headphones. That’s it. The hardest part is downloading an app, and that takes a whopping minute. 

The best part of all is that the workouts feel like nothing more than spending time in the pool, so the hardest part is remembering to get out before you become a giant prune.

MyCharge mag lock
Forget about pesky lightning cables and opt for the charger that attaches directly to your iPhone. MyCharge

MyCharge Mag Lock Magnetic Powerbank

It’s not a traveler’s gift guide without a portable charger, and it doesn’t get much more portable than a magnetic block that attaches to your device. The MyCharge Mag Lock Magnetic Powerbank might be my favorite stocking stuffer this year, because as a person who travels with no less than three backup batteries and chargers, smaller is always better. But this is also about way more than just portability.

First and foremost, what makes the Mag Lock so great is that it’s cooler than other chargers, and if you’ve ever felt an iPhone heating up from a portable battery, you know it’s like that scene in Iron Man 3 when the bad guys are trying to melt Rhodey from the Patriot suit. It gets pretty hot. And a cooler battery is also better when you choose the bigger Mag Lock (there are three sizes), because some of us go a long way without access to a lightning cable, so it’s nice to be able to choose just how much power we will need to bring.

Livsn shorts
It’s never just a pair of shorts. Livsn

Livsn Flex Canvas Shorts

The concept of “travel” clothing is pretty weird to the occasional vacationer, but if you’re out there once a month or more, you know just how valuable durable shirts, pants, shorts, and shoes can be. Unless we want to pack the whole closet, we need gear that can go from the airplane to the resort to the beaches, boats, and trails, and still be ready to rock first thing tomorrow morning. 
It’s a tall order, but Livsn’s Flex Canvas Shorts have scored an A+ from me after barely looking worn following four Caribbean adventures this year. While durability and comfort are the top priorities for any clothing item, we also take style into account, because we still want to look good, right? Fortunately, these shorts check every box and go with just about everything, although I don’t recommend them for romantic champagne catamaran cruises. Unless you have a really good, waterproof tuxedo t-shirt, that is.

kora jersey
The price of comfort in any terrain is immeasurable. Kora

Kora Yardang Jersey

Another thing adventurous travelers know is the necessity of comfortable layers. Even when it’s blazing hot, we need to protect our arms and legs from the elements and sometimes all the sunscreen in the world won’t help. Find the right layer and you can also cover your bases for warm and cooler weather excursions, and that’s why we love the Kora Yardang Jersey.

With styles for men and women, this midweight layer is ideal for both keeping the upper body dry and safe from sun exposure and warm on mountain and jungle trails. And, because it looks good, it checks that style box so you won’t hear record scratches when you roll into the resort bar after a day of exploring.

Ombraz sunglasses
A stylish pair of sunglasses that won’t (or can’t) slip from your face is your new best friend. Ombraz

Ombraz Dolomite Sunglasses

On my most recent trip to the Dominican Republic, the unthinkable happened: I lost my favorite pair of sunglasses. They’d been with me on a number of adventures, and I almost surrendered them to the ocean twice on an earlier Cancun trip, but I tried like crazy to keep them safe. Alas, they’re gone now and replacing them has been no easy feat.

Enter: the Ombraz Dolomite Sunglasses. I was immediately drawn to the unique style on this pair, as they traded the standard arms for nylon cords that tighten around each ear. They’re almost like goggles, except for how comfortably they rest on your face. Spend a lot of time on the water and you’ll know how one careless moment can leave anyone pining for a lost pair of sunglasses, so maybe a creative solution and new style will do us all good in 2022.

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