Ten years ago there was plenty of gear designed to help you save space while traveling. Problem was, most of it was saddled with terrible compromises. Fast-forward to today and I’d argue we’re living in a travel-gear renaissance. Companies have found new ways to make their gear small and light while at the same time eliminating major flaws. Here are five of my favorite pieces.
Lems Boulder Boot ($125)
So you’re flying across the country, or the world, and want to bring two pairs of shoes: a pair of flops to travel in, and then something for museum tours and dinner. Running shoes aren’t right, so instead go with the Lems. Thanks to their pliable soles, these boots fold completely in half (toe to heel) and weigh a scant 9.9 ounces. But they look great with a pair of jeans, and they’ll take a beating thanks to the 1,200-denier nylon and leather build. Don’t be surprised if they become your go-to boots for the day job, too.
Matador Packable Backpack ($90)
A normal daypack will squish to the size of a large, unruly cantaloupe—if you’re lucky. The 28-liter nylon Matador, on the other hand, folds down to just larger than a can of beer so you can throw it in your roller, forget about it, and then pull it out for jaunts around wherever you’ve landed. Thanks to design touches like thin but wide shoulder straps and a meaty waist belt, it carries well even when loaded. Bonus points for the built-in hydration pocket, a water-resistant outer coating, and a lid pocket up top that provides easy access to your everyday carry.
Proof 72-Hour Merino Tee ($68)
Outside editors like to joke about how many times wool’s “anti-stink properties” get mentioned in one month. In other words, we’ve beaten you over the head with the fact that wool fights bad smells. And here we go again—you can wear this lightweight merino T on a plane and then through the first couple days of your vacation and be totally fine. But my favorite part is actually the durability. Older merino shirts had to be babied, but thanks to a hefty dose of nylon mixed in with the wool, the 72-Hour is just as strong as your favorite cotton T-shirt and does fine in the wash.
Rumpl Packable Fleece Travel Pillow ($20)
When you show up at the hostel in [pick your country] and the pillows are…questionable, pull this out, undo the zipper, stuff it with your extra clothes, zip it back up, and you have a clean and comfy place to rest your head. One side is an abrasion-resistant nylon, and the other is a face-pleasing fleece that fosters sweet dreams. When not in use, the Rumpl packs down to the size of an orange.
Arc’teryx Zeta LT Jacket ($425)
Plenty of rainjackets pack down smaller than the Zeta LT, but they’re all about as durable as plastic bags. Scrape a tree branch and they’re done. The Zeta, meanwhile, is made from a bombproof three-layer Gore-Tex that doesn’t flinch when abused but still folds down nicely and keeps the jacket to a feathery 11.8 ounces. Thanks to smart tailoring, it has a slim and efficient fit but never restricts movement. I also dig the Gore C-Knit backer that makes the inside of the Zeta less crinkly and more pleasant to wear.