The New Year Gear Roundup!

Tue Jan 01, 2019 · 8 min read

travelgear review

The last couple months were a tad hectic for me and I neglected to release my second annual best-gear-of-the-year roundup on the same schedule as the first. The good news is that some of the items I chose to own last year are proving timelessly useful, and I discovered some even better gear this year that I already feel will serve me well into the year 2019. If you’re looking for tried-and-true one bag travel gear, you’ve come to the right list!

As always, I experimented this past year in a couple notable ways. Mainly, I decided that all my clothes would be black from now on, a decision that has since July worked out really well. (I’ll expand on that in a future post.) I tried to rethink some things I was taking for granted and be even more minimalist, such as with my new worldwide-compatible charging set up. Finally, I also took a good hard look at a useful, go-anywhere EDC gear lineup that mostly worked out.

I discovered a useful trick or two, so here’s my list of the stuff that worked, sorta worked, and didn’t work at all. Let’s get into it!

What worked

CARD Travel Adapter 4-Pro charging adapter configurations

I gave an in-depth review of this all-in-one travel adapter and USB charger back in July. The CARD Travel Adapter 4-Pro has an award-winning design that was an instant benefit for me, and it’s saved me from lugging around a bag full of adapters or one of those typically chunky universal adapters that often still require separate USB plugs.

It charges my laptop, phone, power bank, and everything else. As a truly worldwide charging solution, the CARD Travel Adapter 4-Pro has continually been a joy to use. Read the in-depth review here for specs.

Front of the powerbank

Definitely the most reliable large-capacity portable battery I’ve ever owned, Anker is still living up to their reputation for quality with the Anker PowerCore II Slim 10000 Power Bank. I’ve been using it frequently for six months now and am still impressed with its slim portability, light weight, and design that makes it pleasing to just carry around. Check out the in-depth review here.

Anker cables

No more crappy cables! I decided this year to invest in a few of these when I built my minimal charging supply kit and have been really pleased with that decision. I’m not very kind to my cables, and they often take the brunt of getting squished among my other electronics when I compact the stuff in my bag. These ones from Anker are made to be tough and still going strong!

To charge all the electronics I own, I’m using:

You can read more on these little delights here.

Sound isolating bluetooth headphones

No other tool in my arsenal has given me the ability to create my own little world, wherever I happen to be, better than my JBL Reflect Mini headphones. The sound-isolating plugs are the best I’ve ever tried, and the included small size fits my tiny ears comfortably without budging even through a tough workout.

They’ve especially come in handy many times on planes and in busy cafes when I need to get work done. By blocking out the ambient noise, I can play my own music quietly and create a really soothing environment.

I wrote more about them in my post about double-duty gear.

Tripod mode, engage!

I like to call this bluetooth tripod/monopod combo from BlitzWolf the Selfie Stick 2.0! Being able to go handsfree is really nice, and the Bluetooth remote works sufficiently well to capture action shots from a few meters away. I’ve gotten some good use out of this one, and since it’s pretty lightweight, it’s not a pain to carry along with me in case of spontaneous photo ops. Read more about its dual modes here.

Uniqlo sleeveless top black color in size S

Another of my favourite discoveries this year is Uniqlo’s Airism line for women. I’ve heard a lot about their men’s line, especially undershirts and underwear, for some time. I never did see many reviews from other women though, so I picked up a couple items and wrote one myself. I’ve since expanded my Airism collection to a few of their tops, and have been very happy with their performance and low maintenance.

My in-depth review goes into the common claims for Airism clothing, like how well it wicks sweat and whether it’s really as comfortable as they say. You can read it here.

Safety shears

Still the only cutting tool I’ve been able to reliably bring in carry-on luggage, these safety shears have saved my life (okay, not literally) several times this year! I featured them in my post covering my most useful inexpensive travel items.

Oral-B toothbrush

Let’s just say that I figure I ought to be able to have a decent mechanical tooth-brushing experience without putting yet another subscription on my credit card cough quip cough. Here’s my sleeper superstar of the year - the Oral-B Pulsar Battery Powered Toothbrush! Very affordably priced, and with a little finangling you can technically replace the battery, though the brush heads are designed to wear out when the battery does anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well these worked and always kept one on hand on a long overseas flight. No more tooth sweater! ><

The Roost Stand and ThinkPad keyboard, deployed

A few months ago, I wrote yet another love letter to two of my top contenders from last year: the Roost Stand and my ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint. With all the travelling I did this year, (including a very inconveniently timed airport security bag search on the one occasion I was actually a little overpacked since I was just transporting a couple dresses I’d bought and really had to stuff things in there in a hurry, but I digress) I really beat these guys up.

Still going strong and without any sign of wear, these two make the Nice List for the second year in a row. Read my in-depth review here for specs.

What sorta worked

A flat lay of my pack for a trip to Montreal

I recently covered my epic journey towards finding the perfect packable day bag, which has thus far landed me on the Timbuk2 Rapid Pack. This bag has been a trooper in many ways, and is most definitely packable (I can slide it into the laptop compartment of the Minaal Carry-on 2.0, and it just… disappears). I’m a big fan of the Cordura material, its light weight, and the super convenient stretchy side pockets.

So why did it “sorta” work? Well, it’s not really any fault of the Rapid Pack itself. As I’ve grown over the year, I’m starting to become more interested in gear that looks less practical, and more professional. While the pack’s sleek lines are far from an eyesore, I wouldn’t carry it into a business meeting. For any casual occasion though, it’s still my favourite packable pick.

Isn’t it just like me to want a bag that does everything?! You can read my in-depth review in this post.

Waist pack carried as an over-the-shoulder purse

Along the same line of thought, I reviewed the Helikon-Tex Possum Waist Pack in my post about the best every day carry items for the constant traveller. While I’m very pleased with fanny pack (okay fine, hip bag) ergonomics, I eventually started to feel awkward carrying a tactical-looking purse around all the time. When I wasn’t travelling with my backpack on my back, I tended to carry it as a shoulder bag anyway. Eventually, the aesthetics pushed me to look for something a bit more feminine to put my EDC items in.

I’d still stick with this pack when I’m specifically in transit, and especially if I’m carrying a backpack. You can read about how well it works for that purpose in this post.

What didn’t really work at all

A microfiber towel embroidered with the words &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Panic&rdquo;

It’s really cool, all black, and I even had the words “Don’t Panic” embroidered on it in big friendly letters. In practicality, microfiber towels like this one are just no substitute for terrycloth or linen. It left little black fuzzies all over me even after a few rounds in the dryer, and I couldn’t get used to how it feels when compared to a regular towel.

I had one brief but sweet experience with a so-called “Turkish towel” at a friend’s house and can recommend them as a lightweight travel towel. I haven’t gotten one for myself yet because, well, they don’t seem to come in a dark enough black. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What’s not on the list?

I shortlisted a few other items that didn’t make the cut, simply because I thought they would have made this article too long to read! Notably, my life was also made easier this year thanks to my Stanley Classic Vacuum Camp Mug, Anker SoundCore nano bluetooth speaker, and my favourite reusable cutlery on their sophomore round, the Humangear GoBites Duo.

Here’s to 2019

I learned a lot in 2018 about gear, life, and one bag travel. I hope this list has been useful to you in some way, and I can’t wait to see what else I can discover and share with you in 2019. Thank you for reading!

Happy New Year!