Each year I gear test unique products for travel, road trips, and outdoor adventures. This year I focused on products to be more sustainable while traveling and adventuring along with companies based in America with high sustainability practices. As a traveler, outdoors lover and meteorologist, it’s important to me to lessen my carbon footprint and try to be more sustainable in my daily life at home and on the road. I also want to do what I can to support made or designed in America companies.
Go Gear Top Picks: My Favs This Year
Kahtoola EXOspikes ($59.65) – According to the CDC, approximately 1 million Americans are injured from falling on ice/snow every year. Not wanting to end up in that statistic and desperately needing to replace my winter traction gear I decided on Kahtoola EXOspikes which can go from an icy street to snow packed trail. They’re a blend of Kahtoola’s NANOspikes which are best for urban running and MICROspikes that are for more backcountry winter adventures. These are the easiest traction spikes to get on and off over your shoe or boot. I tried mine on my On Running shoes, Columbia boots, and Merrell jungle mocs. Now I just need some snow to really go out and play in them! They’re lightweight and the twelve spikes per foot give three levels of tractions. These come with a small tote bag for travel and a two-year warranty. Kahtoola is based in Flagstaff, Arizona. Not only is Kahtoola a 1% for the Planet company and passionate about preserving the outdoors, but this year Kahtoola has also donated over $50,000 to non-profits and projects dedicated to indigenous cultures.
CamelBak Rogue Light ($75, now $55.95) – I call this the minimal but mighty hydration pack. I found it at the Big Gear Show in Park City in August. I tested it on a solo hike on Vail Pass, and it quickly became my go-to pack for the rest of hiking season. It’s also going to get use this winter on snowshoe adventures. This pack is great for short hiking adventures, road cycling and mountain biking. It comes with a CamelBak 2-liter reservoir. There is also a men’s version. Headquartered in Petaluma, California, CamelBak hydration products reduce one-time plastic use. The company has pledged all products will be designed to reduce climate impact while made from the safest materials by 2025. The Rogue Light is part of CamelBak’s REPURPOSE sustainability label.
Adventure Like a Girl Hat ($26) – This charcoal and white two-toned trucker hat from Made of Mountains was given to me as a birthday present. It’s perfect for this adventurer! From the trail to social media posts, I get asked about this hat every time I have it on. For the female adventurer in your life, get this cute hat and support a small company started by a mountain momma of two in Montana.
Royal Robbins Venturelayer Insulated Jacket, Fleece Pullover, and 200 ¼ Zip ($150, $100, $75) – Royal Robbins is one of my go-to brands for outdoor and travel clothes. When they debuted the Venturelayer collection this fall, I immediately went out and got the insulated jacket for my trip to Germany in October. It was perfect for chilly and even showery days. Before heading to London mid-November, I added the fleece pullover and 200 ¼ zip. Each one packs into an almost hidden side pocket. They are light, warm and pack well. The jacket has four-way stretch and is water resistent, quick drying, breathable and wrinkle resistant. It’s made of 100% recycled 40g Thermore Ecodown®. Like the jacket, the fleece is also made with PFC-FREE C0 DWR (Durable Water Repellent). The light fleece on the inside is cozy against your skin. The 200 ¼ zip is heathered and made of a responsibly harvested TENCEL™ modal and merino wool blend to naturally control odors, regulate body temperature and wick moisture. It also has a C0 DWR finish to provide water resistance and minimize moisture pick-up if you get caught in a rain or snow shower while adventuring. Now owned by Fenix Outdoor International AG, Royal Robbins was started in the 1960s by world-class climbers in Yosemite National Park in California. They have men’s versions in their Venturelayer.
Nomadix Mini Towel ($27.95) – After getting this in an Outdoor Retailer virtual swag box last winter, I geared tested this towel in Hawaii and road tripping through southern Utah in the spring. It’s made of recycled plastic bottles, has an absorbency rate of 4:1 and dries four times faster than cotton terry. It’s 16”x40” which is a great size for travel, road trips or day hiking. Plus, it’s “funk resistant.” Started by three surfer friends, Nomadix is headquartered in California. My towel is camo green, which I love! This is a great item for a hiker, golfer, camper, or even a fitness fanatic. I often use mine on my Peloton bike (I’m @JBontheGO if you’re on Peloton).
Klean Kanteen Insulated Classic 20 oz Bottle ($29.86) – Mine is black camo because I love anything in camo but comes in multiple colors. I just tested mine during my November trip to London and loved it! The slim bottle easily fits in the side pocket of my travel backpack and the screw top loop cap means no leakage. It keeps drinks hots for 24 hours or iced for 63 hours. It’s sleek, stylish and travels well, especially with its durable chip resistant Klean Coat powder finish that is a GreenScreen For SaferChemicals® technology developed by the non-profit Clean Production Action. It easily pairs with other Klean Kanteen caps like the sport cap ($6.95) if you want an additional cap with a spout. It’s easy to clean and is dishwasher safe. Klean Kanteen was started by a brother and sister duo in Chico, California. From a 100% solar powered corporate headquarters to being 100% carbon neutral in the manufacture and delivery of products, Klean Kanteen has high sustainability practices.
ReFleece Reusable Tote Bag ($46) – I just got my tote bag made from upcycled outdoor clothes and love it. It’s colorful and functional. I’ve already used it for grocery and shopping runs so I don’t have to get plastic bags. It’s also the perfect bag for the extra gear I take on road trips. It would make a great beach bag, tote for the park, or for going to a farmers’ market. It’s water resistant, reversible, and packs into interior zippered pocket. ReFleece takes jackets, blankets, tents, sweaters, and other returns, scraps, or waste garments from partner brands like Gore-Tex, Woolrich, Patagonia, Simms, Klean Kanteen, Bureo, and Arc’teryx. ReFleece then cleans, cuts, and makes into new products like tote bags, pouches, tablet cases, and wallets. Each piece is unique! ReFleece was founded by a husband-and-wife team. The products are designed and manufactured in the USA.
Outdoor Research Vigor Lightweight Senor Gloves ($26) – These are my dream gloves! They’re made of breathable “smart fleece.” They have thermo-regulating technology so they’re great to wear during an outdoor workout. The gloves have silicone grip palms and middle fingers. The index fingers and thumbs are touch-screen compatible. No more taking a glove off to take pictures for me! I also like the clip on the side so I can keep the pair together when not wearing. Outdoor Research vigor senor gloves also comes in midweight ($30) and heavyweight ($40) if you want thicker gloves. They also make men’s version of all three. Outdoor Research is based in Seattle and is a founding member of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Climate Action Corps. OR is a highly sustainable company using bluesign® system to trace each textile’s path in the manufacturing process, responsible down standard, and using recycled materials.
For the Hot and Sweaty One: That’s Me….Always
Fieldsheer Cooling Hoodie ($49.99) – This cooling hoodie is a godsend for a sweaty gal like me. Give this to the sweaty person in your life! Mine have gotten tons of wear from hiking in Colorado and Utah to wearing the hoodie for sun protection on snorkeling excursion at Orchid Bay, Belize. It packs down well for travel and is great for an extra layer on a beach trip for breezy evenings or for sunrise walks. Size up as these run small. They also have cooling tanks and tees and make men’s versions. Fieldsheer is based in San Marcos, California.
Arctic Cool Towels ($12.99 for 2-pack) – While I was sweating like crazy while hiking in Hawaii in April, I commented to two of my cousins I wished I had cooling towels. As an early birthday present during our trip to Mexico in June, those cousins surprised me with a package of these and helped me try them out. Honestly, I was surprised how well they work. You just wet the towel, put it around your neck and it instantly starts to cool you down with the HydroFreeze™ technology in the towel. They keep cool for up to two hours. The towels are durable, lightweight and machine washable. Arctic Cool is designed by Atomi in New York, New York.
For the Beach, Lake or River Goer: Cool Water Gear
Merrell Hydro Moc Shoe ($50) – These are super light and perfect for adventures in and out of the water. They’re a hiking shoe and water shoe melded together. I first tried these out on a road trip around Hawaii Island. They were perfect for Hawaii’s rocky shores and black sand beaches. They’re also great for river or lake adventures. Since they’re super lightweight they’re a great option for hiking trails where you may encounter stream crossing. I’ve also worn them kayaking.
Sunday Afternoons Aerial Cap ($30) – I bought this hat before I went to Hawaii in April and it was my go-to throughout the spring and summer, including trips to southwestern Utah and Belize. It’s super lightweight, which is great for hot days. More importantly, and the reason I bought it, the cap has a UPF 50+ sun rating. It has a 2½ inch brim to keep the sun off your face. The hat is made of 100% recycled, wicking fabric including a wicking sweatband. It packs easily and retains its shape, even when stuffed into a bag, and just needs a rinse to clean. I got a black one, but it comes in 7 colors. The company was started by a couple and their flagship store is in Ashland, Oregon.
For the Adventurer Who Wants to Stay Cozy:
Selk’bag Lite Recycled Rainforest Limited Edition ($129, on sale for $103.20) – It’s a sleeping bag you can wear. You might laugh as you put it on because it is a little goofy, but as soon as you are comfy cozy, you won’t want to take it off. It’s perfect for when the temperature drops while camping, RVing, or even sitting out around the fire pit at home. It would be great for tailgating at an NFL game in January. Mine is in a rainforest print. Besides being a hoot to wear, the Selk’bag has some great features like easy-access hand openings and removeable booties. It is DWR-water repellent and easily packs into its stuff sack. The Selk’bag was born in Chile and tested in Patagonia. They have options for men, women and kids. It is a 1% for the Planet company with a commitment the entire line will be made with post-consumer recycled materials by 2022. This one is made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials include fabric, insulation and zippers.
Wild Tribute National Park Arrowhead Hooded Sweatshirt ($64.99) – This cozy sweatshirt is the perfect gift for a national parks fan. I first tested it during a road trip through Utah’s five national parks in May. I love the design and cut of the sweatshirt. It’s not bulking like sweatshirt hoodies tend to be. Wild Tribute is based in Salt Lake City and donates 4% of profits to national parks, forests, and public lands. It’s a gift that gives!
For the Person Always Taking Pictures or on Camera:
Wandrd Neck ($24) and Wrist ($29) Camera Straps – These straps are much sleeker than traditional camera straps. They’re designed in Utah and made in Vietnam. Both straps are rated to hold up to 75 pounds, so your point-and-shoot camera, even with a hefty lens is no problem. I really like the quick attach system. I took both with me to Hawaii and used the neck strap more. I attached it to my waterproof camera case and snorkeled multiple times with it one, including swimming across a bay. Being able to tighten the strap made me feel a lot more comfortable taking my phone into the ocean. Wandrd also has a sling strap.
Zumy Laptop Light ($59.99) – I use this portable light when I’m taping shows and segments. When I first saw these I was drawn to them because they are collapsible. The lights have four settings to illuminate you beautifully. I use 1-2 on my laptop, iPad or even with my phone on a ring light for extra illumination during live TV segments.
For the Kitchen, Tailgating, Camping, RVing or Road Tripping:
Whip-It! Hot Spot Butane Stove ($21.99) – There are a lot of portable stove options out there, but this one really caught my attention because of the price. It’s easy to use with automatic ignition and auto shut-off features. Basically you put a can of butane in the side compartment, turn switch to ignition and set temperature you want. Its great for camping or tailgating, but its also great to have at home in case of emergency power outages or if you’re having a gathering and need an extra stove burner. It comes it a handy carrying case for easy travel and storage.
U-Konserve Containers ($18.95-$25.95) and EcoVessel Wanderware ($24.95) – These are sister companies and both produce products to help eliminate one-time plastic use. I first became of fan of U-Konserve when I tried their nesting trio. It’s perfect for a variety of snacks on a road trip. This year I was excited to add another round container and two divided containers to my U-Konserve stash. The EcoVessel Wanderware is a stainless steel utensils kit that pairs perfectly with the U-Konserve containers for road trips or even lunch at work.
For the Tech and Gadget Lover:
Apple 11-inch iPad Pro ($799) and Magic Keyboard ($299)– For a high-end gift for a traveler who still needs to be connected to the world, this is it. Needing something smaller than my laptop for international and adventure travel, this was the combo I went with so I can edit videos, write articles or just read a book.
Matador Laptop Base Layer ($59.99) – I’ve been a fan of Matador since I gear tested their Freefly16 backpack, which still goes on every trip with me. I’m also a fan of their base layer line and was excited to see new products like the Matador Laptop Base Layer, which I tested during my April trip to Hawaii. This is the best laptop travel case I’ve ever used. It’s ultra-lightweight yet padded to keep your laptop safe. The roll-top design made it super easy to get my laptop out while on a plane. Couple of other key features I love: the integrated dry bag to keep laptop dry, handle at top makes it easy to carry even if you’re just headed to the coffee shop, and the roomy mesh pocket keeps cords and other items neat and tidy. It fits 13-16” laptops and is waterproof. Matador is based in Boulder, Colorado.
Stylish Travel Gear: These finds are stylish and multipurpose
Lo & Son’s Waverly 2 Purse ($126) – I’m a huge fan of this brand started by Helen Lo when she retired and started traveling the world with her husband. She quickly saw a need for carry-on travel bags that are lightweight, functional, sustainable, and stylish. After not finding what she was looking for, she created it with her sons. This purse is one of my hall of fame travel items since it has gone on every trip from Switzerland to Chile. Other pieces I love are the Pearl purse, the Catalina Day Tote, and Hanover Deluxe 2 backpack. If you see me in an airport I’ll likely have the Waverly 2 as a crossbody purse and the Hanover Deluxe 2 on my back. These two are travel essentials to me. Lo & Sons is a true American dream story and based in Brooklyn, New York.
Vim & Vigr Compression Socks ($27-44, Everyday Cotton $36) – These are the cutest and coziest compression socks. They’re fashionable and they work! After testing them on international flights to and from Germany, I became a fan. Plus, the company was founded by a woman and is based in Missoula, Montana.
United by Blue EcoKnit Tee ($38) – From Hawaii to Rome this green t-shirt got a ton of wear this spring and summer. I’ve been a fan of United by Blue for a long time because the company has had a strong mission of sustainability since its inception. The original signature items for the brand were puffy vests and jackets made with recycle bison undercoat fur normally discarded in the ranching industry. For a tee that packs well and can go from trail to dinner, the EcoKnit is it. They have a men’s version.
For the Shoe Lover: Comfy and stylish travel shoes!
Ilse Jacobsen Tulip 139 Slip-on Sneaker ($84)– A bunch of my friends have these shoes and each one raved about how comfortable they are. This past summer I purchased a pair to see if they live up the rave reviews. The answer – Yes! I really put my pair to the test walking around 10 miles a day several days in a row in Florence, Italy in August. The outer sole is made of natural rubber. The laser cut pattern of the recycled microfiber material allows your feet to breathe. They are super light, flexible and basically squish down to the soles for easy packing. These shoes are sewn together, not glued together.
Walking Cradle Dylan Snake Stretch Fabric/Leather Sneakers ($117.99) – While searching for a cute pair of flats to wear in fall and winter while traveling, I found these on Zappos/Amazon. I was hooked after one trip. It feels like you’re walking on small pillows because the removeable Tiny Pillows cushioned insoles technology. Besides being super chic, here are a couple of features I really like about these lightweight sneakers: enhanced arch support, impact resistant heel pad and you get a height boost with the 1 1/8” platform. I’m so happy I stumbled across this brand. These are a little pricey but I’m willing to pay to have happy feet while traveling. I’m going to try a pair of flats and heels in the new year. Walking Cradle Company is headquartered in Fenton, Missouri.
For the Book Lover: These wonderful reads were written by friends
A Season with Mom – I’m not a huge baseball fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy this beautiful memoir written by my friend Katie Russell Newland. Katie is a two-time cancer survivor and a sports enthusiast. She and her mom made plans to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks in America. After her mom passed, Katie did the journey to honor her. I got to join her on a small part of the journey when she went to the Rockies game at Coors Field. Peyton Manning wrote the forward as the two of them have been friends since childhood. You’ll laugh, cry, and do some soul searching of your own reading this one.
The Next Everest – This is my friend Jim Davidson’s second book. In his first book, New York Times bestseller The Ledge, Jim shared his story of loss and survival on Mt. Rainer. Jim and his climbing buddy fell 80 feet down a crevasse. His buddy didn’t survive the fall, but Jim did and had to climb his way out on ice walls. His newest book, The Next Everest, recounts his harrowing story of surviving the April 25, 2015, 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck while he was climbing Mount Everest and his journey to finally stand on top of the world in 2017.
Dream of Italy: Travel, Transform, Thrive – This book is a companion book to the PBS travel series Dream of Italy hosted by my friend Kathy McCabe. If you’re dreaming of Italy or want to bring elements of the Italian lifestyle into your home, this is the book you need to read.
For Beauty on the Go: Secrets to Not Looking Jetlagged or Road Weary
Patchology Flashpatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels ($50) – These are a Godsend for tired, puffy eyes at home or traveling. The cooling effect is an instant eye opener in just five minutes. The caffeine and green tea boost micro-circulation to decrease puffiness and reduce dark circles. Hydrolyzed collagen boosts hydration and elasticity. They really are a fast fix for tired eyes. There’s a 5 pair pack which is great for travel. At home or on road trips, I use the larger container with 30 pairs of patches. For flights, especially international flights as a secret weapon to fight the tired look of jetlag I take the 5 Pack with 5 sets individually wrapped patches. At $15, the 5 Pack is great as a stocking stuffer too. The Night Eye Gels ($20 for 5 pairs) are next on my list to try! Patchology is owned by Iontera, Inc. based in Norwood, Massachusetts.
blendSMART2 Metallic Shimmer Rotating Makeup Brush Starter Set ($69.99) – I often get about the foundation I use (Dior AirFlash on TV, Dior Forever Undercover for non-TV days or evenings, and Supergoop CC Cream SPF 35 for days I barely wear any makeup, international flights, or tropical/warm destinations). But it’s not the product, it’s the brush that gives the smooth finish. I attach the brush head, hit the button and blend for a flawless finished. It spins 190 revolutions per minute. It’s the easiest and most compact way to get air-brushed results while traveling. They also have a 4-piece Holiday Set ($92, 20% off coupon on Amazon). It has a universal foundation brush, skincare application brush and powder brush. blendSMART is part of Worth Beauty, based in Houston, Texas.
For the Home Gym or Adventurous Road Trip: Feel the Vibration
Hyperice Hypersphere Mini ($97) – This vibrating massage ball is a must for adventure travel. This small but mighty vibrating ball releases tension and keeps muscles loose. It also promotes increased range of motion and flexibility. Its compact size is great for travel and on the go. I’ve used mine after hikes, during road trips and at home after workouts or long days sitting at the computer. It’s TSA carry-on approved so perfect for travel too. Hyperice is a holistic high-performance wellness brand based in Irvine, California.
Backmate Power Roller ($75) – With 5-speed vibration, this takes foam rolling to another level. I use this at home and usually stay at levels 1-2 for back, shoulder and neck and up to level 3 for legs. You can even plug your phone or other device into it to charge while you’re rolling. It’s made of high density eco-friendly EPP foam and comes with a cordless rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger. Backmate is headquartered in Los Angeles and was created by a professional motorcycle racer who suffered a traumatic spine injury and was searching for a way to reduce his chronic pain and increase mobility.
EcoVessel QuickStraw ($19.95) – This telescopic straw comes with a cleaning brush and its own carrying case. The straw goes from 4 to 9 inches and is perfect for any glass. It’s pocket friendly, plastic free and comes with a removable silicone top for easy cleaning. I got mine in rose gold, but it also comes in black and blue. I’ve been a big fan of EcoVessel bottles, tumblers, mugs and growlers and there’s almost always at least one EcoVessel product with me traveling. On road trips I have multiple EcoVessel tumblers and growlers filled with water as I always have at least a gallon of water in the car. The QuickStraw is a great addition and perfect for the straw lover. EcoVessel is based in Boulder, Colorado.
(Re)Zip Stand-Up Bags ($19.99)– I found these in Container Store. In the 3-pack are 8-, 16-, and 32-ounce bags. Each (Re)Zip bag replaces up to 300 disposable bags. The 32-ounce stand up bag was exactly what I had been looking for as a quart size bag for liquids while traveling. The other two bags are also in my travel backpack. The double-lock closure gives an airtight seal to prevent leakage. These can also be used in the kitchen as they are BPA-free, food grade and dishwasher and freezer safe. Parent company Blue Avocado is headquartered in Austin, TX.
Lux Pro LP130 Keychain Light ($8.99 single, $17.89 4-pack, $32.99 7-pack) – This is truly a flashlight to go. The keychain flashlight is tiny but mighty. My friend Melissa gave me one last Christmas. She got some to put on jackets and coats for when she lets her six Bernese Mountain Dogs out at night. She thought I’d like this flashlight for travel and hiking. She was right! This flashlight is the size of my thumb. I’m amazed how much light this tiny flashlight puts out. Lux Pro is a USA company based in Utah. It comes with batteries and a carabiner clip that easily attaches to coats, backpacks key chains and purses. It’s durable, water resistant and has a zoomable focus. I liked it so much I ordered more so I always have one in my travel backpack, on my hiking backpack and in a drawer beside my bed.
Still need more ideas? Give the gift of the National Park Service Annual Pass or a state parks pass. Gift cards to iBooks, Kindle or Audible are great for a traveler. I’m also a huge fan of gifting experiences so you can make memories. For even more ideas check out 2020 Holiday Gift Guide or 2019 Holiday Gift Guide. Happy shopping and gifting this holiday season!