by Jules Older
For travelers, some things are essential. Others should be left at home or not acquired in the first place. Here’s this year’s compilation of things you need and one thing you don’t.
The outdoors maxim, “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints,” is where we’ll start.
TRAVEL ESSENTIAL #1
If you're gonna take pictures, I've got a camera for you. It’s small enough to stick in your pocket, light enough to take on a mountain climb, cheap enough to let you pay your mortgage … and powerful enough to blow you away. It blew me away, and I'm used to great cameras in small packages.
The camera in question is the Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS. It weighs less than five ounces, fits in a shirt pocket, and costs less than $200. But its real strength lies in what it can do.
Video? Full hi-def. Sound? Impossibly good — doubly so for a camera with such a tiny microphone. Low-light capability? Still can't believe what I've captured in gloomy rooms. Zoom lens? Big zoom but loses sharpness when you really pull in that distant egret. Viewfinder? No, but you'd better get used to that. Like the typewriter or phonograph, the viewfinder is a dying species.
After testing the 100 HS on snow and off, in two hemispheres, I pronounce it the best small camera I've ever tried. And the best buy. www.canon.com
TRAVEL ESSENTIAL #2
From pictures to footprints. I've been testing two shoes — one made for walking and one for running. My first question: Does that designation really make a difference?
My answer: For big walkers/occasional runners like me, no. Both shoes behaved admirably. The walking shoe, asics’ Gel-foundation Walker, let me run the streets of San Francisco in comfort and stability. The running shoe, Technica’s Diablo Max MX, handled walking the byways of Auckland like it was the subject of a Nancy Sinatra song. For dedicated runners, the designation could make a diff — for casuals like me, both kept my feet happy.
My second question: Do I have to shell out big bucks for a travel shoe? Answer: No again. Both the cheap shoe and the expensive one have stood up to abuse — sand, mud, hard pavement. While the Diablo Max costs a hefty $130, the Walker goes for $80, discounted to $65. So far, they're both wearing very well, indeed. www.asicsamerica.com
Third question: Should I get the new widebody Diablo Max? This time, a yes. I don’t feel like I'm wearing clown feet, like I have to adopt a wide stance, like I can't fit through narrow doorways. It’s stable, comfortable, and for the average as well as wide-footed, a solid choice in an athletic shoe. www.tecnicausa.com
TRAVEL ESSENTIAL #3
From feet, let’s move to teeth. If, like me, you use an electric toothbrush, when you travel you want to:
- Keep using it, and
- Not haul the thing around, especially when
- You're never sure if it will work on foreign current.
Enter the Oral-B CrossAction Power toothbrush. It’s light, it’s effective (I double-checked this with my dentist), it’s way cheap — under 10 bucks — and it runs on replaceable batteries. Now I’ve tested it, I’ll never travel without it. www.oralb.com
TRAVEL ESSENTIAL #3
And while we’re talking oral, one thing you need as a travel companion is a water bottle. The benefits of hydration are ever clearer, and — see below — the bottle not only benefits your body, it’s good for the earth beneath your feet.
Ah, but which water bottle? If, like me, you ski with it, get an insulated model. Otherwise, you'll be trying to sip an ice brick. If you're traveling to places where you can't trust the water, use a filtering model that will keep those nasties out of your tummy. And if you're just walking around as travelers are wont to do, carry an ordinary model… but one that’s BPA-free.
The bottles I've tested that meet those requirements are all made by Camelbak. They're the insulated Tritan, the filtering Groove and the ordinary Better Bottle. www.camelbak.com
Which brings us to the thing you don’t need. No beating around the bush — stop buying bottled water now! If it’s bottled locally, you're most likely drinking tap water. If it’s from some Euro spring, you're trucking/flying/shipping a plastic bottle of water halfway across the globe. Either way, cut it out.
Get thee a water bottle instead.