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Review: PRO Packing Cubes and Gate Check Pro XL

PRO packing cubes
PRO Packing Cubes getting tested in the real world!

This summer, I started testing a few new travel products – one for a problem I’ve always had, and another for a brand-new problem caused by traveling with a child stroller.

Getting the Most Out of Luggage Space: PRO Packing Cubes

The first problem is pretty obvious and familiar, even if you don’t travel with a little person: I don’t know a single frequent traveler who doesn’t constantly tweak the way they pack. It’s a constant cycle of stuff like giant, vacuum-sealed plastic bags, stuff sacks, dry sacks, you name it. The PRO Packing Cubes are zippered, vented pouches that aim to bring order to the chaos of your travel luggage of choice (in my case, that’s either a Swiss Army carryon or a Kelty Coyote backpack).

They don’t seal air out like the stuff/dry sacks I typically use. So I’m not trying to find exactly the right amount to stuff in them, which is kind of nice. They simply squish as needed as the luggage compresses.

PRO packing cubes
A closer look at the diferent sizes.

So far, I’ve had the PRO Packing Cubes on several domestic trips and one mega-intercontinental journey to New Zealand. While packing for the New Zealand trip, I let my wife get in on the testing fun, and the PRO Packing Cubes quickly became a favorite (I’ll have to make sure she’s not constantly swiping them from me). Throughout testing, there were absolutely no quality issues: The zippers are still perfect, and there are no rips or tears in the fabric. Also on the New Zealand trip, I started off putting the packed PRO Packing Cubes into dry sacks and sealing them. The shapes didn’t quite align with the dry sack being a cylinder rather than a rectangle. So from then on, I just kept the dry sack around just in case we ran into bad weather that would soak my gear. Otherwise, I just put the cubes straight into the backpack. They still fit with ample room left over.

The PRO Packing Cubes concept isn’t exclusive, and I’ve seen similar products elsewhere. But I haven’t tested them – so though they may be the same conceptually, I can’t say that any brand will hold up as well. I’m inclined to pick up another set of PRO Packing Cubes just in case my wife gets any funny ideas.

Gate Check Pro XL
The BOB Ironman is awesome, but some help during flights could make it even better. Could the Gate Check Pro XL help?

Shielding Your Stroller: The Gate Check Pro XL

It took me awhile to put the Gate Check Pro XL through its paces – many of my trips since this summer have been of the business variety -- so no little person to accompany me. The New Zealand trip meant we had to take our super-cool BOB Ironman stroller for its go-anywhere capability. And that also meant a golden opportunity for the Gate Check Pro XL –  with flights from Phoenix to Honolulu to Auckland to Nelson to Auckland and back, there’d be plenty of legs to test.

On previous trips with the BOB Ironman, I’d fold it up and use any combination of cordage – from bungee cables to camping gear ties to even shoelaces – to prevent it from unfolding. I was more than willing to see what the Gate Check Pro XL could do.

Gate Check Pro XL
The BOB all wrapped up in the Gate Check Pro XL and ready for departure.

I was skeptical: Could this big blue bag contain the mighty Ironman and stay sealed? Would I fumble with it while stuffing it into the bag at the gate. Yes, and no. Folding the Ironman and putting it into the Gate Check Pro XL went quickly and easily – and I never had to worry about it unfolding via the rough ministrations of a baggage handler. Oh, and it was so distinct that I could actually see it being loaded onto the plane from the boarding area (nice to know it will show up at the destination!). It also folds up small enough that I could stuff it into the lower cargo area of the BOB Ironman.

I have absolutely no reservations about using the PRO Packing Cubes or the Gate Check Check Pro XL on future trips of any length.

Love Pro Travel Gear provided these items for review. But rest assured that I’m always ready to give an honest review. The products in this test earned praise by actually being good!

CategoriesGear

Match Your Travel Style to Your Luggage

luggage
A backpack is great for carrying your necessities in the Icelandic highlands … but it won’t fly for business travel or luxury destinations.

Some of the most-frequent questions I get from new travelers revolve around luggage. That’s reasonable – the right luggage makes a huge difference. People often ask me whether they should go backpacker style, or opt for something more traditional like a suitcase. But there’s just no one-size-fits-all answer.

Is a Backpack the Right Luggage for You?

Your itinerary and the purpose of your trip hold the answer. If you have plenty of hiking and outdoor activities waiting for you, a suitcase could be a liability. It won’t be able to run smoothly in the more rural areas. And you just can’t hike with it, right?

In this case, you’ll also have to figure out which backpack is right for you. Some are set up for multiday expeditions, while others will just make you look like an outdoor adventurer. You’ll have to spend some time determining your needs before your purchase. But that’s a topic for another day since it deserves a blog post of its own.

And are you headed off on holiday, or jetting off for business? I’ve never used a backpack for business travel. It just have the features I need, and has many attributes I don’t need (I don’t need a built-in hydration pack or daisy chain loops for my next business trip … ah, if only I did).

Louis Vuitton Malletier Paris Historical Suitcases luggage
For some people, suitcases – whether vintage or modern – are the way to go. (photo by Charlie Phillips via Wikimedia

When a Suitcase is Your Luggage Solution

Look, if you roll into a posh hotel with a backpack, you’re going to feel out of place. Will that fly in ritzy destinations like Monaco? Eh, probably not.

If you’re not planning to leave the urban areas, you don’t need to carry everything on your back. A light daypack is a great idea, but your taste might run more toward a suitcase (or three, all matching … of course). Just like backpacks, you’ll find a staggering array of luggage options. I recently traveled with a small hardshell suitcase that seemed sturdy enough to withstand having a rhino dropped on it. It also had a James Bond look I couldn’t resist. And every time I fly, I see everything from hot pink to tiger stripes rolling down the luggage return. It all comes down to your style and travel needs.

What About Me?

Well, I’m usually a backpack guy for leisure travel. When I’m on the road for business, a suitcase meets my luggage needs best. If you’re like me, you might wind up matching the luggage to the purpose of your trip.

This post is brought to you by Luggage Direct.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship or other forms of compensation. All information reflects the opinions and experience of WanderingJustin.com.
CategoriesGear

A Look at the Outdoor Products Tech Backpack

Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech packpack
The Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech backpack, ready for some action.

I have a new piece of travel gear I’m pretty excited about: the Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0. It’s a technology-oriented backpack designed to get your portable electronics – and possibly liquids and gels – through a TSA checkpoint without a fuss. It seems the "tech backpack" has become a new category of its own.

I ran across the Power Pack Glide 2.0 after a buckle on my old Patagonia backpack broke. There was no fixing this problem. And I never loved the Patagonia pack (which was not really a tech backpack). I headed to REI, where the Power Pack Glide 2.0 sells for $64.50; apparently, this is the only place you can get one of these cool tech backpacks. I’d never heard of the Outdoor Products brand -- and holy cow, is that name generic! I was mistrustful and suspicious, scrutinizing it in the same way a housecat examines just about anything new that appears in its house.

  • After all the sniffing, here are some of the interesting features I found in the Power Pack Glide 2.0 (check the video for a demonstration):
  • A cool retractable panel that secures your boarding pass – it’s far better than stashing it in a pocket.
  • A semi-hidden zippered pocket that perfect for stashing a passport or checkbook (remember those?).
  • Small internal pockets for USB drives and memory card.
  • A fleece-lined pocket for my Switch Vision sunglasses (yes, I’m very protective of them).
  • A laptop sleeve that slides out and clips to the backpack for TSA inspection; this seems like a nice concept, but it also strikes me as a feature that will confound TSA personnel. I have yet to test it. But I can see it causing consternation and confusion among the blue shirts.
  • Mesh water bottle sleeves on both sides. They could stand to be deeper. I like big bottles, and these can’t quite accommodate them.
  • A special pocket for tablet-sized items.


It has the usual inner pockets and places to stow pens and whatnot, too. Outdoor Products put more creativity into making a modern technology backpack than they did in choosing a company name. This is some good thinking.

I’ve only had the Power Pack Glide 2.0 a few weeks, and I haven’t boarded a plane with it yet. The build quality seems better than my less-versatile Patagonia pack -- which admittedly wasn’t a full on tech backpack.

The Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech backpack will be an automatic choice for my domestic flights; it probably won’t get much work on my international flights since I don’t take much technology with me. The computer stays home, and I usually just roll with a Kindle. That, and I have my big Kelty backpack with me, and just have a small daypack for short jaunts around cities or quick hikes.

If you need a tech backpack, give the Power Pack Glide 2.0 a look at an REI near you. Its features and price will be enough to make it a good choice for many travelers.

UPDATE APRIL 12, 2014

Since my first blog post, I traveled with the Power Pack Glide 2.0. It caused no fuss with TSA, even with a tablet computer, MP3 player, Kindle PaperWhite and a wealth of chargers and cables.

Also, my wife picked up a Power Pack Glide 2.0 a few weeks ago. She told me three times this morning how awesome it is. So … there you have it.

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Backpack Tips for New Travelers

backpack tips
Your backpack can be your best friend – or your worst enemy.

I saw a soon-to-be first-time traveler ask online about backpacks – specifically, which one he should take for a three-week trip. The question opens a massive can of live eels. Let’s see what I can do to offer some quality backpack tips.

1. What kind of backpack traveler do you want to be?

Your backpack can just be a suitcase you wear on your back from hotel to hotel. Ot it can signal intent to camp, ability to cook on the fly and a desire to go hiking a lot. So which are you? Be honest with yourself. If you’re the first option, you’ll have more room for extra shoes, evening wear and various fancy city shit. If you choose option 2, your tent, sleeping bag and cooking/eating gear will eat up space when you load your backpack. Plan accordingly.

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