It’s time for another Random Cool Travel Tidbits post. That’s where I share some not-so-deep (but still interesting) thoughts about the sort of things this site is all about -- travel, adventure, gear, advice.
First up, let talk about a piece of luggage that’s designed for travel in our times. How’s that, you ask? Can it make your airplane seat widen by four inches, or get you automatic business-class upgrades? Sorry, not quite. But the Barracuda CAN give you a handy tray for eating or pounding away at your laptop while waiting in a crowded boarding lounge. It CAN collapse small enough to slide under a bed when you’re not traveling. It CAN power up your cell phone’s dying battery with an onboard charger. The ergonomic handle is pretty nifty; an optional GPS/proximity tracker are also pretty cool, and may well be worth an extra 50 clams.
The Barracuda has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal. You can still grab a good deal – these will start at about $480, but Kickstarter contributors can score one for less than half that.
Next up, I have some airline fun. I think way too many travelers dehumanize and denigrate airline employees. I sometimes get annoyed with them myself, but I always try to remember that they’re real people.
Norwegian Air Shuttle seems to be trying to remind people that human beings are behind every flight. I’ve noticed quite a few recent posts on its Facebook page that give the names of its pictured crew members. So far, it’s been captains and first officers – it would also be great to see flight attendants, gate agents, mechanics -- the whole gamut. It seems to fit very well with my impressions of Norwegian Air Shuttle. All my flights on them have been very personable.
Let’s swing back toward gear for the next few tidbits. I’ll start with day packs. I’ve had some decent daypacks like the REI Flash 22. The Flash 22 is pretty good, but I keep wondering -- what if it was a bit more flexible? What if it had some sort of modularity like military gear, which features these handy things called MOLLE loops. They allow you to add external pouches to existing packs. You can mix and match the pouches to the activity. This version has straps and goes for about $90. There’s also a version without straps that military dudes will attach to a ranger vest, chest rig or some similar setup.
Problem is, the military stuff is stiff, heavy and -- military looking. I don’t like the whole OD/camouflage look. Well, I ran into the Grey Ghost Lightweight Assault Pack Mod 1 when I wandered into Edgeworks while I was visitingÂ Frederick recently. It was light, flexible, sturdy and equipped with MOLLE loops. You can also find them for a reasonable price. Add a few MOLLE pouches, and you could probably be out for a few days if you travel light. Absolutely super. (By the way, the Edgeworks crew is very friendly, and they have a great selection. It annoys me more than a little that a tiny town in Maryland has a knife shop better than any in my metro area of like 5 million people.)
Speaking of light packers -- I hate, hate, hate giving space to anything that doesn’t earn its keep. That’s why I don’t use travel pillows. I haven’t ever found them comfortable, and they can only do one thing. But I like to be able to rest my head in uncomfortable confines. My solution? A stuff sack filled with whatever makes sense – t-shirts, socks, a jacket. All will work fine. There! Now you have yourself a pillow that earns its keep in other ways!
Alright, one more gear update combined with a little announcement: There’s a new little person in my family. She’s not quite 4 months old yet, but her mom and I already talking about her first camping trip. Obviously, our much-loved The North Face Rock 22 can’t accommodate us and Little Traveler. So we used our REI dividend and a 20 percent of coupon to snag an REI Kingdom 4 tent. The footprint isn’t huge, but the thing is tall enough for me to stand inside. And it has a room divider so neither of the big people will roll over onto Little Traveler; she’ll have her own room and a nice little nest in the Kingdom 4. Also, on our first try, we assembled the Kingdom 4 in less than five minutes.
Watch for a future full review of the REI Kingdom 4.
Now, I’ll bring this to a close with your chance to do something good. If you’re reading this, I’ll bet you have a pile of airline miles. I know these are precious – they’re great for upgrades and other perks. I get it.
Still, I hope you’ll think about using some of your air miles to help seriously ill kids. Make-A-Wish needs air miles to help grant wishes – travel is one of the biggest expenses in helping grant wishes, and nearly 75 percent of wish experiences require travel. All April long, Make-A-Wish is making a special request for air miles as part of its Give Wishes Wings campaign. Visit the Give Wishes Wings site and find out how your air miles can help.