Archive for the ‘New Products’ Category

SeV Travel Vest: A Wearable Carry-On Bag

April 19, 2010

Scottevest travel vest reviewIt happens every Spring: The weather at your destination is a tad too warm for a coat, but not balmy enough that you feel comfortable traveling sans outerwear. My elegantly simple solution to this recurring dilemma?  Scottevest’s Travel Vest.

Unlike similar vests that make you look like you just got off the bus from Dorkville, this thoughtfully-designed garment actually looks pretty stylish.  In wearing it on dozens of trips over the past nine months, I’ve also found its combination of warmth and breathability kept me from both shivering and sweating.

The real beauty of this product, however, lies inside.  As part of the company’s line of “technology-enabled clothing,” this vest features nearly two dozen pockets sized to hold everything from a cell phone to your shiny new iPad without bulges that make you look like a crazed shoplifter.  The sleek exterior also hides a surprising number of clever details, including discrete tabs inside the collar designed to keep your earbuds ready for deployment and a tethered microfiber polishing cloth that beats the heck out of whatever you’re currently using to buff the smudges off your sunglasses or iPhone screen.

If there’s a downside to the design, it’s that there are so many places to put stuff you may find yourself resorting a law enforcement-style pat down of your upper torso as you try to remember which of the vest’s 22 pockets you left your camera in.  That said, this occasional game of gadget hide-and-seek ends up being a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to take off the vest, send it through the TSA’s X-ray machine, and sail through the metal detector without wondering if you’ve forgotten something that will mark you for additional screening.

Put it all together and I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up making this wearable carry-on bag a regular part of your travel wardrobe regardless of the season.

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The BIG Picture: Website Offers Easy Way To Create 360-Degree Scrollable Panoramic Photos

April 9, 2010

As someone who’s had more than his fair share of truly extraordinary experiences, I can tell you virtually all of them share one recurring problem.  Namely that they’re filled with amazing moments that typical digital photos just can’t do justice.

Easy way to create panoramic photosWhich is why I found myself intrigued by the free browser-based digital photo app just introduced by the folks at Dermandar.com.  While it’s still a work in progress, the website makes it ridiculously easy for even the least tech-savvy traveler to create surprisingly high-quality, full-screen scrollable panoramic images without the need for special cameras, tripods, or software.

Just shoot a series of pics with any digital camera—even the one in your cell phone—taking care to keep part of the previous frame in each new shot.  Then go to the website, upload the photos, and the app creates seamless panoramas in about five seconds that allow you to drag your cursor across the image to peruse views up to 360-degrees.  From there, the app lets you share them with far-flung friends and family members via email or Facebook or even embed them in your website or blog.

While no technology can ever replace the feeling you get when you’re right there in the middle of a truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime adventure, the immersive images this simple app lets you create may be the next best thing.

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Here & There: These New Gizmos Allow Travelers To Be In Two Places At Once

March 17, 2010

Physicists who study quantum theory tell us that, under certain circumstances, it’s actually possible for sub-atomic particles to be in two places at the same time.  Until they’re able to scale this curious discovery up into a workable Star Trek-like teleportation device, however, I’m afraid we humans are stuck with our highly linear version of reality.Star Trek transporter

Fortunately, some smarty-pants techie-types have created two new products designed to offer ordinary travelers the next best thing to being both here and there at once:

LogMeIn Ignition is a handy application that allows iPhone and iPod Touch owners the ability to remotely access all the files on their home and work computers.  Simply install the free software on your Mac or PC, download the $30 app to your mobile device, and you’ll be able to view, create, and forward documents and emails from anywhere you can get a 3G cellular signal or wi-fi connection.

Vue Personal Video Network allows you to keep an eye on things at home or work from any location with a high-speed internet connection.  Set-up for both the two included wireless cameras and the browser-based viewer couldn’t be simpler, and you can add additional cameras (up to 50 total) at any time.  You can also record and save video clips, upload them to YouTube, and invite others to view a selected live video stream.

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Sailing Through Airport Security: 2 Great Sources For Travel-Size Products

March 8, 2010

Travel size productsGoing through the TSA security checkpoint in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, I ended up in line behind a tres chic young woman who began giving the screeners a heaping helping of attitude after they politely pointed out that she couldn’t carry-on the four full-size containers of shampoo, hair gel, and whatnot they’d extracted from her over-stuffed roll-aboard suitcase.

If this were an isolated incident, it probably wouldn’t even be worth mentioning.  But, as someone who flies 100,000-plus a year, I can tell you it’s something I see all the time.  Honestly, it’s a mystery to me that there could still be folks out there who haven’t gotten the message about the TSA’s three-ounce rule for liquids and gels in carry-on bags, a restriction that was put in place way back in 2006.

Naturally, it wasn’t till later that it occurred to me that I could have saved this stylish 20-something a world of TSA grief on her next trip by sharing a couple of great sources I’ve found for an amazing array of travel-size products.  From run-of-the-mill sundries to high-end cosmetics, these two operations can set you up with everything you’ll need to make sure you sail through airport security on your next adventure:

Minimus.biz

From tiny tubes of toothpaste to individual-sized gourmet snacks, if it’s offered in a travel size these folks probably stock it.  Their wide assortment of pre-assembled kits also make practical bon voyage gifts.Travel size cosmetics

3FLOZ.com

This operation’s clever name—short for “3 Fluid Ounce”—doesn’t begin to describe the depth and breadth of their offerings.  Let’s just say that if the only reason you’re still paying to check a bag is that you can’t find your favorite upscale beauty products—you know, anti-aging potions and the like—in TSA carry-on-friendly sizes, this is the website for you.

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Experience This!

December 3, 2009

Just read a great interview with one of my heroes, Blue Highways author William Least Heat Moon.  A man responsible for my long-held belief that it’s not the destination but the experience that really matters.  And the more extraordinary that experience the better.

While I’ve collected a fair number of extraordinary experiences both here and on the pages of XTRORD.com, I’m well aware there are lots more of these truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime adventures out there waiting to be discovered.

Which is why I’ve been geeking out on a handful of new adventure travel books.  While all of them tend to focus on destinations rather than experiences to some degree, read between the lines and you’re bound to find a few gems that make you think “Gee, I’ve always wanted to do that!”:

Once In A Lifetime Trips: The World’s 50 Most Extraordinary and Memorable Travel Experiences

by Chris Santella $25, 224 pages, Clarkson Potter Publishers

From an elephant safari in Botswana to a cross country skiing expedition to the North Pole, the experiences in this handsome little book definitely live up to the “extraordinary and memorable” claim in its sub-title.  While a few of the featured adventures border on the ordinary, there are enough cool ideas here to spark a full year’s worth of daydreams.

Off The Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives

Foreword by Bill Bryson. $40, 336 pages, DK Eyewitness Travel

I can’t help but like any book that presents dozens of  alternative destinations, events, and activities designed to help you leave the touristy masses far behind.  The end-of-chapter lists of other little-known adventures and the gorgeous photography are just icing on the cake.

Make The Most Of Your Time Here On Earth: 1,000 Ultimate Travel Experiences

$30, 608 pages, Rough Guides

Look, when it comes right down to it, nothing succeeds like excess, and that’s just what this beautifully-done book packed with 1,000 great adventure ideas offers.  If you can’t find at least a dozen cool new experiences to add to your life-list in its 600-plus pages, well, I feel sorry for you.

Rock Band, Only For Real

September 2, 2009

Some songs are timeless. Like, oh, say the entire Beatles catalog, for example.  Which makes next Wednesday a big day, for reasons that go beyond the numerology implications of its unique 09/09/09 date.

beatles_wideweb__470x420,2First, it’s the day the folks at Capitol/EMI release the first digitally-remastered versions of all 12 of the Beatles studio albums in 22 years.  A team of engineers at London’s Abbey Road Studios spent four years reworking the albums using a combination of the latest technology and vintage equipment to create what promises to be unparalleled sound quality that faithfully reproduces the original analog recordings.

Not coincidentally, next Wednesday also marks the long anticipated release of The Beatles: Rock Band for Xbox 360, PlayStation3, and Nintendo Wii video game consoles.  The game offers more than three dozen vintage Beatles tunes and a number of interesting new features, along with optional add-ons like copies of the Fab Four’s classic instruments.

While all this sounds like great fun, allow me to restate one of our guiding principles here at XTRORD.com:  Reality kicks virtual reality’s butt any dayWhich is why I’d recommend that those of you looking to have an authentic rock band experience check out the programs put on by Rock-n-Roll Fantasy Camp which pair rocker-wannabes with a wide range of genuine rock star “counselors.”FOTO 11-A

Of all my extraordinary experiences, playing with Kip Winger’s band in front of a sold-out crowd at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium remains one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done.  It also proves that—like the Rock Band video game—limited musical ability is no excuse not to get up there and perform!

Going “Postal”?

July 21, 2009

Look, I spend a lot of time online and like drooling over the latest high-tech toys as much as the next guy.  But I also realize that there are an awful lot of stubbornly low-tech folks out there who remain convinced this whole email thing is just another passing fad.

phonecardWhich is precisely what makes this new goPostal iPhone application so cool.  Once you download the free app from the iTunes Store, you’ll be able to shoot photos with your iPhone’s built-in camera, add your personal message and an address, and send the image as an actual full-color postcard via good old-fashioned snail mail.  If you don’t have an iPhone yet, you can also use the service from your computer by visiting this page on the company’s website.

Best of all each postcard costs just $1.29 including postage, which makes this personalized service comparable to the generic store-bought cards you’ve been sending for years.  Neat.

Summer Travel Gear, Part 2

May 29, 2009

In the first installment of this two-part series, I profiled some cool new high-tech travel products.  Now let’s take a look at some of the low-tech items I’ve been testing that I think will make your summer adventures easier and more enjoyable:

TQ7-ORN-300Spire USA Bags

Okay, I admit I’m a bag freak.  From day-bags (“man purses,” my wife calls them) to suitcases, my office is littered with product samples.  But the two carry-on bags from Spire USA that I’ve been testing for the past several months have become my new favorites.  Both the sleek messenger-style Endo and the Torq backpack combine rugged construction and top-quality materials with roomy, laptop-friendly interiors and well thought-out design details.  Bottom line: These two bags and I will be spending a lot of time together this summer, while my previous go-to carry-ons sit gathering dust in the corner.

1241-0616_9999ExOfficio Travel Underwear

Okay, I realize underwear isn’t something one normally discusses in polite company, much less raves about.  But these specially-designed dainties from the adventure-savvy folks at ExOfficio have really impressed me in my recent travels.  They’re plenty comfortable and seem to be well-made, but the big selling point here is the fact that you can wash them in the hotel sink at night and feel confident they’ll be dry by morning.  Which means you’ll be able to travel for weeks at a time with just a few pairs. 

peppered_bacon_jerkyBacon Freak Bacon Jerky

Remember that old Motown song that went “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right”?  Well, that pretty much sums up how I feel about this new snack food from BaconFreak.com.  Given the fact that bacon is the one thing standing between me and a vegetarian diet, it should come as no surprise that I love this portable bacon snack.  All five different flavors (Peppered, Cajun, Honey BBQ, Jalapeño, and Summer Tomato BLT) are dee-lish and come in their own re-sealable pouch that’s easy to throw in your carry-on for a little protein pick-me-up in the middle of a five-hour plane ride.  Their slogan says it all: Bacon Is Meat Candy!

For more of my favorite adventure travel gear, check out XTRORD.com’s Stuff page.

Summer Travel Gear, Part 1

May 13, 2009

I know the summer travel season is still a couple of weeks away.  But I’ve been thinking ahead, and have spent the last few months looking at a wide array of interesting new products designed to help you make the most out of your upcoming adventures.

In this installment, I’ll focus on some of my favorite new high-tech toys, all of which probably offer significant advantages over what you’re using now at  surprisingly affordable prices:

1363_overviewOlympus 1030SW Digital Camera:

Here’s an immutable law of nature you’ll do well to remember this summer:  Water and digital cameras do not mix.  Unless of course we’re talking about the Olympus 1030SW.  I’ve taken this easily pocketable 10.1-megapixel point-and-shoot on a long list of adventures over the past few months and put its seemingly outrageous claims—that it’s waterproof down to 33 feet and can withstand drops from more than 6 feet—to the test snorkeling with manatees, bouncing along on a Mardi Gras float, and more.  Picture and video quality are pretty darn good by point-and-shoot standards, but it’s the freedom it offers to take pix wherever and wherever you choose that has earned it a place in my carry-on this summer. 

intro-moviesandtv20080909Apple iPod Touch

I know, I know, the iPhone is the must-have gadget right now.  But what if you’re like me and have a cell phone service provider you’re happy with?  Enter the iPod Touch, which offers many of the iPhone’s coolest features without requiring you to switch carriers.  The 16GB iPod Touch I’ve been testing for the past several months pairs substantial storage capacity with a large, bright screen that’s actually big enough to enjoy movies and TV shows in flight.  Back on the ground, the built-in wi-fi access allows me to check my email, surf the web, listen to my favorite internet radio stations, and more.  And then there are all the free and bargain-priced add-on applications offered in the iTunes Store—so many that if you can’t find an app there that does what you want to do, well, you probably don’t need to do it.  Highly recommended.

getProdImageMagellan Maestro 4250 Navigation System

Wherever your travels take you this summer, sooner or later you’re going to need directions.  While I’m old-school enough that I still occasionally pack the trusty AAA maps and Tourbooks I’ve relied on for years, Magellan’s Maestro line of portable GPS navigation systems has made the printed versions largely obsolete.  Units like the Maestro 4250 I’ve been testing cram top-quality maps of the U.S. and Canada and all the lodging and restaurant info contained in those AAA Tourbooks into a package that’s small enough to slip into a shirt pocket.  What really sets this unit apart from many other GPS units I’ve tested, however, is the big, easy-to-read 4.3-inch color LCD touch-screen and the intuitive user interface that makes its many features super-easy to, ahem, navigate.

NEXT TIME:  Low-tech products you don’t wanna leave home without.

 

Boredom Busters

April 21, 2009

roadtripseries11Just got back from another one of my frequent roadtrips to southern California.  And, let me just say, you don’t know boredom until you’ve been motoring down Interstate 5 through California’s flat and featureless Central Valley for five straight hours.

Luckily on this trip I decided to bring along a trio of new compact discs I just got from my friends at National Public Radio.  The series, just coincidentally titled NPR Road Trips, is made up of three new CDs including “Roadside Attractions,” “National Park Adventures,” and “Postcards from Around The Globe.” Each features more than a dozen stories from NPR’s crack correspondents that run the gamut from silly (everything you always wanted know about the world’s second-largest ball of twine) to the extraordinary (a look at what it’s like for the 60 men and women who choose to spend six months each winter stranded at research bases at the South Pole).  I found all three thoroughly entertaining and can’t recommend them highly enough for anyone looking to make the miles of a long drive fly by.

The CDs are available online from the  NPR Shop at $15 each or $35 for the set.