The holidays are over. The gifts have been distributed, the food gobbled, and the grievances aired. It’s time to move into 2019 with a clean slate — ready for adventure, primed to see the world.
To do so, you may need to burn through a few gift cards, return a few whack sweaters, and swap some electronics. It’ll be well worth it. Because a travel-based gift is rooted in chasing lifelong experiences, and that’s the best gift of all. But we’re not profiling every product on the face of the earth, like previous years (those guides and gifts are still available!). For 2019 we’re sticking to the essentials — the core items you need to get fitted and kitted out so that you’re ready to make big moves in 2019.
Like around the world moves. Like “exploring an uninhabited jungle” moves. With our gear guide and an intrepid spirit, you’ll be ready.
SUNGLASSES: Randolph Engineering Aviators or Sportsman — $299
These sunglasses are literally the coolest sunglasses on earth and the fact that companies keep making new sunglasses feels odd, in light of this. Jack Nicholson wore these. Paul Newman. Steve McQueen. Why the hell are you experimenting with new looks when those damn icons favored the Randolphs?
Splurge on these and you’ll feel like an adventurer immediately, ready to carve a track through virgin jungles and then tell Hollywood producers all about it at a bar.
TRAIL BLANKET: Kammok Bobcat — $199.00
This blanket — which packs down into a small sack — is your new go-to roadtrip fave. It’s cozy as hell and will be sure to get plenty of cameos in your Insta-travel pics of you in a van or staring at the sea after a surf.
A blanket is a travel essential, obviously, and, for the most part, a blanket is a blanket is a blanket. But this pick — by the very trustable Kammok — is tested to 45-degrees and is lightweight enough to carry on a multi-day trek.
SLEEPING BAG: Outdoor Vitals StormLOFT™ Down MummyPod™ Sleeping Bag — $239.97
One of the coolest things to happen in the outdoor industry over the past few years is that small producers have taken on the North Faces and Mountain Hardwares of the world and revived the industry. This hammock-compatible sleeping bag is evidence of this new era of innovation. It’s fully insulated, which offers a huge improvement for hammock campers who don’t want to freeze to death. The zipper construction is literally un-snaggable and the outer layer is water resistant.
If you like being outdoors without a tent, as I do, this is a really clean, smart solution. The bottom insulation will protect you from ground frost or cold air and the shape and cinching ability around the face and shoulders keeps heat in. The sleeping bag syncs so easily with hammocks that you’ll literally feel like you’re in a cocoon (or tomb, which fits with imagery conjured by the product name but is also sort of grim).
This is a serious sleeping bag that will allow you to go tentless. If that’s what you crave, it’s a big win.
DAY PACK: Db Hugger — $159.00
As far as daypacks go, this is probably the last one you’ll ever buy. It’s so insanely sturdy, so easy to keep clean, and so function-forward that another day pack just doesn’t seem necessary.
In 2015, the trend was cool hipster packs that cut deep scars into your shoulders. They’ve been supplanted by more rigid construction packs, like this one, that move with you. In keeping with our straightforward approach to gear this year, the Db Hugger has literally three openings — a main compartment, a top stow for sunglasses, etc., and a laptop zipper that would be impossible for thieves to access while the bag is on your back. The bag is purely utilitarian, perfect as a lone piece of luggage for overnight trips, and so tough that it could probably outlast the apocalypse.
MULTI-DAY PACK: 511 Tactical AMP72 Backpack — $249.99
This is a multi-day pack and the word “tactical” in the name needs to be taken very seriously. You truly don’t need this one unless you’re exploring a jungle or tramping in the woods for a few days at a time (we tested it in a national park). As a bag to ride to the coffee shop with, it’s too bulky. That said, if you’re looking for a pack that can shapeshift and change to fit your needs, this is it.
The pack has plenty of options you may never need — like a strap for attaching a holster — and tons that you surely will. The rigid construction helps lighten your load and the interior and exterior pockets, stash spots, and HexGrid gear set for attaching more supplies (tent, sleeping bag, etc.) will surely come in handy as you load up.
This is a serious adventure product for serious adventurers. If that’s you, the AMP72 is ready for the roughest 72 hours in the bush you can throw at it.
ROLLER BAG: Traveler’s Choice Barcelona Front Opening Spinner — $249.99
Traveler’s Choice offers plenty of “smart luggage” that will charge your phone, but the value and functionality of the Barcelona is tough to beat. The front pocket is perfect for your laptop and other day-to-day items and the main compartment is surprisingly roomy. You could live out of this one for a month without much trouble (we did), especially if you’re organized enough to use and fully appreciate the packing cubes that come with the bag (we aren’t).
Everything here is focused on your ease. The multi-directional wheels will leave you mocking anyone you see rolling luggage that doesn’t have this function. The hard top construction — perfectly impossible to smudge or stain — will make you pity those weary travelers whose roller bags are made of fabric.
This is the sort of straightforward and sleek item that any traveler will appreciate. If you’re buying it for yourself, all the better.
TRANSLATOR: Pocketalk — $299
One day we’re all going to have sentient ear plugs that translate for us. But the end of the jumbled-attempts-at-speaking-a-foreign-language era is something I’ll feel deeply sad about — I find wrestling with new languages to be one of the true joys of travel. That said, in my book the Pockettalk is the perfect level of tech. It offers translations that will allow you to function in a foreign land without making the whole thing so simple that travel doesn’t feel exciting anymore.
If you have a traveler in your life (you!), there are few gifts you can give that are better than the ability to communicate while on the road. You’re sure to find yourself reaching for it in a pinch, while still doing your best to learn the language and master useful phrases — a pretty great sweet spot for translator functionality.
Connects to WiFi; 74 languages.
Some of the products listed here were sent to Uproxx as testers and returned. Others were sent as samples. Others still were purchased by the author at retail.