The gear-centric world of travel and the great outdoors is always attempting to stumble across the next best thing. And for every game-changer like waterproof down or two-layer waterproof yet breathable jackets, there are probably just as many products that beg the question: why? And for that, we love them, too.
1. Vollebak Baker Miller Pink Hoodie, $325; 2. King Cage Barbell, $40; 3. Wayv Adventurer, $199; 4. SlotFlop Reef-R Stash Flip Flops, $25; 5. Project Jacquard, $TBD; 6. The B-Tourist, $TBD; 7. Bike-Specific Wearable Planter, $4.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Described as the "world's most relaxing piece of technical clothing," the Baker Miller Pink Hoodie uses color, sound, and body position to slow your breathing, lower your heart rate, and regulate your brainwaves to help you relax and recover before or after a big outing like the Ironman or a serious alpine ascent. And it also functions on the trail; it's insulated, water-repellent, and wind-resistant. To activate it the restorative features, lie down, zip up the hood, and trigger the pre-recorded Soundtrack. The mesh visor allows about 70 percent visibility, and transforms the light into a pink shade that's said to calm the mind and tranquilize the muscles. In 15 minutes they claim it's like hitting the reset button.
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The barbell solves a problem that probably no one ever knew existed: What if you're out biking and really need a shot of booze? Well, now you can screw off the top of this titanium bike bell and pour yourself a quick belt. But wait…what about a bottle cage designed to carry a flask? Yep, King Cage makes those, too.
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If starting a backcountry stove or sparking up a campfire feels a bit too overwhelming, then maybe you should register your interest in the new Wayv, who's Adventurer proclaims to become the world's first portable solid-state food heater—in layman's terms, a portable, hand-held microwave. It runs off a Li-ion power pack, which carries a 30-minute charge to deliver 200 watts of power, enough to provide up to six hot meals or drinks. And no exposed flames also means you can use it in public lands that ban fires. Expected to be on the market in early 2017.
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Unlike some of the more…eccentric products on this list, the SlotFlop solves a common problem: how can you stash your valuables when you're at the beach and want to go swimming? If you're carrying only a handful of essentials—a hotel room key, a credit card and ID, maybe some cash—you can pull a stealth move and slip everything into the narrow slot that sits at the footbed, aligned with the arch of your feet and secured with a hook-and-loop Velcro tab. No need to bury your stuff in the sand or pretend that folding it up in your beach towel does the trick.
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Leave it to Google to make something that feels like the sole domain of sci-fi into an actual thing. This year they launched Project Jacquard, which aims to make it easy for manufacturers to weave touch and gesture interactivity into textiles, using standard, industrial looms. For the first iteration with "connected clothing" they've partnered with Levi's on the new Commuter jacket. The interactive elements are woven into the denim, and all the electronics are housed in a removable smart tag that sits at the end of the left sleeve. Designed for urban commuters, the rider can now control maps, music, and phone calls via the fabric interface. The jacket drops in 2017, and is likely the very beginning of some very innovative new tech apparel to happen in the coming years.
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Want to know how to instantly alienate yourself on your next flight—not to mention trigger the ire of anyone sitting in front, behind, or beside you? Score the B-Tourist. Designed by graduates of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, this elastic…thing is supposed to provide a bit of privacy when you're on a plane or train by literally creating walls of fabric between you and the rest of the world, with plastic rings to help adjust the width of the fabric walls. It also attaches at the center, as if to embrace you around the torso when you want to nap.
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Targeting the hippy set over the grease-stained bike messenger, the Bike Planter attaches to your bike frame with an elastic nylon cord, ready for you to slip in your preferred flowers, ideally clipped from a larger succulent. Available in seven colors, each one is 3D-printed and hand-dyed.