Buyer’s Guide: Gear for Short Trips

Laura Lopuch

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you usually head off on several 1-2 week trips a year.

It’s your chance to escape the daily grind and indulge your wanderlust. Sometimes you hit the road hard and max out your allotted two weeks of vacation. Other times, your journey is a meandering road trip, exploring nooks and crannies of small towns off the tarmac. Either way, you’re a traveler and need strong gear to keep your adventures coming.

Gypsy Blood Runs Strong

I’ve been traveling since I was two weeks old when my parents took me on a road trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding.

I haven’t stopped since. No discrimination between flights, road trips or train travel — they’re all perfect. Just unleash me into the big wide world and see what it has to hold. At the end of two weeks or so, let me return to my home and be a homebody hobbit once more.

On trips of this length, I’ve hit six European cities, eight states on a 4200 mile road trip, four historic American cities, and that’s just the start.

Since a 1-2 week trip is just long enough, but not too long, packing can be challenging. Pack too much and you’re struggling to heave an overweight suitcase into the overhead compartment. Don’t pack enough and you forget a jacket for an unexpected Montana snowstorm over Memorial Day. (Been there, done that.)

Wondering what gear is best for your next 1-2 week trip? This is the ultimate guide for you.

Travel Backpacks

I may be a bit biased, but the Tortuga collection of travel backpacks is incredible. Full of useful pockets and padded shoulder straps and back padding, these bags transform me into a packing ninja that can sprint for her plane, always find the shirt she’s looking for,  never packing too much.

Thanks to their front-loading designs, you can find everything in a moment versus digging furiously in your backpack’s dark depths, hoping to get lucky and grab what you’re looking for on the first try.

According to Wirecutter, these are the best carry on travel bags to make your next trip organized, and save on checked baggage fees.

Setout Travel Backpack $199

The Setout travel backpack is a full sized carry on with plenty of space to bring everything you need. 

This bag is “just right” for most travelers, the perfect blend of durability, organization, and affordability. Blend in with the locals instead of standing out like a tourist!

Setout Divide $179

The Setout Divide is the expandable carry on for short trips. The Setout Divide is just the right size, whether you’re packing light for a weekend or a week.

Expand the backpack from 26L to 34L for extra packing space when you need it.

Use the two-compartment layout to separate your clean clothes from dirty (or large pieces from small) to stay organized en route.

Outbreaker Travel Backpack $299

The Outbreaker travel backpack is obsessively organized, with a fully adjustable harness system, and is available in two sizes.

Feel free to overpack, because no matter how much you’re carrying, this bag will feel comfortable.

Oh, and it’s also made of waterproof sailcloth, so weather is not a worry.

Daypacks

A good daypack accompanies you on your daily adventures, holds your stuff better than a personal assistant, and never breaks down under the strain. In choosing a daypack, consider carefully what your needs actually are, then buy the bag that is right for the way you travel.

Setout Packable Daypack $39

Perfect for a day of sightseeing, carrying your water bottle, sunglasses, a jacket, and the essentials for a day of urban adventure, the Setout packable daypack folds down into it’s own pocket. 

Pop this little gem into your travel backpack and be ready for any adventure the city may bring.

**Note** There is not a computer sleeve in this daypack, it’s for having fun only! If you’re traveling with some work that requires a laptop… keep reading!

Outbreaker Daypack $99

This laptop friendly daypack will take anything and everything you can throw at it, from the weight of your 15″ beast to the monsoon rain on the way to your Bangkok co-working space.

Made of waterproof sailcloth, with padded shoulder straps and back panel, this daypack is meant to carry a little more weight and still be comfortable.

If you’re looking for a daypack that will go the distance, this bag is a sleek, yet rugged, choice.

 

Best Tablet

iPad Air 2 ($600)

This is the best option for an all-around entertainment tablet. With it, you can read books (Amazon Kindle app), watch movies (Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime apps), listen to music, or just surf the web.

With its 9.7 inch display and less than 1 lb weight, this tablet is designed for travel. Steve Kovach at Business Insider says:

“It has the most and the best apps designed for the larger screen than any other competing tablet. That alone makes it worth buying if you want a tablet, but it’s also beautiful, thin, light, and powerful.”

Kindle Paperwhite ($120)

Tagged as Amazon’s best-selling Kindle, this e-reader is lighter than a paperback book. Couple that with a battery that lasts weeks and access to millions of titles on Amazon, you’ll find boring flights disappearing in endless captivating good reads.

Downside: the Paperwhite is only an e-reader, so forget about checking email or watching movies on it.

Cameras

 

Panasonic TZ70/ZS50 ($328)

 Compact, yet powerful, this camera is like a mighty ant with its capabilities to get the job done. Measuring at 2 inches by 5.3 inches, it’s small enough to fit into your pocket, but still has the juice to take amazing pictures.

TechRadar named this camera as the best compact travel camera:

“The TZ70 is the latest and best, with a big 30x zoom, auto and manual controls and the ability to shoot raw files – a big bonus for keen photographers who want the best quality from a small camera. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of travel cameras, combining convenience, quality and control. There are lots of imitators, but this is the original.”

 Nikon D3300 ($500)

Tagged an entry-level DSLR camera, the Nikon punches above its weight class. Measuring slightly smaller than its biggest competitor Canon EOS Rebel T5, the Nikon boasts more pixels. You do pay $100 more for the Nikon versus the Canon.

But the Nikon’s battery life is also longer than Canon’s by 100 pictures. Which means at your day’s end, you’ll capture that stunning ocean sunset rather than running for your power cord.

iPhone 8 Camera

A blown up black and white print of the Louvre hangs on my kitchen wall. Even with a keen eye, you’d never guess I took this photo with my iPhone 4s. With every generation of iPhone, the camera has only gotten better. Chances are you’re already bringing your unlocked smartphone, so no worries about packing another gadget like a camera or its power cord.

Freelance writer, Shawn Forno, recommends changing your FPS settings to 60fps to get your iPhone 8 camera working to perfection.

Who needs a proper camera with how great phone cameras have gotten? Unless you’re a pro or a very serious hobbiest, your phone camera is probably all you’ll ever need.

Men’s Clothing & Shoes

Best Men’s Pants: Outlier Slim Dungarees ($198)

They’re like jeans, but not made from jean material. Outlier banished cotton or denim from their pants, opting instead for a high-tech fabric that always looks and smells good — even if you’re Jason Bourne after a fierce fight with a bad guy.

“The long-term durability of soft shell fabrics also means they’ll outlast denim several times over, so if you’re tired of replacing worn-out jeans one after another at maybe $50 each, these are for you.

They’ll very likely make back their initial investment by eliminating the need for constant replacement, and they’ll be super comfy and weather-resistant the whole time.” — Travel blogger, Eytan of Snarky Nomad

If you’re looking for a durable and less expensive pant, check out Target’s Denizen jeans for men. With their premium-looking dark wash, you’d never guess they’re under $40 — making them worry-free should you adventure off the beaten path and get super messy.

Best Men’s Shoes

When it comes to selecting the shoe to take with you on the road, opt for comfortable first. You’ll want a thicker sole with good arch support to stand up to long days of walking. Next up? Figure out if your trip calls for a casual or more dressy shoe.

Casual Shoe

This category covers a lot of ground from New Balance Men’s MX20BS4 Cross Minimus Training Shoe ($60 ,currently rocking a 4.5 stars in 780+ Amazon reviews) to Timberland Earthkeepers boots ($125) to boat shoes.

Travel blogger, Travis Sherry of Extra Pack of Peanuts, recommends Clark’s Fury loafers as his favorite shoe:

“Easy to slip on and slip off for security checks, can be worn casually with shorts or to the nicest restaurants, and takes up very little space in your bag.”

Dressy Shoe 

Water-resistant. Classy leather. Cushioned foot-bed that feels like walking on air rather than a stiff at home in the boardroom. Cole Haan’s ZERØGRAND Water Resistant Wing Oxford ($270) will keep your feet dry — and stylish — while you trek out the miles.

 

This is Tortuga designer,  Patrick Healy’s, favorite shoe for nice occasions:

“Due to their running shoe like sole, Cole Haans are the lightest, most comfortable pair of dress shoes I’ve ever owned. With the classic upper you can wear them in most dressier situations (you have to be a little adventurous to wear them at a black tie event, but it can be done).”

Women’s Clothing & Shoes

Best Women’s Leggings: Athleta Metro High Waisted Legging ($80)

Want leggings with full coverage, just the right amount of stretch and pockets? These are for you. The high-waist ensures a muffin-top-free zone (thank goodness), while the trouser seam lines make your legs look longer.

“The great thing about these leggings is that the pockets on the back make sure they don’t look too ‘leggingy.’ They’re intended as “workout-to-work” wear, but I can only imagine them as workout wear in the Arctic: they’re very thick and warm.” — Copywriter and travel blogger, Mish Slade of Making It Anywhere. 

 

Special mention: yoga-like stretchy pants that can take you hiking, traveling, and to a business-casual restaurant. Did I mention they’re water-resistant, too? And have pockets? (a.k.a. my main complaint with yoga pants as normal pants) Meet Mountain Hardwear’s Dynama pant ($70). They even come in a long inseam for us tall girls.

Best Convertible Dress: TwelveWays ($100) 

One dress that can be styled up to 10 different ways? This is the beauty of a convertible dress. Typically a jersey sheath that comes with a YouTube video or brochure of instructions on how to wear, this dress could fulfill many different occasions on your 1-2 week trip.

For instance, need a black cocktail dress for your friend’s rehearsal dinner and a demure brunch dress? Pack a convertible dress and you’ll have both covered.

Alex from Travel Fashion Girl put this dress to the test. 

“It’s a fun and flirty convertible dress that has minimal fabric, easy styling, and also has sex appeal! It’s super comfortable (and roomy in a forgiving way). My only two major gripes with this dress are 1) the ties are a shoe-lace type material which doesn’t look too elegant on the “elegant” style and 2) I wish it had straps.”

Best Women’s Shoes

Ah, Cinderella’s problem category: which shoe to pack? Impacting your outfit, look, and comfort, selecting the right shoe is hard.

When you’re picking which shoe to hit the road with, skip the mall and head for your computer. Zappos gives you free shipping both ways. Meaning you can order as many pairs of shoes that look promising, try them on in the comfort of your home, and ship back to Zappos the ones that don’t work. (Also, check out 6pm for Zappos’ overstock at discounted prices.)

Casual Shoe

Nike Internationalist lend you a sporty look. While the leather and pillowed sole of SoftWalk give you supreme walking comfort. Or opt for an old-school favorite of travelers: Toms (starting at $48).

If you’d like a similar shoe to Tom’s, but prefer an underdog company (with a still awesome philosophy of eco-friendly and using local workers in Ethiopia), check out soleRebels (starting at $85)

Dressy Shoe

Cute ballet flats that pack up into a small bundle. Meet Tieks

Every female blogger’s not-so-secret crush. Soft leather, cushioned foot beds, ability to roll up into a tiny ball, and a huge array of colors make this little ballet flat Most Popular. Plus, they’re comfortable and go with anything.

Downside: they’re freaking expensive: $175

“I will wear my two pairs (in tangerine and starstruck) 300 out of 365 days this year, easy—including ten days walking 10 miles a day in NYC.” — Anne, writer and blogger, at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Clothing Brands for Travel

Travel clothing is a huge industry. However, most of the time what’s called “travel clothing” is hardly different from your everyday clothing that you wear at work or at the gym.

Keep your clothing budget low by hacking normal clothing brands for their best options to travel with. And in some cases — like H&M, Target, Uniqlo — just spend your entire budget at that store for great travel-friendly clothes.

Best Jeans: Lucky Brand (starting at $100)

My Lucky Brand jeans survived a sopping spring rainstorm in Vancouver, then hung to dry overnight. Next morning, they were dry as a bone and ready to take more stomping through puddles. These jeans have perfect stretch, so no saggy butt syndrome on day 5 of wearing them.

Plus, they are still thick enough to feel like jeans (no thin jegging feel) which means you can wear them in chilly 40 degree weather.

Best Women’s Clothing Brand: Lululemon

With its stylish designs and hard-working, technical fabrics, this yoga-inspired clothing company might just stock your next trip’s wardrobe.

Jessie Beck, Tortuga writer, loves their winter jackets:

“I’ve paired it with a couple of layers and gone out in the snow with it, and I’ve thrown it over a t-shirt for a slightly chilly plane ride. The thing I love most about their jackets are that they’re more stylish than other outdoors/athletic wear but I’m not fussed about getting it dirty.”

Best Men’s Clothing Brand: Levi’s Commuter Line

Designed for the urban cyclist, this clothing line is perfect to hack for your travel adventures with its added strength for durability, water-resistant treated fabric, and engineered for comfort. (I would hope.)

Jackets 

Want a jacket that doubles as a rain jacket, weathers snow, and fends off breezes on cool days? Check out FlyLow Gear’s Sarah Insulated Jacket (women, $275) or Lab Coat 2.0 (men, $495). 

Designed for the slopes, these lightweight jackets block the elements or cool you off via generous side vents. Bonus: they don’t look like your typical flashy ski or outdoor gear.

For a cheaper option, UnderArmour’s Storm Tactical Gale Form jacket ($150). Featuring windproof and waterproof fabric that’s still breathable, this handsome jacket will take you from castle exploring to fancy dinner with ease.

Ladies, for a lighter weight jacket, fashion expert and traveler, Heather Sherry from Sartorial Stripes packs a utility jacket:

 “For every day use in any country and any situation. It is the perfect jacket that always looks fashionable and put together.”

Best Travel-Specific Jacket: Scott E. Vest

If you feel better with your valuables on your body, check out Scott E Vest. All their outerwear comes loaded with pockets, so your smartphone, wallet, headphones or passport is never far from you.

“Designed by a company that specializes in “pocket clothing,” the advantage of this travel vest is that it is simply styled (thus versatile) and incredibly functional. The large number of pockets allows you to ditch the travel pouch and still carry everything you need. “ — Antonio Centeno, Art of Manliness 

Quart Ziplock Bag Items

GoToob

Forget about hunting for days to find your favorite sunscreen in a tube less than 3 ounces, only to find it costs $10 more than the normal-sized tube. Get yourself some GoToobs: squeezable, fillable plastic containers. Fill them up with your favorite liquids (shampoo, face wash, Dr. Bronner’s, sunscreen) at home from normal-sized containers. Take that travel-sized ninjas.

Best All-In-One Item

A standard bar of soap is the best all-in-one item: wash your face, body, even your clothes with this hard-working item. Or if you prefer, pack Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap ($18 for 32 oz) to tackle those same dirty items.

Best Makeup

Check out Tortuga editor, Jennifer Sutherland-Miller’s favorite, Bare Minerals (starting at $28). No liquids here — it’s just powder — so you can pack it directly into your carry on and save your precious quart baggie space.

Or Taylor Coil, Tortuga’s Marketing Manager, who considers Supergoop CC cream ($32) with its sun-fighting sunscreen and sheer coverage is a must-have.

Best Dry Shampoo

Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk ($18). Why? Because it’s a powder — not an aerosol like many other dry shampoos — you can put it right into your carry on, not your quart bag. Beware, a little goes a long way with this shampoo.

Downside: It’s a bit expensive.

Best Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Stick Sunscreen SPF 70 ($8) fits the three must-haves for sunscreen: water and sweat-resistant, good for your skin, high SPF. And it comes in a liquid-free form that’s silkier and drier… and won’t burst in a hot car during your 1-2 week trip.

Psst, it also won Allure’s Best of Beauty 2014 (a mashup of all beauty products, including sunscreen, to find the creme de la creme).

Miscellaneous Items

Protect your eyes with polarized sunglasses. Splurge on Oakley sunglasses to get their killer warranty: two years protection. Or check out Ray Bans Wayfarer ($150) for the classic traveler’s look.

Stay hydrated on the road with a space-saving water bottle like the Platypus ($13). Downside: only suitable for cool liquids.

Or if you need a bottle that is perfect for squirreling away coffee from your hotel in the morning and filling with water later, check out Zojirushi SM-SA48-BA Stainless Steel Mug ($26). Its compact design maxes capacity while using minimal space.

Slip a pack of baby wipes in your bag to fight all kinds of messes (wiping down dirty flip-flop feet, a quick “shower,” clean up after a nausea-inducing bus ride). Go for a smaller container of baby wipes, so the rest don’t dry up before you use them.

Be sure to pack a small medical supplies kit for emergencies on the road.

And don’t forget to pack some snacks to fend off a case of the “hangries” (anger when hungry). Some tried and true favorites are Cliff Bars with 10g of protein and 4g of fiber (both guarantees of keeping you full longer), raw almonds, trail mix or Quest Protein Bars.

TL;DR

The gear you need on a 1-2 week trip can vary depending on your destination and adventures planned on the road.

However, your gear staples remain the same:

  • Lighter is always better with your carry on — opt for a bag that is comfortable and won’t hamper your movements.
  • A good daypack will save you. If saving space in your carry on is a high priority, go for Tortuga’s Daypack which collapses into a pouch.
  • Invest in good quality clothes, but not necessarily “travel clothes.”
  • When picking a travel jacket, opt for wind and waterproof. UnderArmour is cheaper, and just as great, as ski gear FlyLow Gear.
  • Micselaneous items matter too, think about the details. 

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