Kenn Dodson’s travel workbench
Travel tips, trends, and gear reviews
“Experience the world as a Happy Accident.” – Kenn Dodson
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What to pack for adventure

Rule #1: Always put quality above quantity when selecting travel clothing and accessories . . .

I’ve tested hundreds of travel products over the years. The ones below continually surprise me in their durability and quality of construction. They’ve all provided long-term service without any issues and I’m glad to recommend them to you.

Ultimate rain gear: through heat and cold, this super-vented jacket provides the ultimate protection

For over 14 years I’ve relied on one piece of clothing more than any other during my travels. It has protected me during monsoons and hurricanes, and bitter cold blizzards. And through it all I stayed dry. It has been my partner in crime around the world. Throughout Europe, Asia, and dozens of U.S. National Parks. Not to mention everyday use that would destroy most rain gear. It is, hands down, the absolute most cherished piece of travel gear I’ve ever owned: The North Face Venture II waterproof hooded rain jacket. Nothing else even comes close.

Water and windproof

Extreme comfort and durability

Layers easily over coats

My North Face rain jacket has over 14 years of hardened use but still keeps going. It is the ultimate in affordable rain gear that easily doubles as a light jacket or windbreaker. You can also wear it over heavier coats in winter to provide added protection against winter winds and snow. Deep pockets, pull-tight sleeves, and a pull-tight hood keep you secure. Plus, it is available in a variety of colors for both men and women (Women’s North Face Venture II rain jacket).

convertible shirts: sun and sweat protection plus easy to wash

Wandering can take you to unexpected places. The weather can change quickly and you may go days without access to a washing machine. That’s why the Columbia PFG Tamiami™ II Long Sleeve Shirt is a staple in my backpack (women’s sizes here). I have two with me at all times. Columbia outdid themselves designing these shirts – their extremely lightweight, don’t need ironing, and incorporate UPF 40 fabric for maximum protection against UVA and UVB rays. They come in a variety of colors but I suggest getting the lighter fabrics to increase comfort as well.

Best price Columbia PFG Tamiami II long sleeve shirt at amazon

UPF 40 Rating and light weight

Extreme comfort with durability

Quick wash and dry by hand

They’re also made of breathable wicking fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool and dry, even in the heat – I know, I’ve worn this shirt in 104 degree weather without barely breaking a sweat just by rolling up the sleeves and fastening them with the holdup button included. But if you’re a tried and true short sleeve guy (engineers, I’m talking to you) they have a short sleeve version as well.

I’ve also been in situations where I unexpectedly couldn’t wash clothes for a week. Thanks to Columbia’s “super fabric” I was able to lightly rinse in water, air dry, and wear them again within 30 minutes, odor free. Plus, they have lots of pockets for storage. Oh, and don’t be fooled by imitations. I’ve tried to save a few bucks myself with copycats and they just don’t make the grade. I’ve always went back to the Columbia brand.

convertible pants to shorts: sun protection plus easy to wash

When it comes to wandering, Columbia has the market cornered in clothing. Their Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant is outstanding. Even my wife agrees (women’s sizes here). Made of similar light weight fabric as their shirts, but with a higher UPF 50 rating, these pants are extremely breathable with wicking fabric. They have pockets galore for storage and easily convert to short pants whenever you like.

UPF 50 Rating and light weight

Flexibility of movement with durability

Quick wash and dry by hand

Best price Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pant at amazon

They also have a partial elastic waist, giving you more flexibility of movement when hiking or climbing. You’d be surprised how much this capability adds to your comfort, even when walking down the streets of paris. That’s why I also have two pairs of these pants with me 24/7 when traveling. They’re also great for every day wear. And like the shirts above, these convertable pants are easy to wash and quick dry by hand with minimal water.

Trekking Sticks: For balance, added endurance, and fending off strange creatures

Even a healthy wanderer needs a little help every once in a while. Myself included. That’s why I always pack my trusty pair of BAFX Trekking poles. In the old days we just called them hiking sticks. But the technology has definitely outgrown that name.

Best trekking pole best hiking stick at amazon

Super light weight yet strong

Special comfort grip

Collapses to fit in luggage

These are my “go-to” sticks. I’ve taken them everywhere. Why? Well, you just never know when a good hike opportunity might appear. And even in the city, they can be a big help on day-long treks. A good example was my 9 hour trek through the steep and narrow streets of Paris where they gave me a little added grip uphill and added lift just when I needed it. And at Yellowstone they helped me help another wanderer by extending my reach enough to retrieve the binoculars they had dropped in a stream. And once, in NYC, they even kept a few strange creatures of the night at bay.

I chose the BAFX trekking poles for three key reasons: they’re collapsible and easily fit in my luggage, they’re tough – made of aerospace grade aluminum, and they’re extremely lightweight. They just don’t want to break, no matter how hard I abuse them. That’s why BAFX is happy to give you a one year warranty on them. Mine are over six years old now and, despite their wandering, look like new. Trekking sticks are essential – no wanderer should ever leave home without them. Best of all, they’re dirt cheap so I suggest adding them to your stockpile right now.

Ruggedized binoculars: get close up and personal with wildlife

When i was a kid I used an old paper towel tube as makeshift binoculars. But in the real world, they don’t work as well as I remember. So I bought five pairs highly rated pairs on Amazon and tested them out. The winner was clear: the Adasion 12×42 HD binoculars. They gave us great magnification at Yellowstone and are ruggedized for heavy use. They also came with a padded neckstrap and smartphone attachment. I can’t say enough about these glasses – from whale watching to our accidental moose encounter, the Adasion’s were excellent. Best of the all price is affordable.

Super rugged

Excellent zoom capabilities

Comfortable eye fit

Best binoculars at amazon best binoculars for watching wildlife.
A professional guide for under $20: Cool stories and tips plus local food and secret sights

Whenever our wandering takes us to a National Park or scenic byway in the United States or Canada, our first stop is the GyPSy Guide App. It is easy to download and features hours of commentary and interactive maps that activate based on your physical location while driving. GyPSy easily turns a 2, 3, or 4 hour drive into a professionally guided tour full of colorful stories, history and more. GyPSy also offers up the latest info on local dining and service facilities. And it does it all for less than most couples pay for a meal.

GyPSy customizes their guides for each destination. It also provides a detailed driving map and info designed just for that adventure. This way you don’t have to pay a large upfront sum for parks or destinations you’ll never use. We’ve also found GyPSy to be a great warmup for our adventures and usually listen to the entire guide before we start our adventures.

Portable Powerbank: For worry-free mapping, video and photography

Smartphones are a true miracle. When I was a kid we still relied on fold-out paper maps, bulky VHS video cameras, and Kodak Instant Cameras and their expensive film and prints. Thank God those days are now just a memory. Otherwise, I’d break the bank every time I wander.

On an average trip I may take 2,000 photographs. I also take lots of video, mostly scenic action shots. Oh, and the GPS is a constant as well. So my smartphone battery drains fast. Really fast. That’s why I always carry a long-lasting but light weight powerbank from Luxtude.

It charges fast and has a built-in cable. Best of all, its thin – and fits right under my Iphone. So in emergencies, if my phone is fully drained, I just lay this baby flat underneath my Iphone and it is still easy to take photos. I’ve even pulled it out of storage months later and it still has a full charge available for use. It’s also durable so you can literally throw it anywhere – in your backpack, on the table, even at a bear (in emergencies only). Be sure to have a Luxtude PowerBank handy at all times.

zoom and macro lenses: For getting closeup and personal photographs and video

A big part of building memories is collecting a photo library during your adventures. The more varied the better – long shots, closeups, a few videos . . . and a few killer portrait and panoramic shots. That’s where a telephoto and macro lense set adds tremendous value for the money.

Based on my travels, I recommend a kit with a variety of lenses. The Bostionye (Boston Eye) 11 in 1 Universal pack fits the bill perfectly. During my hikes through Yellowstone, it let me get some amazing shots of moose, elk, bison, and even an occassional oddball tourist to add to my collection.

Super light weight yet strong

Variety of lenses

Stores easily in backpack

Best smartphone zoom lense set at amazon.

This kit features a 20x telephoto lens, a 0.63 wide angle lense, a 15X macro lense – great for photographing plant life, and a 198° fisheye lense for capturing distant landscapes in all their glory. It also gives you a several other lenses that you can experiement with during your shoots. It also includes a tripod. I found the Bostionye lense set to be high quality – very sturdy – and it was easy to snap on my phone and interchange when needed. And in a crunch I even used the telephoto lense as a spare pair of binoculars. You can’t go wrong with this highly rated lense set. Check it out and if you don’t like it, just return it for a full refund.

Quick zoom and macro lenses: slips in your pocket for easy access all day long

Sometimes you don’t have room for everything, including a standard telephoto zoom lense. That’s why I also like carry a lightweight lense that can slip in my pocket.

While the Xenvo Pro Lens Kit gives you a variety of zoom and maro lenses, I usually just tuck one of each in my pants pocket and off I go! They snap easily on my phone and free up carrying capacity for other items.

If you enjoy photography like I do, then this is a no-brainer: always carry a small lense set like this. It’s worth its weight in gold as you wander.

Amazon Bestselling Daypack

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