The Goods

  • Sun Bum Sunscreen

    We’ve tried every sunscreen known to man over the past few years.  Sun Bum is the créme de la créme of sunscreens.  There’s really nothing better, really!

    Sun Bum sunscreen, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

    1. Sun Bum is not greasy or sticky – who wants to feel like they should be laying on a BBQ instead of laying by the water?

    2. Sun Bum EASILY rubs completely into your skin in no time – why waste 30 minutes trying to rub in sunscreen and still look like a ghost?

    3. Sun Bum smells great – The scent is minimal compared to some sunscreens that make you feel like you just left a perfume factory

    4. Sun Bum stays on – It stays on your skin for a reasonable length of time even whether you’re just lying around, in the water or jumping around on the beach

    5. Sun Bum goes a long way – Sure it’s a bit pricey, but you can use less than other sunscreens.  (Of course, use what you need to make sure you’re covered)

    6. Sun Bum lets your skin breathe – A couple of us have sensitive skin, which with regular products caused breakouts and clogged pores.  With the Bum, that’s not a problem.

    We stumbled across Sun Bum sunscreen about three years ago at Nordstrom.  We’d tried every imaginable brand out there.  From Coopertone to Banana Boat to Neutrogena and everywhere in between.  Nothing comes close to Sun Bum.  We’ve heat and water tested it in summer and winter.  It stood up to the triple digit heat in Indonesia, to the hot sandy beaches of central Vietnam.  This past winter, it was great face protection skiing in the minus degree temperatures of Zermatt.

    Available in Baby, Regular and Pro formulas, plus SPFs of 15, 30, 50 and 70 there’s a Sun Bum for you.  It also comes in handy applicator sticks for your face.  Sun Bum is available at many locations.  You can check their website, go to Nordstrom, or shop on Amazon.

    Check out their website.  It has lots of great information about their products, a lengthy FAQ that could answer any question you’ve ever had about sunscreen, and a lot of other cool things as well.  So, get out there, take your clothes off, put on some Sun Bum sunscreen and hit the beach.  It’s up to you whether you put your clothes back on first.

  • Wine Skins

    We’ve been in love with Wine Skins for years.  When we travel to wine growing regions around the world, we always take plenty of Wine Skins with us.

    Wine Skins are bottle shaped containers made from flexible, heavy duty plastic lined with bubble wrap.  Along the bottom of the Wine Skin is a double row of adhesive tape, so you can securely seal them.   Wine Skins protect the wine well, seal or unsealed.  Once the Wine Skins are filled, we wrap them in clothes in our luggage for a bit of extra protection.

    Using Wine Skins, we’ve never had a bottle of wine break.  We usually leave them unsealed, so we can use them over and over.  The bottles fit tightly enough in the Wine Skin, that you shouldn’t need to seal them.

    There are imitations out there, but it’s hard to match the quality of the true Wine Skin.  While they may cost a bit more, the fact that they’re sturdy and hold up for a long time, makes them an inexpensive way to make sure you’re wine arrives home with you in perfect condition.

    Wine Skins are available from Amazon.

  • Waze

    Waze is the perfect app when traveling by car.  It makes navigating city streets or roads in wide open spaces quicker and easier.  Best of all, it saves time and keeps your stress level down.

    Waze is a crowd-sourced mapping and traffic app the runs on iPhone or Android.  The crowd-sourcing component makes it’s data very reliable and current.  Traveling home from work and an accident occurs, no problem.  Waze captures speed, road conditions and traffic data from other Waze users who are currently using the app.  Waze works in many countries around the globe, so you can use it at home or when you travel.

    We’ve been using Waze at home and while traveling since the first of the year. Waze started in 2008 and is now owned by Google.

    It’s maps are extremely accurate and current.  Temporary road closures almost always appear in Waze.   So do things like restricted turn lanes at certain times of day.  It really is amazing how accurate it is.  It’s very good at automatically rerouting you around traffic problems and estimating your time of arrival.  Almost every time, Waze is accurate to within 2-3 minutes.  You can even share your route with friends via email or text message, so they can track your progress at getting to your destination.

    Another key aspect of traveling by car is finding the best price on fuel.  Waze has you covered.  Just as real-time traffic information is crowd-sourced, so are fuel prices.  It’s an easy way to find the cheapest fuel prices on any route you’re traveling.

    Of course, there’s another component to Waze.  The ability for users to earn points.  The more points you earn, you get upgraded badges to show your stature in the Waze user community.  You can easily see how you rank among other drivers in your state, county or country.  You can earn bonus points for reporting traffic information, accidents, road hazards, gas prices and more.

    We love Waze.  The best part is, it’s free!  You can try it now, by downloading it from the App Store on iTunes.

     

  • Clean Writer

    Clean Writer has two apps, one for the iPad and the other for the Mac.  Both work similarly, with the Mac version having a few more features.

    Clean Writer is a simple, stay-out-of-the-way, writing app.  We’ve used it for over a year and have been extremely pleased.  This isn’t Word or anything like it.  It’s a distraction free, simplistic, minimalist, easy to use application to use for writing.

    While we use both versions, we use the iPad version the most.  We use it primarily to create content for this blog.   Clean Writer stores your writing in small text files by default.  It also can store your files with a click on Dropbox.  It’s one of our favorite features while on the road, because we always have a backup of our content, should something happen to our iPad.  The small sidebar menu can be hidden, showing nothing but your content on the screen.  You have the ability to change color of both the background and content.  It’s very handy when you’re working in a dark room or on a dark plane.  It’s easy on the eyes and keeps prying eyes at bay.

    Clean Writer is available from the iTunes store for 99 cents for the iPad version and $2.99 for the Mac version.  It’s a small investment for such a simple, powerful app.

     

  • Oster Electric WIne Opener

    We’re on our third Oster Electric Wine Opener and we wouldn’t go back to anything else.

    Hearing people talk about wine openers, is like getting everyone on the same page about a particular wine.  Some love it, some hate it, some are apathetic about it.  Wine openers are similar.  Some prefer the old manual corkscrew method.  Boring and not always easy.  Some love the “rabbit”.  Better than a manual corkscrew, but not exactly space saving.  The Rabbit also has lots of moving parts that seem to get weary over time.  You know it’s never good when they ship spare parts with the opener.

    The Oster Electric Wine Opener works like a dream.  The opener can be used with just a touch of the button.  No balancing acts.  No acrobatics.  Place the wine opener over the bottle (after the foil has been removed, of course), touch the button and in just a few seconds, voila.  It works perfectly on any type of cork.  Plastic or otherwise.  The opener accommodates to most sizes of wine bottle openings.  Over the years, we’ve only had two or three that had abnormally large openings, where we had to get out the old style corkscrew opener.

    While it won’t fit in a drawer, it easily fits in any cabinet or on the countertop.  The charging base is small, so it’s unobtrusive.  The wine opener’s charge lasts for at least 10-12 bottles, so it’s ready for a party if need be.  While the Oster Electric Wine Opener is available in various versions (think stainless steel, colors and more), the plastic model is the least expensive with the same mechanics.

    Occasionally, if you have a bad or dry cork on a wine bottle, you may end up with “cork bits” in the housing.  They almost always come out with a little cajoling while pushing the button on the wine opener.

    Our Oster Wine Opener lasts for about three years before it needs replacing.  The irreplaceable, rechargeable batteries give out long before the mechanics of the opener.  But at an average price of $15, you get a lot of wine bottles opened over three years.  And, at an average price of $30-$50 for the “rabbit”, that needs it’s parts replaced far more frequently, it’s a much better buy.

    Start making wine opening effortless.  Give the Oster Electric Wine Opener a try.

  • Tripit

    We were an early adopter of TripIt about 7 years ago. It’s been a love/hate relationship. It’s come along way over the years. Things really seemed to improve after they were acquired by Concur.

    TripIt is good for some things and not so great at others. When it works, it works beautifully. When it fails, it’s an epic fail.

    TripIt is great for collecting all of the various confirmations and assembling a comprehensive itinerary for your travel plans. It’s as simple as forwarding on your confirmations via email. TripIt collects those and constructs the trip itinerary.

    While TripIt supports most major travel providers, if you’re going with smaller, non-chain or lesser known companies, TripIt makes it difficult. They’ll simply send you an email indicating they couldn’t process your confirmation. Then, you have to enter all of the details manually. While it’s not that difficult to fill in all the fields, it is time consuming. They could easily simplify the process by capturing the data and then letting you apply the appropriate data to the correct fields. It would make adding these “unsupported” confirmations much easier.

    Since TripIt captures the information from the confirmation, it doesn’t keep a copy of your original confirmation. If you ever need to have the actual confirmation document, your hosed. You’ll have to keep that elsewhere. While it’s not often you need the original, we’ve had several instances over the years where it’s been necessary. That’s why we use Dropbox and SendtoDropbox for the actual confirmations themselves.

    Sharing or printing your entire itinerary with TripIt is fairly straight forward. If you want to leave a copy of your itinerary with friends, or give them access to view it online, TripIt works well. It would be nice to have more customization options as to what information is included, but many will find it adequate.

    TripIt is great for groups that travel together. You can make connections and share your travel information. For co-workers or travel buddies, this feature can be indispensible. Especially if your travel plans differ from theirs. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date with changes that others incur.

    TripIt Pro can also be used to track all of your loyalty programs. Simply input your various airline, hotel or car rental programs and you’ll have all of your information in one place.

    While TripIt is free for basic services, you can pay an annual fee of $49 and upgrade to TripIt Pro. You’ll get flight update notifications, baggage pick up information, as well as itinerary changes via email or pushed to your mobile device if you have their app. We’ve had varying luck. It’s very nice to know that as you pull up to the gate, where you’ll be going to pick up your checked baggage. The problem is sometimes the information is delayed. There have been times when we’ve already picked up our luggage, 30 minutes after landing and the notification finally comes through.

    TripIt is certainly helpful. We just home someday, they’ll fix a few of these overlooked items and have better consistency at push notifications.

  • Canada Goose Freestyle Vest

    For the past two months, we’ve put a Canada Goose Freestyle Vest to the test in the cold, stormy weather from New York to Colorado.  It’s now one of our favorites and should become one of yours.

    Overall:  The Canada Goose Freestyle Vest was as warm as could be, even when the wind outside was whipping by at 30 mph and the snow driving in our face.  Being a vest it’s built for layering, but rest assured, the Canada Goose Freestyle Vest over performs and over delivers.

    Testing time:  60 days

    Canada Goose makes a wide variety of outdoor clothing to keep you warm in the most extreme winter weather.  All Canada Goose gear is hand stitched and assembled in Canada.  The build quality of the vest is amazing.  It’s very well put together and all of the materials used are of high quality.  The first thing you notice is how rugged the zipper is.  The exterior is highly water resistant, as well as great at blocking the wind.  

    The Freestyle Vest which we purchased, is considered “lightweight”, which means it’s designed to keep you warm to 5F/-5C.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t keep you toasty warm.  Filled with down of 625 fill power, you’ll never get cold.  In fact, the only down side to this vest is it’s hard to wear above 50 degrees, because you will get very warm.  Pockets are located on the outside of the best and are easy to access.  It would be nice to have one of them with a zipper closure, but they’re deep and well sown.  We’ve never had an issue with anything falling out.

    The vest is also sized very well.  Being designed for layering, it’s designed to fit a bit loose, allowing you to add layers.  If you want it to fit tight, you may want to size down one or two sizes.  We liked the fact that the vest is cut a bit longer than most.  It doesn’t “hike-up” when you bend over and also comes down far enough to keep the wind from roaring up your back.

    If you want to find out more about the high quality of Canada Goose’s products, check out their channel on Vimeo.

    What we loved:  Besides looking great and being very warm, the Freestyle Vest is uber lightweight.  You barely know you’re wearing it.  It’s great for high energy activities as well as just a walk around the block.  Water sheds right off the exterior and it’s never bulky.

    Where to buy:  Because of the popularity and high-quality of Canada Goose’s gear, counterfitters abound.  There’s a special warning on their website.  Look at their website for authorized retailers.  You won’t find their clothing at much of a discount from a legitimate retailer, so be prepared to pay close to list price.  We purchased the Freestyle Vest for $285 USD.  Many high end retailers (such as Bloomingdales) or better sporting good retailers (such as Moosejaw) carry Canada Goose.  

     

  • Dropbox

    We love Dropbox for everyday use to store files, documents and more.  But, Dropbox is indispensable for using while traveling.  We have the Dropbox app on our iPhones ,iPads and laptop.

    Dropbox is an easy place to store all the things you need when you travel.   Here are the items we store in Dropbox when we travel:

    • Travel itineraries
    • Airline confirmations
    • Hotel confirmations
    • Copies of medication prescriptions
    • Emergency contact information
    • Copies of passport and drivers licenses (additionally encrypted, of course)
    • Copies of travel insurance documents
    • Copies of travel vouchers
    • Copies of train tickets (Eurail, etc).
    • Copies of travel visas

    By keeping all things related to your trip in Dropbox, it allows you to eliminate carrying paper.  It’s also one less thing you risk losing or having stolen.  The last thing you need is thieves knowing what your travel plans are. 

    While Dropbox stores your documents and information in the cloud, we’ve never had to worry about accessing an internet connection, no matter how remote of a place we’ve been.  But, of course, when you need one, there’s always the remote possibility you won’t have one.  That’s why it’s a good idea to put the items for your trip in a special folder to share on Dropbox.  You can share that folder with a friend or relative.  Then, if you don’t have access, you can at least have them fax or email it to you.  For each trip we take, we make a special folder in Dropbox, so it’s easy to find and share information.

    You can easily upload information to Dropbox from any computer or mobile device using the Dropbox app.  You can also use a third party app that’s also free, like SendtoDropbox.  SendtoDropbox allows you to email items directly to your Dropbox account.  It’s free and doesn’t have a size limit on attachments.  You can also give the SendtoDropbox email address to friends, in case they need to forward larger attachments to you while traveling.  It’s a good idea to also store that address in your own address book, in case you want to send items to it as well.

    Now you may be thinking, “Why not use something like TripIt, instead?”.  We use TripIt, too but the downfall is that it converts all of your itinerary information into it’s own format.  It leaves you without the original documents or confirmations.  While having the original is not usually a problem in the US, it can be as you travel internationally.

    Dropbox also comes in handy for other things while you travel.  We use it to to upload our travel journals each day and backup special photos we don’t want to lose. 

    Dropbox is extremely handy and the best thing is, it’s free.  You can store up to 2Gb of information without any fees.  You can also earn free additional storage space, just by signing up your friends.  Of course, you can buy more storage as well, although we’ve always found 2Gb to really be adequate.

  • Dark Energy Reservoir

    Back in January, we started testing of the Dark Energy Reservoir to use as a backup charging source for our iPads and iPhones while traveling.  The results are in and we’re thrilled.

    Overall:  This charger worked like a champ.  It charged quickly, efficiently and lasted forever.  If you don’t have one of these and you travel, you’re crazy.  We won’t leave home without this whenever we travel.

    Testing time:  90 days

    Device Charging Capability:  Our results were slightly better than as advertised.  On several occasions, we charged two iPhone 5s, one after the other, while they were powered on and used only 1/3 of the chargers capacity.  Each of the phones had less than 18% power at the time we started charging.  Both were charged in less than 90 minutes to 100% capacity.  The charging was conducted while in our coat pockets skiing and walking around the city in temperatures of less than 30 degrees.

    As to charging an iPad, we charged an iPad 2 that had 26% battery life remaining and it used less than 1/2 of the charge available in the reservoir.  The iPad was powered on, but not running any apps while charging.  We left it charging at room temperature.  We did this a couple other times in similar situations (while the iPad had between 20-40% remaining charge) and less than half of the reservoirs power was used.

    What we loved:  First, it’s light weight and easy to carry.  At around 5 ounces, it’s super light.  It easily fit into our coat pockets with an iPhone attached via the iPhone charging cable.  It was still easy to use the phone as it was attached to the charger.  

    The charging time for connected devices was more than adequate.  To be able to be out all day and not worry about trying to find an outlet to charge your device was great.  Also, being able to leave your device on while charging was great as well.

    The Dark Energy device itself was pretty quick to recharge.  When it first arrived, it took a while to charge, about 5-6 hours.  But on subsequent recharges, usually less than an hour or so, with about 1/3 of capacity used.  We never let it get below that before recharging.

    The PCMag Review:  We did our research before we ordered the Dark Energy Reservoir.  After reading the PC Mag review, we were a bit skeptical.  It goes to show you take each review with a grain of salt.  It didn’t bother us at all that there weren’t any cables included, other than the charging cable for the device itself.  We have plenty of cables for our devices, who needs to pack more?  As to being pricey, for the value it provides, I think the Dark Energy Reservoir is a great value.  It works as advertised (if not better) and has a one-year replacement warranty.  It charges devices fast and charges fast itself.  Plus, it’s lightweight.  That’s key when traveling.

    Where to buy:  You can purchase directly from Dark Energy or from Amazon.

  • Keen Waterproof Shoes

    As promised in our initial “in the lab” report, this is our final review of the Bryce version of Keen waterproof shoes.  These were replacements for a pair of Ecco GTX waterproof shoes that we loved.

    Overall:  We loved the shoes.  They performed very well.  As with most things Keen sells, it’s built to last and built to high standards.  

    Testing time:  90 days

    Styling:  Of course, styling is personal choice.  Some people don’t like the styling of Keen footwear, but we don’t mind it at all.  The large toe shield up front has come in handy more than once at protecting our feet.  Colors vary widely, but whether you’re looking for men’s or women’s, you should be able to find something to your liking.

    Comfort:  The shoes took about 4 to 5 wearings to break in.  They were very comfortable on short walks or long.  For an extreme test we pounded the pavement with them walking all over New York City one weekend in the snow, rain and muck.  Our feet felt just as good when we left as when we started each day.

    Waterproofing:  Yep, Keen waterproof shoes are waterproof as advertised.  In addition to the above test around NYC we mentioned, we also wore them during a week long ski trip to Zermatt.  Through the snowy streets and drifts, not a stitch of moisture.  Anywhere.  And, they breathe well, too.  Our feet never felt hot, nor did the sweat build up on our feet or socks.  The Keen’s came through with flying colors.

    Performance:  The grip of the shoes were very good.  On cold water pavement, asphalt or even on soil, the grip of the soles were good.  They were average on icy surfaces, but there aren’t many shoes except for maybe Icebugs that are good on ice anyway.

    One amazing thing we found with this shoe, was how they repelled just about any dirt and grime they came in contact with.  Water and dirt just seem to slide right off.  You would have never have known that after two days walking the dirty, snowy streets of New York that they’d look like they just came out of the box.  And even after wearing them almost daily for the next month after in all kinds of weather here in Colorado, they still look like new.

    Where to buy:  Keen, of course or any of their retailers.  Amazon as well, or you can also check eBay.  We purchased ours directly from Keen.  And, if you’re in Portland, Oregon, stop by the Keen Garage.  It’s a great place to see all Keen gear under one roof.