Gear Reviews

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.

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.

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.  


Dark Energy Reservoir Image

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 Bryce Waterproof Shoes

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.

Dark Energy Reservoir Image

Dark Energy Reservoir

There’s nothing more that’s a pain in the a**, than having your tablet or phone run out of juice.  And of course, it always happens at the most inconvenient time.  After a long flight.  After running around all day.  Ugh.  Let’s face it.  No matter what kind of phone or tablet you have, the “advertised battery life” is never very close to what it is in actual daily use.

When we ran across the Dark Energy Reservoir late last year, we thought this could be the answer to our problems.  We had looked at portable phone and device chargers before, but they were too bulky or heavy to add to a backpack or carry around all day.  The Dark Energy Reservoir intrigued us with it’s light weight and extremely small footprint.  Plus, it can charge up to two devices more than once without needing to be recharged.  Too good to be true?  Well, that’s why we have it “in the lab” for testing to see if it lives up to it’s claims.

So, the initial skinny.  

We ordered a Dark Energy Reservoir right before Christmas in black.  We found a deal for $110 vs the suggested retail price of $129.

It really is light weight.  It seems a bit lighter than an iPhone and about the same form factor.  It’s actually around 6″ X 3″ X 1″.  It comes with a nifty microfiber pouch, a charger and a USB cable.  It has two USB ports on the end, which can be used to charge up to two devices at one time.  Spec wise, what is amazing is it’s charge capacity of 8000 mhz.  That’s more capability than almost any other, especially in this small size of charger.

In the next two weeks, we’ll put it to the test.  We’re taking it on a one week journey to Europe.  We’ll see how long it lasts on a single charge, charging out two iPhone 5s and two iPad 2s.  But that’s not all, we’re also going to put it to the climate test.  We’ll take it out skiing for 4 days and see if that affects how long it will stay charged.  So stay tuned.  In early February, we’ll report back.

In the mean time, you can read a few other reviews about the Dark Energy Reservoir as well.  From PCMag, Business Insider  and GloboTraks.  Also, you can watch this video from Dark Energy for more info about the reservoir.

 [box type=”warning” align=”aligncenter” ]Our testing of the Dark Energy Reservoir is complete. You can read the final review here.[/box]

Timbuk2 Clear Flexito Pack

For our 3-1-1 toiletry bag, we carry the Timbuk2 Clear Flexito Pack.  We have both the small and the large.  

There’s nothing more irritating than having your ziploc bag break open or tear right as you go through TSA screening at the airport.  The Flexito solves that problem by being way more durable and has a ton more space to put your liquids in.  The only thing you have to remember is to place the clear side up in the bin as you go through security.  If you carry more stuff inside of your luggage, you can also use the medium or large size, which has even more room and keeps your travel stuff organized.  It’s a bit too big, however, to use as your TSA 3-1-1 bag.

Timbuk2 items come with a lifetime guarantee.  Everything they sell is built well and built to last.

Plus, if you ever get tired of your Timbuk2 bag and want a new one, you can recycle it and get 20% off your next purchase.


GoToob Bottles by Humangear

GoToob Travel Bottles by Humangear

We absolutely love these GoToob Travel Bottles.  

We started using these bottles about a couple years ago and we’ve been pretty pleased with the results.  They fit very nicely in your 3-1-1 liquids bag.  Each one is also easy to fill and refill.  Just unscrew the cap and fill.  We also appreciate the “textured” surface which keeps them from slipping out of our hands when using them in places like the shower. 

Don’t be put off by the flexibility of these bottles.  The caps really do stay on and we’ve never had one leak.  Each bottle has a handy suction cup attached.  It’s great in small bathrooms when counter space is at a premium.  Just suction it to the bathroom mirror and you’re good to go.  The bottles are available in 1.25 oz, 2 oz and 3oz sizes as well as a variety of colors.  Because of their unique shape, you can fit a few more into that 3-1-1 bag than ordinary sized bottles.

The only drawback to the GoToob bottles is with very thick liquids, like some shampoos or sun tan lotions.  If you decide at some point in the future to put something else in the same bottle, it can be a bit difficult to clean.

Fresh & Go Travel Toothbrush

Unless you’re one of those people who have to take their electric toothbrush on a trip, Fresh & Go Travel toothbrushes are a godsend.  Fresh & Go’s  come with both the toothbrush and toothpaste all in one convenient package. 

We’ve taken the Fresh & Go Travel Toothbrushes on several trips and one will last from 8-10 days, assuming you brush your teeth two to three times per day.  Since they are just slightly longer than a regular toothbrush, you’ll save room by not having to cram another tube of toothpaste in your Ziploc bag.  Each brush comes with a “cap”, so you won’t have to worry about unsanitary conditions. 

These brushes work so well, you’ll have less mess than you do with a regular brush and paste.  We buy these by the box and have never had any issues with them staying “fresh”, even after a year in storage.