We’re really not much for shopping – after all, when you’re living out of a backpack, you can’t accumulate things you can’t physically carry. And Black Friday, well, as much as we love a good deal, it doesn’t exactly bring out the best in humanity.
The follow-up day, though? Small Business Saturday? Now that is something we can get behind. We love to buy from entrepreneurs and support small businesses whenever we can, whether in the U.S., while abroad, or online.
Supporting small businesses bolsters the communities they’re based in, fosters innovation, helps someone live their dream, and gives more power to people instead of corporations (which are not people!). Plus, it often gets you higher quality, more sustainable, and more unique products. Yes, please!
Our love for small businesses applies to pretty much, but it’s especially important to us when it comes to travel and outdoor gear. We consider buying gear from small and ethical companies to be the first step in traveling responsibly.
And that’s why we write a post every year highlighting interesting gear from small businesses – in fact, the original edition of this annual post was the second thing we ever published on this blog.
So without further ado, here are our picks for cool travel gear and outdoor equipment for Small Business Saturday 2018. These items will also make unique travel gifts for the traveler in your life who already seems to have everything.
CGear – Melbourne, Australia
You know what’s a great feeling? Sand between your toes as you stroll along the beach. You know what’s not a great feeling? Sand just about anywhere else. The unfortunate reality of a day at the beach is that sand gets everywhere, and like glitter from the club, it’s almost impossible to get rid of.
Or is it?
The engineers down at CGear seem to have figured out the magic formula for a material that repels sand, and they used it to make the perfect alternative to a traditional beach towel. Sand that gets on top of their signature Sand Mat will pass right through it, and not a single grain will stick to the bottom. (How is that possible?)
We’re pretty sure there are plenty of potential beach people out there who don’t spend much time at the beach because they hate getting covered in sand. They just need some cool outdoor gear to coax them in the right direction, and this mat could be their ticket to beach bliss.
It’s not just traveling beachgoers who are interested in this blanket, either. The U.S. military uses CGear’s mats as helicopter landing pads, preventing the usual “brownout” of blowing sand that happens when a chopper descends. So…if you own a helicopter, the mat could do double duty for you.
PolarPro – Costa Mesa, California
GoPros are getting more and more popular – in fact, we’ve been surprised to see travelers shooting with them all over the U.S. and in Southeast Asia. But while these credit card-sized video cameras have a lot of advantages, it can be hard to get quality video without mounting them on something.
But most travelers don’t have the space for a full tripod, and shooting video with a selfie stick is too wobbly. Some people mount GoPros onto their bodies, but walking around with a head- or chest-mounted camera will get you more strange looks than it will quality shots. So what’s an aspiring travel documentarian to do?
The designers at PolarPro love photography as much as you do, and they spent a lot of time thinking about how to create a mount that would be stable and unobtrusive. That’s how they came up with a way to mount the camera to the one thing just about everyone has with them when traveling – a backpack. PolarPro’s clamp-style StrapMount fits on almost any strap or rope and easily attaches in seconds.
As a bonus, footage shot using this mount will almost mirror the POV shots you’d get with a head mount, giving your videos an extra dose of realism.
Evergoods – Bozeman, Montana
Since it’s our home state, we especially love to give (and get!) gifts from Montana businesses – and we definitely appreciate a good backpack. So when we heard about a new Kickstarter-funded backpack company in Bozeman, we were immediately intrigued.
The founders of Evergoods wanted a comfortable backpack that could withstand the harshest environments and still look good around town. A tall order, no? They already have a few different styles of bags in production, but the Mountain Panel Loader looks the most appealing to us.
First, we swear by panel-loading backpacks. Instead of opening on the top and forcing you to reach blindly into a cavernous compartment to find what you’re looking for, they unzip all the way around. That means you can pack and unpack them more like a suitcase – much more convenient. Plus, this bag has an internal laptop pocket, the chest strap is detachable, and you can carry it as a duffel bag if you want. Sounds like a winner to us.
Even better? One percent of Evergoods’s revenue goes to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust to support land conservation in the area around Bozeman – a perfect example of how supporting small businesses gives back to local communities and to the planet.
Epic Wipes – Sacramento, California
We love outdoor adventure activities of all kinds – kayaking, hiking, motorcycle riding, we even went sandboarding for the first time this year. What do all these activities have in common (besides being awesome)? You get really dirty doing them.
So, just take a shower, right? Maybe. But if you’re traveling, that shower could be an hour or two away, and maybe we want to head to a brewery five minutes down the road. In these situations, we’ve occasionally used wet wipes as a poor substitute for a shower – using one after the other, hoping that the next one will finally make us presentable enough to go out in public.
What we really needed was a full-body wet wipe, which is where Epic Wipes comes in with their 32×20-inch wipes, bigger than a hand towel and 16 times larger than a standard wet wipe.
Maybe an enormous wet wipe doesn’t exactly sound like cool travel gear to you, but you’ll be sorry when you don’t have one. All that extra surface area means you get cleaner faster and without a huge pile of trash at the end. Despite the size, they pack down so small that they take up no more space than a standard wet wipe.
The other problem with regular wet wipes, and one of the reasons we don’t use them unless we have to? They’re terrible for the environment. Fortunately, Epic Wipes are made from bamboo, which is both sustainable (bamboo grows a lot faster than trees) and biodegradable. Next time you’re thinking about getting a little dirty on an adventure, be sure to pack a couple of these for afterward.
Hangar – Toronto, Canada
There’s no way around it: long-haul flights are a miserable experience. Unless you’re flying business class, and don’t even tell us what that’s like, because we don’t need to be jealous while spending half a day scrunched up in an 18-inch-wide seat.
For those of us back in the back of the plane, one of the biggest nuisances is what to do with our feet. There’s minimal legroom, and sliding your feet underneath the seat in front of you is comfortable for twenty minutes at best.
The solution? Build a hammock for your feet. Hangar‘s footrest loops around the headrest or tray table of the seat in front of you, creating a pocket to elevate your feet and legs. It might sound weird, bending your legs to be more comfortable, but it actually makes for a much better sleeping position.
When packed away, the footrest is the size of a small folder, making it the perfect accessory to bring when you fly (we won’t even judge if you pull it out on commuter flights).
Espro – Vancouver, Canada
As we road-tripped around the Western U.S. this past summer and fall, one of the biggest hardships we encountered (besides that time we got a flat tire) was staying caffeinated on the road. After drinking tons of instant coffee during our fifteen months in Southeast Asia, that option was a non-starter. Instead, we picked up a backpacking French press that got the job done, but it wasn’t the easiest to use and the screen on it was less than perfect. We’ve been searching for an alternative ever since.
Fortunately, we just might have found it in the Espro, the signature product from a Vancouver-based business of the same name.
In addition to its double French press screen, the Espro also comes with a filter for loose-leaf tea and another one that allows you to make pour-overs on the road. The outer sleeve of the press is also vacuum-insulated so your brew will stay hot for up to six hours. If you’re looking for unique travel gifts that are perfect for coffee snobs, look no further than this.
Sealand Gear – Cape Town, South Africa
Who doesn’t need a messenger bag? Whether you need something to carry your belongings to the office or an easy way to pack your laptop to your co-working space, a messenger bag will do the trick while looking fairly professional – and it’ll double as a carry-on item, too.
Of course, you could get a messenger bag literally anywhere, but Sealand is a brand you can feel good about supporting. The company’s production focuses on upcycling used fabrics and waste materials to turn them into new products – and keep them out of landfills. Not totally sold on the importance of sustainable products? Check out Sealand’s blog – you can’t help but be inspired to save the planet.
The Briefly, the company’s messenger bag, is designed to help you stay organized and is lined with upcycled material from old banners. Bonus: it comes in a ton of different colors and patterns, ranging from muted to funky.
Starwater Yoga – Los Angeles, California
Every dedicated yogi needs a way to practice while on the road, but standard yoga mats are heavy, bulky, and notoriously difficult to pack. Jen’s currently traveling with a Jade Harmony mat strapped to the side of her backpack, which is a great mat, but, yeah, it’s really not ideal for schlepping around.
Enter the travel mat: a yoga mat that’s thinner, lighter weight, and sometimes even folds up. Most of the big yoga companies make travel mats these days, but they all have one thing in common: they’re not nearly as stunning as the ones from Starwater Yoga.
Since they opened last year, Starwater has been creating yoga mats and meditation cushions that are also pieces of Dharma art. Covered in colorful patterns, spiritual symbolism, and sacred geometry, these are not your standard yoga accessories.
The company’s latest endeavor, prompted by popular demand, is a travel mat. With the same stunning art as the standard mats, they weigh less than two pounds, fold up easily, and can be washed in a washing machine. The travel mats aren’t out yet, but the IndieGoGo campaign that’s funding them has already raised over 200% of its goal. You can still contribute to the campaign to get mats and other prizes delivered next month.