Real Life Travel Gear Reviews

Real Life Travel Gear Reviews

Travel Gear Reviews

Because I’m a blogger, people send me things. I don’t get it, either. But I guess they want me to write about their stuff. So I figured I would write some travel gear reviews to rationalize the growing pile of stuff that people have sent me.

Sometimes they send me cool things, like like these fantastically cute and comfy shoes from OTBT, and sometimes they are… puzzling.

I do try out just about everything that people send me, because someone went to the trouble to create it – sometimes it’s clearly a labor of love – and they paid someone to seek out bloggers, writers and influencers (which one am I again? Depends on the day.) who might write about it, and one of those people thought I might be the one to do so. So I try to give everything a fair chance.

On my recent trip to Barcelona and Ireland, I took a bunch of these products with me to try them out, and here’s what I thought:

So, here are the travel gear reviews.

The Good Stuff

OTBT Scamper - travel gear reviews
First, the shoes. From the minute the OTBT Scamper shoes arrived in the mail, they have been in regular rotation for me. They are lightweight, which is great for this perennial overpacker. I almost always fill my suitcase to its maximum, no matter what size bag I bring. And when i am tempted to bring the big bag, as I did on my recent trip, it usually bumps up against that weight restriction. I will never forget the trip home from Belgium a few years ago when I had to unpack and repack my bags – dirty laundry everywhere – at check-in because I was about 5 pounds over the limit. In any case, lightweight shoes are much appreciated. And these are comfy! I’ve been wearing them sockless for a month without a single blister. And did I mention they were cute? I get compliments every time I wear them. OTBT stands for Off the Beaten Track, which is my favorite kind of travel, so yeah, I recommend these.

ECBC Sparrow luggage travel gear reviewsAbout that luggage…. I’ve been trying out a really nice carryon bag by ECBC. I’ve got a full video review of it on YouTube, but I’ll give you the basics here. The ECBC Sparrow Wheeled Garment Bag has two separate compartments for clothing, and another for a laptop and/or tablet. The latter can be opened all the way for easy access and for a quick trip through TSA. There’s an included power pack that can be accessed from a zipper at the top of the bag – perfect for recharging when everyone else has hogged the outlets by your gate. Of the two clothing sections, one can be used for hanging garments, with a nice folding section to protect longer pieces. There are two detachable zippered sections that can squeeze in above the hanging garments for small bits and pieces like socks or charging cords. The bottom clothing section is just a big open space for whatever. I’ve used the bag for weekend trips, but for longer trips I prefer one big compartment for everything. I think this bag would be perfect for a quick business trip, with suit and shirt in the hanging section, and toiletries, shoes and gym/loungewear in the other section. The hardware is solid, and the two wheels roll smoothly.

ATN travel compression socks - travel gear reviews

And then came the socks. I’ve known for years that compression socks could ward off deep vein thrombosis on a flight, but I just never bothered. But when the folks at ATN Compression Socks offered to send me a colorful pair, I thought I’d give it a try. Did I mention they were colorful? The ones they sent me were bright red with white stripes and green toes. Elf-y. I was determined to try them, but I didn’t want to show my stripes while waiting to board. So once I was in my seat, I gracefully and tactfully pulled them on. Who am I kidding? Squashed in a coach seat, I could barely lift my leg to put them on. And you know how they are compression socks? They are very tight. And hard to get on. I was cracking myself up trying to get them on. Thankfully, the only person who could really witness this was my husband in the next seat, who was trying hard to pretend he didn’t know me. Though they were tough to get on, and loud as all get out, the socks did what they were supposed to do and I didn’t die of DVT. Hooray! In all seriousness, though, if you need to wear compression socks for health reasons, or for comfort reasons, these will give you some fun reasons, too. You can choose from animal prints, polka dots, doughnuts (doughnuts?), argyles, and more. They have basic black or white, but why would you want those?

itbandz knee band - travel gear review

(this is not, in fact, my knee. sorry.)

Over the years, and I won’t say how many, I have developed a little pain in my knee. It’s not a constant pain, and I can even walk for miles without feeling it. But sometimes, when I’m walking down a hill, I get a little *ping* of pain in my knee. It’s not bad enough to do anything about, but once it appears it likes to come back again and again until I give in and rest it. So when I got an itBandz Knee Band Strap in the mail, I was happy to give it a try. We did a lot of walking in Barcelona, my husband and I, and I didn’t wear this every day. But on the day I knew we’d be climbing a big hill and coming back down again, I wrapped it around my knee and wore it (under skinny jeans, even!) all day. Did I have the knee ping? No. Am I sure the knee band helped? No. But I would definitely try it again on my next big hike, just in case.

Two Travel Toothbrushes - Travel Gear Reviews

And now we’ll move to the really sexy stuff: oral care. I received some cool bamboo bristle toothbrushes from a company with the unfortunate name MouthWatchers. I actually really like these toothbrushes, whose bristles are antimicrobial and very thin at the top which offers better cleaning – they say floss-like, but I’m not sure I’d go that far. They also hold up really well. I’ve been using mine for over a month now and the bristles look just the way they did when it came out of the package. A little sterilization in the dishwasher every now and again and it’s good to go. Of course, if you like to replace your toothbrush regularly, you can buy a 12-pack. I was quite happy with the travel version, and it comes in a power versionas well, if you like to really get into it.


The OK stuff

Mini White Noise Machine -Travel Gear Reviews
And how about sleeping aids? I’ve already written about my favorite jet lag cure on the blog. This time I tried the world’s tiniest noise machine by Sound Oasis. This one is so tiny it requires ear buds (included) and fits in a case a little smaller than a glasses case. It offers 10 different tones of continuous white noise – i.e. not a recording of a sound, but continuously generated sound – and 25 hours of run time per charge of its rechargeable battery. I’m not a person who needs white noise to sleep, and I found the ear buds uncomfortable to sleep in, anyway. I hoped that this might be a good option for my husband to keep him from waking up when I snore, but he had the same reaction. Sound Oasis offers lots and lots of white noise machines and sound therapy options, so there is probably one that would work for you; this one just wasn’t doing it for me. They do offer a travel version that does not require ear buds (pictured below), which I think might be a better option.

The Meh

And now, for my least favorite of the bunch. Because this is a real life review.

I received an email way back during Sleep Awareness Week, which, as I’m sure you know, is in April, when no one can sleep because: taxes. I was interested in the Sleep Easily System because: snoring (see above).

What arrived in the mail was an 8″ x 10″ x 2″ glossy box describing the wondrous contents. A mini audio player with a built-in high-quality speaker! Eyeshades! Specialized earplugs! A charger for the speaker! A book! A summary card for using the system! FOUR sleep recordings! And three bonus recordings!

What I liked: the audio player is a nice small size and can be used with or without ear buds.

What I didn’t like: the recordings themselves. You can choose a nice soothing female voice – clearly a professional voice artist – or you can choose a sort of halting male voice that is very clearly not a professional voice artist. In fact, it is the voice of the creator of the Sleep Easily system. Which is I think part of why this whole package rubs me the wrong way. Here’s the problem: It’s expensive. It’s self-important. It makes you think it is more than what it is. For what is essentially 7 tracks of sound, half of which you are unlikely to use more than once, plus some accessories you can find at the drugstore, if not your bathroom drawer, the price starts at $60.

I guess, in reality, this is not so different from the Sound Oasis product above, but it is pretending to be something different. It is marketed as a special scientific approach to sleeplessness, developed by a behavioral sleep therapist. And sure, maybe he did come up with this particular method and script for the recordings. And maybe it even works to help people sleep better. But to me it sounds like the same advice that anyone would give: try to relax your mind before you go to sleep. I think you could probably pick up an eye mask and some wax earplugs from the drugstore, and search online for some guided meditation and ocean sounds tracks, and have the same experience. And plus, how are you going to hear the recording if you are wearing earplugs?

I received free samples of all of these products for review. My real life reviews are honest and thorough, because I know readers want to know the truth about products before spending their money. And speaking of money….

Some of the links in this post lead to affiliate sites where I might get a few pennies if you buy something there. If you do, thank you very much for helping to keep this crazy dream alive.

That’s it for now. If you have travel gear you’d like me to review, send an email to

Review: 1Above – Cure for Jet Lag?

Review: 1Above – Cure for Jet Lag?

Jet Lag

This was going to be a real test.

I was exhausted from sleeping no more than 5 hours for the previous 6 nights at a travel blogging conference in Costa Brava, Spain.

My muscles were sore from a physically demanding activity hiking a via ferrata in Sant Feliu de Guixoles the day before.

I had been eating and drinking a lot during my time in Spain. Much more than I should have of the latter. We drank Cava before lunch and dinner, drank wine every day, and went to a most wonderful beer festival.

Pollen everywhere = allergies acting up.

So I would expect, after a full day of traveling from Spain to the East Coast of the U.S., to feel the hangover to end all hangovers. A groggy, dragging feeling that lasts all day, for at least a day or two.

And I had work to do!

So when I discovered the review packets of 1Above – The Flight Drink in my purse, I was eager to try it out.

The Story

1Above is a drink marketed as a cure for jet lag, created by a guy in New Zealand who was tired of being tired after a flight. It is available in either concentrated liquid (low-calorie, sweetened with apple juice) or effervescent tablet (no calorie, sweetened with stevia) form.

World traveler Roger Boyd from New Zealand created 1Above after a passenger on one of his flights passed away during the journey. What he learned from a doctor who cared for the patient onboard set his curiosity in motion, and he conducted years of research to find the best ingredients to reduce the negative effects of air travel. The key ingredient in 1Above is Pycnogenol, a tree-bark based product that has been shown to decrease allergy and asthma symptoms, increase immune function, and reduce circulation problems. Research has also shown it to reduce the occurrence of Deep Vein Thrombosis, one of the most deadly risks associated with air travel.

Hydration is key to avoiding jet lag, so 1Above also contains 6 electrolytes to help your body stay hydrated in the arid confines of the airplane. And of course, you are drinking the 1Above mixed into water, so you are ensuring adequate hydration throughout the flight.

Vitamin C and B vitamins round out the formula with a boost to the immune system to help you fight off all those pesky germs the other travelers bring on board the plane.

My Experience

The tablet is made to be dissolved in 500 ml of water, but if, like me, you only have a 250 ml cup, you can make a more concentrated version, and ask for more water for hydration when you’re done.

A packet of 1Above jet lag cure on an airplane tray table.

The flavor is very light, orangey, and not too sweet

Each tablet is designed to get you through a 2 1/2 hour flight. If your flight is longer, just prepare more of it. My flight was 7 1/2 hours, so I brought 3 tablets. I drank one right away, another after 2 1/2 hours, and another about halfway through the flight. For every 250 ml concoction, I drank 250 ml plain water, so on balance, I was consuming the recommended dose. I drank a fourth just before my 90 minute connecting flight to DC.

Of course you may need to use the bathroom more often if this is more than you’re used to drinking. And if your pilot turns on the fasten seat belt sign for two hours like mine did, you might feel a little uncomfortable.

The Next Day

I fell asleep pretty quickly when I finally got home at 11 pm, 22 hours after waking up in Spain. I had slept a little bit on the flights, but not more than an hour or so. I woke up at 4 am, which is what I would expect after a trip like this.

I fell back to sleep with no problem, and when my alarm went off at 5:45, I sprang up with no grogginess, and went to the gym an hour later. I was a little slower than usual at my swimming, but to be fair, I had swum only once during my week-long trip.

I had expected my muscles to be sore from my hike the day before my flight, but there was only a little feeling of tightness.

I didn’t really feel any of the dragginess that I usually feel with jet lag until about 7:30 pm.

I went to bed around 9:30 – about an hour earlier than I normally would – and woke up an hour later totally disoriented. I fell back to sleep immediately and woke up at 5 am, before my 5:30 alarm.

Day 2

I woke up refreshed and ready to go. I felt great all day and didn’t feel the effects of jet lag at all until evening, when I climbed in bed at 8:30 and was asleep within minutes.

Day 3

I did wake up at 4 am the next day, which seems a little jet-laggy, but I fell back to sleep right away and felt fine when I got up at my normal time.

The Verdict

It’s hard to say for sure that it was the 1Above that did it, but over all I did feel better than I usually do after a trans-Atlantic trip. And this was a trip that had really taxed my system. I would have expected to feel pretty awful for at least a day or two after the flight. But I honestly felt great, and did not suffer from the insomnia that I usually get after an overseas trip.

If you would like to try 1Above for yourself, you can order the anti-jet lag tablets or the liquid concentrate here. They are not cheap – a packet of 4 pills costs about $14 USD, plus shipping (though you can often find a free shipping promotion) – but if they give you more productive hours on arrival at your destination, it might be worth it to you.


Though I did receive complimentary packets of 1Above for review, I did not receive any type of compensation to write about it, and my opinions, as always, are 100% mine and 100% honest.

If you buy 1Above – The Flight Drink through the links on this page, we will receive a small affiliate commission, so thank you!