Even if you prefer the backcountry over the urban environs, cities are pretty much unavoidable. And while it may be hard to rise over the smoggy, chaotic din of some of the larger, more sprawling and chaotic gateway cities, sometimes it’s best to just lean in and enjoy. These picks should help.
1. Mission Workshop Monty, $165; 2. Nau Reverb Jacket and Trench, $180; 3. Dish and Du/er Performance Denim, starting at $129; 4. Moleskine Pocket Ruled Notebook, $20; 5. Shinola + Fisher Bullet Space Pen, $35; 6. Stanley Adventure Ecycle Flask, $15; 7. Eagle Creek Universal Travel Adapter Pro, $26.
Photo: WickedVT, CC-BY
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Messenger bags make very city-friendly day packs—the flip-top lid gives you easy access to the insides, and the sling-style carrying design means you can position the bag on your chest (and envelop it with your arms) if you suddenly feel like your pack is vulnerable to pick-pockets or thieves. The weatherproof Monty offers just the right amount of storage space, splitting its 1,300 cubic inches between a main compartment, two quick-access cargo pockets, and one internal zippered pocket. Custom aluminum hardware makes it a real road warrior, and the main pocket—wide enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop—can close by flap or roll-top.
Photo courtesy of Mission Workshop
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Nau recently released a new spring line, and they've continued to amp the travel-friendly features in their urban-styled apparel. Witness the men's Reverb jacket, which is crafted from double-weaved 100% recycled polyester that delivers protection from both the wind and foul weather. The gas station-style profile is also reversible—letting you expose a pop of color at the collar, or go bright when you really want to stand out. The woman's Trench ($235) isn't reversible, but it boasts all the other road-ready features, along with a longer hemline and zip-off hood.
Photo courtesy of Nau
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Jeans graduated long ago from office-casual option into acceptable apparel, 365 days of the year. Dish and Du/er take that to the next level by pairing the designer jean aesthetic with a cache of active- and travel-friendly features. They offer a variety of different cuts, colors, and tech features, but look for something with performance stretch denim. It's been engineered to be 30% lighter and stronger than traditional denim, with triple stretch at stress points and Coolmax moisture management with hollow fibers that keep you warm when things get cold.
Photo courtesy of Dish and Du/er
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Yes, there's an app for taking notes or drawing. Hell, Moleskine even partnered with Evernote to create digital versions of your physical notebooks. But nothing beats the tactile simplicity of the original. Go for the ruled notebook if you like to jot notes while traveling, or stare down the blank page if you like to doodle. Otherwise, expect all the classic features—a sleeve pocket in the back, high-quality paper that carries the ink without bleeding, an elastic strap to keep it closed—and start recording the world around you.
Photo courtesy of Moleskine
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That astronaut pen that got Seinfeld got so excited? Yeah, it's a real thing. But this one is far more stylish than the white sneaker-wearing comedian could have ever imagined. Detroit wunderkind manufacturer Shinola partnered with Fisher (the folks behind the original space pen) to craft this sleek model, complete with a laser-engraved logo under the cap. Closed, it only measures 3.75 inches, and it can write in microgravity, underwater, or upside down.
Photo courtesy of Shinola
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Instead of elbowing up to the hotel fridge or the over-priced cocktail lounge, hit a local bottle shop and fill up this lightweight flask with seven ounces of your choice spirit. It's leak-proof, of course, and it only weighs a third of a pound. Better still the two-stage lid makes cleaning a breeze.
Photo courtesy of Stanley
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The prevalence of free Wi-Fi signals and electrical sockets throughout the world's cafes, restaurants, hotel lobbies, and (some) airports means you seldom have to hack—or pay—to get online. But you do need to keep the juice flowing. This ungrounded two-prong adapter works off a smart slider system to work in more than 150 countries. It also accommodates three-prong devices, and weighs only four ounces.
Photo courtesy of Eagle Creek