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TRAVEL SLEUTH - CHOOSE THE RIGHT GEAR FOR OUTDOOR COMFORT
 
(2012 - Spring Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Packing for any trip is largely about pinpointing items we are going to need. Emotionally, however, packing is about bringing just the right items for comfort.

Sure, it’s expected that travel includes varying degrees of “roughing it,” but even for the most ardent wilderness buffs, the things we tend to pack are the things we really don’t want to be without.

It is, therefore, always recommended to stop and really think about what we might need. Plan for the weather, the sanitation expectations, the terrain and ecosystem, and make calculated decisions about what equipment, supplies, medications and first aid to bring. It’s often the unknowns ahead that give us pause, so be sure to investigate as much as possible to get it right.

Consider footwear, for example. It doesn’t matter whether you go cruising, coach touring, resorting or backpacking, more walking will be the norm. Indeed, so much of our comfort, safety, good health and activities will depend on pain-free feet, so finding just the right shoes to serve multiple purposes is where smart packing might start.

Packing for the outdoors begins with a checklist covering such essentials as footwear, clothing and rainwear, products for safety, hygiene and sanitation, plus any discernible outfitting gear.

If you need to shop, here are a few resources to get you started:

Outfitting

Retail:For those who really must see and touch items before buying, look up the location of a Mountain Equipment Co-op in your vicinity. This retailer has more than a dozen locations in the major centres across Canada. Once inside you could spend a full day looking at all the gear for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, fishing and pretty well all outdoor recreation.

Online:Take a look at the range of equipment available from web resources such as magellans.com, jet-setter.ca and colemancanada.ca. Outdoor buffs might also want to bookmark the site, Walkabout Travel Gear (walkabouttravelgear.com), for high-quality supplies as well as dependable travel advice. Click to field-tested tips about keeping healthy and protected in various situations around the world. This is also a shopping site with products for safety, health and water, sleeping, personal care, bug control, communications and more.

Rainwear

For the maximum enjoyment of your activities, rain or shine, go prepared. A pair of waterproof rain pants is one essential and a lightweight poncho is another. At taigaworks.ca take a look at all the waterproof coats, shells, jackets and pants. For women the classic Chamonix may fit the bill, and for mountaineering men, the Alpinist coat is suitable for all extreme sports too.  

Travel Clothing

For Women: Window shop online at Canada-based journeystravelgear.com for a variety of brand-name clothing or take a look at tilley.com for pants, shorts, tops, dresses, nightwear and accessories. The Highland Collection Toggle Skirt, for example, is fashioned for comfort with shape-retention fabric—and it’s fashioned for practicality too with deep pockets, one of them secretly hidden.

For Men: A reputable online shopping site is the National Geographic Store (shop.nationalgeographic.com) where, in addition to clothes, you can find gear, gadgets and accessories. How about the strong and sturdy Convertible Travel Jacket with 15 pockets? If used effectively, the pockets of this quick-drying jacket could substitute for the bag you usually carry for your passport, camera, water bottle, maps, GPS and more. Also, the Outback Oilskin Vest is highly durable and very masculine—even if you don’t plan to pick a fight with an Aussie crocodile. The wax-impregnated material will resist the rain, wind and cold in the forbidding outback of any continent.

Footwear

It’s a lofty goal to depend on just one pair. Avid walkers tend to agree that in addition to a good quality fit, ongoing comfort is readily found by “a change” in shoe. So for spring and summer weather you might want to bring at the very minimum a sports sandal (for day and evening) plus a hiking shoe, or sneaker, for hardier challenges. If you plan time at the beach, it’s easy to slip into flip-flops.

Footwear experts keep coming back to “the fit” however. There’s a reason, they say, why the German-made Birkenstocks remain such a favourite with the outdoor crowd—and it has to do with the precision-made “footbed.” Company designers say they use the complex anatomy of the foot as the principal guide and apply such support to every Birkenstock line of sandals, closed shoes, clogs and boots. For men, women and children, the resulting shoes are said to have superior ability to absorb impact, ensure body balance and deliver optimum comfort when standing and walking. And hey, they are good looking, too.

Even if you buy top-quality shoes like Birkenstocks (birkenstock.ca) and Finn Comfort shoes (finncomfort.ca) getting the assured comfort—and the sense of well-being—relies on how you ensure the proper fit. 

Manufacturers tell us that the better footbeds give your toes room to move naturally, promoting better balance and overall toe health. The Birkenstock shape, for example, is said to mirror and support the contours of a healthy foot. The raised toe bar encourages the natural gripping motion of your feet while exercising your legs and improving circulation. The deep heel cup protects the natural padding and promotes proper spine alignment—and the sole is flexible, durable, lightweight and shock-resistant. 

Finn Comfort shoes are another top-tier option for orthopedic support as well as for fashion confidence. Also based in Germany, this manufacturer tells us that the handcrafted removable footbeds are anatomically designed to support and gently reposition the heel, arch, muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones in the feet. As a result, our posture and gait improve and unnecessary stress on the knee and hip joints is prevented.

Indeed, it sounds like all that walking is going to be far better for us than first meets the eye. 

 
 
 
 
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