9 Most Comfortable Travel Shoes

9 Most Comfortable Travel Shoes

Comfortable travel shoes can make or break your trip. How can you explore your destination on foot if you’re hampered by blisters and sore legs? Pack a pair of these good-looking and comfortable shoes and you’ll have one less thing to worry about on your vacation.

Nike Flex Experience RN 8

Nike Flex Experience RN 8

Nike’s Flex Experience RN 8 sneakers are my favorite running shoes, and I’ve discovered that they’re perfect for travel as well. The knit material means they have a slim profile that takes up less space in a suitcase than most sneakers. I got them in a versatile all-black color, so I can wear them both for working out and for walking around.


Merrell World Vue Oxford

Merrell World Vue Oxford

Merrell has taken the technology that makes a comfortable travel shoe from its hiking shoes and transferred it to its professional-looking World Vue Oxford. Because these look like shoes that you’d wear to the office or an evening outing, no one would ever suspect that they are outfitted with trademarked antimicrobial agents to reduce odor, a contoured footbed for extra support, and a shock-resistant midsole. And if you’re heading somewhere rainy, they’re also available in a waterproof version.


Superga

Superga

You probably didn’t think it was possible, but Superga sneakers are super-trendy, unisex, and extra-comfortable travel shoes. They’re most commonly spotted in magazines and on the feet of fashionistas, yet they have everything that makes a sneaker good for walking (arch support, a solid sole, laces) and come in a wide variety of colors and styles.

Clarks Gracelin Wind

Clarks Gracelin Wind

Ballet flats tend not to be supportive enough to wear for travel, but the Gracelin Wind flats from Clarks have a padded footbed for all-day comfort. They can be dressed up or down so you can wear them during the day or for dinner out.


Allbirds Wool Runners

Allbirds Wool Runners

Feel like you’re walking on clouds with a SmarterTravel favorite, Allbirds Wool Runners, available in men’s and women’s sizes. These shoes feature a merino wool liner for moisture wicking and odor reduction. Get them in white to match everything, or opt for pink or green to add a pop of color to your travel wardrobe.

SAS Simone Italy Sandals

SAS Simone Italy Sandals

Planning a European vacation? Pack the Simone Italy sandals, handcrafted in Tuscany, Italy—so you can trust that these shoemakers know a thing or two about walking on cobblestone streets. The small wedge heel is 1.50”, which offers a bit of lift without sacrificing comfort, and the adjustable ankle keeps the sandal secure around your feet.


Keds Crashback

Keds Crashback

In case you missed it, classic Keds have gotten a serious style upgrade. Check out the Keds Crashbacks, which are made from soft leather that lends you a polished look. These slip on and off easily, so you can glide through the airport security checkpoint on your way to the plane.

Teva Ember Moc

Teva Ember Moc

Those of us with frequently-cold feet have often wished we could wear something like sleeping bags on our feet, and Teva has made that dream come true with its Ember Mocs. Billed as “part sneaker, part sleeping bag,” these are the ultimate comfortable travel shoes. They feel like slippers, but with a solid rubber outsole, they’re made for the outdoors. The Ember Mocs (available for men and women) are perfect for camping. When you’re ready to change out of your hiking boots, these will feel like sweet relief on your tired feet.


Nisolo Sedona Travel Derby

Nisolo Sedona Travel Derby

If you’re looking for comfortable travel shoes that are also easy to pack, try the Sedona Travel Derby from Nisolo. These ultra-light shoes collapse completely so they take up barely any space in your suitcase, and they’re made of comfy and attractive suede. They come in a variety of colors to match any outfit.

 

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Glamping in Maine: What This Travel Trend Is Really Like

Glamping in Maine

When I told my friend that I wanted to go glamping I got a blank stare, followed by a few questions on what in the world “glamping” means. My reply was that it’s “a more glamorous way to camp.” While I’d never done it before, I pretended I knew exactly what glamping was like—and that it would be fun.

Despite his initial doubts I convinced him to spend two nights with me at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine. Pulling up to the entrance, we were greeted by a cute vintage car and campervan that inspired our entire glamping experience.

Glamping in Maine

Sandy Pines is a fully functional campground with simple RV and tent sites in addition to its glamping sites. Before entering the campground, visitors check in at a reception lodge located next to the site’s general store, which sells everything you could possibly need for a few nights in the “wilderness.” Its incredible breakfast sandwiches are worth buying each morning to enjoy on the front porch.

Camping with homemade breakfast sandwiches … I was beginning to get the sense of what this whole glamping thing is about.

Sandy Pines offers a variety of glamping experiences: from the large safari tents that are most commonly associated with the glamping trend to Hideaway Huts—a simple, enclosed A-frame with a bed on a platform and some space for bags. We stayed in the Camp Carriages, which are small rooms on a wheeled platform.

Glamping in Maine

This was my idea of camping—relaxing in the woods on the front porch and rain pattering on the roof lulling us to sleep. It didn’t hurt that we were also enclosed in a room with its own air conditioner unit, safe from bugs in a plush, king-sized bed.

My boyfriend quickly found his inner wilderness and built us a fire despite impending rainstorms. While the fire didn’t last too long, we were able to enjoy our freshly steamed lobsters (also picked up from the general store that evening … yup, I could get used to this) by the fire with s’mores. Since we live in the city, this was something totally different than our typical summer weekends.

And while the Kennebunkport location is great to explore the quaint town, relax on its beaches, and even get on the water (boating, paddleboarding, or kayaking on the nearby marshes are all options here), we found ourselves wanting to stay in this perfect little home for the weekend, doing crossword puzzles and listening to the rain, or soaking up the sun on our mini-porch when the weather cooperated.

Sandy Pines uniquely decorates each hut, tent, and carriage. Each safari tent has a theme, like Blixen’s Oasis, which includes six teardrop-shaped lanterns dangling above, and the tents are fully outfitted with dressers, a dining table, a desk, and outdoor seating.

Glamping in Maine

The carriages have less space than the tents, but give you a little more security with walls and a solid roof. Statement lighting and flea market decorations are a theme here, as each carriage is adorned with a gorgeous hanging chandelier. There’s enough space for a desk or small vanity in each one, as well as some extra seating, an outdoor porch, and fire pit area.

The huts are simpler but still picture-perfect: An A-frame with two angled windows and a platform bed. The hut zips closed and there’s an outdoor area with a fire pit and Adirondack chairs.

Each glamping experience is different, so if you’re booking your own experience, call ahead and ask exactly what is included. Sandy Pines provides electricity, toiletries, towels, extra blankets, a flashlight, and laundry bags (a housekeeper comes around every morning to collect trash and towels, which was very helpful). But you would definitely want to bring any supplies your glamping experience doesn’t include.

Glamping in Maine

Almost immediately after I posted some photos on Instagram, I had about 10 messages from friends and family asking me where I was and how they could go glamping.

So while you won’t have a TV and will be sharing a campground bathroom (a very nice one at that), this luxurious, yet affordable camping experience might just be the perfect choice for your next weekend getaway.

To book your glamping experience, head to Sandy Pines Campground’s website.

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Travel Gear

The 9 Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

We love idyllic fall days—those colorful leaf backdrops, crisp temperatures perfect for walking, and plenty of sunshine. What we hate is packing bulky jackets to prepare for those not-so-hot fall weather interludes (think: rain, clouds, and cold nights). We’ve rounded up the best lightweight jackets that pack easily and travel well to keep you warm and dry on all types of autumn days.

Levi’s Shirt Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Need a little extra warmth but don’t want to ruin your outfit with a traditional jacket? The Levi’s Shirt Jacket is meant to look like a stylish work shirt on the outside, but with a faux fur lining and attached hood that will keep you warm through any fall weather. Multiple pockets are big enough to hold everything from boarding passes to passports.

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Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Whether you’re commuting to work or taking a rental bike around a foreign city, the Elite 2.1 Jacket by Showers Pass will keep you (and your stuff—there are plenty of pockets, including one with an audio port) dry and protected from the wind. Working up a sweat? This coat (available for men and women) has seven venting options to cool you down. And you’ll stay safe with the 3M reflective trim that keeps you visible from all angles.

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North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Headed out for a fall hike? The North Face Apex Bionic soft-shell jacket is your perfect outer layer. Its WindWall protection shields against cold and wind, and the interior lining keeps you cozy underneath. It is also water-resistant in case of unexpected showers, comes in a variety of colors, and is available in men’s and women’s versions.

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Patagonia Lined Maple Grove Canvas Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Looking for something a little more durable to protect you on your travels? The Patagonia Maple Grove Canvas Jacket won’t let you down. This heavy-duty jacket is made from organic cotton canvas and lined with polyester fleece. The internal zippered left-chest pocket keeps your phone and keys secured.

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Via Spiga Women’s Single-Breasted Pleated Trench Coat

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Whether you’re sightseeing on a crisp fall afternoon or stuck in a rainstorm, the Via Spiga Pleated Trench Coat is sure to keep you warm and dry. With its detachable hood, this water-resistant trench—made from cotton and polyester—functions as both a rain jacket and an everyday coat. It fits true to size, comes with a full interior lining and exterior pockets, and has a stylish belt detail and a skirted bottom to give you a flattering, feminine look.

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Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

When the weather has warmed up and you no longer need your coat, there’s nothing more annoying than having to carry it around for hours. For times like these, Patagonia’s Nano Puff jacket is the perfect solution. This ultra-condensable puffer coat can be compressed down and folded up into its own pocket, so you can pack it up and toss it in your tote or carry-on when you don’t need it. Sporty and slim fitting, this hip-length coat looks great with everything from jeans and boots to leggings and sneakers.

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London Fog Men’s Iconic Trench Coat

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Whether you’re heading out to dinner with friends or traveling on business, London Fog’s Iconic Trench Coat will keep you warm and looking polished. This classic, military-style trench comes with a removable wool collar for extra warmth. Pair it with layers, jeans, and a scarf, and you’ll be ready for the day.

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Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

Going for a casual, everyday look? The Patagonia Sweater Weather 1/2 Zip (available for men and women) is the perfect staple for your fall wardrobe. The Sweater Weather has a slender fit and is made from comfortable fleece, so it functions as a lightweight jacket or as a warm layer under a heavier coat.

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Athleta Moto Jacket

Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

As we transition from summer to fall, the cool weather doesn’t always set in right away. But with the Athleta Moto Jacket, you can count on being comfortable no matter what the conditions are. This lightweight and durable jacket is made from organic cotton and recycled polyester, with a bit of spandex for added stretch. The sleek silhouette is an easy way to elevate a basic outfit.

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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Travel Gear

LifeSaver Liberty Review: The First Water Filter Bottle With a Combined Inline Pump

LifeSaver Liberty Review

The LifeSaver Liberty is a lightweight and easy-to-use water bottle that filters water to make it safe to drink.

LifeSaver Liberty Review:

Price and Where to Buy: The LifeSaver Liberty is available on Amazon or LifeSaver’s website.

How the LifeSaver LibertyRates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The LifeSaver Liberty quickly filters close to 100 percent of viruses, bacteria, and cysts, which means that you can use it to safely drink from any water source. It also has a replaceable, activated carbon disc which will help improve the taste of your water.
  • Value: 8/10. The LifeSaver Liberty comes with a five foot long scavenger hose (to get water from rivers), a replaceable filter cartridge, and an activated carbon disc, which makes it a good value.
  • Durability: 10/10. The water bottle itself is made from SteriTouch antimicrobial materials and is BPA-free, plus very durable. The LifeSaver Liberty can filter up to 2,000 liters before the filter needs to be replaced.
  • Portability: 7/10. The water bottle weighs just under 1.5 lbs.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. The LifeSaver Liberty comes in fun colors and looks like a normal water bottle.

Final Verdict: If you are headed camping or somewhere without clean water, the LifeSaver Liberty will allow you to quickly and easily drink from anywhere.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

 

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Travel Gear

Goodwipes Review: A Back-Up Shower for Long Travel Days

On a long travel day, a shower is an elusive but critical accomplishment. And unless you have lounge access or you’re booking an airport hotel, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one at the airport. For freshness you can take with you for any situation, a pack of extra-large Goodwipes can really save the day.

Goodwipes Review:

Where to Buy: Buy on Amazon.

How Goodwipes Rate:

  • Usefulness: 8/10. These wipes are extra-large, so one will be enough to freshen up your whole body. I also appreciate that they’re alcohol-free, leaving skin feeling neutral and not dried-out or sticky.
  • Value: 9/10. At a dollar per wipe, a pack of these is a steal. One wipe was enough for my whole body twice-over, so you probably won’t need to use as many as you think.
  • Durability: 10/10. Goodwipes are light but sturdy, so there’s no need to worry about tearing or disintegration as you use them.
  • Portability: 10/10. The single-packet design of these wipes makes them easy to keep in just about any bag you have, so you can keep one handy throughout your trip to use at any time.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. They smell good, work well, and they’re biodegradable.

Final Verdict: A wipe-down, even one infused with tea-tree oil and peppermint, is no replacement for the resetting-power of a hot shower. But Goodwipes come as close as you can get.

 

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Travel Gear

Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag Review: Camping Comfort Built For Two

Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag

The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag lets you sleep as comfortably in the wild as you would in a double-size bed in a hotel.

Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag Review:

Price and Where to Buy: The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag is available on Amazon and Kelty’s website.

How the Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag is thoughtfully designed for couples. It’s wide enough for two to sleep comfortably side-by-side, and has two separate built-in blankets so each person can individually control their temperature (plus, a zip-off top layer for even more temperature customization). Zippers on each side let you open the sleeping bag if you get too hot. There’s also an oversized hood that can fit two pillows.
  • Value: 10/10. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag is two sleeping bags in one, which makes the price a great value.
  • Durability: 10/10. The sleeping bag is made from a Poly Taffeta material that’s durable enough to withstand the rigors of the outdoors, but still soft and comfortable to sleep on.
  • Portability: 7/10. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag uses a Cloudloft Insulation, which is lightweight considering that the bag is rated to 20 degrees. But since it is a double sleeping bag, it still weights 9.5 pounds. It does come with a stuff sack that helps compress the bag a decent amount for easy storage.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag comfortably accommodates two people and will keep you warm on the coldest nights.

Final Verdict: Want to snuggle with your camping buddy? the Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Sleeping Bag gives you the space and temperature controls to sleep together comfortably.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Blog

Is Camping Safe? 10 Essential Camping Safety Tips

10 Essential Camping Safety Tips

Camping is a great way to renew your spirit with some fresh air and outdoor therapy. Before you head out, it is essential you take some safety precautions for the protection of the environment, wildlife, and yourself.  

Make Your Plans Known

Search and rescue teams are kept busy year-round finding lost hikers and campers. While you never plan on getting lost, having an emergency plan could be a literal lifesaver. 

Be sure to leave details about your trip with an emergency contact (like a family member or friend not going with you). The National Park Service recommends you leave details about where you will start, the route you plan to take, what equipment you have, and where you plan to end up. You’ll also want to give your emergency contact the contact details of the people going and the emergency number for the park or campground where you’re heading. 

Many campers also file a camping plan with the local sheriff’s department, which makes it much easier for them to find a lost person.

Prepare for the Environment 

Prepare for the Environment 

Be prepared for the type of environment and weather you’re expected to experience. If you’re camping in the mountains, you’ll want to be prepared for a cooler night or light showers. Camping somewhere warmer means you’ll want to bring a shade and methods for keeping you cool. Your destination should have a guide for what to expect while you’re camping there. 

Bring the Right Equipment 

Having the right equipment not only makes your camping experience more pleasant, but will also help keep you safe. The National Park Service has a comprehensive list of equipment you’ll need to go camping, including: 

  • Water 
  • Shelter and bedding
  • Food
  • Cooking supplies
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Personal hygiene products

Your equipment should also be safe to use. A quick Google search with the name of your camping item paired with “product recall” will let you know if there have been safety issues. You can also search the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website to find product recalls. 

Maintain Your Fire Safely

Maintain Your Fire Safely

Telling stories around the campfire is fun and can be done safely, but it is critical that your fire is controlled. The National Fire Protection Association recommends the following safety tips for campfires:

  • Before you start your fire, make sure you’re permitted to have it. High camping season is also high fire season and you may not be able to build a campfire due to fire restrictions. Fire restrictions are common in forested areas and notices are clearly posted at the forest or park entrance as well as the campsite.
  • Have a way to extinguish the fire before you start it. It’s handy to have a shovel, pile of dirt, or bucket of water nearby. 
  • Keep the campfire small.
  • Avoid starting a campfire on a windy, dry day. 
  • Keep the campfire 25 feet away from structures or anything that can burn.
  • Clear away dry leaves and sticks as well as overhanging low branches and shrubs.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids. 
  • Watch children and pets closely around a fire.  
  • Stop, drop, and roll if your clothes catch fire. 

If you do sustain a minor burn, be sure to treat it immediately. Three to five minutes of cold water on the burn will help with pain and blistering. 

Wildlife Safety

Wildlife encounters can be enjoyed safely from a distance. The National Park Service advises campers to respect wildlife in these ways:

  • Don’t ever feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife can make an animal more aggressive in approaching campers. 
  • Avoid contact with wildlife. Many are more dangerous than you realize. 
  • Keep safe viewing distances. Watch for guidance from your park for wildlife common to the area you’re planning to visit. 
  • Avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite. Keep food in airtight containers in your car and keep your campsite clean. 

Consider the Pest Situation

To keep insects and pests at bay, you may want to consider wearing long sleeves and pants; at the very least, be sure to bring pest repellent. Here are a few things you should know about insect repellent:

  • Repellents containing DEET may be used on your skin.
  • Repellents containing permethrin don’t repel so much as kill. These are not safe for your skin and must be allowed to dry on your clothes, tent, sleeping bag and other gear before using.
  • Natural repellents containing citronella or other plant-based chemicals may also be used.
  • Some repellents are contained in area dispersal devices. Candles are meant to be left at a location, such as an eating or sleeping area, to create a no-fly zone for mosquitoes and other pests.
  • Non-chemical options like a sleeping net are also available.

Water Safety and Purification

Water Safety and Purification

While camping, you’re exposed to the elements more than usual. You’ll want to drink more water to stay hydrated, particularly at higher elevations. 

You’ll also want to make sure that water is safe to drink. Many designated camping sites have water on-site, but if you’re looking to venture out into the backcountry, you’ll need a way to purify the water.

The CDC recommends several methods for purifying water, including:

  • Boiling the water
  • A filtering system 
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light
  • Solar Radiation
  • Chemical purification

You can purchase water purification products online or at a camping supply store before you go. Be sure you also have a way to carry a good amount of water with you.  

Sanitation

Proper disposal of waste is one of the key principles of Leave No Trace, which goes far beyond “pack it in, pack it out.” The essentials include:

  • Wash yourself or dishes more than 200 feet from water sources.
  • Use biodegradable soap–and use it sparingly. 
  • Learn how to properly dispose of human waste
  • Carry plastic bags with you to haul out your trash.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. It’s amazing how quickly your hands get grimy. When water isn’t readily available, hand sanitizer can do the trick.

Keep Warm Safely

Keep Warm Safely

Certain heaters placed in a tent or camper are not safe to use. Portable, gas-powered heaters produce dangerous by-products when not vented correctly. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a possibility when campers use portable heaters or lanterns while sleeping in enclosed areas such as tents, campers, and vehicles. 

Instead, REI, the outdoor recreation retailer, has some safe and effective ideas for keeping warm at night, including:

  • Using another layer between you and the ground. One inflatable layer and one foam layer can keep you warmer at night. 
  • Eating food. A candy bar in the middle of the night can get your metabolism going again. 
  • Going to bed with a hot water bottle. Keep it near your core or over your kidneys.
  • Getting an extra warm sleeping bag and outdoor blankets .

Avoid Getting Lost

Avoid getting lost by following the National Park Service’s recommendations to stay on the trail and use the buddy system.

If you do happen to get lost, don’t panic. Know that your cell phone can get texts through better than a call. You may also be able to send a pin drop of your location. Getting to a higher elevation can help increase your cell phone’s signal. 

Carrying personal locator beacons or satellite messengers are other options. 

 

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Blog

Does Natural Mosquito Repellent Actually Work?

Does Natural Mosquito Repellent Actually Work?

Warm summer days bring sunshine, vacations, and blissful time spent outdoors. But they also bring swarms of mosquitoes and other insects out to get their fill—which could leave you trying to figure out how to protect yourself and loved ones from painful bites and stings that could trigger allergy or disease.

This is when many people consider trying a natural mosquito repellent, hoping that these products might be better for their health and the environment than standard bug sprays. But do natural mosquito repellents work?

According to University of California, Davis entomologist Walter Leal, who has done pioneering research on insects’ sense of smell, the answer is “Yes and no.”

DEET vs. Natural Mosquito Repellent

According to Leal, the common chemical DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), remains the most effective repellent on the market—the gold standard in fending off insects. It works by “blinding” mosquitoes to human presence by preventing them from smelling human sweat and breath.

“I wish I could say that there’s a better natural mosquito repellent,” says Leal, “but that’s not the case. One major problem with some natural products is the so-called complete protection time. They work for a short duration, but they don’t last long enough. Do people want to reapply a product every two to three hours? No. And they would forget to do it.”

Leal says that if people know that they’re going to be outside for only a short period of time, it’s okay to use a citronella-based repellent, or another natural bug spray that has shown short-duration effect, including compounds like eugenol, linalool, citral, and geraniol. But people shouldn’t expect these natural insect repellents to work for longer than about an hour, or for them to be as effective as DEET.

“Because they are volatile,” Leal explains, “natural insect repellents release a large [number] of molecules per time. This makes them work, but not for too long. DEET is a chemical of low volatility, so it releases a lower number of molecules per time and lasts longer.”

Is Natural Bug Spray Safer Than DEET?

What about the perception that DEET is more toxic than natural mosquito repellent, both to human health and to the natural environment?

“I think people sometimes get a little too nervous using so-called ‘synthetic’ products,” says Ari Whiteman, the director of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Urban Mosquito Project and an epidemiology fellow at the Centers for Disease Control. “Yet two large-scale reviews by the EPA have found that DEET ‘does not present a health concern.’ While natural insect repellents have shown inconsistent levels of effectiveness that may vary between species, DEET is widely effective [and] safe, and should not be avoided simply because it is not a compound that naturally exists in nature.”

Leal concurs, pointing out that no chemical is completely safe: “One may die by drinking too much water. It is all about the cost-benefit, and a matter of balancing how much risk is worth taking. I would say that the risks of wearing DEET are very low compared with the benefit of not being infected with mosquito-borne viruses like dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile. Because DEET has been on the market for such a long time, it carries lots of baggage, but has been scrutinized many, many times. DEET has been evaluated by the FDA often, and they always conclude that it is safe to use. I wear it and recommend it for my family.”

Whiteman adds that it’s important to note that the terms “natural” and “non-toxic” are not interchangeable, since there are plenty of natural compounds that are highly toxic, as well as plenty of artificial compounds that are completely safe. “The majority of studies indicate that DEET is the most effective mosquito repellent for the longest period of time,” he affirms. “In comparative studies, natural insect repellents have turned in mixed results.”

Regarding environmental concerns related to DEET, “there really aren’t any,” Whiteman says. “It’s applied to the skin, so there is minimal risk of it entering waterways or vegetation. Some studies show it being slightly toxic to fish and birds, but the animals’ contact with it is so limited that there isn’t really anything to worry about in terms of environmental ramifications. Basically it breaks down so fast—days to weeks—that it doesn’t have time to have a major impact.”

A Non-Toxic Mosquito Repellent Made of Essential Oils

Still, there are plenty of people who, despite assurances from scientists that DEET is safe, prefer to use natural bug sprays. Abby Phon, a certified holistic health and wellness coach, traveled to South Africa and planned to get pregnant after that trip. “I wasn’t crazy about the anti-malaria meds and wanted to do my best to avoid DEET,” she recalls. “I was doing my best to keep my environment and body as non-toxic as possible, so I used a homemade essential oil blend as a non-toxic bug spray instead. It was a success—I didn’t get any mosquito bites.”

When Phon’s daughter was three months old, she took her family out to the country and used the same oil blend. “It was amazing how after one spray, the bugs that were swarming us at lunch disappeared instantly and never came back,” she remembers. “That was six years ago, and I’ve never used another bug spray since.”

Her recipe for non-toxic mosquito repellent? Mix a tablespoon of witch hazel with the following amounts of pure essential oils from a brand called Young Living: 15 drops of cedarwood, 15 drops of geranium (to repel ticks), 10 drops of citronella, and 10 drops of palo santo, and put the mixture into a two-ounce glass spray bottle. “Not all essential oils are the same,” Phon warns, “and it’s important to know what you are using.”

Anecdotal experiences aside, Whiteman acknowledges that there is some research-based evidence that eucalyptus oil can be as effective as DEET for repelling Aedes aegypti, the mosquito which spreads Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

“That’s no longer a common species in the U.S., though,” he explains, “and the species that replaced it here, Aedes albopictus, doesn’t seem to be affected by eucalyptus oil at all, so DEET remains the best option to protect against them. Other comparison studies also find that DEET consistently outperforms ‘natural’ mosquito repellents, including citronella.”

How Strong an Insect Repellent Do You Need?

Asked whether Leal would want the public to know anything specific about using insect repellents, he pointed to his team’s research that suggests that people should use a higher percentage of DEET to fend off infected mosquitoes.

“The most dangerous mosquitoes are the old females,” he says, “because there’s more of a chance that they’ve been infected with a virus, and they’ve had enough time to let that virus replicate in their body. Now that old mosquito is dangerous. The problem is that old mosquitoes are less sensitive to DEET.”

If you’re wearing DEET just to rid yourself of nuisance mosquitoes, 6 to 7 percent DEET-based products are fine. When you’re traveling in an endemic area, however, Leal emphasizes that it’s important to wear a higher concentration of DEET—between 25 and 30 percent.

Circling back around to the question of whether natural bug sprays really work, the answer appears to be yes—but with plenty of caveats. If you choose to go with a natural bug spray over DEET, do so with the knowledge that you’re taking more of a chance of getting bitten, and therefore infected, than you would if you went with DEET, which science says is the safest and most trusted bug spray there is, at least for now.

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Travel Gear

7 Travel Electronics the Least Tech-Savvy Travelers Will Love

7 Travel Electronics the Least Tech-Savvy Travelers Will Love

Not all travelers are packing high-tech travel electronics or plugging in every chance they get, but there are plenty of everyday items that travel better when they incorporate some technology. These travel electronics provide low-tech solutions to common travel challenges like staying in touch, easily sourcing potable water, and protecting your personal property while traveling.

These are the best travel electronics, ranging from those with charge-free simplicity to low-tech gadgets that require little to no tinkering.

 

RFID-Blocking Wallet or Purse

RFID-Blocking Wallet or Purse

Safeguard yourself from electronic pickpockets looking to lift personal data from chips inserted in passports, IDs, and credit cards. Simply put those important documents in RFID-blocking wallets like this spacious women’s leather clutch or this men’s passport wallet, which makes room for cash and cards, too.


Water-Filtering Bottle

Water-Filtering Bottle

A low-tech solution to sourcing clean, potable water, a filtration water bottle means you can hydrate at just about any water source. The LifeStraw Water-Filtering Bottle claims to filter out 99.9 percent of water-borne bacteria, making even the grossest water drinkable. That includes water from questionable sources such as ponds and lakes when you’re camping, and tap water in destinations where you’d normally not drink from the faucet.

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Universal Power Adapter

Universal Power Adapter

It’s time to upgrade your universal power adapter. Today’s adapters simultaneously perform prong-adapting and power-converting duties, so your gadgets don’t get fried in nations with different voltages. Amazon’s most popular power adapter/converter is the Bestek Universal Power Adapter, which can charge seven items at once. 

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Charging Phone Case

Charging Phone Case

You can map your destination, stay in touch with everyone, and keep your entertainment accessible while traveling—but you can only do that if your phone has battery life. The best way to keep your phone charged without having to carry all those cables is by popping your phone in a charging phone case. Make sure to get a charging phone case that fits your particular phone’s model, and one that’s waterproof, to boot.

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E-Reader

E-Reader

Who has space to spare in their luggage when we’re all just trying to avoid paying bag fees? Lighten your load by trading in paperbacks for an e-reader. The latest iteration of the Amazon Kindle holds twice the amount of content, is waterproof, and starts at $129 (check for sales during the holiday shopping period).

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Tracking Device

Tracking Device

Ever get distracted by the sights and suddenly realize one of your valuables is gone? Quickly locate lost items with a tracking device like Tile. The tracking device will ring when in range of a member of the Tile community, and its location will be shown on the Tile app even if you’re out of range. Attach a tracking device to your luggage, camera, keys, phone, wallet, purse, or anything else you’d be hard-pressed to replace.

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Fitness Tracker

Fitness Tracker

Use a fitness-tracking device such as the Fitbit to keep key health metrics such as heart rate, spent calories, and sleep patterns at your fingertips. Achieving weight-loss goals is easier thanks to fitness trackers that help you count steps while you’re on the road. Fitbit Pay on newer models also now offers the ability to pay on-the-go. If you’re willing to go a little more high-tech, Smartwatches can also be used as fitness trackers.

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No matter where you’re headed on your next trip, comfort is key during travel. Show off your high-tech gear with a cozy yet fashionable style to pair.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Travel Gear

Garmin inReach Mini Review: Stay Connected Absolutely Anywhere

Garmin inReach Mini Review

Being off the grid is great … unless you have an emergency or need to get in touch with someone back home. The Garmin inReach Mini is a tiny and lightweight satellite phone that works anywhere in the world, so you can communicate when you need to.

Garmin inReach Mini Review

Price and Where to Buy the Garmin inReach Mini: The inReach iMini costs about $349.99 and is available on Amazon. You’ll need to buy a satellite subscription plan in order to use the phone, and those plans range from $11.95 to $79.95 per month.

How the Garmin inReach Mini Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. I took the inReach Mini on a trekking trip in Bhutan to test it out. There was no cell service, but the inReach Mini connected to the satellite network quickly every time I tried it. I was able to send texts back to a regular cell phone in the U.S. and to check the weather easily, with minimal wait time. Since it uses satellites, all you need for the inReach to work is a clear view of the sky. It won’t work inside a building, but I tested it out inside my tent and had no problems.
  • Value: 8/10. This is a good price for a satellite phone, but I wish the satellite subscription plans were more flexible. The minimum plan you can sign up for is a month long, which seems wasteful for shorter trips. There is also a $24.95 activation fee, which I wasn’t anticipating.
  • Portability: 10/10. This is probably the smallest and lightest satellite phone on the market. It’s more compact than a smartphone (4 x 2 inches) and weighs just 3.5 ounces. You could bring this on a trail run or long backpacking trip without noticing the extra weight. The battery also lasts for up to 50 hours when tracking your location (or up to 20 days in power-saving mode), so you don’t need to worry about bringing along a portable battery for it.
  • Durability: 10/10. The inReach is even more durable than an old-school cell phone. It’s water-resistant against rain, snow, or accidental splashes, and it’s covered in a sturdy rubber that can survive drops and impacts.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. Being able to stay in touch when you need it is definitely cool.

Final Verdict: If you’ll be adventuring off the grid, the Garmin inReach Mini is the best way to stay as connected as you want, whether that’s only using the emergency SOS feature or texting loved ones back home.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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