The Gear Junkie: Rick Steves Travel Gear
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
Rick Steves, a travel writer and television host, has spent one-third of his adult life living out of a suitcase in Europe. Indeed, since 1973 he’s been away an average of 120 days a year, often taking his wife, Anne, and their two children along for the trip.
Consequently, Steves knows—I’d assume almost preternaturally—what makes for good travel gear.
Working with KIVA Designs in Benicia, Calif., Steves’ namesake company (www.ricksteves.com) sells a line of travel accessories ranging from money belts to suitcases to billfolds made for deriding a thief.
I employed some of Steves gear traveling last month, including the 21-inch Roll-Aboard. This $139.95 suitcase—sized at 9×21 x 14 inches—is made to pass most airlines’ carry-on size limits, though still magically cram enough clothing for a week’s stay.
The polyester package is nothing too unique. It’s essentially a nice suitcase at a fair price, plus there are little touches like a Lexan frame to provide some protection of your belongings inside.
Multiple small zip pockets and a large internal mesh pouch promote organization. For toting through the airport, there’s a telescoping handle that pulls out to 23 inches long. Inline-skate wheels keep it rolling smoothly on carpet or cement.
The Classic Back Door Bag ($79.95) is a similar product, though with backpack straps instead of the wheels and pull handle. This pack also lacks the Lexan frame found on the Roll-Aboard.
Described as a “just-the-basics” bag, the Classic Back Door measures 9×21 x 14 inches and weighs about 2 pounds when empty. There are several zipper and mesh pockets.
But the Classic Back Door has no waist belt for support, and the design is kind of boxy and strange—halfway between a suitcase and a backpack, but not really either one. I was a bit perplexed as to when this in-between design would have an advantage.
More interesting was Steves’ Lambskin Travel Wallet, an $8.95 billfold made to hold only a day’s worth of spending money and receipts. Your passport, credit cards and other valuables should be kept safely tucked inside a money belt.
Following this philosophy, in the rare case you’re held up or pickpocketed, you’ll lose only a small bit of cash.
Plus, there’s a multilingual card inside the wallet made to perturb the proverbial thief, as it reads: “Sorry this contains so little money. Consider changing your profession.”
I like that. The billfold is an idea born of experience on the road; the words, humor and optimism in the face of the wide world.
(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)