As a gear editor, I’m always on the lookout for holy grail products that will make my travels more organized, comfortable, or convenient. (A little bit of style doesn’t hurt either.) And I know I’m not alone. Over the past 12 months, my colleagues and I have obsessed over finding the perfect packing cubes, carry-on suitcases, and travel pillows, while supporting sustainable and small businesses along the way, where possible.
Since we’d never gate keep these finds, here are some of our favorite travel accessories, apparel, luggage, toiletries, and even the international phone service subscription that improved the way we travel in 2022. We hope you love them as much as we do.
Monos Carry-On Pro Plus and Hybrid Check-In Medium suitcases
This fall, after months of covering the long lines, delayed and canceled flights, and mountains of lost luggage plaguing air travel all year, I decided it was time to hang up my Team Checked Luggage hat and finally join Team Carry-On. What made the transition a smooth and delightful one was the Monos Carry-On Pro Plus (in the highly recommended limited-edition Terrazzo colorway that looks just like the beloved tile of the same name). What I love about this super lightweight spinner is that it features an exterior pocket that fits a 15-inch laptop as well as numerous interior compartments (some of which are removable to make it as segmented or more open as needed).
I was so impressed with the carry-on version, I opted to get the heftier, medium-sized Hybrid checked luggage for when I’m traveling with my kids and have zero chance at being able to do carry-on only. Major added bonus: Monos is an eco-conscious company that uses vegan materials, recyclable and reusable packaging, and 1 percent of revenues go to nonprofits dedicated to “preserving and restoring the natural world.” —Michelle Baran, senior travel news editor
Baboon to the Moon’s Go Bag—Small
Buy now: from $189, baboontothemoon.com
I’m a strictly carry-on type of traveler, and I’m not really a fan of suitcases (there’s just something about them that feels ultimately cumbersome by nature no matter how many wheels they have). For the past two years, I’ve been on the hunt for a new duffel bag to replace the basic, quilted bag I bought at TJ Maxx in high school that was totally not intended to be used as a regular travel bag. I wanted something functional, easy to clean, and, of course, cute.
Enter Baboon to the Moon’s Go Bags, which come in three sizes: big, small, and mini. I opted for the small, which has a capacity of 40 liters and is TSA-approved as a carry-on. Unlike other duffel bags out there that have a zipper running flat across the top, Baboon to the Moon’s Go Bags open like a suitcase, making it much easier to pack, and the interior has several convenient pockets. The small bag is marketed as able to hold three to five days of clothing, but I was able to squeeze enough things in for a week (and a pair of shoes!) on a recent trip. Once I got home, I simply wiped down the waterproof exterior of the pack with a disinfectant cloth. Best of all? The Go Bag’s straps can be worn backpack style, used as a cross-body bag, or held as a duffel bag. —Mae Hamilton, assistant editor
Cotopaxi’s Allpa 50L duffel bag
Buy now: $140, cotopaxi.com
Typically when you go on safari, you’re not allowed to bring hard-sized or wheeled suitcases, as they don’t easily fit in the tiny bush planes or jeeps. I got this handy Cotopaxi duffel for my trip to Uganda and Rwanda this year, and I’m so glad I did. Because it has handles and backpack straps, it was easy to schlep through the airport, and when I needed to gate-check it, I knew it would come back to me in one piece, as it’s made from highly durable ballistic nylon. At 50 liters, there’s plenty of room for two weeks’ worth of clothing and toiletries, but if you’d rather, it also comes in an extra-large 70-liter size. —Bailey Berg, associate news editor
Samara The Ocean backpack
Buy now: $150, samarabags.com
In lieu of a purse, I carry a backpack everywhere. It goes with me to work, to meetings, under airplane seats and restaurant tables, on road trips and weekend getaways. It also has to look sleek and chic enough that I won’t be embarrassed toting it to a cocktail event. Enter the Samara Ocean backpack. It’s incredibly compact, lightweight, and lean—barely three to four inches wide, even with a laptop, notebooks, and makeup bag inside—with water-resistant fabric in a city-friendly navy. Samara lured me in with its all-female business working with vegan leather and recycled plastics to make its products last a lifetime while not taking down the planet in the process. The Ocean backpack is made with 20 bottles’ worth of recycled ocean plastics and feels and looks good doing so. —Laura Dannen Redman, digital content director
Thule Compression packing cubes
I’ve been a packing cube devotee for years. Away’s packing cubes were my go-tos until I was given a pair of Thule’s Compression Packing Cubes in medium and small as a gift last September. Not only are they made with Bluesign-approved ripstop nylon that is manufactured with minimal impact on the environment, but that fabric is also water-repellent and ultra-durable. Plus, the set of double YKK zippers allows you to close the cube and then zip it even tighter to eliminate extra air and reduce bulk, making packing less stressful. —Lyndsey Matthews, senior commerce editor
Cadence toiletry capsules
Buy now: $14 for one or $74 for six, keepyourcadence.com
The refillable travel containers by Cadence are small, leakproof “capsules” that stick together with magnets. At 0.56 ounces, they’re best for makeup and toiletries you don’t need much of—like a weekend’s worth of shampoo or your under-eye cream—but I love how much more organized my toiletry bag is thanks to them. —Jessie Beck, senior manager of video & SEO
From the Tokyo-based company Balmuda, this rechargeable lantern has become a staple in my car camping kit this year, but it’s also stylish enough to use at home as well (I certainly do). I especially love that you can turn the dial to easily switch between a warm, ambient light while relaxing to a powerful, bright, white light for when you need to see what you’re doing. —J.B.
Snow Peak Flexible Insulated Zip-Up Hoodie
Buy now: $240, snowpeak.com
Snow Peak’s Flexible Insulated Zip-Up Hoodie quickly became my go-to travel jacket this spring, summer, and fall. It’s super lightweight, easy to pack, and surprisingly warm for its weight. Its water-repellent finish, hood, and multiple pockets are some of its most practical features, but I’ve been grabbing it again and again thanks to the minimalist, monochromatic design that’s stylish enough to wear round town (a rarity among outdoor apparel). —J.B.
Yaktrax Walk traction cleats
I live part time in the Pacific Northwest and love hiking in the nearby mountains. Come springtime, when all the snow is melting, the trail conditions can get pretty slippery. I’ve started using Yaktrax Walk traction cleats to add some extra security while walking on icy or snowy surfaces. They’re super easy to wrap around your hiking boot or shoe and so lightweight and portable that I can easily throw them in my weekend carry-on when there’s a good chance I’ll be walking in the snow. —Jennifer Flowers, senior deputy editor
Helly Hansen’s Alphelia Infinity ski jacket
Buy now: $600, hellyhansen.com
If you go to any ski resort on the Epic Pass, you’ll notice that the entire staff—from the chairlift operators to the guides—is outfitted in Helly Hansen gear. After getting my own HH jacket this season, I see why—they’re just that good. Because the brand prioritizes performance, this jacket has some clever features, like helmet-compatible hoods and a vented temperature regulation system, so you’ll stay warm but won’t overheat. I particularly like the highly insulated chest pocket, specifically engineered to preserve your phone’s battery life, which can get zapped by the cold. I also feel good knowing that HH makes it a point to use durable and environmentally friendly components. Bonus: Each jacket or snow pants purchase comes with a free lift ticket at one of HH’s partner resorts. —B.B.
MAÄT The 1.0 leggings
Buy now: $148, maatactive.com
These leggings come with a ribbed knee pad that provides a surprising amount of cushioning. Technically, they’re supposed to be used for yoga practice (which I’m sure they’re also great for), but I’ve been wearing mine while snowboarding—I fall down a lot, and they’ve saved my knees from bruising after a long day on the slopes. —B.B.
Travel toiletries and skin care products
Kinfield Golden Hour bug repellent
Buy now: $22 for three fl. oz., kinfield.com
I finally found a DEET-free bug repellent that actually works. Made with a mix of citronella, lemongrass, and cloves, Kinfield Golden Hour kept me bite free (and smelling amazing) on the Inca Trail in Peru last May and during a two-week trip through Indonesia this November. The three-ounce spray bottle is TSA friendly—just don’t spray it indoors. It may be DEET free but the clove oil can be a tad spicy in close quarters (as I learned after I sprayed it inside a van in Bali and caused a mass coughing fit by accident). —L.M.
Ursa Major travel skin care
Travelers of a certain age (cough, cough me) may be spending more than they used to on skin care, and frankly, self-care. (The pandemic was hard!) Given how dehydrating flying and traveling can be, especially in the winter months, I can’t say enough about how miraculous and restorative the Ursa Major skin care line is. This was one of those Instagram ad impulse purchases I made late at night, drawn in by the Vermont-based company’s brand values: all natural, gender-neutral products (skin is skin); B Corp status; lightweight creams using ingredients like spearmint, cedar, calendula.
Do I smell like a forest when I use the Fantastic Face Wash or Golden Hour Recovery Cream? Nope—but a deep inhale boosts my serotonin and the eye cream and face cream have legitimately eased the lines around my mouth and eyes. I started with travel sizes and now use it daily. —L.D.R.
Heladerm Morning Glow skin care bundle
Buy now: $95 (was $110), heladerm.com
I spend most of the year somewhere between 6,000 feet of elevation (I live in Colorado) and cruising altitude, which means my skin is constantly dry. However, the moisture-rich ingredients of Heladerm’s products have done a beautiful job of making my skin look dewy and feel hydrated. I particularly like the Morning Glow Bundle, which comes with the brand’s Melting Cleanser, Vitamin C Serum, and Illuminating Crème. Even after a red-eye flight, it helps me look (and feel) refreshed. —B.B.
Travel services and subscriptions
Google Fi subscription
Buy now: From $17 per month, fi.google.com
I made the switch from Apple to Android (specifically, a Google Pixel 6) a couple of years ago. My primary motivation was to have a better camera, but earlier this year, I became intrigued by a service called Google Fi. For years, whenever I’ve traveled internationally, my routine has been to go through passport control, take out some cash in local currency, and purchase a SIM card in the airport.
My routine worked, but it was clunky and time-consuming. Some countries have lengthy security checks to get a SIM card. And SIM cards are tiny, fiddly things that have a tendency to get lost, no matter how much Scotch tape you use.
Purchasing a Google Fi subscription this year has been a game changer for my travel life. It gives me 4G coverage in over 200 countries for a fraction of the price of most international mobile plans (and 5G, depending on your phone and the country you’re traveling to). I can pause the service when I’m not traveling—for up to three months at a time—and not be billed for those months. My data is sent through a secure VPN connection—far preferable to entering my credit card information over an unsecured Wi-Fi network in a train station coffee shop. And you don’t have to be an Android user like me to use it; Google Fi works on most iPhones, too. —Sarika Bansal, editorial director