Here’s a challenge: Find a gift for a frequent traveler that’s very light weight and easy to pack. Make it something cool and creative. Only pick items that your gift recipient is extremely unlikely to already own. And, oh yeah, your gift can’t cost more than US$10.
Spot Cool Stuff recently went shopping with those exact criteria in mind. Here’s our review of five cool travel-related gifts we found. Each makes for a great stocking stuffer. But there’s no rule saying you can’t shop for yourself too.
Kikkerland Collapsible Travel Chopsticks
We love traveling with chopsticks. So much so that we’ve written an entire review of the best travel chopsticks after testing out more than 30 pairs1.
Nearly all of our favorite pairs of travel chopsticks cost more than $10. But happily, one pair sneaks under the limit: The Kikkerland Travel Chopsticks. Their bamboo tips give them the feel of real chopsticks while the stainless steel top makes them very light weight. Plus they collapse down and come with a travel case. $9.43 (with the current Amazon discount or $27 retail)
1 When Spot Cool Stuff is enthusiastic about a topic we tend to go overboard in writing about it. To wit: our review of the world’s best rice terrace destinations which, now that we think about it, would make ideal destinations for chopstick-toting travelers.
Waboba Water Bouncing Ball
Dollar for dollar and gram for gram, there’s no more fun sporty toy gift to give to some one heading on a beach vacation or tropical trip than a Waboba ball. The buoyant ball is roughly the same consistency as a hacky sack, weighty enough to throw some distance but soft enough to be easily catchable and kid-friendly. But here’s the cool thing: You can bounce it on water!2 It’s great for games of catch and playing your own made-up variation of water polo. Also, the sight of the ball bouncing on water is unusual enough to draw the attention of onlookers, making a Waboba a wonderful way to meet other people while traveling. $8.73
† To be clear, it doesn’t bounce up and down, basketball-like. The bouncing is more akin to skipping a stone.
It make look like a toy crocodile (and we know one 8-year-old who insists on playing with it a such) but a Toweligator can make for a useful little travel item. On one end, the crocodile’s mouth serves as a strong clamp. On the other end is a bendable tail. The Toweligator was originally designed to keep beach towels securely in place — the mouth keeping hold of the towel and while the tail stakes into the sand. But travelers typically find other ways to use a Toweligator. They work as clothes pins and as ad hoc camera tripods, for instance. On a trip to Mexico we fashioned a sun screen on a boat using a sheet on a few Toweligators. $9.95
ExOfficio BugsAway Bandana
A bandana is one of those light, cheap multipurpose items that many backpackers and adventure travelers bring on their trips. The bandanas from ExOfficio can be used for all the functions any other bandana can. Plus one other: repelling mosquitoes. That’s because these bandanas have permethrin woven into the fabric. (Permethrin being an odorless compound extracted from plants, which also use it to keep insects away). Spot Cool Stuff has field tested Insect Shield garments and found that they substantially help prevent (but don’t completely eliminate) bug bites. Wearing an ExOfficio BugsAway Bandana is especially suggested for forest walks, as they help repel ticks too. But one needn’t be wearing the bandana to benefit. Tie one to your bedpost at night, attach one to your backpack, and it’ll still help ward off mosquitoes. From $3
Like many people, Spot Cool Stuff travels with a pair of ear bud headphones. And, like many people, we stuff our headphones into a backpack pocket. When those headphones are removed from said pocked we’d invariably find the cord all tangled up. Or, rather, we used to find the cord tangled. Then we got a Wrapster headphone cord holder. This ingenious little item keeps the headphone cords organized.
Like all of the other items sold on Quirky.com, the Wrapster is a product of crowdsourcing. That is, the product’s concept, design and marketing was the product of the collaboration of a large group of individuals. You can read more about Quirky and its cool crowdsourced products in our web review. $5.99
Bandits Stretchable Organizers
A Bandit is that sort multi-use item that people won’t fully appreciate until they travel with one. Each “stretchable organizer” is durable elastic band with a strong plastic hook on one end. That simple combination comes in surprisingly handy: as a key ring, a water bottle holder, hook for a portable light, organizer of pens, means of attaching a towel or windbreaker to the exterior of a bag, etc, etc. In India we once used one to keep the door of our train compartment from flying open! $6.99 (for a 10-pack containing 3 different sizes).
Also on Spot Cool Stuff:
Are you Santa? Or do you know of other great stocking gifts for travelers? Do tell in a comment, below: