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The Secret Sweater, a travelling business woman's best friend.

The Secret Sweater, a travelling business woman's best friend.

Should I get that? Travel gear reviews Add to ...

Secret Sweater

When you only fly with carry-on luggage you've got to be choosy about what goes in it. That's where the Secret Sweater comes in: It's a shrug, it's a hidden layer of warmth, it's a silky soft garment that'll slip into the smallest corner of your suitcase.

How it works

Secret Sweater arrives folded into a cotton carry-bag that's smaller than my wallet. (Surprisingly, it's easy to repack - and I've never even worked at the Gap.) There are no buttons and no zips, just 3/4-length sleeves and a V-front construction that stops at the midriff. Layer it over your strappy dress or yoga shirt, or slip in on under a suit jacket when it's cold but you need to look professional.

Pros and cons

The biggest pro? It's made in the U.S.A., so I don't have any dodgy garment-factory horror stories on my conscience. (For Canadians, that also means there's no duty tax when it's shipped over the border.) I test drove my Secret Sweater on a winter getaway, wearing it under a rather blousy blouse to dinner instead of donning my fleece. The extra underlayer did not make me look fat - and did keep me cozy. But when I try wearing Secret Sweater over a tank for a makeshift twin set, the hem stops uncomfortably at my mummy tummy. Goodbye chic sweater, hello fleece.

The verdict

This is a well-made piece (50/50 cotton and modal), that's supersoft against your skin and does what it promises. $39.95 (U.S.); secretsweater.com

Catherine Dawson March

Nikon Coolpix

Most people do not need an underwater camera. But it is sure nice to be able to snap pics of fish while you are snorkelling and pics of friends horsing around in the waves. In the past, most folks were stuck buying those disposable numbers, which always yielded disappointing shots (that you actually had to pay to develop and see). So what of the new digital generation? The 16-megapixel Nikon Coolpix AW110 is waterproof up to 18 metres, shockproof up to two metres and features built-in WiFi connectivity. Definitely a step up.

How it works

Pretty much like any other camera. Preset shooting modes – including underwater – make things easy. Vibration reduction is meant to deliver better action pics. And the WiFi means you can easily send pictures to your smartphone, so you can still tweet and Instagram to your heart’s content. One thing that will bug camera purists: You won’t find a viewfinder, just a 7.6-centimetre screen.

Pros and cons

I snorkelled with this camera, hung it off my wrist while stand-up paddleboarding and accidentally dropped it to the rocky bottom of a natural pool as waves crashed around me. It survived – and still took great underwater shots. Regular pictures were fine, not as good as a DSLR delivered, but that’s to be expected. The camera comes in three colours: blue, red and camouflage. Why anyone ever thought a camo action camera was a good idea is beyond me. Trying to find it amid the rocks? That was a moment of panic I did not need.

Final verdict

If you have the budget, it’s a nice perk. Just don’t go for the camouflage. $349.95; nikon.ca

Domini Clark

Lug's Flip Top Toiletry Case

The Flip-top Toiletry Case by Lug, a Canadian company, promises to help keep your cosmetics and other must-haves in order when you’re on the road, and do it stylishly.

How it works

It’s a divide-and-conquer premise: Two triangle shaped bags (one larger, one smaller) are zipped together, meaning you can fill and carry both for longer trips, or detach the smaller case and keep it in your carry-on. A neat idea that makes freshening up on the plane before landing that much easier.

Pros and cons

The case is roomy – 13 centimetres deep, 15 centimetres high and nearly 25 centimetres wide – and it’s easy to find your things thanks to the clever interior storage areas, brush holders and pockets. The triangular shape keeps products orderly, too – your contact lens solution is not crushing your toothpaste is not making a dent in your ear plugs and so on. But the zipper that connects the top and bottom cases is finicky, and my bet is it won’t last long. Plus, the belt that feeds into the D-ring fastner is too short, making it tricky to close even if the case is half-empty. Lots of stuff inside? Forget it.

The verdict

I love the bright colour and the two-part technique (I could always find my stuff quickly), but got frustrated with the annoying zipper and D-ring closure. If these technical details can be fixed, I’d buy one for my mom. $47; luglife.com

Catherine Dawson March

Canon's EOS Rebel SL1

Can a good camera make you a great photographer? Likely not. But if you’re decent, surely kicking it up a notch can’t hurt. I manage well with my point-and-shoot, so I was curious to try Canon’s EOS Rebel SL1, a beginner DLSR (or digital single-lens reflex camera). I’m no expert – but I figured that’s exactly what made me the perfect guinea pig.

How it works

Canon has done a great job of simplifying the tools that make DLSRs special. You can adjust the depth of field, for example, just by touching the LCD monitor. Want that tree in the foreground in focus but the rest of the forest blurry? One tap makes it happen.

Pros and cons

It was easy to achieve professional effects. My shots from the Castries Market in St. Lucia, where fruits in all different shapes and colours were piled beside each other, are fantastic. The camera also did a nice job with landscapes. On the downside, I felt the lag between auto-focus and shooting was too long, an issue I’ve had with Canons in the past.

Final verdict

If you’re willing to invest the time learning all the ins and outs, it’s a good stepping stone. $779.99; canon.ca

Domini Clark

Cabeau

Memory Foam Evolution Pillow

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with travel pillows. They’re essential on long-haul trips if I want to sleep without drooling all over myself. And yet they’re so unwieldy and ugly, I resent having to pack one. Cabeau’s Evolution Pillow, however, changed my inflight life.

How it works

The sensuously soft pillow cradles your head and neck; click together the drawstring toggles and tighten the fit. This will help keep the pillow from slipping off your shoulders, and stop your head from bobbing as you drift off. Slip an iPod into the dedicated pocket and you can bypass the often weird music channels offered by the airline.

Pros and cons

Okay, so it does look like you’re wearing a neck brace – but it’s a cozy, soft and cuddly one. Plus, sporting one of these looks a lot better than drooling on your seatmate. Best of all, the pillow ring is made of crushable memory foam, which means you can store it, cinnamon-roll like, in its accompanying sack and tuck it into your carry-on. Once you reach your destination, store it unrolled or it takes a good long time for that memory foam to open up again.

The verdict

No more painful cricks in my neck or embarrassing myself in public: Cabeau’s Evolution Pillow rocks. $34.99; cabeau.com

Catherine Dawson March

Lolë

Lolë Nina duffel

The challenge: A sales rep for Lolë, the Montreal-based activewear shop, brags that she never checks a bag – even on week-long trips – when she’s using Lolë’s Nina duffel and Lily tote. I’m doubtful. The duffel is only 45 centimetres long and 35 cm high, and how would any eagle-eyed flight attendant buy the 33-cm-by-40-cm tote bag as a purse? So I try it on a five-day ski getaway (shorter than a week, but winter holidays require bulkier clothing, so I consider it equal).

How it works

Into the duffel go snow pants, several pairs of long johns, two pairs of pants, fleecewear, turtlenecks and blouses. There’s still room – so I use the enclosed nylon bag for a pair of small shoes and the bag’s detachable see-through cosmetic bag (now that’s a thoughtful touch) for liquids and gels. Still room? In go the flip-flops and extra sweater, and I haven’t even used the interior laptop pocket or key-chain attachment. I don’t dare fill the Lily tote, but cram in a few essentials and note that the padded 33-cm laptop pocket is a good fit for my HP notebook. The convertible backpack straps are tucked out of sight and, with any luck, the bag’s school bus yellow colour (also available in fire-engine red, bright blue and grey) make it look more like an eye-catching statement piece than a second/verboten piece of luggage.

Continued......


Lolë

Lolë Lily tote

Continued from above

Pros and cons

There is a shocking amount of room in the Nina duffel, but it’s a good thing there are D-ring straps on the bag’s exterior to compress it further (they’re designed to secure a yoga mat). Also neat: Remove the duffel’s shoulder strap and you can turn a detachable clutch into an impromptu purse. (The Lily’s yoga mat pocket is a great spot to carry your weekend Globe onto the plane.)

The verdict

Compared with the wheelie bags most travellers carry on board, Lolë’s Nina and Lily carry-alls are positively diminutive, and I never felt like I hadn’t packed enough clothes. On the crowded flight home, when testy Vancouver gate attendants repeatedly urged those waiting to board to check our carry-ons, my enormous “purse,” aka Lily tote, didn’t get the stink eye. Not even from holier-than-thou fliers who had paid to check their luggage. These bags are a worthy investment. Lily tote: $120; Nina duffel: $140, lolewomen.com

Catherine Dawson March

Secret Sweater

When you only fly with carry-on luggage you've got to be choosy about what goes in it. That's where the Secret Sweater comes in: It's a shrug, it's a hidden layer of warmth, it's a silky soft garment that'll slip into the smallest corner of your suitcase.

How it works

Secret Sweater arrives folded into a cotton carry-bag that's smaller than my wallet. (Surprisingly, it's easy to repack - and I've never even worked at the Gap.) There are no buttons and no zips, just 3/4-length sleeves and a V-front construction that stops at the midriff. Layer it over your strappy dress or yoga shirt, or slip in on under a suit jacket when it's cold but you need to look professional.

Pros and cons

The biggest pro? It's made in the U.S.A., so I don't have any dodgy garment-factory horror stories on my conscience. (For Canadians, that also means there's no duty tax when it's shipped over the border.) I test drove my Secret Sweater on a winter getaway, wearing it under a rather blousy blouse to dinner instead of donning my fleece. The extra underlayer did not make me look fat - and did keep me cozy. But when I try wearing Secret Sweater over a tank for a makeshift twin set, the hem stops uncomfortably at my mummy tummy. Goodbye chic sweater, hello fleece.

The verdict

This is a well-made piece (50/50 cotton and modal), that's supersoft against your skin and does what it promises. $39.95 (U.S.); secretsweater.com

Catherine Dawson March

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