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How to Avoid Loneliness on the Road: HerePin – Your Essential Travel App

February 11, 2017
Skaftafell Glacier Iceland winter South East Iceland Itinerary Ring Road Kathmandu driFILL jackets

Travel opens endless doors, of that there is no doubt.  It pushes comfort zones, challenges complacency and rewards in all manner of ways.

When you travel, you come to realise that people the world over are remarkably similar, whilst also reminding you of how fortunate you are to be in a position to travel in the first place.  Spending a significant period of time overseas makes you that little bit prouder of your heritage and culture but leaves you with a newfound understanding and appreciation for different ways of life.

Travelling obviously makes up a large part of our lives and though we adore discovering new spots and the personal growth that comes with new adventures, nothing impacts us quite like the people we meet on our adventures.

Sounds pretty amazing right!  Could it get any better?

Well, yes.

Travelling can also be hard – sometimes you get lost, run out of money or end up in an uncomfortable situation – it is after all, still life.

Sometimes when you move on from place to place (and everyone around you is doing the same thing), you feel like you’re surrounded by people but know no one.

Whilst at times it’s easy to meet likeminded travellers and locals, other times, it can be difficult to connect with people.  Though every traveller sets off with great intentions, sometimes it just ends up being difficult to meet others on the road – that’s where HerePin comes in!

HerePin travel app

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” – Tim Cahill

HerePin is an app sets out to connect likeminded travellers on the hunt for information, local insight and friendship – it’s like the Tinder of the travelling world, but with none of the seediness (and the added bonus of being a great resource of helpful hints).

Designed in New Zealand, a country know for its entrepreneurial spirit and desire to see the world, the team has managed to centralise exactly what travellers need.

HerePin travel app

Getting started is easy – just download the HerePin app for free, sign yourself up (we linked our account to Facebook so the photos load automatically – too easy!) and away you go.  You can choose to either set your location automatically or plug in a specific spot (maybe where you’ll be travelling next so you can start gathering some tips?) and straight away, you’ll be able to connect with others locally and see past pins that have been dropped, offering local insight.  If your question hasn’t already been answered, go ahead and ask one yourself.

It’s almost like having your own personalised travel guide in your pocket for free!

HerePin travel app

Right now the majority of users are based in New Zealand but global use of the app is spreading and with more users comes more information and opportunities to connect in meaningful ways.  This app functions based off its community so jump in and join us – let’s get it cranking!

Whether you’re a traveller off to check out somewhere new, a local looking to make some new friends or someone that’s just moved to a new city and on the hunt for the best hidden treasures, HerePin will help you on your journey.


How to Avoid Loneliness Whilst Travelling - HerePin App

This post was brought to you in collaboration with HerePin.  As always all thoughts are our own.

Though there aren’t many users in Abu Dhabi yet, we’re signed up for HerePin and love it.  Don’t forget to connect with us on the app  if we’re in the same part of the world (we’re @ExploringKiwis).  We can’t wait to see you out there!

Reviews Travel Gear

Reviewing the Kathmandu XT driFILL Down Jacket

January 7, 2017
Kathmandu jacket review Iceland Norway

Nothing puts a damper on being out in the great outdoors like being ill-prepared. With frozen hands and chilly toes, it’s hard to think of anything but heading back inside to warm up.

With a trip to Iceland and Norway planned for the middle of their winter, we knew that having quality gear would be essential to enjoying our visit.  As New Zealanders currently living in Abu Dhabi, we’re not exactly used to the cold so when it came time to choose our gear, Kathmandu, a homegrown brand that we know and trust was an easy choice.  Though we purchased a number of items that we loved, the following is a review of our favourite item, their XT driFILL Down Jackets – they are literally the best piece of clothing either of us have ever owned.

 

Choosing a Jacket – Down or Synthetic?

When selecting a jacket, there are two main considerations – warmth and waterproofing.  Traditionally, the environment you’re doing into dictates the materials required of your jacket and because each have their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, your jacket will not necessarily be ideally suited everything the outdoors throws at you.

With this in mind, which materials are best suited to different needs?

Down

If you require significant warmth then down is the most appropriate choice.  It is light-weight, packs down well (so is an excellent choice for travellers) and is incredibly breathable.  Unfortunately though, down does not retain its warmth when wet which means that it is traditionally suited to dry but cold climates.

The performance of down fill is measured by fill power. The numbers 550, 600, 750, for example, refer to the fill’s quality. Fill power is measured by the number of cubic inches that one ounce of down occupies in a climate-controlled test cylinder. The more volume occupied by the down, the greater the amount of air trapped and the greater the insulation generated – Kathmandu

Synthetic

If warmth is still a consideration but rain is expected, then a synthetic fill may be a better option.  Though it is not as warm as down and does not pack down as well, it does retain its warmth when wet and is a more affordable choice of material.

What options do adventurers have though when they require a jacket that provides both a high degree of warmth and waterproof capabilities?

Kathmandu XT driFILL – The Perfect Combination

In the past, outdoor enthusiasts would purchase a jacket with one weather condition in mind – you could get significant warmth or waterproofing but not both.  Fortunately, Kathmandu have changed the game by combining the best of a range of materials to create a jacket that delivers incredible protection, regardless of the elements.

With 750 loft goose down (coated with their own driFILL waterproofing treatment) and an NGX 2 waterproof shell, you’ll both be warm and dry in all conditions.  The combination of these materials results in a breathable and comfortable jacket that looks just as at home on the in the city as it does on a mountain-top.

As part of the elite XT Series, these jackets have a proven track record.  They have undergone significant testing in extreme conditions and we can attest that not once did we feel cold, even in the middle of the Icelandic and Norwegian winter.

Reviewing the XT driFILL Down Jacket

Though these jackets are made from the very best materials and offer a high-tech solution to an age-old problem, there’s much more to them than just that.  Kathmandu have thought of everything in the construction of these jackets – seriously, check out some of the key features below:

  • Each jacket includes a fully adjustable hem, cuffs and hood to ensure the best possible fit and weather protection.
  • They’re constructed with a seam-taped 3D baffle construction which allows the loft to sit plump (which keeps you as warm as possible) whilst remaining wind and water-proof.
  • All external zips include guards to prevent water finding its way inside your jacket and the main zip opens both from the top and bottom, providing harness compatibility should you need it.  They’ve also included a down-filled tube that sits just behind the zip to lock every bit of heat in.
  • To keep you toasty, the XT driFILL jackets have close-fitting fleece-lined, down-filled collars – though I took a scarf, I barely wore it because my jacket did such a superb job of keeping my neck warm.
  • Access to a range of different pockets to keep everything close by, including weather-protected chest pockets, large internal mesh pockets and the most exciting ones of all, fleece-lined hand-warming pockets (and yes, they really do the trick!)
  • If you’re travelling light, these jackets squeeze down into an included stuff-sack, allowing you to tuck it away safety when not in use.

If you’re looking for a warm jacket that can brave anything and everything the weather throws at you, whilst looking good in the process (and who doesn’t!) then we highly recommend Kathmandu’s XT driFILL jackets.  Both Iceland and Norway were absolutely amazing and a great deal of our enjoyment came from the fact that we were warm, dry and comfortable – our jackets allowed us to head out in all weather conditions and equipped us to have the time of our lives.  That’s what it’s all about!

Keen to kit yourself out?  Check these beauties out online – they’ll even ship to your door.

XT driFILL Men’s Goose Down Waterproof Hooded Jacket

XT driFILL Women’s Goose Down Waterproof Hooded Jacket

For more information regarding the difference in materials, check out Kathmandu’s guide to choosing your next jacket to see what other options they have on offer.


Kathmandu XT driFill Down Jacket Review

Thank you to Kathmandu for providing us with jackets for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts are our own – these jackets are just seriously amazing!

Now that you’re rugged up, check out our Iceland itinerary!

Europe Travel Gear

Staying Mobile: Reviewing the Skyroam

July 11, 2016
Skyroam review

As we become more and more accustomed to being connected online it becomes harder to untangle ourselves from the digital lives.  I remember not long ago when cellphones were just used for making calls and text messages – now the majority of us carry powerful mini-computers in our pockets and handbags and are able to access the internet practically anywhere.  However, this ease of connection can be disrupted when we travel – faced with high roaming costs or desperately hunting out free wifi spots in cafes and restaurants, we generally go without.  That is, until now, thanks to the Skyroam.

This little device (measuring 10.7cm x 5.8cm x 2 cm) provides you with your own personal wifi connection (which can be shared between five devices simultaneously) in over 70 countries all without data caps, contracts or the need to swap out sim cards.  Gone are the days of feeling disconnected or racking up massive bills – thank goodness!  Included with your Skyroam is the required USB charging cable (which you can connect to your computer for on-the-go charging) and a travel case to keep everything together and protected during your travels.

The Skyroam remotely connects to the required digital-sim which then provides you with reliable and surprisingly fast internet access.  The technology behind it is advanced but the device itself is incredibly simple to use; simply turn it on, and click start, at which point you’ll receive 24 hours of sharable, quick and portable wifi access – too easy.

With Nathan working remotely any wifi service that we use needs to be absolutely dependable.  So far, we’ve had two computers and two smartphones wirelessly connected to our Skyroam (four of the five possible) and can’t fault the service.  We’ve picked up strong signals on land and have even managed to connect through to wifi at times as we sailed from one Greek Island to another – obviously there are some areas where it works better than others, but as a general rule, as long as you have mobile reception (and you’re in a country that Skyroam is linked up with), your hotspot will work.

We love our Skyroam – it starts up quickly, connects effortlessly and provides reliable and speedy internet at an affordable rate.  There’s no doubt this handy little device has become an indispensable piece of travel kit for us and one that we’d highly recommend to other travellers and digital nomads.

Skyroam review

Want to stay connected with Skyroam?

Getting your own personal wifi hotspot is easy and affordable.  The devices themselves are currently on special for USD99.99 each (if you’d like to hang onto one) and come with three complimentary day passes – additional passes are only USD8/day and the device is yours to keep.  Besides being able to use your Skyroam on future trips, you’ll also have the option to choose if/when you connect up to the internet if you buy your own device.

Alternatively if you’d rather rent a Skyroam, you’re able to do so by paying a flat rate of USD9.95/day.  Your rental fee covers the connection cost for every day of your journey and when you’re done, you simply return it in the provided pre-paid envelope.

We’d suggest purchasing a Skyroam to keep. We’ve fallen in love with it and can’t imagine having to send it back – if you’re anything like us, you’ll find it indispensable too!

If you do decide to buy one, jump through to Skyroam and use the promo code ‘travel15’ to save 15%!

Thank you to Skyroam for providing us with a device to review – all thoughts are our own.  Buy clicking the above link we also get a small credit towards our wifi – you save 15% and we both get wifi – it’s win, win!

Travel Gear

Can a screen ever really compare to the feel of a book?

July 24, 2014

I don’t often find the time, but when I do, there’s not much I love more than sinking into a good book.  I’ve got a real penchant for non-fiction books, but will happily most things that come across my path, as long as they’re of interest.

The one time that I almost always do manage to make the time to read is whilst we’re away.  Nothing says ‘we’re on holiday’ more than setting up on a comfy sofa or chair and knocking back chapter after chapter, uninterrupted.

What does one do though, when they’ve decided to travel light and they realise that their books would take up as much room as their clothes?  I love reading, but expect that the few clothes that we’ll be taking away are going to be fairly essential (and nobody wants to see me forgo pants in favour of an extra book!)

After years of holding off (because nothing feels quite like a book), I’ve made the leap and bought myself an eReader.  I decided to go with the Kobo Glo in the end.  For a while I considered a Kindle but as the libraries here in New Zealand loan out to Kobos (so I believe), it became a fairly easy decision; I don’t expect to loan many books from the digital catalogue, but I’d like to have the option.  The Kobo Glo ($199 normally, $179 on special) fits squarely in the middle of the current Kobo range.  I knew I wanted one with a backlight (which ruled out the two cheaper ones) and through the two more expensive ones were somewhat tempting, I didn’t see the value the offered for an extra $70 or $120 respectively.  Being the girl that I am, I went with the white and pink one (the blue that I would have liked was out of stock) and though it’s more red than pink, it’s pretty striking.

As a self-confessed tech geek, I’ve always been a bit surprised by my reservations about eReaders but now that I’ve taken the plunge, I totally get it.  I’m not sure I’ll ever go anti-books (I’ve got half a dozen currently winging their way from the Book Depository as I type – and if you’ve not heard of them, head over there right now for all manner of well priced books and free shipping) but for travelling and reading in the dark, I don’t think you can beat one.

It’s incredibly light and takes up less room then even the smallest of novels, appears to hold its charge incredibly well (I’ve had it for a week now and it’s barely dropped at all), is comfortable to read and hold (really not all that different from a book, besides the fact that the ‘paper’ screen is darker than a real book would be, which means I either need to sit in a well-lit room or use the backlight, which isn’t a drama), doesn’t have the brightness that the iPads have (I fooled myself into thinking that I could just read off my iPad but having read a short story on there, quickly decided that wasn’t going to happen again) and holds approximately a bazillion books (though don’t quote me on that).

At this stage, I really can’t see any downfalls, apart from the fact that I’ll have less gorgeous books sitting on my book shelf (though the planet will probably thank me for that) and the question of book pricing.  I’ve always been surprised by the cost of eBooks considering they must be substantially cheaper to make and sell, though hopefully prices will come down as more people move across to this format.

The question of how you source your eBooks is another interesting point to consider.  The book I’m reading now was one that was going to be loaned by a friend.  With that in mind, when is it ok to download one?  Or is it not?  That’s not a question that I’m going to weigh in on, but is something to consider.  I’ve never had an issue with paying for books (or music), but I do appreciate being able to loan them to others should I choose – this is something that isn’t so easily done once we move to electronic copies (unless one ventures into the not-so-legal way of doing things).

Regardless, I’m a little bit in love with my new Kobo and am happy with my choice.

Do you travel with an eReader or do you prefer the more traditional?

PS:  If you’ve got some good book suggestions, please leave a comment.  It’s time to get my new toy loaded up!

Travel Gear

Travelling Light

July 19, 2014

Neither of us have ever been particularly heavy packers; often when we go away with others, we end up having some of the smallest and lightest bags there.  With that said, we are guilty of brining enough ‘stuff’ to fill whatever bag(s) we take – it’s human nature!

For our end of year trip, we’re making the effort to travel only with carry on bags… that’s right, we won’t be checking a thing.

We’ll be moving from our Macpac packs to the Osprey Farpoint 40 which will literally be half the size of our old packs.

 

I ordered my Farpoint 40 in the S/M frame and (from my quick try-on) it seems to be the perfect fit for me (I’m 5’5″ and relatively well built for a senorita).  We’re going to do a run through to see just how much we can fit into it before deciding upon a bag for Nathan, but chances are we’ll end up with the same thing, and look to add a tote bag into the mix to allow us to take our snorkelling gear away with us.

There are a few reasons why we’ve decided to try our hand at travelling light (and not just because we’re mad)….

Firstly, we’re hoping to save money by doing so.  When flying on low cost carriers, extra baggage fees can certainly start adding up.  We’ve got four flights that charge for checked in baggage (only our main return flight to LA and then the onwards leg to Guatemala includes checked baggage) and calculating the cost of a checked bag each on four international flights suddenly makes our cheap flights look not-so-bargain-basement!

By avoiding checking our baggage, we’re able to minimise our connection times (which in our case, will not only save us time, but money as well).  We have just under two hours to get off our flight in LAX and connection through to our next international flight.  If we were to check our bags, not only would we need to wait for our baggage to find its way to us on the conveyer belt, but we’d potentially get stuck behind a longer line of passengers to get through customs, before having to then check in three hours before our next flight… considering we’re only landing with two hours between the two, this clearly isn’t going to work!  With that in mind, we have two options; we can spend a day in LA (which would result in one less day in Guatemala, and though we love LA having been there only a year ago, it’s not top of our list) and pay for a nights accommodation in the US, or we can carry our bags onboard, allowing us to hop through customs quickly and jump on our night flight with minimal fuss.  As we’ll be carrying on, we’re able to check in online and arrive an hour before the flight – yay!

By traveling with less gear, we’ll be more comfortable when walking around with our packs and will be able to keep a better eye on our things.  We’ve been really fortunate whilst travelling but having read many blogs talking about bits and pieces going missing whilst bags are stored away on buses, it can’t hurt to keep our gear close by.

With all that said, we often travel with a number of things that never make it out of our suitcases or packs which just doesn’t make much sense!

For those of you interested, I’ll be sure to post a photo showing how many goodies fit in my new bag.

Do you have a much-loved piece of luggage?  If so, please share the love with us all!

Travel Gear Wishlist

Travel Gear Wishlist

June 19, 2014

Neither of us get particularly excited about shopping for clothes, shoes etc but give me the chance to buy travel gear and techy stuff and I’m all over it!

For our upcoming trip we’re planning on travelling light (carry on only), both to save time and money.  My new bag is winging its way here as I type and I’ll be sure to write a review when it arrives and I’ve had a chance to have a play.

In the meantime though, here’s a peek at my ever-growing wishlist…

These handy chargers will power up multiple devices at once and look to be perfect for travelling.  You just need to take this charger and the cable for each different type of device (along with an adaptor if required)… it saves space in your bag (as you don’t need each and every power pack), minimises the number of adaptor plugs you need and allows you to charge multiple devices when you have limited access to multiple power points.

Another techy tool, this power pack holds enough charge to give four full iPhone charges.  Great for those times when you can’t get to a power point at airports, on planes, when camping and at some hostels.

Foreign languages aren’t either of our strong points (English, no worries; anything else, eek!) so a universal picture dictionary could be just the ticket to help out when the language barrier becomes too great.

Not to mention, we’re also on the look out for eReaders, a smaller backpack for Nathan (we’ll judge my one first and then order another one based on that) and a waterproof camera.  I need to remind myself not to blow our budget before we even get on the plane!

What bits and pieces can’t you travel without?  What’s on your wishlist?

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