Monday, February 19, 2018
Business

Clothes that double as carry-on bags

NEW YORK

It is easier than ever to travel light.

The latest high-tech clothes and wearable accessories can also double as small carry-on bags, thanks to pockets engineered to store essentials like smartphones, passports, even iPads and water bottles.

"Briefcases have definitely declined as a business over all," said Steven H. Schwartz, a vice president at Brookstone. "And smaller has become better."

How small? Travel retailers say tablet sleeves — thin carriers that can tote an iPad — are the new briefcase. And given the fight for overhead bin space these days, perhaps you need not bother with a carry-on bag.

Travel apparel companies like ExOfficio are designing lightweight jackets with an array of specialty pockets, like a microfleece-lined pouch for glasses. The company's Storm Logic jackets, coats and vests have hidden pockets marked with icons for cameras, pens, smartphones, keys and identification cards. Such innovations are meant to appeal to next-generation travelers, so-called millennials, whom Carol Blayden, ExOfficio's director of marketing, described as more mobile than their frequent-flying predecessors.

"Everything's on their phone or tablet," she said. In fact, the Storm Logic jacket, at around $150, also has a large pocket and Velcro tabs that allow it to be taken off and turned into an adjustable neck pillow, or lumbar support.

For those in the market for a jacket that can truly hold as much as a bag, there's Scottevest, a company that makes what it refers to as technology-enabled clothing. The brand's jackets, vests, hoodies, shirts, pants and baseball caps have hidden pockets. Even the boxer shorts have pockets for a cellphone and passport.

Scottevest's jackets can hold a drawer's worth of travel gear. The latest model, the Fleece 7.0, at $160, has 23 pockets that can hold staples like pens, cameras, mints, hand sanitizer, identification cards, travel documents, eyeglasses (a cleaning cloth is included), smartphones, an iPod, water bottle, guide book, spare change and keys (on an extendable holder).

In the medium and larger sizes there is also a big pocket designed to hold an iPad, and fabric "arteries" that enable users to run headphones into and around the collar of the jacket. A "clear touch" cellphone pocket allows the wearer to control a smartphone through clear fabric inside the jacket without having to remove the device. The jacket's sleeves pop off so it can be worn as a vest.

Speaking of hands, what business traveler does not have a smartphone (or two) glued to his palm? Pengallan's Genius Gloves, at $175, were introduced last year and are handmade in Italy. Made of kid leather and lined with cashmere, the thumb and index fingers on both hands flip back so that you can use a touchscreen device.

Sunglasses are a travel mainstay, of course, but are notoriously easy to break when jostling in and out of airplanes and hotels. That is why Ovvo Optics makes sunglasses, selling for $300, that weigh only 0.6 ounces, yet are so strong they supposedly can help tow a small airplane.

While many new items are space-savers, some are simply time-savers.

"In our airports we sell a disproportionate amount of a product called Hickies," said Schwartz of Brookstone. Hickies, if you don't already know, are elastic bands that replace shoelaces, making it easier, for example, to slip your shoes on and off at airport security lines.

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