The latest high-tech clothes and wearable accessories are capable of much more than shielding you from inclement weather.


They can also take the place of small carry-on bags, thanks to pockets engineered to store essentials like smartphones, passports, even iPads and water bottles.


Au revoir suit and attache case. "Briefcases have definitely declined as a business over all," said Steven H. Schwartz, vice president for merchandising and product development for Brookstone, which has about 300 stores, 50 of them in major airports. "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.


Many travel apparel companies are designing lightweight jackets with an array of specialty pockets, like a pouch for glasses lined with micro fleece. For example ExOfficio companys 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 millennials, whom Carol Blayden, ExOfficio's director of marketing, described as more mobile than their frequent-flying predecessors.


Speaking from Colorado during a company sales meeting for the fall 2014 line, Blayden said travelers could expect more of this transformer clothing in the future. "Can the skirt turn into a shirt?" she said. "It's all about helping them take the few right pieces in their luggage."


And depending on where business takes the traveler, there might be interest in new gear from various makers that includes shirts and dresses that guard against UVA and UVB rays, as well as insect-repellent pants and socks.


For those in the market for a jacket that can truly hold as much as a bag, there's Scottevest, a company that for more than a decade has been making 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 should one need to make a swift escape.


Scottevest's jackets can hold a drawer's worth of travel gear. The latest model, the Fleece 7.0, at $160, was introduced last year and has 23 various-sized 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, guidebook, spare change and keys (on an extendible 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. There are even pockets to keep hands warm.


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 Owo Optics makes sunglasses, selling for $300 that weigh only 0.6 ounces, yet are so strong they supposedly can help tow a small airplane.


(There's an online video of a man doing it). The company, a family-run business in New Jersey, makes its frames of surgical steel and titanium in Germany and Poland.


Not every day is sunny, though. Travelers intent on being prepared might be interested in Davek Accessories, a seller of tiny umbrellas, which also have a lifetime guarantee. The Davek Traveler automatic umbrella (9 inches closed; $89) has undergone a number of frame improvements in the past few months and the manual open-and-close Davek Mini (the company's smallest umbrella at 7 inches closed; $49) has had a frame overhaul to make it more wind resilient.


While many new items are space-savers, some are simply timesavers. "In our airports we sell a disproportionate amount of a product called Hickies," said Schwartz of Brookstone. Hickies are elastic bands that replace shoelaces, making it easier, for example, to slip your shoes on and off at airport security lines.


They are a hit with travelers according to Schwartz. There are more than a dozen color combinations, and a free app enables you to virtually try various hues on your existing shoes.


Image Courtesy:


  1. nytimes.com


This article was originally published in the online version of the Economic Times dated on Nov 23, 2013.