For most people in a management position, business travel is part of the job description and often a major stress factor too.
My own business travel schedule is comparatively tame. I have two to three intercontinental business trips per year, mostly for a week at a time. In addition, I do a few overnight trips to China, visiting factories that cannot be reached in a day trip from Hong Kong.
While I generally do not mind business travelling much, I am definitely embracing every travel life hack there is. That was also the main motivation to splurge and put a hefty US$ 109 down for a Kickstarter campaign, promising nothing less than “The World’s Best Travel Jacket”. You can find the original Kickstarter campaign page of Baubax here. I opted for the more versatile sweatshirt; Baubax also offered a windbreaker, a bomber jacket, and a blazer. The campaign obviously struck a nerve. An unbelievable number of 44,949 backers pledged a whopping $9,192,055 to bring the jacket into the world.
Like pretty much every crowdfunding project I’ve backed so far, Baubax failed to deliver on its ambitious delivery schedule. It would have been nice to get my travel hoodie in time for the winter travel season (three trips from Asia to Europe within two months). Anyhow, better late than never. I just received my ultimate travel hoodie (charcoal, size L) in the last week of February.
I’ve wanted to write about travelling hacks for quite a while. The arrival of the Baubax jacket gave me an additional reason. Sadly, I do not have any upcoming flights, so I cannot put the jacket through a test under the real-life conditions it is designed for. This post is largely a product review. In case you are not interested in the Baubax jacket, just scroll to the bottom for some general travel wisdom.
The Unpacking: "The World's Best Travel Jacket" Travels Economy
Baubax produced the jackets for their Kickstarter backers in China and used a logistic provider in Hong Kong to fulfill the non-U.S. orders. I received my parcel by a local courier in a pretty plain packaging with a huge sticker reminding me not to use a blade to open the parcel.
Inside the package were singly wrapped in plastic bags: The Baubax sweatshirt, the Baubax blanket (upgrade that costed $25 extra), touchscreen-enabled finger gloves (free, as stretch goal for US$ 5 million), and a foldable plastic bottle (gift for the fulfillment delay). Inside of the chest pocket of the sweatshirt I found a set of ball pen refills for the ball pen attached to the main zipper.
Given the number of features, I was surprised that there was no manual sheet inside the package. The jacket had a small hang tag with the company logo. The bottle came on a header card claiming it was BPA-free. Other than that there was no printing material inside the parcel.
Long-Awaited: The Baubax Jacket Hits the Road
As mentioned before, I am a bit outside of my travel season, so there was no chance to fly with the travel jacket. I tried my best, though, to spend as much time with and in the hoodie to test how it fares in everyday situations. But let’s take a look at the accessories first:
The blanket is made of extremely thin microfiber polyesters, comes with a pouch attached to the blanket, and at 149 grams of weight, unfolds to approximately 135 cm x 92 cm (53 x 36 inches). At this length the blanket covers me seated from feet to chest. Given the extreme flimsiness of the material, it feels decent and warmer than expected. At 25$ it was not exactly a bargain though.
The gloves (size M), have an unusual cut, ending at the base of the hand, not at the wrist like normal gloves. They are lightweight (21g), are touch screen-enabled, and of pretty low workmanship. In different positions loose threads are visible. Well, it more or less was a free bonus gift, so I won’t complain too much.
The foldable bottle is nothing much to talk about. Empty, it weighs 23 grams with a small carabiner to attach it to random things. I am not sure if I ever am going to use the bottle during air travel. Using the foldable bottle would mean either to filling up at the airport bathroom (best case, a drinking water fountain), or asking a flight attendant for a refill. Knowing about the quality of airplane water, I usually just buy a water after the security check (only a very few airports do a second check at the gate). Anyway, I’ve received worse free gifts, so no complaints about the bottle either.
But enough with the accessories; let’s cut to the chase and talk about the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Travel Jacket” itself. My very first impression of the sweatshirt was, “Damn, this is heavy.” As it arrived, the hoodie weighs almost a full kilogram (990g). Much heavier than other sweatshirts that are more in the range of 550-700 grams. However, the difference is put in perspective, considering the extra weight of the extractable pen/stylus (9g) and the inflatable pillow nested into the hoodie (137g).
Overall the quality of the jacket is decent, even though I could find a few loose threads. The material is 60% cotton, 40% polyester. The main zipper is obviously made by market leader YKK; the pocket zippers do not have any branding.
Most parts of the jacket (except sleeves and band) are double-layered; the hoodie essentially is made out of three layers of fabric. At 16 °C outside, the hoodie felt comfortable. The soft and cozy lining definitely provides a nice wearing comfort.
Functional pockets are one of the main features of the Baubax travel jackets. In total, there are four inner and four outer pockets.
The outer pockets are two normal open-hand pockets, one horizontal zipped pocket on the right chest (originally this was supposed to be an insulated pocket to hold a drink; I never liked that idea); on the left-hand site is a vertical zipped passport pocket.
The inside pockets are on the left bottom a divided open pouch, meant to hold a power bank (smaller partition) and the Baubax blanket. On the upper left-hand side is the zipped phone pocket.
Inside the right-hand side is the zipped iPad/tablet pocket on the bottom and a sunglass pocket with integrated microfiber cloth (but no zipper) on the top.
The outside pockets are well-designed. The hand pockets are comfy; the passport pocket is perfectly measured; the smaller pocket on the right-hand side seems to be just fine. As mentioned above, I am not sad about the lack of neoprene for the chest pocket. I don’t think storing an open drink in a jacket pouch is something I ever would like to do.
The inner pockets are not that convincing. The open pocket on the left can barely fit the microfiber blanket, and the jacket becomes extremely bulky if the blanket is squeezed inside. The phone pocket on the left easily jams, as the thin lining easily gets into the zipper.
As a non-sunglass wearer, the sunglass pocket does not make too much sense for me personally in its intended function. The microfiber is permanently attached to a string, which itself is fixed to the pocket. The only way to remove it is by cutting it out. This could have been done more elegantly.
The iPad pocket indeed fits my iPad 2. However, it makes the jacket barely wearable for longer than an actual boarding process. Luckily I mainly travel with my Kindle, which can be carried in the very same pocket without feeling like a knight wearing armor.
A very intelligent feature are the four earphone holder loops. After taking a few minutes to understand the logic of the design, I really got to appreciate this function. Wearing the jacket for a grocery shopping tour, I could easily take the plug out without having it dangling around.
The fingerless gloves integrated into the sleeves are nice. They are hard to be kept hidden, though; most of the time they peek out of the sleeves. Pretty much the same can be said about the eye mask integrated into the hood. Overall both features are well-designed and seem fairly useful, even though they give the jacket a slightly unusual look.
Talking about (slightly) unusual, we get to the two biggest gimmicks of the Baubax jackets: the inflatable neck pillow and the pen/stylus attached to the main zipper.
The neck pillow is nested in between the two inner layers of the hoodie. A textile loop, two buttons on the neck pillow, and a button for the hoodie lining hold it in place. Wearing the sweatshirt with the neck pillow inside the hoodie definitely gives it a weird look and the feeling of having an airbag at the back of the head. Unless I am stepping on a plane within the next half an hour, I most likely would want to take the pillow out to avoid feeling (and looking) like a dork.
Different from my original understanding, the neck pillow actually has to be taken out of the hood to be used. The plastic pillow has a removable microfiber cover and a zipper to cover or free the valve. The valve is a true innovation. Different from all inflatable items that I have seen in my life, the Baubax pillow has a giant valve that looks as if it is completely open. Three blows are enough to fully inflate the pillow, which is softer than some of the stand-alone pillows. To deflate the pillow, you simply press down the flap of the valve. Inflating and deflating the pillow takes roughly two to three seconds.
The pen is, due to the telescope extension, fairly usable. The ball is covered by a cap attached to the zipper. At the other end is a rubber tip so that the whole thing can be used as stylus for electronic devices.
Final Verdict: How good is “The World’s Best”?
Overall the Baubax travel sweatshirt delivered what it promised. Some of the features are a bit gimmicky, but without the inflatable pillow, the hoodie is actually really comfortable to wear, even outside of travelling. Eye mask, gloves, earphone holders definitely have the potential to make travelling easier. So do the well-designed pockets.
I cannot judge if Baubax is truly the world’s best travel jacket. However, it is definitely a contender. I am quite content with my purchase, even though at US$ 109 (plus blanket and shipping) the travel gimmicks come not at a bargain price. Currently the jacket can be pre-ordered on Indiegogo for US$ 149. At this price tag, I would have passed on the purchase. According to Kickstarter/Indiegogo, the targeted retail price will be US170. A steep ticket for a bit more travel comfort.
Bonus-Section: No jacket required – a few general travel hacks.
As mentioned in the introduction, I’ve wanted to write a post on travel hacks for quite a while. Given the length of the Baubax review, I keep it short and sweet. Here are my personal top five travel tips:
1) Good luggage is an investment that pays a regular dividend
Luggage makes a giant difference during travel. I invested four years ago in a Rimowa Bolero combination, with a large four-wheel trolley and a smaller cabin-sized trolley. The cabin trolley fits on top of the suitcase. Even fully loaded I can easily roll both with one hand (unless I have to roll up a hill or over cobblestone).
Originally I looked at Samsonite, but Rimowa convinced me because of the stackability and the smart design. After four years of use, I consider the purchase of the two bags one of my best purchases ever. Both pieces proved to be extremely durable, and the customer service is simply outstanding. I recently had to replace the rubber strap, fixing the small trolley on the large one. Rimow HK did not only replace the strap for free, they also changed the lock to an updated version and glued a logo that fell off during a flight.
2) Free overnight ironing for your business shirts (or blouses)
No matter how good I pack, my shirts still come out of the suitcase wrinkled like Al Pacino. My trick to deal with this problem: wearing exclusively non-iron shirts (my brand is Germany’s Eterna, but I am sure there are others out there). The magic trick to look neat the next morning?
Simply bring your own plastic hanger when you travel. Shower hot at night, and after you are done, you hang the shirt for the next day in the shower. The residue humidity steams your shirt, and in the morning it looks as if your mum herself ironed it overnight.
3) Don’t lose a ball during the flight!
Seriously, it happened to me twice. I guess it is the cabin pressure (any physicist among the life-sparring readers?). If you bring a roll-on deodorant into a plane and try to use it, chances are good that the roll-on ball jumps out of the socket. I strongly recommend using a small spray or pump deodorant instead of a roll-on during plane travel. Only small downside? Some security checks like to see the spray to confirm you are not travelling with pepper spray or CS gas.
4) More important than the right jacket: the right pants!
If I do not have a business meeting directly on arrival, I like to travel in my comfortable travel pants. One of the worst moments of business travel in business outfit is the security control, when you have to fiddle your belt out of your pants, while trying not to drop the same.
To avoid that and to add some more pockets, I usually travel in my 5.11 Tactical cargo pants. The pants have an inbuilt self-adjusting waistband and can be worn without a belt, if your wallet weighs less than a kilo. To avoid extra harassment from the security staff, maybe opt like me for the grey, not the army olive version. For long-haul flights in business class I additionally bring sweatpants to change into once the plane is in the air and I am trying to get some sleep.
5) Stay wired
I don’t know how often I have forgotten adapters and charging cables when going on a trip. My solution: having a pre-packed cable bag ready with all cables, plugs, and accessories I usually need. For storage, I use a bag I once got on a Lufthansa premium economy flight as an amenity kit. It has the advantage of a see-through mesh on the backside, which enables me to actually look at the cables while trying to fish for the right one.
How about you? What are your best travel tips? Did you also pick-up a Baubax Jacket? If yes, what was your motivation? Which features were you the most interested in and how does it live up to your expectations?