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Essential Travel Gear for the Analog Enthusiast

When you're packing for a trip, supplement your digital tools with these handy, non-digital aids and distractions

Welcome to Analog Week at Billy. Despite being an all-digital magazine ourselves, we're sharing some distinctly non-digital trends, destinations and activities with our readers because everyone needs to go offline sometimes. 

Travel has become an increasingly digital experience. Many of us check in online for flights, present electronic boarding passes, entertain ourselves in the air using digital devices, and then hail a car using an app when we land.

But isn’t it nice sometimes to put down the phone and the laptop, to go offline, to return to the world of tangible experiences? One motivation: Reducing the amount of blue light we’re exposed to during the evening has been demonstrated to help people get a better sleep.

Below, Billy has picked out a few analog items for the avid traveller, in the hopes of helping you break the addiction to that mobile device and enjoy a few moments of zen here and there. We’ve tested the majority of these products ourselves, and many are made here in North America.

Paper productivity

While the Moleskine notebook has become a must-carry for many a creative worker – useful for taking down those ideas that can float into one’s consciousness anywhere, anytime – we’re partial to Field Notes brand, “proudly printed” in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

Field Notes

There’s also inspiration to be found in the pages of these journals by Ecojet, a Toronto company run by the brother-and-sister team of Mark and Carolyn Gavin. They use 100% recycled paper from Quebec mills, plus vegetable based inks and glues.

When it comes to writing instruments, nothing will survive the rigours of travel better than the Countycomm Embassy Pen. Yes, we’ve battle tested this one – it survived being bashed by shovels, so trust us when we say it’s hardy as heck. Available in several different metal finishes, this made-in-the-U.S.A. pen feels substantial and heavy in the hand, so who knows? It might lend your words some extra weight.

Countycomm Embassy in brass

Pen uses refills designed for the Fisher Space Pen – yes, that was the one developed for astronauts during the 1960s, and it really is waterproof and writes upside down and so on. They’re readily available from office supply stores, and meanwhile the U.S.-made Space Pen itself makes a fine, more affordable (if less durable) alternative to the Countycomm Embassy.

Digital-free diversions

If writing and doodling is just too much mental energy for you at the moment, a round of cards might kill a little time for you. Beyond familiar brands (Bee and Bicycle, for example) there’s a world of designer decks out there. Have you ever played a round of solitaire on Antler playing cards? Or how about this Memento Mori deck, pictured below? We’re willing to wager the card sharks out there will find playing cards to suit their taste right here.

Memento Mori playing cards

Also from Countycomm, this pocket radio promises volume and clarity far above what you’d expect from its tiny size. Weighing just 112 grams (four ounces) with three AAA batteries, it’s worth tossing into your bag so you can enjoy going offline and tuning in to local radio from your hotel room.

Finally, if you have the time and the desire to get a grown-up drink on a flight, chances are it will be a far cry from that created by your neighbourhood bartender. This Carry on Cocktail Kit gives you the power to whip up something delicious to drink, courtesy of its handy essentials (minus the alcohol), including recipe card, bitters, spoon/muddler tool and cane sugar, enough for two stylish sippers like the Moscow Mule and Old Fashioned.

Pocket-sized practicalities

A pocket compass comes in handy during those times when Google Maps fails you – or you’d rather calibrate your own mental bearings and take it from there. Waterproof and hardy, this made-in-Minnesota pocket compass from Kaufmann Mercantile is an inch around, but can keep you from straying miles off course.

Kaufmann Mercantile

Finally, gentlemen, channel your inner boy scout and be ready for anything with this Men’s Society Travel Kit from West Elm. It comes handsomely packed with essentials like face cream, toothpaste and toothbrush – all in stylish tin that plops quite nicely into a gym bag or car glove box.

West Elm

Published Monday, November 28th 2016

Header image credit: Clockwise from top left: Countycomm portable radio; Carry On Cocktail Kit; Antler playing cards; Ecojet notebook; Countycomm Embassy pen; portable compass from Kaufmann Mercantile

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