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The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent: The Perfect City Umbrella?

The AmazonBasics Automatic Travel Umbrella, with Wind Vent, Black is a fantastic umbrella, not just at the affordable $15.99 price point.

For some background, I live in New York City, where cheap umbrellas are plentiful. For years, I would buy $7 umbrellas from the local bodega and just replace them if they broke or I lost them. I must have gone through 4-5 umbrellas a year and recently after the last one broke I decided to look on Amazon for an alternative.

If I was going to spend more money on an umbrella, I put together some simple criteria:

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Guest Review: Tom’s Experience with the DJI Phantom 4, one of the best drones on the market

NOTE: this is a special guest post from friend of BwF Tom Hickey. Tom recently bought a DJI Phantom 4 and wanted to let everyone know about his experience with this really cool drone. If you’re interested in guest posting, shoot us an email @

My Journey to Getting a Phantom 4

By: Tom Hickey

My friend and avid outdoor adventurer Supriya told me I should get a drone. I told her it was ridiculously expensive. My wife told me that drones were exciting and that we should get one. I told her we didn’t need one- no one needs a drone. Apparently both these people know me better than I know myself because I ended up buying a Phantom 4 from DJI. How did my experience go? Read on to find out!

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America the Beautiful Pass: Your Ticket to the National Parks is the Greatest Value in America

A Pass to See America’s Greatest Natural Treasures


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. America’s 59 National Parks (called America’s Best Idea by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns) are located in 27 different states. Some of the scenes in these parks are so iconic that they can be found on state license plates (for example, Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is on Utah’s). Chances are, you live near a National Park. You may even go frequently. While the parks themselves are an undoubtedly great value, the $20-25 entrance fees can really add up.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve had the great fortune of being able to visit many parks. Right before my first overseas deployment, I was fortunate enough to visit the Grand Canyon and Badlands National Parks. For a good friend’s bachelor party, we hiked Angel’s Landing in Zion. After my second deployment to Iraq, my wife and I went to Acadia. The landscapes in all of these places are just astounding. With so much noise intrusion and pollution in our everyday lives, the golden silence just a mile from the trailhead is priceless.

I had heard of a mythical thing called an annual pass that would allow you access to these parks a few years ago. I never had the presence of mind to buy one (our trips to the parks were intermittent and we would always forget about it until we got back) and so I made it a point to research the pass before our most recent vacation this year. I discovered that for just $80, you can get a pass that will allow you unlimited entrance into the whole range of National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. Per the National Park Service:

“A pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.”

We were planning to visit several parks during our 2016 road trip and so I went online to the USGS website and purchased the pass. Five business days later I had it in my hands. So how did my trip go? And was the pass worth it?

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Anker Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: The Best Sound Bang for the Buck

The Sound Revolution

I never used to care about sound. Despite my musical upbringing and pop music obsession, for the last five years I’ve endured the tinny sound of my Macbook Air (and now Macbook Pro).For anyone that lives in a city and has to have Netflix compete with sirens, you know that good solid sound is prized. About eight months ago I decided that I’d give one of these fancy Bluetooth speakers a try. I didn’t want to lug something around that was too big and didn’t want to spend close to $200 for a system like Beats. So my criteria was set: something portable, with decent durability for travel circumstances, good battery life, and decent sound. After doing a ton of review of the reviews (there seem to be more bluetooth speakers out there than grains of sand on earth) I decided to get an Anker Portable Wireless Speaker for about $35. So what I do think of it after using it for the last half year plus? Read on to find out!

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Leatherman Tread Review: 29 tools but will you actually use any of them?


29-tools on your wrist

When I first heard about the Leatherman Tread, I was super excited. TSA-compliant multi-tool that I can wear on my wrist? Say no more. I’m a gear nut and this seemed right up my alley. Even after reading some not-so-flattering Leatherman Tread Reviews I was still convinced that buying one would be the right move.

My reaction to the Leatherman Tread announcement
My reaction to the Leatherman Tread announcement

So it has been three months since I got the Tread. Was it worth it?

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Never run out of power again with a ChargeTech portable battery pack

How often do you find yourself looking for an outlet in a crowded airport? Or in an older classroom that has few accessible outlets? The latter situation is what I’ve routinely found myself in, while teaching and taking classes. I decided to fix the problem by carrying around my own power source. I went out and grabbed a ChargeTech portable battery pack (24000 mAh size) for $150 on Amazon. After a month with the battery pack, I’ve found myself asking, was it worth it?

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The Three Best Gifts for Frequent Travelers: Packing Cubes, a Travel Charger, and the new Baubax Jacket


Traveling. Sometimes you have to do it for work. Sometimes you’re doing it for vacation and relaxation. Thinking about where you’re going can be enjoyable. Once you arrive at your destination, the fun can begin! But all the stuff in between involving the process of traveling, dealing with security, lines, etc. — that can be a real headache. Any little bit of respite helps.We wrote about great earphones previously– another highly recommended item for the traveler in your life! Canceling noise helps you block out the unwanted intrusions into your personal space. Here are our other top picks for gifts for frequent travelers, something you can get the road warrior in your life this holiday season to make their lives a little bit easier: packing cubes, a travel charger, and this snazzy travel jacket.

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