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Air Canada Travel Design Awards

Presenting the Canadian innovations that help you navigate the world.

Next time you’re packing, bring a little Canada with you. For the inaugural edition of the Air Canada Travel Design Awards, we invited our favourite Canadian designers and brands to tell us what you need in (or as) your suitcase. To help us separate the travel accessories from the travel essentials, we assembled an all-Canadian panel of experts – including design icon Karim Rashid, magazine editor and fashion director Caroline Issa and media personality Tamy Emma Pepin. From the markets of Morocco to the marshes of northern Lapland – with a few trips to the cottage in between – they field-tested over 50 submissions, assessing design, innovation, sustainability, packability and travelability to identify 12 travel musts.

Smartest Suitcase


Raden A22 Carry

A22 Carry

When creating this streamlined spinner with sensible tech integrations, Josh Udashkin, the Canadian founder and CEO of Raden, was inspired by consumer electronics like Fitbit and Beats by Dre rather than traditional luggage brands: Make one product, make it work, then make it available in all the colours of the rainbow. (Though the A22 comes in enough hues to make a rainbow blush.) He also made his product crack-resistant and smart, with a built-in scale and two USB ports connected to a removable battery good for five phone charges.


Behind the brand

33% of Raden employees are Canadian.

6000 Radens are in transit, at any given moment.

10 000 people were on the waiting list (at its longest) for the very hip light pink case. Unknown: How many were millennials.

The Only T-shirt You Need


Frank and Oak Drirelease Loose-Fit T-shirt

State Concepts Drirelease Loose-Fit T-shirt

Montreal’s Frank and Oak made a quick-drying, unwrinkleable, odour-resistant T-shirt you didn’t know was missing from your carry-on. (Don’t judge, but we’re on our fourth wear – once through a hailstorm – without washing.)

Frank and Oak


Tech spotlight: Drirelease is a blend of water-loving natural fibres (cotton, here) that pull moisture from your body and water-repelling synthetics (polyester and spandex) that release that moisture into the air. It’s the hug-and-roll technique of T-shirt technology.

Roomiest Backpack


Taikan Everything Spartan Backpack

Spartan Backpack

Launched last year, Vancouver-based Taikan Everything (pronounce it like Liam Neeson would: “taken”) makes unadulterated accessories – totes, duffles and backpacks – in super-durable ballistic nylon. As compartmentalizers, our favourite is the Spartan with roomy front pouches, a water-resistant shoe pocket and an external laptop sleeve for smooth sailing at security.

Taikan Everything

Slickest Slicker


Frank and Oak Triple Torrent Fishtail Raincoat

Model: Michael Malinaric (Folio Montréal)

State Concepts Triple Torrent Fishtail Raincoat

We’re just going to say it: The raincoat is the most underrated garment in a traveller’s wardrobe. The right one – and that’s what this jacket from Frank and Oak is – should be lightweight, breathable, actually keep water out (not every coat we tested did) and have all kinds of waterproof pockets that don’t add bulk to its clean lines, equally at home on a hike or in a gallery.

Frank and Oak


Waterproof 101

Frank and Oak’s Triple Torrent raincoat has a waterproof rating of 20,000 mm. Awesome! But what does that mean?

Technically 20,000 mm is a measure of how much water pressure (in millimetres per square inch) can be applied to a fabric before there’s a leak. The scale starts at 5,000 mm, and this is pretty much the max.

Less technically You could stand in the rain until 20 metres of it fell – that’s the height of a six-storey building – before deciding to seek refuge in a pub.

In actually useful language You’re good in heavy rain, high pressure and wet snow. But we still recommend the pub.

Lightweight Champion


Native Shoes

+ + +

01 The sneaker’s upper is made of Liteknit, a new material developed by Native Shoes, using 3-D knitting to create a single, snug-fitting piece from elasticized microfibre. It’s knit thicker through the side for added support, but unlined and can be worn sockless.

02 Dense, durable and shock absorbing, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) first scored big as a star player in athletic shoes. The foam is flexible, crack-resistant and porous, so it doesn’t retain odour, but most importantly, it’s comfortable, like you’re walking on a cushy trampoline.

03 The modestly named SuperFoam insole is, in fact, pretty super. The soft PVC foam blend resists compression, bounces back fast and is perforated, which keeps feet cool and adds to the weightlessness.

Native Shoes

The Vancouver brand has been keeping us light on our feet for nearly a decade, and this spring, they went ultra-lightweight – and ultra on-trend – with a slide sandal and a knit sneaker that fits like a sock, both with an EVA outsole. With a combined weight of just over half a kilo (380 grams for the sneakers and 206 grams for the sandals), there’s no reason not to pack both.

AP Mercury Liteknit sneakers, $120
Spencer LX sandals, $42

All-weather Winner



+ + + +

01 Gore C-Knit liner is softer, 10 percent lighter, and 15 percent more breathable than similar fabrics.

02 The lapel channels water away from the main opening.

03 Watertight zippers on the pockets keep your phone and wallet dry.

04 The reflective surfaces on the cuffs and collar are subtle and stowable.

A2B Hardshell Blazer

Talk about versatile: Able to cross climates, cross a city on a bike path and then cross into the boardroom, this slim-cut shell from Arc’teryx sheds water (and the notion that you can’t wear technical gear to work).


Beauty on Board


Flawless in 15 Facial Mask System

Flawless in 15 Facial Mask System

Thanks to very jet-set ingredients like honey and gold, this cooling, moisturizing, puffiness-reducing hydrogel mask from Toronto skin-care brand Flawless by Friday gives a whole new meaning to that just-landed look.

Flawless by Friday


Inflight Masking 101

You’ve read about it, you’ve witnessed it, now it’s time to try it.

1. If you’re a nervous first-time masker, order a drink. (Perhaps a nice Chianti?) Or, skip the booze and remember that no one’s actually paying attention.

2. Get your sheet together. Open the package and slide out the mask, which comes in two halves for accurate placement. Press onto your face and leave for 15 minutes.

3. Relax, and enjoy some of Air Canada’s award-winning inflight entertainment. Australian monster movie The Babadook might be a good fit.

4. Time’s up! No need to clamber over your (unhydrated, puffy-eyed) sleeping seatmate to get to the lavatory to rinse – just peel off the mask and massage any leftover product directly into your skin.

Go Go Gadget Bike



+ + +

01 The night light turns on after sunset and turns off when your ride is over.

02 A ring on the base lights up for easy-to-read turn-by-turn navigation.

03 The base can be mounted in a few minutes on the handlebars of any bike – the whole thing weighs 195 grams – and can’t be removed without the accompanying Halo Key.

Bicycle: Courselle Cycles


This handlebar-mounted GPS device from Montreal start-up CycleLabs aims to be a cyclist’s best bud. Input your destination on the SmartHalo app and it plots the fastest, bike-friendliest route available. (Biker-friendly, too, as it helped us avoid a steep hill on the commute home.) And as the device lit up to signal the way, we found ourselves talking back to its bleeps and bloops: “Left here? Are you sure?” (It was sure, and it was always right.) When you get where you’re going, a Mario Bros.-style sound effect signals your arrival – level up!

BONUS The app’s bike locator function helps avoid “Dude, where’s my bike?” moments.

CycleLabs $199

Behind the Brand

15 hours Time to reach the initial Kickstarter goal of $67,000. $540,000 was raised in total.

248 036 km Distance cycled by users since the device launched on March 1, saving 62 tonnes of CO2.

5649 Average number of times the SmartHalo’s motion sensor alarm protects users’ bikes in one week. (We only set ours off once – the device is pretty good at knowing who’s trying to steal it, and who is just clumsy.)

How far can a SmartHalo get you?


The Ultimate Cabin Jackets


Puff Pieces

Puff Pieces

In our quest to find the best airy light, surprisingly warm, good–looking puff in all the land… we found two. Our testers loved Orage’s Flight Jacket (left) and Westcomb’s Blaze Shirt (right) so much we declared them both winners. (Oh, Canada.)

Orage Flight Jacket, $160,
Westcomb Blaze Shirt, $350,

Orage Flight Jacket


100-gram synthetic insulation through the body for mid-level warmth.

Tear and abrasion-resistant ripstop nylon taffeta ensures maximum stuffability.

Packs down to the size of a water bottle.

Westcomb Blaze Shirt

100% made in Canada.

900 Fill Power goose down means all of the warmth, none of the bulk.

Weighs 326 grams.

Also packs down to the size of a water bottle.

The Fix-it Kit


Pocket Farmacy

Pocket Farmacy

No matter how many frequent flyers extolled the virtues of Saje’s digestion-aiding, stress-releasing, and aches- and pain-relieving concoctions, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes. Essential oils – really? But after our panel fell in love with this pocket-sized kit (“I want it with me at all times!”) containing five of the West Coast brand’s most popular remedies we’re just rolling with it.


Meet the Air Canada Travel Design Awards Testers

Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid

The prolific industrial-design superstar has over 3,000 objects in production. With a just-launched architecture firm, he’s sure to take his colourful designs to new heights.

Shauna Levy

Shauna Levy

President and CEO of Toronto’s Design Exchange and founder of this month’s EDIT festival, Shauna Levy is an interdisciplinary curator and tastemaker.

Norman Howe

Norman Howe

As president and CEO of Butterfield & Robinson, a luxury travel company for the adventurous, Norman Howe is a certified wanderer with over 100 countries stamped in his passport.

Caroline Issa

Caroline Issa

Fashion entrepreneur, designer and former management consultant, Caroline Issa is the brains behind magazines Because and Tank, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year.

Tamy Emma Pepin

Tamy Emma Pepin

As a producer, photographer, television host and president of storytelling studio Un peu plus loin, Tamy Emma Pepin is a travel content Renaissance woman.

Laura deCarufel

Laura deCarufel

As editor-in-chief of beauty and style magazine The Kit and author of Learn to Speak Fashion, Laura deCarufel is a Fashion Week regular the world over.

Zebulon Perron

Zebulon Perron

The Montreal interior designer has a full plate as the creative mind behind some of the city’s favourite foodie spots, including Marconi, Chez Tousignant and bakery Hof Kelsten.

Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp is a photographer and author of The New York Times bestselling series Find Momo, which is a bit like Where’s Waldo, if Waldo were a personable border collie.

Lauren O’Neil

Lauren O’Neil

Freelance writer and social media wizard, Lauren O’Neil is all about the latest in gadgets, pop culture and Snapchat filters.

Rachel Noonan

Rachel Noonan

Director of marketing, strategy and communications at TIFF, Rachel Noonan is a media specialist with a Master of Design from OCAD in her back pocket.

Peter Jensen

Peter Jensen

As the mental training coach for the Canadian Olympic team, Peter Jensen has attended nine Olympic games. He’s also an Air Canada Altitude member.



Better known by his Chinese stage name Dashan, Ottawa native, comedian and Air Canada Altitude member Mark Rowswell is arguably the most famous westerner in China.

Gerrit Wesselink

Gerrit Wesselink

Originally from Thunder Bay, this University of Ottawa student is the executive director of the Youth Arctic Coalition and an Air Canada Altitude member.

The Future of Design With Shauna Levy

Shauna Levy

Get hands-on with the winning items of the inaugural Air Canada Travel Design Awards, on display at the first-ever Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology (EDIT). Hosted by Toronto's Design Exchange, the 10-ay festival invites visitors to experience a future of good design, from self-sustaining cities and 3-D printed prosthetics (in space!). We asked EDIT founder Shauna Levy to share her picks for the best of the fest.

Prosperity for All

“Thought leader and design icon Bruce Mau curated this 2,500-square-foot installation, which is our main exhibit. In it, visitors are presented with huge, haunting black-and-white photographs of conflict zones by Magnum photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin juxtaposed with innovative global design projects, like Daan Roosegaarde’s smog-free tower.”

Feeding the 5,000

“It’s estimated that a billion pounds of food is wasted annually in the GTA. To raise awareness for this problem, environmental organization Feedback Global, working with local groups like Second Harvest, will serve up soup and focaccia made entirely from Toronto food waste just in time for Thanksgiving.”

Free, October 8, 1–4 p.m.

Drone Zone

“The Drone Zone captures our goal of making design thinking accessible. As part of the incredible youth programming, we set up a space for drone demonstrations and races – these are the same kind of drones used to deliver medical supplies to remote areas around the world.”

Mickey Mouse Home of the Future

“In partnership with OCAD University, Disney and Giant Containers, we challenged interior- and industrial-design students to submit sustainable and contemporary designs for the iconic cartoon character’s home of the future. The finalists’ works – including the winning Steamboat Willie-inspired submission – will be on display.”

Visit the Expo for Design, Innovation & Technology (EDIT) in Toronto

$15 for a single-day pass or $39 for a multi-day pass
September 28–October 8
21 Don Roadway, Toronto,



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