FasterSkier’s 12 Days of FBD Christmas: Day 9

Editor’s note: For the second-straight year, we’re presenting another 12-day holiday gift guide, brought to you by the one and only “FBD”, our gear-review guru. See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 Day 6 | Day | Day 8


Day 9: Travel

Travel. Ah, travel. It’s how we get to places for skiing (unless you are incredibly fortunate enough to have skiing right in your backyard, in which case, count your blessings), racing, business trips (for some) and I suppose, from time to time, even normal person stuff. Even on its best day, when you are going to do something cool, in a place that’s cool, travel sucks. And it seems to only be getting worse.

Air travel is now a glorified bus ride, only with less personal space and substantially less dignity. I’d rather do a stint in solitary confinement in a Mexican prison than fly cross-country in the middle seat on a budget airline. Long gone are the days in which men wore suits, women dresses, and flight attendants were not quietly plotting to slit your throat. Thanks to deregulation, fare wars and real wars, air travel has devolved into people in body fluid-caked sweat pants screaming obscenities in-between bites of a soggy, flaccid-looking Wendy’s burgers that they got after a 30-minute wait on Concourse C. The Viet Cong treated people better than the modern air travel experience.

So what’s a girl to do? Drive? That’s for suckers and the Griswold family.

Ride your bike? I rode my bike across the country several years ago and while it was awesome, it’s probably not the most time-efficient manner of travel, in particular in the winter. And that was before cell phones, so nowadays, thanks to distracted drivers, you’d probably be dead within 50 miles of your house.

Walk? We’re not far from this being your best option.

Thankfully, all is not lost, it just so happens that your boy FBD is a seasoned, cagey, travel ninja. Yup, I know all of the tips, tricks and secrets, and since I now consider anyone who has held on this long in our wonderful wordy and worldly journey together this year to be family (in the sense that I will be avoiding all of you for the holidays, and those of you that I will be forced to interact with, I will only do so with the crutch of liquor), I am going to share with you how to survive a flight in this day and age without wanting to either kill yourself, or my secret fantasy, murder every single one of the inconsiderate, loud, clueless idiots that will be rubbing their exposed leg blubber up against you for the next 5 hours.


Under $29

Foam Ear Plugs

Hearos Ear Plugs: FBD pick for under $29

Because yours truly is a bit of a science nerd (well, a LOT of a science nerd), I did some research on these life savers. And no Virginia, not only is there not a Santa Claus (like Trump’s view on climate change: he’s an elaborate myth, perpetrated by the Chinese), but there’s also not just one level of hearing protection with these little foam beauties. In fact, not only are there varying degrees of protection, but thanks to the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), you can receive a quantitative assessment of the noise reduction properties of all brands, therein making comparisons to different companies quite simple.

The main focus of this article today is on noise reduction for sleeping on airplanes, but many of these same principles and recommendations apply to all of you shooters out there (people shooting guns, not taking shots), or anyone regularly exposed to loud noises, whether occupationally or environmentally.

Along these lines, it is important to note that good foam ear plugs can actually offer superior noise protection to the big, clunky, over-ear, wannabe DJ headphone dealies. I realize that there are applications for which those may be preferable, but if you’re looking for the best hearing protection/noise abatement possible, don’t assume that just because you have a larger, more complicated and expensive system, that it’s better. It may, in fact, be worse. What? (oldie but goodie, hearing joke from elementary school where I continue to spend the bulk of my time intellectually)

But again, today we’re talking about sleeping on an airplane, in loud hotels, or maybe even, in an environment that we like to call, “Rock Bottom”. Please let me add that I hope to God than none of you are ever forced to endure the indignity of sharing a bed with Josh under any circumstances. Thankfully for all of you, I am having a hard time envisioning a scenario in which this problem could present itself, as Josh has very few friends, so the possibility of him having to go anywhere other than places to annoy me, is probably quite small. So you can breathe easy. Or easier, for sadly, as we all know, there are lots of “Josh Smullins” out there. Please allow me to get philosophical for a moment, aren’t we really all battling our own “Josh Smullins” in life? It’s like a very twisted, perverse Zombie Apocalypse, only with vicious, demanding nordic coaches, who are never satisfied with your arm angle at the finish, no matter how hard you try….

The point here is that when God decides to punish you for the time you rounded your over-distance ski up three minutes to an even, three hours in your training log, when WE ALL KNOW that you only skied for 2 hours and 57 minutes, and you are forced to interact your very own Josh Smullin, you need to create as powerful and effective a sensory depravation tank as modern technology will allow.

The best way to do this is to start with a pair of Hearos Foam Earplugs. Ridiculously inexpensive at about 26 cents a pair, these earplugs have the highest NRR of any earplug or earmuff. That’s right, these 26-cent pieces of foam are more effective than highly rated, $75 earmuffs. And they are more comfortable. Way more comfortable.

With highly expandable foam, I can’t imagine an ear canal either too big or too small to achieve a good fit. This is important though, as some lower-quality earplugs can have fit issues, therein greatly reducing their effectiveness. (See graph below)

So let’s recap: 26 cents each, the most-effective and cheapest product available, and it is a tremendously effective aid in helping you sleep. Please tell me again why you don’t have already have these?

One hundred pairs for $26. You’d be crazy not to buy these. Hell, I’d gladly pay 100x this amount to forever silence all crying babies on airplanes. I’m getting myself worked up just thinking about this, let’s move on.

$26.99 at Amazon


Sleep Eye Mask

Dream Essentials Escape Luxury Travel and Sleep Mask with Earplugs: FBD pick for under $29

I wasn’t kidding when I said we were building the ultimate FU J-Smu Sensory Depravation Tank, or FUJSSDT (pronounced ‘Fooo-Ju-Sen-So-Do-Too), as we say around the shop. Thanks to our saviors over at Hearos, we can now no longer hear J-Smu (and if they can keep me from hearing Smullin, they really are heroes in my book). Now we’re getting somewhere.

Next comes the problem of light — more specifically, how to get rid of it. Or to be technical, block it (hold those letters please, you physical-science geeks {we all know that the biological sciences RULE the hallowed halls of intellectual superiority. And please don’t even get me started on those computer-science trolls.})

An appropriately sized antimatter chamber entombing your eyes and/or skull might be complicated, as would the proper placement of a Black Hole (easy, people…), so my advice is to go with the FBD favorite, the Dream Essentials Escape Luxury Travel and Sleep Mask.

Vastly superior to the thin, crappy eye masks that the airlines give you, this mask is substantially thicker and wider, so only is the coverage superior, but the mask has two, recessed cavities, so your dainty little Bambi eyes won’t be molested with the vulgar grind of cotton on their precious lids. Best $20 you’ll ever spend, well, next to the Hearos.

On the other hand, getting the sleep eye mask that makes it look like you think you’re a cat, has the tremendous upside of essentially guaranteeing that no one will mess with you while you’re asleep, as you’ll look certifiably insane. And flights attendants may perhaps regularly leave you saucers of milk. People may also refer to you with a derogatory slang term for a cat, but you’re a nordic skier, so you should be used to that by now: remember, you walk into the coffee shop in tights and a fanny pack filled with Gatorade — there’s nothing that you haven’t heard.

$19.95 at Amazon


$30 – $99

Fisher Space Pen

Fisher Clutch Space Pen: FBD pick for $30-$99

Coming from a long line of scientists and engineers, I was probably destine for a career in science: whether it was the chemistry set I received at age 5, the trips to the Museum of Science in Industry in Chicago, or days building rockets and RC planes, science was in my blood (but NOT my DNA. Stop saying that, you corporate D-bags. “Customer service,” or “integration,” or whatever the hell else you wrote in your weekend mission-statement-writing retreat at the Four Seasons is NOT in your DNA. You know what is most likely in your corporate DNA? Greed and stupidity, so stop repeating this clapped-out expression. It does not make you look smart, insightful or clever. It makes it look like what it is — you are yet another corporate lackey, mindlessly parroting something he heard from an overpriced consultant.)

Wow, where was I? Oh yes, my beloved science. For anyone even half-heartedly paying attention over the last few months (that’s how long this year’s column has been running, a few months, right?), it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of my favorite gifts as a child remains something near and dear to my heart — a Fisher Space Pen. Founded in 1948, this American company has been producing high-quality writing implements for astronauts, field biologists, and anyone working in outdoor or difficult conditions.

Wait, a PEN? All of the cool gear out there in the world and one of the selections to make the coveted FBD list is a frickin’ pen? Yup. Hang in there with me people. First of all, every good executive should always have a pen. Hell, even sh*tty workers should have pens —  you know why? To write sh*t down. Numerous research studies on memory and cognition have convincingly shown that writing things down greatly increases retention and recall. So to be safe, every one of you should be rewriting each and every one of these columns by hand. And to do this, you’re going to need a good pen.

Next, I’ve spent my fair share of time in World Cup wax cabins and testing skis and every good tech not only has a pen and notebook, but guess where they’re taking notes? That’s right, out in wet, crappy conditions. And this is where this pen really hits its stride – writing on all sorts of surfaces in all sorts of weather. Whether you are jotting down which wax/grind combo is really running, or leaving a death threat on the windshield of the D-bag who parked you in at Whole Foods, a reliable pen is key. And this pen is not only reliable, but it will write on essentially any surface.

As for specifically which pen you should get, I tested two and loved them both. The first, the Clutch Pen, was designed for oil-rig workers, so you’d better believe it can handle jotting down which grind is running. It’s easy to hold, even with gloves, writes beautifully in the wet (which will come in handy should it ever snow again), and will write on almost any surface, so when you lose your notebook, you can makes notes about your favorite top coat combinations on just about anything.

Clutch Space Pen: $36.75 at

Fisher Trekker Space Pen: FBD pick for $30-$99

The second, the Trekker, is smaller and more portable with a built-in key ring, so it is perfect for travel in your drink belt, race bag, or trying to survive at the bottom of a coach’s wax box, nestled between a broken pencil, a puddle of WD40, and an empty can of WD40 with a broken nozzle.

Trekker Space Pen: $40 at

Pwolfgang keeps his handy at all times so he can make notes like, “Dear Pwolfgang, do not forget to eat an entire dozen raw eggs tomorrow. FBD just bought new carpet, so that’s probably the best place to do this as well. Love, Pwolfgang”
No caption necessary for this one.
With the addition of the pen, Pwolfgang has decided to try to completely reinvent himself

You’re not going to go wrong with either model, but I’d get the small Trekker if you want something primarily for ski testing and travel, and the larger, Clutch, if you also want to use it in civilian life. You can also do custom engraving, which is perfect if you love yourself even half of much as I love me, as I never tire of seeing my own name.



$100 – $299

Gore Jacket

Gore Bike Wear One 1985 GTX Shakedry Jacket (men’s): FBD pick for $100-$299
When you have a jacket that is this packable yet still completely waterproof, you know you have a winner

This may seem like a bit of a non-sequitur, but hang in there with me here — this is an amazing jacket. Its primary target usage is cycling, but it works equally well as a running jacket, or perhaps most importantly, why is fits so nicely in this category (see what I did there), is that it is one of the better, if not the best, “Wear on the street without looking like some Wannabe Euro Cycling Fanboy).

Don’t get me wrong, first and foremost, it’s an amazing cycling jacket: it is very light and very packable, so it is my go-to “just in case” jacket all summer in Steamboat, where unexpected thunderstorms can sneak in with surprisingly speed and regularity. But I particularly love the fact that it can easily transition from morning run, to a few hours on the train, to, if I’d played my cards right, a nice p.m. cruise on my bike through the Swiss Alps. Part of being a travel ninja is being able to multipurpose all of your garments, so nothing makes the cut for the FBD overseas travel bag without being able to wear lots of hats. Except for, well, hats, which by definition, are already hats. Are you guys still with me? I hope so.

$299.99 at



Over $300

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II: FBD pick for over $300

These bad boys are like Stanley Cup champion goal scorers, they are double-shifting and hitting all of their shots. Probably most obviously, as their name clearly implies, these are headphones that cancel out noise — no breaking news there. Also implicit in that moniker is assumption that they also play music. Check. These are all good things. But ready to turn it up a notch, to 11? You can “stack” (as the Philly meathead lifters like to say) these with Hearos for very restful slumber. That’s right — insert Hearos foam ear plugs into your ears, put the Bose noise-cancelling headphones into position, pop an Ambien, wash it down with two “Makers, rocks,” and next thing you know, it’s presto-chango, “Hello, Tokyo.” Sure, you’ll also likely wake up naked, in homemade handcuffs and leg restraints fashioned out of duct tape, shoe laces, and braided toilet paper, for your “incident” atop the drink cart, but hey, at least you are well-rested.

Get the fancy Bose ones too: not only is the noise-cancelling better than Beats By Dre, but come on, you’re a mid-life crisis, white bread, Type-A Master Blaster aerobic machine. Act your age. Who do you think you are, Chuck D? (Look it up, grandpa.)

This is not you.
This IS you.

$349.95 at


Pelican Rifle Case

Pelican 1720 Case: FBD pick for over $300

Yeah, yeah, I know, probably not all that many of you out there are biathletes (we need to change that, as biathlon is awesome, but that’s a topic for another day). But, as noted in Day 6  on Kick-Ass Gear, nordic skiers tend to be generally quite outdoorsy folks who hike, camp, fish and hunt, so if you fall into the category of the latter, you’re going to want a good rifle case and Pelican cases are one of the best.

In addition to being incredibly impact-resistant, they are also waterproof (I hope to God that I never test this though). Having said that though, I had my checked bags soaked with deicing solvent a few years back, so this can indeed happen. Heaven forbid, should this even happen to you, this seems like one of those features that you’ll be REALLY glad that you have when the airline monkeys are spraying your rifle with noxious chemicals.

Along the lines of more normal usage, multiple layers of protective foam allow you to make custom cutouts so you rifle can neatly and gently rest inside a cocoon of comfort. It also looks super pro, which is nice when you are flying out of hellholes like Philadelphia, where everyone always wants to get up in your grill over sh*t that’s clearly none of their business, so looking like you could be a sniper or some special opps guy most definitely has its advantages. Ride this wave of uncertainty until you can enshroud yourself in your FUJSSDT.

$420 at Altius Handcrafted Firearms

So Pro #SuckItTeela


Trip to the Olympics

Taking a trip to support some of our nation’s finest athletes at the pinnacle of international competition, the Olympics. What could possibly be more special and meaningful that than?

Price: A lot

Hassles: A lot


Jon "Fast Big Dog" Schafer

Fast Big Dog is a paradoxically gregarious yet reclusive, self-absorbed mystic and world traveler. In addition to his calling to right the wrongs in the ski fashion and gear world, he also brings his style, wit and devilish charm to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as the Nordic High Performance Director and Worldwide Director of Morale and Awesomeness. Savor these articles while you can, as his Great Dane puppy may burn down his house at any moment, possibly making this his last transmission.

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