When Justin Heit started his eyewear brand Raen in the late aughts, it was a time when bigger was better, particularly when it came to sunglasses. This was before the Great Recession, and brands were putting out shades with ever-larger frames to accommodate ever-larger logos. It got to the point where the interlocking C’s on a pair of Chanel glasses was about the size of a silver dollar. Amidst that, Heit, who had been the first art director at Nixon, launched Raen when it went against the prevailing trends of the time and focused on more minimal designs that were modern interpretations of classic styles. The bet paid off, as today Raen eyewear is sold everywhere from local surf shops to upscale boutiques like Fred Segal to large chains like Nordstrom.
Given the less-is-more design aesthetic he crafted for the brand, it’s not surprising that Heit’s travel plans abide by a similar philosophy. While he does plenty of business and creative trips to places like Australia and Europe, the one constant is a completely off-the-grid adventure to the East cape of Cabo San Lucas. Every year for the past 15 years, Heit and a group of friends have decamped for the desolate region that is far removed from the touristy spring break capital with its tequila shots that involve whistles and violent head gyrations. The primary focus of the trip is surfing, something Heit has been doing since he was a kid, because there really isn’t anything else to do in an area where the closest town is a couple hours drive.
To find out how he survives (and thrives) in those conditions, we spoke with Heit about his travel essentials.
LOFTY COFFEE BEANS
The “But first, coffee” maxim is especially true on camping trips where you’re waking up with the sun after sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions. “You definitely need coffee, and Lofty Bean makes a good, strong espresso,” Heit says. He prepares his camp coffee using a press from REI and a compact dual fuel stove from Coleman that packs up tiny and handles all the crew’s cooking needs.
GOAL ZERO SOLAR GENERATOR
There isn’t a speck of cell phone service in the part of Mexico where Heit surfs, but there is plenty of sun, so keeping phones (which are only used for playing music because of the aforementioned lack of service) and other devices charged is easy with the Goal Zero solar panel and generator. “Those things are complete life savers,” Heit says. “We just lay it out in the sand while we surf and when you come in your phone is completely charged.” The fact that the beach is completely deserted eases any theft concerns.
RAEN WILEY SUNGLASSES
When Heit and his friends aren’t surfing, they’re fishing to catch food for dinner so the polarized lenses on the Wiley shades come in handy. “It’s almost like cheating. You can see the reef and the fish chasing your lure. When you take them off it’s all blue ocean.” The Wiley’s aren’t all function, though. First introduced about a year ago, they are lightweight and have a distinctly masculine silhouette thanks to frames that are more squarish.
Heit had left Nixon before they came out with the Blaster speaker, but that doesn’t stop him from admiring it. “I think it’s one of the coolest products Nixon makes,” he says. “You can drop it, it can get wet. It’s fully utilitarian. I’ve probably broken four or five little speakers, but this thing has stood the test of time.” And since music is one of the few forms of entertainment available on his trips, the Blaster sees plenty of work. “In the middle of the day it gets so hot and everyone is just huddled under umbrellas [listening to music].”
SHISEIDO SUN PROTECTION STICK
Heit discovered Shiseido sunscreen on a surfing trip to Tavarua in Fiji. “I used some other sunblock and got burnt to shit. Some veterans that were on the trip pulled out this Japanese cosmetic brand that I’d never heard of before,” says Heit. “Since then I stand in the Macy’s women’s cosmetic line once a year to buy my Shiseido. I swear by it.” While it’s certainly more expensive than the standard bottle of sunblock, Heit appreciates that it doesn’t stink and has a matte finish, which prevents it from getting on surfboard wax and clothes.
There are no shortage of refreshing Mexican beers to choose from, but Heit goes for Pacifico because of the emotional connection. “I remember being a little kid and going down to Mexico with my dad and him having a popped-open Pacifico on his lap. To me, it’s the authentic Mexican beer.” While Heit and his friends generally bring in all the supplies they’ll need for their stay on the East cape, they usually end up having to make the two-hour drive back into town at some point to pick up more ice and Pacificos.
Heit, who also owns a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser, has only had his Tundra truck for about a year and already put 25,000 miles on it. It’s equipped with Thule racks to hold all his surfboards and has proven to be incredibly durable. In the photo above, the truck had gotten stuck in the mud, but Heit was able to dig it out by making a path out of chunks of asphalt from the road which was so hot it easily crumbled.