Posts Tagged electronics
In the world of camera bags, Crumpler’s Karachi Outpost is like every other bag’s better looking, cooler cousin. The retro rucksack style of the small and large sized Outpost sports a soft, brushed twill fabric, warm colors, and fun accents (oddly, the medium has a more urban, sleeker look). But while it looks as though its all about appearances, the Karachi is very practical as well…a welcome surprise. That brushed fabric I mentioned? It’s all-weather and water resistant. The cargo flap pockets? Each has a purpose. Hidden from view? A padded 11-inch Macbook Air or tablet pocket and detachable tripod holder.
The Karachi is extremely comfortable to wear, even when loaded with camera gear and accessories. You get nine storage ‘zones’, with a total of 31 L of space in the main compartment, plus an extendable drawstring-closure hood. The main compartment is divided into 12 separate spaces defined by adjustable velcro ‘walls’ and four elastic straps. This is ‘build your own camera compartments’ at its best: it’s possible to customize your space to suit.
The hood pocket (that’s the drawstring closure one) is fully lined, which makes it the convenient location for your sunglasses. Also handy: a stow-able, elastic rain cover that’s easy to access. You get two side stuff pockets for that grab-and-go stuff you need at the ready, and a front cargo pocket with an internal mesh pocket (maybe for memory cards or extra batteries).
When I loaded up the Karachi, I easily fit a DSLR, modest telephoto lens, and numerous additional lenses, flash, and filters. The superior construction and double-stitching was evident right away as I hefted the pack up and onto my back. I loved the equipment walls: they are definitely of superior construction to what I’ve experienced in the past. They do a great job of holding the camera and lenses in place while the pack is in motion (on your back).
I already noted how comfortable the Karachi is to wear. This is because of the extra features you don’t usually see on a camera bag (but do see on quality backpacking gear): a length-adjusting harness, vented back padding, and Air Mesh shoulder padding. The chest belt/sternum strap is adjustable and removable.
My only caveat: The Karachi’s main compartment is rear-entry. Some might consider this a plus, but I don’t like the necessity of taking the pack all the way off every time I want access to my camera. Call me lazy.
If you want to pick up a Karachi, you have three size options, as noted above. The large has a width of 38 cm/15 inches and height of 52 cm/20.5 inches. It comes in three color options: a beautiful deep blue, a bright orange, and an olive green. You really can’t go wrong. The small is a few inches shorter and leaner. Grab the large for $265 or the small for $215. Available also on Amazon for the same price.
When I travel, whether for a work-related press trip or a family vacation, I like to carry-on a backpack devoted solely to my laptop, camera, iPad, and various USB cords, power cords, and other trappings of a connected life on the road. I took the STM Impulse laptop backpack along for the ride on my latest flight to check out its travel-friendliness. STM is something of an authority when it comes to laptop backpacks: if you’re not familiar with the brand, their packs are designed specifically for your computer and smart phone needs. Instead of adapting a backpack to work for your electronics, these bags are devoted solely to their transportation.
The STM Impulse has a place for everything, which means that for once, I can be super organized while traveling. You get three main compartments. The first is designed for your laptop, but instead of featuring a laptop sleeve on the inside panel of the backpack (the one that rests against your back), STM’s sleeve is located on the interior of the outer panel, away from your back. As a result, when you sit down with the pack on, you’re not squished against your laptop, and your computer is better protected. It’s certainly a more comfortable way to carry your laptop or tablet. An iPod sleeve rests against the back panel. The second compartment fits a text book or two, or a light jacket or novel, plus features a thinner document sleeve perfect for papers, a folder or two, or other thin documents. It’s a nice place for a flight itinerary or boarding passes. The third compartment features a whole array of smaller zippered compartments for your phone, wallet, pens, and any other smaller items. A final bottom compartment is ideal for USB cords and power adaptors.
While the Impulse has a place for everything, when a laptop is stowed (remember, it’s against the front of the back compartment) it encroaches on the open space in the second compartment, making that space for travel items pretty tight. The zippers for each compartment go only 2/3 of the way down, which means you can’t open the pack wide to find things or retrieve items. When packed, everything is secure and comfortable to carry, but usability on the plane or in the car is hampered.
The zippers do have nice pull-handles and a back panel ‘pass-through’ sleeve allows the pack to be slipped over a carry-on rollie’s handle. You get a chest/sternum strap and it’s very comfortable on. You also get two water bottle pockets, one of which can be zippered closed (and used to store keys, etc). I used mine for smaller items I wanted zippered, but with access to, such as memory cards and zip storage drives. The backpack comes in sizes XS-L (size is determined by laptop size). An XS fits an 11″, for example, and a M, which is what I tried, fits a laptop of 15″.
Bottom line: the STM Impulse will store all your electronics safely and comfortably, but size up if you want plenty of space to shift things around easily. My only wish would be that the compartment zippers allow the pack to fully open. Pick up the Impulse on Amazon for $100 or through a retailer from the STM site. Comes in black or grey.
Straight out of a spy novel or movie, this Swann HD PenCam video camera pen is a cool gadget that can be used in many ways. It automatically records conversations, which for me as a business traveler is a great tool. I could use it during meetings when I cannot write or type fast enough, but my mind turned directly to even more clever opportunities.
Imagine dealing with a rogue airline agent. I could switch it on and pretend to be writing something without them ever knowing. This is a great way to record poor customer service actions if needed. While I may still feel uncomfortable about video taping a conversation without someone knowing, others may find that tool useful. And a spy or investigator certainly would!
With 8GB of internal storage, there is plenty of space for still pictures or recorded audio or video. All of this is housed inside a professional, elegant ballpoint pen, which on its own makes a great gift as it looks quite expensive. My favorite part is that no one would have any idea that this is a recording device!
The data that is recorded can be transferred to a computer via an internal USB stick and has surprisingly high-quality resolution. The pen’s battery remains fully active for 45 minutes, which allows the device to record a significant amount.
I am no law enforcement officer and have no need to record people without their consent, which I consider to be an invasion of privacy, but this makes a fun gift for casual use or even business transcription purposes. As a travel writer, I often have trouble taking notes fast enough, and this is perfect to record someone speaking while I am writing down other important statistics or information. It really helps with both accuracy and can save time so I don’t have to go back and email sources for verification.
It retails for about $80 on Swann’s website or for under $60 for the 4GB model on Amazon and is probably one of the coolest things in my carry-on bag. Being lightweight and small, I can take it with me anywhere and simply recharge it via the USB port on my laptop.
Travel gear can be heavy, and I often find myself having to leave behind my razor charger on short trips just to save some space in my carry-on. Remington’s WetTech rotary shaver is not light, but it is a powerful device that I can use quickly and effortlessly thanks to its triple razor head. It can also be used in the shower, which is a great time saver when on the road. Jet lag can mean that every minute of sleep counts!
The device comes with a charging stand, but I often leave it behind because it is a bit bulky. I would need to take it with me if on lengthier trips, but otherwise the battery has a lengthy life of 60 minutes on its own. That clocks in at about a dozen shaving sessions.
Many razors cut close, but still leave the appearance of a five o’clock shadow. Obviously, this is a problem for people with darker or heavier beards, and I find it a pain to have to shave in the morning and at night if I have multiple meetings.
I typically do not shave in the shower, but this razor comes with a portable non-fog travel mirror making it easier. The razor has a no-slip grip removing the worry of dropping it on a hard surface and breaking it. Since I do not usually shave in the shower, I did not realize that it is best to use a shower shaving gel. Once I did, it became much easier and more comfortable. The warm steam from the shower helps to open pores and provided one of the closest shaves I have ever had using an electric razor.
Want a self-sustainable music player that doesn’t sacrifice sound quality? This Rukus XL boombox from Etón charges by solar power but is no wimp when it comes to playing your tunes at top volume.
Most people are going to use it as a Bluetooth speaker, pairing whatever Apple, Android, or Windows phone they carry with them wirelessly. I tried all three in my tests and only one time (out of 20+) did I have a Bluetooth connection problem—trying to connnect the Apple device after having just used the Android one. After I powered both down and started over, it was fine.
The large solar panel on this boombox puts it well above the toy level. It’s as big as the front panel and can be tilted to catch the maximum amount of sunlight. Still, this is a big boombox with a big battery, so takes a good six hours of direct sunlight to fully charge. With the included wall charger it was faster, but that kind of defeats the point unless it’s a rainy day and you’ve got no choice.
Then it’ll run for about 8 hours, which is quite good considering how loud it is. A Rukus indeed: this thing puts the boom back in boombox and cranks out the kind of sound that’ll make your neighbors wonder why they didn’t get invited to the party. That sound is really good for a portable speaker too. You can crank the Eton Rukus up to top volume without the sound turning to mush.
Controls on the device are simple and make sense: bass boost cranks the bass up even more (without distorting it like a pimpmobile’s) and the aux button is how you switch from Bluetooth to something plugged in. Most of the basic music functions you can do from your connected device you can also do on the player itself, such as skipping to the next track or changing the volume.
Battery icons show how full it is, but also flash at various times, like they’re trying to speak to you in code. There’s not much info in the manual though, so I’m not sure what Virtual Hal is trying to tell me.
The one confusing control is a switch marked “Charge.” What would you think that would be for? Oddly, it’s got nothing to do with the charging process, in or out. Instead it’s a button you’re supposed to flick to off when you’re not using the device. Apparently it keeps the battery from draining.
You can use the USB hub as a charger for your device, but be advised it has no cut-off mechanism (thus the odd “Charge” button I suppose). So if you leave your phone plugged in overnight like I did in my test, it will continue to pull power and can drain the whole battery. So it’s best for a quick emergency charge or when the device is in sunlight. There’s a compartment and an elastic band to hold a phone or MP3 player in place.
I only got this device as a loaner and didn’t have enough time to try it out on multiple trips, so I can’t speak to the long-term durability. It’s far from weatherproof, with lots of warnings about water and humidity in teh instructions. The warranty language in the instruction booklet seems intentionally vague, with clauses like “representative determines warranty service is needed…”
Overall though, I can definitely recommend this Rukus XL and might end up buying one for myself or as a gift in the future. This is a solid, eco-friendly boombox that really cranks out the sound through four speakers and four other passive sound radiators. Something this big is more useful on car camping trips and beach parties than for anything involving a flight, but it’s also powerful enough to be your regular stereo in an apartment. Basically anything your phone or tablet can play, this thing can play. So if you’re using Rhapsody or Spotify, you’ve got a giant music collection ready to be queued up.
The Eton Rukus XL lists for $199 at the Etón website and you can find it on their site, in some retail stores, or on Amazon. For something with sound this big and a Bluetooth connection, this stereo is a good value. Add in a big solar panel for charging and it’s a real bargain.