Gadling Gear Review: Cannondale Quick Backpack

The Quick Backpack from CannondaleFinding the perfect carry-on bag can be a never-ending quest for some travelers. It has to be capable of carrying all of your gear, while still keeping its contents safe from harm. It should also be comfortable enough to lug around all day, but also durable enough to survive the rigors of the road. It also doesn’t hurt if it happens to be attractive and affordable.

That description fits the new Quick Backpack from Cannondale to a tee. Yep, you read that right. The company that is best known for making some of the best bikes in the world also happens to make a pretty great backpack for travel. Originally designed for commuter cyclists looking to haul their gear around, the Quick Backpack is so well designed and versatile that it can be used for far more than just pedaling around town.

The Quick’s main compartment is massive and seems to swallow up all the gear you can throw at it. I tossed in my digital SLR camera, along with a few lenses, and they barely took up any room at all. When I added an extra jacket, a couple of books and a spare pair of shoes, I started to wonder if the bag was actually bottomless. A separate laptop sleeve kept my computer nicely protected while an additional interior organizational pocket was great for small items like pens, USB drives or a pair of earbuds. A large exterior zippered-pocket makes for a fantastic storage space for travel documents or other items you want to keep close at hand, such as a cellphone, iPod or passport.Harkening back to its cycling roots, the pack also features two large pockets on either side that are designed to accommodate water bottles. They of course come in handy for holding your favorite beverage while on the go, but they’re also deep enough to be used for other things as well. For example, I found that they made excellent pockets for holding an umbrella, which is one of those items that can’t be easily accessible enough when you really need it.

Made from high-quality 600D nylon fabrics, the Quick Backpack is designed to take abuse on daily cycling commutes. That means it is more than up to the task for most travel needs as well. I was very impressed with how well built this pack is and after several weeks of testing, there is nary a scuff, scratch or rip to be found. Better yet, those same fabrics also happen to be quite water resistant, helping to keep all of the precious cargo inside safely dry. The designers of this pack took that protection one step further, however, by lining the bottom of the pack with a rubberized fabric. This prevents the bag from soaking up liquids, and potentially damaging its cargo, when inadvertently set on a wet surface.

Perhaps the biggest surprise that this pack has in store for us is just how comfortable it is to wear. Its shoulder straps are easy to adjust and are nicely padded, while its back panel allows for plenty of ventilation and incorporates some of the best cushioning I’ve ever seen on a pack of this kind. All of that padding allows the Quick Backpack to carry a heavy load with ease, ensuring you won’t strain a back muscle while hurrying to catch your next flight.

If you’re already a cyclist then adding the Cannondale Quick Backpack to your gear closet seems like a no-brainer. But this is the kind of pack that many travelers might dismiss outright because it was primarily designed for riding. That would be a mistake, however, as this is quite simply a great pack that is both highly functional and versatile, whether you ever get on a bike or not. Its ability to comfortably carry large loads and its high level of durability makes it an excellent choice for active travelers looking for something a little different in their carry-on bag. With a price tag of $120, it also happens to be a real bargain too. I know I’ve certainly paid more than that for a bag that wasn’t nearly as good as this one.

Gadling Gear Review: Gregory Border Laptop Day Pack

Gregory Border 18 Laptop DaypackBeen hunting around for the perfect pack to hold your laptop, lunch, water bottle, jacket and spaghetti plate of chords? Yeah, you’re not the only one. Good news! I’ve found one that I really like – and trust me, I’ve tried a dozen of these things and I’m keen to their flaws. The Gregory Border, a new TSA friendly laptop bag, has got it all figured out – really.

This pack is airport ready. The bag unzips into a flat configuration so you don’t have to unpack your laptop at the TSA checkpoint. That’s a time saver and makes clearing security a little faster. There’s a fat Velcro tab to hold your computer in place, too, so even though the pack is open, your machine won’t fly out. There’s one more airport friendly feature – a pass through on the back of the bag so you can slide it over the handle of your roller bag. (It’s also a good place for your lightweight coat or sweater.)In addition to the airport happy design, the pack has pockets aplenty. There’s a front pocket for the stuff you want to keep accessible – your boarding pass, phone and lip balm. There’s a zippered security pocket inside for your wallet and other valuables. There’s also a mesh organizer pocket, not secure but accessible; maybe that’s where you keep your bus pass. There’s a business card-sized pocket for an ID or, hey, a stack of your business cards – why not? There are two side pockets, one zippered, one not; I used one for a water bottle and the other for snacks or my pocket camera. There are two flat pockets – one inside opposite the laptop sleeve and one on the front for stuff you’ll need to get to more easily.

The fit is nice too. The adjustable straps are a nice shape and there’s a chest clip to use when you’re running to catch the bus and you don’t want the pack swinging around. The tie-ons on the outside are great for your wet swimsuit or for clipping your flip-flops on.

I didn’t decide I liked this pack overnight. I used it for a long-haul trip, a conference and carried it as to my office for about a month. I used it in bad weather, on rainy days and to carry my lunch around. Right now, it’s holding a headlamp, a pashmina, a netbook, a spork, an espresso tumbler, a lot of charger cables, my wallet and, huh, a business card from a French vintner. And there’s still plenty of room for more stuff. But it’s not bulky, and it actually has a nice profile, too. The only thing I didn’t like – at first – was that I could not find a secure place for my keys, but I just hadn’t looked; there’s a clip for that, too.

Big win. It’s hard to find a pack that has everything sussed. The Border from Gregory nails it. The bag comes in three colors – light blue, dark blue and black. The smallest size – the Border 18 – retails for $99.

Gadling Gear Review: Brooklyn Outfitters Wolfjaw 16L Backpack

Brooklyn Outfitters' Wolfjaw backpackOver the years, major outdoor gear companies like North Face and Patagonia have built billion dollar businesses out of selling their various jackets, base layers, packs and other equipment. But these days some of the highest quality and most innovative gear comes from smaller, lesser known companies who mix a passion for adventure into their designs. Many of these boutique gear companies are the result of climbers, backpackers and paddlers creating the specific gear they need simply because they can’t find it anywhere else. Such is the case with a company called Brooklyn Outfitters, which makes a small, but very high quality, line of backpacks that were clearly designed by outdoor adventurers for outdoor adventurers.

As the name implies, Brooklyn Outfitters is located in New York City and in addition to creating their own line of gear they also regularly organize a series of short outdoor excursions and seminars. I haven’t been lucky enough to join them on one of those day trips just yet but I have had the good fortune of putting one of their packs through its paces. Over the past couple of months I’ve been testing the Wolfjaw 16L backpack and I can honestly say that I’m very impressed.

The Wolfjaw is a no-frills, minimalist pack that will appeal to day hikers, peak baggers and rock climbers alike. Its simple, yet unique, design hugs the body nicely, doesn’t restrict motion and stays in place while on the move, which is important for those that like to hike or climb light and fast.

Made from lightweight and durable fabrics this pack can take a beating without showing a hint of wear and tear. Better yet, those same fabrics are also waterproof and when combined with the unique buckled top enclosure – which resembles something you’d find on a dry-bag – you can be sure that the contents of the pack will stay nice and dry even under the wettest of conditions.Staying true to its minimalist roots, the Wolfjaw features just one main storage compartment and a second front organizational pocket. Both are large and can swallow up more gear than the 16-liter size would typically imply, but there were times where an extra pocket or two could have come in handy. Access to the main compartment can also be a bit frustrating at times as whatever piece of gear you need will invariably be on the bottom and difficult to find.

On multiple occasions in this article I’ve used the term “minimalist” to describe this pack but that doesn’t mean that Brooklyn Outfitters has skimped on the options in the Wolfjaw. For example, the bag includes a dedicated internal hydration sleeve that makes it easy to carry a couple of liters of water on your adventure. The designers have also incorporated an easily adjustable hip belt, multifunction compression straps and a foam pad that provides solid back support. Those looking to shed excess weight from their pack will be happy to know that both the compression straps and foam pad can be removed.

I used the Wolfjaw on a variety of trails, as well as while climbing, and found that it was comfortable and carried a full load of gear very well. The shoulder straps aren’t particularly thick, but still provided plenty of support, and the hip belt helped lock the bag into place, keeping it from moving unnecessarily. I appreciated the fact that this bag wasn’t constantly shifting about while hiking or climbing and didn’t limit motion in any way either.

Not everyone will appreciate the Wolfjaw’s minimalist approach and for those who need more storage or organizational options, I’d recommend looking elsewhere. But outdoor and adventure athletes in need of a well built, comfortable pack that was designed specifically for their needs will find a lot to like with this bag. With a price tag of just $99, the Wolfjaw also happens to be a fantastic bargain, particularly for a pack that is made in the U.S.A.

In addition to the Wolfjaw 16L, Brooklyn Outfitters makes a couple of other packs as well including a larger Wolfjaw 34L and the smaller Panther 14L. If those packs share the same high quality and attention to detail as the Wolfjaw I tested, the company has some real winners on their hands. This small company could be in for big things down the line.

Photo Of The Day: Tibetan Travelers

Photo of the Day - Tibetan pilgrims
One of the travel world’s more annoying debates is backpacker vs. rolling suitcase. Those with backpacks scoff at travelers wheeling suitcases along cobblestones, while the roll-aboard lovers might want to avoid the connotation that “backpacker” implies. Even backpackers are being criticized now for taking too much. In the end, it’s just a place for one’s stuff. We can all agree that seeing pilgrims walking for many miles with very little stuff at all is pretty impressive. Today’s Photo of the Day is from Tibet, where some pilgrims are returning from a trip. Flickr user abhishakey photographed the travelers coming from Lhasa, where thousands travel each year to visit the Jokhang Temple with little more than a prayer wheel.

Share your best travel images with us by adding them to the Flickr photo pool for a future Photo of the Day.

Gadling Gear Review: Lowepro Event Messenger 250 and Flipside 500 AW

Lowepro Event Messenger 250One of the greatest travel innovations of the past two decades is, without a doubt, the digital camera. Not only have they made photography more fun but more accessible as well, allowing us to capture travel memories like never before. Over the years, digital cameras have gotten smaller and lighter, increased their megapixels, added new features and greatly reduced their prices. As a result, it is difficult to find anyone who doesn’t own one these days.

As amateur photographers have gotten more sophisticated, the digital SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) cameras have grown into the best selling segment of the market. These cameras are popular because they not only offer great image quality and fast performance, but they also have the ability to change lenses to capture just the right photo. The problem is that SLR’s tend to be considerably bigger and heavier than point-and-shoot cameras and when you throw in a few extra lenses, it can be a real challenge to lug all of that gear around. Fortunately for us, Lowepro makes a number of fantastic bags for travelers that make it much easier to carry our photography gear and keep it well organized. Here is a look at two of those bags, each designed for different uses.

Lowepro Event Messenger 250
The Lowepro Event Messenger 250 is the largest of the Event Messenger series packs and features everything that an aspiring or experienced photographer could ask for in a compact camera bag. This shoulder-sling style pack has room for a large pro-style DSLR body and up to four extra lenses, depending on size. A zip pocket on the front provides storage for accessories such as extra memory cards, USB cables, batteries and so on. The bag even has a well-padded slot for a laptop or iPad, which was a bit surprising as it doesn’t initially appear large enough to carry that much gear.I was impressed with how slim and compact the EM 250 is while still providing plenty of padding to protect the precious cargo inside. The interior of the bag is easily customizable to fit your needs and it can carry plenty of gear with ease as well. I managed to fit my Nikon D90, three Nikkor lenses, a Macbook Air, cellphone and a variety of other accessories. A well-designed shoulder strap rounded out the package, making it a breeze to carry all of that gear for a full day in the field.

Using the EM 250 was a revelation for me. Typically in the past I kept all of my gear in a standard backpack, which did little to keep my gear well organized. When I needed to access another lens or spare battery, I was often forced to rifle through the pack to find exactly what I needed. But Lowepro’s pack not only kept everything well organized but also close at hand, which made it much easier to change out a lens and capture the perfect shot.

Pro photographers will appreciate the Event Messenger 250 as a slimmed down bag for carrying just their bare essentials, while well-equipped amateurs will find that the pack more than meets their needs. At a price of just $79.99, it is a fantastic investment for protecting your expensive camera gear while traveling, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Lowepro Flipside BackpackLowepro Flipside 500 AW
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Event Messenger is Lowepro’s Flipside Backpack. Designed for professional photographers, this pack provides far more storage than the typical amateur would ever need, wrapping it all up in a pack that is comfortable to wear on extended trips to just about anywhere on the planet.

The spacious interior of the Flipside has room for three DSLR bodies, 2-4 extra lenses (Up to 500mm!), a large flash, collapsible tripod, extra memory cards, an iPad and plenty of accessories. Much like the Event Messenger, the interior is fully customizable and very well padded, and the seemingly endless number of pockets will keep all your gear very well organized.

For a backpack dedicated to photographers, I was surprised to find a number of features that would be more common on packs designed for climbers and hikers. For instance, the shoulder straps and back padding were extremely comfortable, allowing the wearer to easily carry a large, heavy load over challenging terrain. Other nice touches include a built-in rain cover that provides extra protection from inclement weather, a tripod mount and leashes for trekking poles and more. It is even hydration ready, providing a dedicated pocket for carrying a 1-liter water reservoir. In short, this pack has everything an active photographer could hope for and then some.

The Flipside 500 AW was built from the ground up for the professional level adventure photographer. It was designed for someone who needs to be able to move quickly and easily with all of their gear, while still having their hands free to shoot photos. As such, it is overkill for the average traveler who is only carrying a DSLR body and a lens or two on a group trip. But if you’re an active, adventure traveler with lots of camera equipment, this is a no-brainer purchase. Simply put, every action photog should own one of these bags.

Lowepro lists the MSRP on the Flipside 500 AW as $249.99 and considering the market that it targets, that seems like a steal. This is a pack that will carry thousands of dollars worth of equipment with ease and protect it from all kinds of dangers. Aside from it being a bit bulky, it is an amazing piece of gear that is difficult to find fault in. If you fit the target market, and don’t already own one, add the Flipside to your gear closet now.