Gadling Gear Review: This Year’s Favorite Gear

I’ve been reviewing gear for a few years now. I wrote for a snowshoeing magazine and a site focused on gear for travelers before I joined the Gadling crew. That means I’m kind of a tough sell when it comes to new outdoor and travel clothing, bags and accessories. And I test everything, I ride my bike in the rain to see if that jacket is really waterproof, I wrangle that roller bag into the overhead bin, I wear those noise-canceling headsets on a long-haul flight. I pay attention to what always makes it into the bag, to what gets used more than once, to what works. Here are six things that really worked from this year’s gear.

Birki’s Skipper Slides
: You could not have told me that a shoe from Birkenstock would become a (fair weather) travel favorite, but they’re great for long-haul flights, easy to get in and out of at the airport, they do double duty as slippers or flip-flops when you’re running down the hall to the ice machine and, though they may not suit your style – they’re very casual – I love these things and think they’re great if you’ve got room for a second pair of shoes in your bag.

Ozone Ultralight Roller from Osprey: Just about perfect as a weekender, at its smallest size, this super light bag holds everything you need for a three-day getaway. What’s causing it to miss the 100% mark? It needs a shoulder strap for when it’s not appropriate to roll it. That aside, this is an extremely well designed bag with lots of pockets in sensible places – there’s even a place for your netbook or tablet – and it looks cool.

Gregory’s Border Laptop Backpack
: Everyone’s got a system for getting you through the TSA checkpoint with your laptop pack; most of them are fine. They all seem to use the same open flat configuration, but that doesn’t mean they also make a great day pack. The Border pack is full of sensible pockets that are exactly the right size and shape for whatever it is you’re carrying. If you can’t find the right place for it in this pack, you don’t need to be carrying it. (Ok, one exception: it’s not built to carry a DSLR.) This is, hands down, the best laptop pack I’ve tested.Mophie Juice Pack Plus: Addicted to your phone for travel apps, podcasts, photography, etc.? Yeah, me too. Which means I’m always burning through the battery. The Mophie Juice Pack Plus doubles the life of your phone by wrapping it in a case with an integrated battery. Strategists can shut down some of those power sucking things like Wi-Fi or data to get even more time out of it. That’s a terrific extra for the mobile addict.

Panasonic Lumix: I’m a devoted photographer and at times I carry a big heavy DSLR with big heavy lenses. But I sprung for a new Lumix this year and I left my DSLR at home for two big trips. I’ve been so happy with what the Lumix offers me – excellent optics, works beautifully in low light, all kinds of customization settings for photo nerds, and it fits in my pocket. I love this thing. Love it.

SmartWool Anything: Lots of brands are making nice stuff out of merino wool these days and it’s good stuff. Icebreaker makes styling clothing and base layers, Nau makes cool pieces that pack well; it’s all great stuff. SmartWool has been around forever, though, and while they’re not the cheapest and don’t always have the edge on style, they’re stuff is consistently excellent and it lasts for a very long time. I have SmartWool gear that I purchased more than ten years ago and it’s still in great shape. Their gear fits, wears tough and lasts. Get whatever you like, but the midweight stuff that they came out with this year? Aces. It’s rare that I’ll endorse a specific brand so whole-heartedly, but I am never disappointed with their gear. Never.

[Image credit: Packing for NZ by herdingnerfs via Flickr - Creative Commons]

Tekkeon myPower for iPhone 4 offers swappable batteries – up to 50 hours extra usage

Tekkeon just unveiled their newest iPhone power solution. Their myPower for iPhone 4 combines a slim rechargeable battery pack inside a case – offering power and protection in a single product.

Now, iPhone charge cases are not really a new innovation, but the Tekkeon case is unlike anything else on the market – its battery pack is swappable, thanks to their eSwap technology. eSwap allows you to exchange the battery pack in the case for a fresh module. Packs are available in 1200mAh and 2200mAh.

These high capacity batteries can provide between 7 and 12 hours of extra video playback, up to 50 hours of audio or up 18 hours of talk time. The battery packs don’t actually charge the iPhone – they merely power it, which reduces wear on the internal iPhone battery pack. When plugged in, the charger cord charges your iPhone and the myPower at the same time.

The MyPower for the iPhone 4G retails for $79.95, and additional battery packs are $39.95 (1200mAh) and $49.95 (2200 mAh). The new myPower is available directly from Tekkeon.

The Icon by IPEVO – the coolest iPhone and iPod battery ever made

With 100’s of iPhone backup batteries on the market, creating something that will get my attention is tough. Unless it does something nothing else does, I’m usually just not all that interested. Now that is out of the way, lets take a close look at the IPEVO Icon Power Pack.

At first glance, there is not much special about this battery pack. It has a dock connector on the top, a MiniUSB port on the bottom, and a shiny black plastic exterior. But as soon as you charge the Icon, or plug it into your iPhone, it shows its hidden trick – this thing lights up like a battery icon on your phone!

Behind the front of the Icon is a electroluminescent panel, which shows the charging status! The first time I used it, I must have looked like a 13 year old girl playing the newest Justin Bieber single, because the inner geek in me found the whole thing mighty amusing.

The Icon is nice and portable, and comes with a MiniUSB charger cable, a protective cap for the dock connector and a micro fiber case to keep it looking nice and new.

The price is a bit of an issue, because at $53.68, you’ll be paying about $20 more than most other (premium brand) iPhone backup chargers, but to be honest, this is one product that is cool enough to overlook the higher price.

According to IPEVO, the Icon will add about 3 hours of talk time to an iPhone 3G or 4, and up to 18 hours of audio playback. The exact specification of the battery is not published, but I’m guessing it is 1000mAh.

To learn more about the Icon, or to place an order, head on over to ipevo.com. To clarify – the Icon is developed by Essential Tpe and sold exclusively in the U.S. by IPEVO.

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