Gadling Gear Review: ECBC Javelin Daypack

The ECBC Javelin daypackIt is amazing how much stuff we carry with us when we hit the road these days. Between laptops, tablets, smartphones, books, work files and various other items, our carry-on bags are often close to bursting. Lugging all of that gear around can be a real challenge unless you have a good daypack to help lighten the load and keep everything organized. The Javelin pack from ECBC is just such a bag, delivering everything a road warrior needs in one very high-quality and attractive package.

Built from lightweight and water resistant nylon, the Javelin has been designed to be slim and comfortable to wear while still protecting its contents to the fullest. Its shoulder straps and back panel are thickly padded, making it equally easy to carry a full load on a daily commute to the office or a business trip to the far side of the globe. Its classic good looks are simple and attractive, with a styling that is both understated and refined.

As good looking as the Javelin is on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that really impresses. The interior of the pack is filled with so many pockets, storage compartments and organizational slots, you’re likely to forget where each of them is located. There are multiple zippered mesh pockets and Velcro sealed sleeves, which helps to keep everything in its proper place, yet close at hand when needed.The center point for any pack like this one is clearly the laptop pocket and the Javelin doesn’t disappoint in this area either. Large enough to accommodate a computer that is up to 17 inches in size, the pocket is extremely well padded to ensure that its fragile cargo stays completely protected. A removable insert brings a level of versatility to the pocket, making it easy to adjust its size for smaller laptops as well. This handy feature means the pack will remain useful even as you upgrade your computer in the years to come. Best of all, the pocket is fully TSA Fastpass compliant, which makes it a breeze to zip through security, something frequent fliers will really appreciate.

Other nice touches include a quick access pocket on the front that is specifically designed for keeping a passport or other important documents close at hand, while a fleece lined pocket along the top is perfect for carrying sunglasses, an mp3 player or other fragile items. The soft interior material helps to protect glass from unexpected scratches and other abrasions that can commonly occur while traveling. Two additional pockets on either side of the pack zipper open to accommodate water bottles, while an integrated clip comes in very handy for those of us who are always scrambling to locate our keys after a long flight.

Simply put, this combination of features adds up to one of the best commuter packs I’ve ever used. It is comfortable to wear, even over extended periods of time, offers plenty of storage and has more organizational pockets than anyone could ever hope to fill. On top of that, ECBC took great care in construction and design, incorporating only high-quality fabrics and zippers throughout the entire pack. The result is a bag that is incredibly durable and well built for the road, providing everything travelers could hope for in a compact and rugged carryon.

If you’re in the market for a new laptop bag, or someone on your holiday shopping list could use such a pack, then the Javelin from ECBC may be exactly what you’re looking for. Its versatility and durability ensure that this is a daypack that you’ll be using for years to come, while its classic design means that it won’t go out of style any time soon either. At $130, it isn’t the least expensive laptop bag on the market, but I think you’ll find its quality and convenience is well worth the price.

[Photo Credit: ECBC]

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]

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: Looptworks Laptop Sleeves

Looptworks Shan Laptop SleeveI slide my laptop into the outside pocket of my roll-aboard bag. I can never decide if this is ideal. I want there to be a bit more padding to absorb the crush of knocking up against seats in the aisle – or to protect it from the massive game of overhead bin Tetris. So far, so good, and the laptop seems to be doing okay.

I also want to throw it in my day pack sometimes. I have two day packs that have a sleeve especially for my laptop, but sometimes I want a different bag. This is where a protective sleeve really comes in handy – for in my bike bags or an overnight duffel.

Looptworks makes laptop sleeves (and some other accessories) from neoprene scrap – that stuff that wet suits are made of. They’re spongy and cute and add a little extra padding to keep your electronics contained and safe. I like the bright colors and the surface stitching as well as the contrasting details. Also, they’re cute. The Shan Envelope comes in either 10- or 13-inch sizes and has a magnetic closure on the flap. It holds your laptop and while your mileage may vary, I was able to get my power supply in there too. It’s nice to have that stuff contained.

Looptworks has a recycled materials message underlying their products and they market themselves – it’s on the product tag – as a Portland, Oregon, company. But my laptop sleeve says on it, very clearly “Made in China.” I went looking to see if they address this on their website and they do:

Where Do You Make Your Products? Do You Use Local Factories?

Our products are made in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and soon to be China and Peru.

WHY?

That’s where all the excess is. American and European producers have been going to Asia for a long time to make stuff as cheaply as possible without regard to environmental impact. LooptWorks is stepping in for cleanup. We feel that it’s our responsibility to follow the waste stream and clean up wherever we can.

That’s not to say that we don’t believe in lowering a carbon footprint by buying things made locally. We do. We are actively exploring ways to shift our activities toward regional production. Locally made products should be available in all parts of the world. It’s the next step for LooptWorks.

I’m not totally sold, but at least they answered the question.

The Looptworks Shan Laptop sleeve sells for $30.

Five stylish items that save time in a security check

We’ve all been there. A security check procedure goes something like this – untie and remove shoes, unbuckle and remove belt, take out wallet, drop keys in the bowl, dig into your bag for your laptop, then step through the metal detector only to discover you had change in your pocket.

It’s an annoying process but one set in place to keep us all safe. So we deal with it. Seasoned travelers know there are shortcuts for the security hubbub and travel goods manufacturers are constantly innovating new products that help us get to our gates a little quicker. Here are five products that fit the bill.

Jimi Wallet
The beauty of the Jimi lies in it’s simplicity. The basic clamshell design and minimalist approach are ideal for those who know how to pare down to the essentials when traveling. With room for a few credit/debit cards, an ID, an insurance card, and a few bills the Jimi forces the user to keep it simple. Its translucent water resistant casing is versatile enough for a trip to the beach or a hike in the hills. The included money clip is also made of plastic and won’t set off the sirens as you breeze through security. All this coolness comes in under $15. The Jimi shows us that plastic wallets aren’t just for kids.

Kavu Burly Belt
Belts are often forgotten as a flier strolls into the metal detector. Then it’s back through the scanner or into the dreaded plastic booth for a pleasant wanding. Kavu has taken a similar approach to our friend the Jimi Wallet. The Kavu Burly Belt uses a plastic fastener for a buckle and doesn’t incorporate metal anywhere in the design. The trippy designs on the webbing that makes up the strap will make your more outdoorsy friends jealous.


Chaco Flip Pro
“pictured above”
This uber-cool flop, available in men’s and women’s models, sports a webbing upper and a rubber lower. The sole is Vibram and is designed to grip all types of terrain. Unlike many flip flops the Flip Pro also keeps feet comfy for the long haul by including an arch. The advantage to flops in the security line are obvious; simply slip out and slide through.Kelty Platform
This day pack is a workhorse in disguise. The rugged exterior gives the Platform a casual appearance but hides some handy features. The ventilated back panel deters a sweaty back when traveling in hot or humid conditions. The strap-to-sling carry configuration allows two ways to carry the bag. But the feature that will help you get past security with lightning speed is the laptop side zipper. This long zipper runs down the side of the pack and accesses only the laptop compartment to allow for a quick grab as you enter the line.

Tech4o Traileader Pro
Who says a plastic watch can’t look professional? The Traileader Pro boasts not only the ability to slip through security without removal but is also packed with features that could prove useful if your destination includes outdoor activities. The Traileader Pro has a built-in compass, barometer, altimeter, and weather forecast for the more adventurous trips.

By upgrading a few items in your travel kit to non-metal accessories and items designed for quick action you will be through security quicker and on to the coffee shop on the other side to check your email. With that said, there are never any guarantees that the guy in front of you won’t have a pocket full of quarters.