What’s in your pack: Scott Carmichael

whats in your pack

It has been several years since we last visited our “What’s in your pack” segment here on Gadling. As times (and gadgets) have changed, it is time to breath some fresh air into the feature, and we’ll start with yours truly.

Lets get something out in the open – I’m a total gadget freak. My gadget needs go way, way beyond the usual “laptop, camera, charger”, and it isn’t uncommon for my gadgets to take up more than half the weight of the crap I carry on a trip. Of course, what I carry does vary for each trip, so I’ve collected the kind of stuff I’ll carry on an average trip.
The basics

I tend to swap out my luggage every couple of months – but I always stick with the same style – one roller and one checkpoint friendly laptop bag. My current pick of the month is the Pelican 1510LOC laptop overnight case. This thing is total overkill for anything I do, but I love the fact that I have a piece of luggage the airlines won’t be able to kill. The case weighs a ton, but that is the price you pay for rugged.

My laptop and other smaller items go in a Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer – the one piece of luggage I have used for more than 6 months.

To me, laptops are like my luggage – I buy something cool, and by the time the next new cool laptop is out, I’ll swap things out and upgrade. At the moment, I travel with an HP DM1 or a Google CR48 Chrome notebook. The HP DM1 has been upgraded with 8GB of memory and a 500GB Seagate Momentus XT hybrid SSD. Picking which one to use depends on the trip, and what I need to get done. To get some basic work done, I also carry a Barnes & Noble Nook Color, but I have hacked it to run Android Froyo. The tablet is perfect for my email, web and of course, Angry Birds.

For overnight trips, I’ll obviously pack clothes, toiletries and some spare clothes for the inevitable delay or cancellation. I hate checking bags, so my packing ritual always means I have to stuff everything I need into my 2 carry-on bags.

All my gadgetry is split into categories – and packed in Tom Bihn packing cubes. Laptop, chargers, flightbag and a bag with basics fits in my laptop bag, the rest (along with my clothes) goes in the rolling case.

The goodies

Despite the risk of making a total fool of myself, here are the products I currently carry (in no particular order):

  • Aaxa Technologies M2 Micro projector (in its own hard shell case)
  • Barnes and Noble Nook Color (running Android Froyo with a 32GB MicroSD card)
  • Nikon P7000 digital camera
  • Canon S95 digital camera
  • HP DM1
  • Google Chrome CR48
  • Tekkeon MyPower All laptop battery pack + cable pack
  • Clear 4G/3G adapter
  • Zagg Sparq 2 battery pack
  • Verizon MiFi
  • Motorola W233 unlocked mobile phone
  • Unlocked 3G European MiFi + assortment of sim cards for Europe and Asia
  • Livescribe Echo 8GB smartpen + notepads
  • T-Mobile MyTouch 4G (primary phone)
  • Sprint Palm Pre
  • HTC HD2 (with Android)
  • HTC Inspire (AT&T)
  • Blackberry Storm 2
  • Motorola Roadster Bluetooth handsfree car kit
  • Trendnet 802.11n travel router
  • Callpod Chargepod + assorted power tips
  • 2 500GB drives (1 with restore image and 1 with apps/media)
  • Assortment of USB drives and SD cards
  • Assortment of cables, chargers and plugs
  • Audio Technica ATC ANC-3 noise canceling headphones
  • Monster Beats Tour in-ear headphones
  • 64GB iPod touch + video cables/dock/remote
  • Moshi voice recognition travel alarm clock
  • Sandisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 player + 16GB MicroSD card
  • Assortment of Eye-Fi wireless SD memory cards

The what/where/why?

I’ll try and explain some of the logic behind my choices for gear – part of the reason is that I’m always reviewing stuff, and some of the items in the collection may be undergoing a real on-the-road review. Other products are just things I’d rather carry than leave at home. I hate arriving somewhere and realizing I forgot to carry something.

Lets start with the various mobile phones – I always try and travel with more than one phone, and mix things around on various operators. Ideally, I’ll have one phone on each major US operator, which is a perfect way to prevent arriving somewhere and having a hard time getting a signal. Thanks to Google Voice, I can mix and match operators, sims and phone numbers.

My primary phone is a T-Mobile MyTouch 4G. I love that phone more than anything else, and its QIK videocalling and T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling feature make it the best travel phone on the market (in my opinion). The final phone in my assortment is a really cheap Motorola W233. I carry this when I need to head out for the night and don’t want to risk losing my smartphone.

Photography is something I never mastered (as you can see from these photos), so I stay away from the neat dslr rigs and rely on a decent point and shoot. The Canon S95 and Nikon P7000 fit the bill perfectly. The Canon is small enough for in my pocket, and the Nikon works nicely on the Manfrotto Modosteady 3-in-1 tripod. If I know I’ll be shooting hotel rooms or airline cabins, I’ll carry a Sima LED light as well as a better microphone for the Nikon if I plan to do video. Any camera I carry will have an Eye-Fi Connect X2 card in it.

Cables and networking gear all go in their own bag. I’ll usually carry at least one or two network cables, as well as a Trendnet 802.11n travel router and an assortment of USB and video cables.

As for headphones - I’m not an audiophile, and my only requirements are good noise isolation/cancellation along with good comfort. In a hotel room or airport, I’ll wear the Monster Beats Tour in-ear headphones, and on the plane I’ll swap them out for the Audio Technica ATH-ANC3 headphones. Music comes from an iPod Touch, my MyTouch 4G or the compact Sandisk Sansa Clip+. I love the Clip+ because it is small, sounds great and is easy to operate.

Power is always on my mind – I travel with a Tekkeon MyPower ALL battery pack which can double my laptop battery power. For my smaller gadgets, I’ll use a variety of battery packs like the Zagg Sparq 2 or the Technocel Battery Boost. Once I get to my room, I use the Callpod Chargepod to charge up to six devices at the same time. For the usual hotel room with just one outlet, I’ll use a Monster Outlets To Go powerstrip. To power my laptop, I usually swap out the included charger for a Kensington charger with DC and Empower plugs which allow me to charge and power on an airplane.

Entertainment in my room comes from a variety of sources – I always carry an HDMI cable for my laptop, along with Apple iPod/iPhone video cables with a dock and remote. With this, I can plug my player(s) into the hotel room TV. If the room lacks a decent TV, I can use the AAXA M2 Micro Projector, but I tend to only carry that if the trip is for business. In-room music comes from a Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker paired to my laptop or music player.

For the rare events I actually need to get some work done, I use a Dell Bluetooth travel mouse. I make VOIP phone calls with a Plantronics .audio 480 headset or conference calls using the Polycom C100S communicator and Skype. If I’m on the road without my family, I carry a Microsoft Lifecam Studio HD webcam.

My flightbag is what carries all my short cables, Bluetooth headset(s), memory, Secure keys for my remote access and anything else I think I need if I become separated from my main bag. I also carry a small flashlight and SwissTool screwdriver set. My flightbag also holds gift cards, iTunes cards, Gogo Inflight access cards and sim cards.

Weight?

There is no denying it – this setup weighs a ton – but I’ve mastered the art of making my bags look light. They always fit in the overhead, and I’m usually lucky enough to make it to the first boarding group on my flight, ensuring some space for the chunky rolling case.

Any logic to so much gear?

No.

That said, when I travel with others, I’m always the one that has a spare charger, or a USB drive with a full Windows 7 recovery image. Or fresh music. Or a screwdriver. And while this may not be a good enough reason, I try and use it to justify my addiction.

Record breaking design time? Tom Bihn bags announces two iPad products

In what I can only describe as “holy cow”, Tom Bihn bags announced two iPad cases a mere 3 hours after the introduction of the new tablet from Apple this afternoon.

The first of the cases is the Ristretto – a vertical messenger bag with a 6mm open cell foam protection. The second is the Cache – a foam padded sleeve designed for the iPad on its own, or inside the Apple case/stand. Both bags are checkpoint friendly, which means you won’t run the risk of a clumsy TSA agent dropping your precious tablet on the airport floor.

The Cache retails for $30 and is available for pre-order. It will ship within 10 days of the iPad release. The Ristretto sells for $110, and is available immediately. Both bags comes with a lifetime warranty.

Something tells me this is just the start of a whole new lineup of iPad accessories, but kudos to Tom Bihn for being the first!

Gadling gear review – The Tom Bihn Tri-Star

Let me open with a quick re-introduction to Tom Bihn bags. We first covered them here on Gadling when they announced their Checkpoint Flyer “TSA friendly” laptop bag. That bag was so impressive, that it went on to win a spot in our top 25 travel products of 2008.

Tom Bihn bags are a rarity in the luggage world – they are all designed, and hand made in the US, using many US sourced materials. The Tom Bihn Tri-Star is an interesting bag- it is the first bag that has actually made me excited about a piece of luggage.

When the bag was first announced, only a few details were released, and when the final product was shown, I knew it was going to be high on my “must review” list. So, here it is – the first ever review of the new Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag.

The Tri-Star is, as the name implies – a three in one bag. Previously, we took a look at the Tom Bihn Aeronaut, which offers similar features. The Tri-Star is a backpack, shoulder bag and carry-on bag all rolled into one. Best of all, these three features are extremely well implemented, and allow you to carry the bag in whatever way you want, each providing a ton of comfort. The Tri-Star holds 33 liters and weighs 3.4lbs. It measures 19″x13″x8″.

Folks following Tom Bihn bags will be interested to know that the Tri-Star falls between the Aeronaut and the Western Flyer (the Aeronaut holds 45 liters, and the smaller Western Flyer holds 26 liters). The size of the Tri-Star makes it ideal for a two or three day trip. In an upcoming article I’ll show you just how much stuff I carry with me when I travel!

One of the biggest innovations with the Tri-Star is actually the color. For the first time ever, Tom Bihn used blue in a piece of their luggage. I normally don’t pay much attention to things like fabrics and colors, but when you dive a little deeper into the technology behind luggage fabrics, you’ll be confronted with terms you’ve never used before, including “Dyneema/Nylon rip stop” and “ 1050 denier ballistic nylon”. What it boils down to, is that Tom Bihn spent a ton of time picking the perfect fabric for this bag, and actually had the “urethane coated, 1050 denier” specially dyed for them in the US.

The end result is a combination of abrasion resistant material in an amazing color. Seriously, when I opened the box containing the Tri-Star, the sun made the bag light up unlike I have ever seen in any piece of luggage.

The Tri-Star I am reviewing is a combination of their new Indigo (blue) and Solar Yellow (on the inside). This combination simply rocks, and makes the bag stand out from anything else you’ll find at the airport.

Now, on to the features of the Tri-Star. The basics are quite straight forward – you get 3 large main compartments, and 4 zippered pockets on the front. On the pack is a zippered portion for storing the backpack straps when you are not using them.

The rear compartment is the largest, and is designed to hold large items, like pants or shirts.This portion also features 2 tie-down straps, making it easy to stuff full of clothes and compress. The entire compartment folds open, making it easier to fill with garments.

The middle portion is designed to be able to hold more larger items, including a laptop sleeve (like their optional Brain Cell shown in the photo above). On the top of this compartment are 2 special clips which can hold the Brain Cell in place. Of course, you are also free to use this part for anything you want. This compartment opens on the top and a portion of the sides.

The third compartment is perfect for thinner items, like documents or a newspaper, but is also a great place for the “Horizontal Freudian Slip“, which is an optional accessory, but one that I can highly recommend. It is a removable “office” designed for pens, documents and other office-on-the-road items. The compartment can be split in half with a zippered divider. When you unzip the divider, the entire compartment can fold open.

On the front of the bag are 4 pockets – 3 horizontal, and one vertical. The three horizontal pockets reach to the bottom of the bag, and provide a ton of “give”. The largest of the pockets holds a removable key strap.

The vertical pocket to the right of the other 3 is a smart one – it is designed to hold a water bottle, and is fitted with what Tom Bihn refers to as “bellows”. The bellows prevent your bottle from falling out if you open the zipper. This feature can be “undone” by opening a button.

The zippers on the Tri-Star are as impressive as the bag itself. They are “YKK splash-proof Uretek zippers”, which means you won’t have a puddle in the bottom of your bag if you encounter a bit of rain. The zipper pulls are normal metal pulls, but Tom Bihn include a bag of cord zipper pulls with the bag. These can be attached to the metal pulls, or can completely replace the metal pulls (if you chose to remove the metal pulls, you won’t be able to send it back asking them to replace the pulls under their warranty).


(Photo showing the backpack straps stored inside the bag)

The Tri-Star costs $240
and is available in 4 different color combinations (Indigo/Solar, Steel/Solar, Crimson/Steel and Black/Steel). On its own, the bag does not include a shoulder strap. During the order process, you can pick one of two different shoulder straps. If you add the Horizontal Freudian Slip, a Brain Cell laptop case and a shoulder strap, the total price is $370.

Let’s be honest – this is not a cheap bag, and if you are used to buying $25 bags, then this price may seem quite insane. There is however something to be said for investing in a quality bag, and one that is designed to last for years.

Luggage like this is an investment, and if you treat high quality luggage well, then it’ll travel with you for years and years. If you are on the road a lot, then your luggage becomes part of your “home”. You can be in a different plane or hotel every night, but the one thing that always joins you is
your bag.

All Tom Bihn bags come with a lifetime warranty, and purchases have a 60 day money back satisfaction guarantee.

My conclusion about the Tom Bihn Tri-Star is simple – this is an absolutely amazing bag. Every portion of the bag feels like someone sat down and spent a massive amount of time trying to think like a traveler. The end result is a bag that not only looks great, but also works. With the current trend in airlines charging passengers for all their checked luggage, any bag that is designed to help you carry more of your stuff on board will eventually start saving you money.

In the coming week, I’ll take the bag on a trip and will report back (with photos) on how well it performs in the “real world”.

Gadling gear sneak preview – big blue bag in a box

Sadly I won’t have time this evening to review what I just got in the mail – you’ll need to wait a few days for a full review. But I felt compelled to at least post a photo, and tease fans of this luggage brand.

We’ll have a Gadling exclusive on this fantastic bag, so be sure to check back with us in the coming days to see what it is, and how it may very well be the best bag of 2009!

10 gadgets to make summer travel more enjoyable – The Gadling Gear Review

Now summer is finally on its way, you are probably looking closely at the travel deals out there, waiting to pick an affordable destination (hint: check out our hot travel deals!).

Before you spend all your hard earned cash on your plane tickets, why not invest in some gadgetry to make your trip more enjoyable? Here are 10 gadgets that can help you carry more, get online (in the air), capture your fun, keep your photos safe and help power all that stuff.


Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag

Wouldn’t travel be easier if you could pack everything you need for a short trip, in one bag? Would life become perfect if that bag could be a shoulder bag, backpack and duffel bag? Then check out the new Tri-Star from Tom Bihn bags.

This 3-in-1 bag makes smart use of its space, and has room for clothes, a laptop and any other small items you want to carry along with you.

Price: $240
Where: Tombihn.com (ships late June)


EyeFi Video card

EyeFi was featured in our top 25 best travel products of 2008.

The EyeFi card is an SD memory card with a twist – built inside this tiny card is a WiFi adapter, and any time your camera is in range of a wireless access point, it sends its photos to a variety of sources. The card supports uploads to your home PC, but also to most online photo hosting sites.

For 2009, EyeFi took their excellent product, upped the storage space to 4GB, and added support for video files.

Now your camera can upload photos, as well as videos. Imaging making a funny video, and arriving home with all that content already published on Youtube!

Price: $79.95 (EyeFi 4GB Explore Video) or $99.95 (Share Video)
Where: eye.fi store


Verizon MiFi

The new Verizon MiFi promises to make mobile broadband easier than ever. In the past, getting online with mobile broadband involved using a USB adapter or modem card.

The MyFi combines a wireless hotspot and mobile broadband adapter in one small battery powered device. When turned on, you can get online using your WiFi enabled laptop, netbook or PDA, without having to deal with complicated software.

Price: $99.95 (after a $50 mail in rebate, and with a 2 year contract, $59.95/month for service)
Where: verizonwireless.com


Pocket HD Camcorder

Still carrying a bulky tape camcorder? Dump it and invest in a new digital HD camcorder like the Creative VadoHD or the Flip UltraHD. At just over $200, these cameras make surprisingly high quality clips, and they are small enough to fit in your pocket. With no moving parts, battery life is often enough for a days worth of clips.

Once you get home, you simply pop out the built in USB plug, and copy all the clips onto your computer, ready to upload to your favorite video sharing site.

Price: from $199
Where: Flip by Pure Digital, Creative Vado HD, Kodak ZX1, ZI6


Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800

The Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800 is, despite the long name, remarkably simple. This small Lithium-Ion battery pack can charge almost any portable device. The unit comes with a variety of charging tips for mobile phones, PDA’s and smartphones.

With a whopping 4000mAh capacity, this battery pack carries enough portable juice to recharge most gadgets at least twice. When connected to an iPod or Zune, you’ll get over 100 hours extra music playback time!

Price: $44.95
Where: Tekkeon reseller page

>>>> Go to part 2 of 10 gadgets to make your summer travel more enjoyable