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.

Daily deal – Solo Netbook instant messenger TSA friendly bag

My daily deal for today is for the Solo Netbook Instant Messenger. This pint sized laptop bag is designed for small laptop computers, with up 10″ screens.

The bag has enough space for your Netbook and some other items, but don’t expect to turn it into your next overnight bag.

Not only does the bag hold your Netbook, it is also designed to be checkpoint friendly – which means you can keep your computer inside the bag without the need to remove it at the TSA checkpoint.

The MSRP of the bag is $49.99, but currently has it on sale for $34.99. If you’d rather learn more about the bag before you purchase it, be sure to check out our recent review of the product.

Product review – Solo CheckFast Netbook instant messenger bag

In this product review, I’m going to give you a quick look at a new laptop bag. Of course, new laptop bags are introduced by the boatload every week, so you’ll understand that this bag is something special.

The Solo CheckFast Netbook Instant messenger bag does 2 things most other bags can’t do; it is TSA friendly, and it is designed specifically for Netbook computers.

The Solo Netbook instant messenger is the first true Netbook friendly bag I have come across. I’ve previously reviewed a different Netbook protective cover, but it did not offer the same features as the Solo.

As I mentioned earlier, the CheckFast Netbook instant messenger bag is TSA friendly. Being “TSA friendly” means that the bag can be folded open, allowing the airport X-Ray equipment to see the laptop, without having to remove your laptop from its bag.

The bag itself is quite impressive. The laptop portion of the bag is designed for Netbook computers up to 11 inches. In addition to this compartment, you’ll also find 2 other portions, one of which is designed to hold small items like USB flash drives or a portable hard drive.

Opening the bag for inspection at the airport is quite easy, and only takes about 10 seconds. When you arrive at the security checkpoint, you simply unclip the buckle at the front, loosen a piece of Velcro, and fold the entire bag flat on the conveyor.

Other features of the bag include a nicely padded handle and a non-slip shoulder strap.

The best part of this bag? It only costs $35 (when purchased from Amazon). I’ve been carrying the bag around for a few days now, and I absolutely love it. It suddenly dawned on me that it does not make sense to carry a small computer in a large bag, but until now, I did not want to say goodbye to my regular TSA friendly laptop bag.

Of course, with a smaller bag, you’ll have less room to carry stuff, but being forced to travel lighter is something you’ll learn to appreciate. Even if you don’t plan to travel with your Netbook, having a stylish bag to protect it is a wise investment.

The Solo CheckFast Nebook Instant messenger bag is available from Amazon, Ebags or one of the other retailers listed on the product page.

Gadling’s Top 25 travel technology products of 2008

Welcome to the Gadling top 25 travel technology products of 2008.

It has been a great year for gadget loving travelers, and I have come across some really fantastic products that have helped make my own trips much more enjoyable.

It was not easy keeping the list to just 25 products, and there should be something for everyone in this lineup. So, without any further delay, I present (in no particular order), the 25 best travel technology products of 2008.


Boingo is the only thing listed in the top 25 that isn’t a physical product.

Boingo provides a service that lets you pay a single monthly fee to get access to over 103,000 different Wi-Fi hotspot locations around the world.

For $59 you get their global traveler plan, which offers unlimited access to any of the locations in the Boingo network.

If you have traveled the world, you’ll have probably stayed at one of the many hotels using Wi-Fi as another source of income. Think of Wi-Fi as the new minibar. With daily rates as high as $30, using Boingo makes perfect sense. Business travelers will certainly appreciate the ability to use a single logon and not have to worry about a different expense for each connection they setup on a trip.

Why it matters to travelers: Saves money and makes getting online around the globe much easier.
Price: From $7.95 for a US only PDA plan, $59 for a global plan
Gadling review: Coming soon.

T-Mobile Blackberry Curve

With all of the mobile phones popping up this year, you’d probably expect me to pick the new 3G iPhone as the most travel friendly phone. Sadly for Apple, it’s actually a Blackberry that is still my favorite pick. The Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile has one very important feature that makes it the perfect pick for global travelers; Wi-Fi calling. The technology is called UMA, and it allows the Blackberry to roam onto a Wi-Fi hotspot signal and behave just like it would on a regular cell tower.

You could be in Japan on a Wi-Fi signal in your hotel, and your Blackberry will be able to make and receive phone calls and text messages just like back home. Of course, because you are not roaming on an international network, you can even make these calls for the same rate as a normal call back home, without the insane roaming rates involved.

Why it matters to travelers: Cheap calls, email, Internet browsing and travel applications.
Price: $99.99
Where: or any T-Mobile authorized dealer
Gadling review: October 15th 2008

Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Several years ago the big development in wireless technology was the availability of broadband 3G wireless access. If you keep your eyes open next time you are at an airport lounge, you’ll see loads of people working on their laptop with a little antenna sticking out the side of the machine.

To me, the biggest development in wireless data this year, came from the Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

The PHS300 turns your 3G modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The battery powered device creates a wireless signal ready to use by one person, or an entire conference room. By moving your wireless card out of your laptop, you also save battery life, plus you can move the Cradlepoint router closer to a window to pick up a better wireless signal.

Why it matters to travelers: One modem card can be shared with others, reduces the load on your laptop.
Price: $179.99
Gadling review: August 25th 2008

Eye-Fi wireless enabled SD memory card

Nothing in the photography world has made life easier for me than the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. The Eye-Fi card is a regular SD card, with a built in Wireless adapter.

What this means to anyone taking photos is that they can take a photo and within seconds it will be uploaded to their computer or a photo sharing site of their choice (as long as you are in range of a wireless network).

The card was released last year, but 2008 brought several major updates to their lineup including the Eye-Fi Explore. The Explore adds hotspot access to any Wayport locations, as well as basic Geotagging of your photos.

I’ve become so used to offloading my photos using the Eye-Fi card that I actually lost the USB cable of my previous camera.

Why it matters to travelers: Send your photos home before you leave your destination.
Price: From $79.99
Gadling review: Coming soon

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

In picking my favorite digital camera for 2008, I went through almost 15 different models. When it comes to a camera that is suitable for travelers I looked for several things; it had to be small enough for traveling light, and it had to offer something invaluable for making decent shots.

I’ll admit right away that I am a horrible photographer, I’ve played with digital SLR cameras, but never managed to quite master the art. Since I’m convinced the same applies to many other traveling consumers, I’ve picked the small Lumix TZ5 for this lineup.

The TZ5 is a 9.1 megapixel camera like many other point and shooters on the market. What makes the TZ5 different is its 10x optical zoom and the ability to shoot basic HD video clips.

Why it matters to trav
10x wide angle optical zoom, HD video clips, special “travel” mode for sorting your photos.
Price: $329.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Lenovo Ideapad S10

Every several years something big happens in the computer world. 3 years ago we saw a big shift from desktop PC purchases to notebooks. 2008 was the big year for the Netbook.

This new generation of ultra portable (and ultra affordable) computers has forced every major manufacturer to bring at least one machine to the market. What started with a single design from Asus has now morphed into about 30 different machines. I’ve tried almost every single one of them, but eventually there was just one clear winner for me; the Lenovo Ideapad S10.

This 10″ Intel Atom powered Netbook is perfect for business travelers as it is available with Bluetooth and it has an Expresscard slot (for expansion cards). The Lenovo S10 has a very sleek design, and incorporates the reliability Lenovo is known for. In my personal opinion, the S10 is also the best looking Netbook of the year.

Why it matters to travelers: Size, looks and performance.
Price: From $399
Gadling review: coming soon

SeV Quantum jacket

When you are on the road a lot, you learn to value the importance of pockets. It sounds pretty quirky, but the combination of travel and carrying too many gadgets means you always need more ways to carry them. The SeV Quantum jacket is a stylish jacket made of breathable material. Hidden away all around this garment are 28 separate pockets, including some large enough to carry a water bottle or even a small laptop!

Almost every pocket is linked to the others using the SeV patented “personal area network” which allows you to route cords inside the jacket. The Quantum even features 2 special pockets with clear plastic which allow you to have easy access to your iPod or mobile phone.

Why it matters to travelers: Pockets, lots and lots of pockets.
Price: $250
Gadling review: September 29th 2008

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

After years of making our lives miserable, the TSA actually used 2008 to help bring some common sense back to the checkpoint. One of their accomplishments was the creation of some better rules for how they treat your laptop. In the past, they were so scared of laptop computers that they wanted every laptop on its own going through the X-Ray conveyor. The new rules allow you to keep it inside an approved bag.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer was one of the first checkpoint friendly bags to ship. The bag is made in the USA and features an ingenious folding laptop portion. The bag is very well made, and is full of great little touches like waterproof zippers.

Why it matters to travelers: Every minute saved at the checkpoint is valuable.
Price: $225
Gadling review: October 7th 2008

Altec-Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 portable speaker

The Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker is the perfect companion for your iPod, iPhone or other music player.

The speaker works off three AAA batteries and allows you to store the audio cord in the bottom.

The Orbit MP3 produces an amazing amount of sound, and despite its tiny size, you’ll easily be able to fill a decent size hotel room with your tunes.

Why it matters to travelers: Room filling audio from a pint sized speaker.
Price: $39.95
Gadling review: October 29th 2008

Creative Labs Aurvana headphones

I’ve had the Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi headphones lined up for a review for some time, but I’ve been using them so often that I never got around to giving you a full review. The Aurvana X-Fi headphones feature the highly rated Creative X-Fi system for improving the sound quality of your digital music as well as a special mode for creating virtual surround sound when you listen to a movie.

The headphones are even $50 cheaper than that “other” brand of popular noise canceling headphones.

The Creative Labs Auravna X-Fi headphones are quite simply the best noise canceling headphones I have ever used. Included in the package is a sturdy carrying case, adapters for most headphone jacks and an extension cord.

Why it matters to travelers: Combines amazing sound quality with amazing noise canceling features.
Price: $249.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Duracell PowerSource mini battery pack

I like power. Sadly I don’t have much of the influential kind, so I compensate by collecting gadgets that can keep my other gadgets working. The Duracell Portable Power Pack is such a device.

This small rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack features a folding USB connector, a second female USB connector and a battery life indicator. A fully charged Duracell battery pack holds enough juice to recharge most of my gadgets at l
east three times.

Why it matters to travelers: Because a gadget without power can be really depressing.
Price: $39.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Peek Email device

Back in September we posted the first ever review of this personal email device.

Peek is a handheld wireless emailer which runs off the nationwide T-Mobile network. For $99 (priced at $79.99 till the end of the year) and a monthly service charge of $19.99, you get unlimited access to your email on the go. There is no contract, and no paperwork involved. You simply give Peek a credit card number, and you are all set.

I like Peek because it delivers on its promise; it does email, and only email, but it does that one thing quite well. Peek was recently voted “best gadget of 2008” by Time magazine.

Why it matters to travelers: Provides simple and affordable email on the go for anyone.
Price: $99.95 ($79.99 till December 31st)
Gadling review: August 26th 2008


The Chargepod by Callpod has completely changed the way I charge my gadgets on the road. In the past I had a complicated array of chargers, cables and splitters. The Chargepod powers off one AC adapter, and can power 6 gadgets at the same time.

Chargepod offers an impressive list of power adapter tips for anything from your Bluetooth headset to the latest portable gaming console. I have yet to run into a gadget that can’t be powered off the Chargepod.

Why it matters: One charger instead of 6
Price: $39.95 for the base unit, or $79.99 for the bundle pack with a selection of power tips
Gadling review: August 28th 2008

Otterbox cases

As gadget prices go up, so does the disappointment when a gadget breaks. Anyone who is on the road a lot will subject their gadgets to all kinds of abuse.

Otterbox produces a lineup of cases that provide several levels of protection. They vary from basic bump and scratch protection, to full water and shockproof protection.

Otterbox cases are available for all iPods as well as most Blackberry smartphones including the recently released Blackberry Bold.

Why it matters to travelers: Take your gadget to the beach, or up a mountain.
Price: From $19.95
Gadling review: September 10th 2008

Amazon Kindle

It’s almost impossible to list “best gadgets” without mentioning the Amazon Kindle. This electronic book reader launched in November of 2007 and has been one of the top selling electronic devices on ever since.

The Kindle was not the first electronic book on the market, but it does something no other eBook can do; wireless downloads of books.

No longer will you have to jump into the book store at the airport to buy another overpriced book, nor do you need to stock your carry-on with magazines and newspapers.

The Amazon Kindle offers it all, in a slick and easy to use package. The usability is slightly questionable, and the page changing buttons are a nightmare to use, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the ability to download a book right before takeoff. In addition to books, the Kindle also offers wireless access to select newspapers, magazines and RSS feeds.

Why it matters to travelers: Never worry about running out of something to read on the road, reduce the weight of your carry-on.
Price: $359 + the price of your reading materials
Gadling review: coming soon

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Product review – Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer TSA friendly laptop bag

Back in August, the Transportation Safety Administration relaxed its rules for getting your laptop through the security checkpoint.

Essentially, the rules say that a laptop can stay in its bag, as long as the X-Ray machine has a clear and unobstructed view of the computer. There can be no pockets, zippers or items blocking its view of what is inside the laptop.

Several manufacturers immediately announced that they would have their own TSA friendly bags on shelves within a few months.

The first of them to actually deliver on that promise, is Tom Bihn with the new Checkpoint Flyer. Tom Bihn is not your average luggage company. For starters, they still make their bags in the United States, Tom Bihn himself is in charge of designing them, and they are hand made in their Seattle factory. The end result is something unlike any bag I’ve ever seen.
The Checkpoint Flyer comes in three color combinations and three sizes;

  • Black/Crimson
  • Black/Steel
  • Black/Black.

The different sizes are designed based on the Apple Macbook dimensions of 13, 15 and 17 inches. Fear not though, because these sizes mean the bag will fit virtually any laptop on the market, and I had no problem fitting a “normal” 15″ Dell inside it.

The bag has 2 pockets on the front, 2 on the back, a cavernous storage pouch (with 2 internal pockets) and of course, the special laptop portion. The rear pocket zips open on the bottom for sliding it over the handles of a rolling suitcase.

To open the bag for inspection, you simply unclip to latches on the bottom, and flip the entire laptop bag out. Tom Bihn really found the perfect and most efficient way to do this, because in the few attempts I made, I was able to open the bag in a matter of seconds. The laptop portion of the bag stays secure when you carry it, because its handle slips through a slot in the top of the bag, becoming the second handle on the top. Yes, the description sounds complicated, but I can assure you it is something you can do without needing a manual. Tom Bihn have made a short video clip on their site outlining the steps for opening the bag.

As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the bag is simply amazing. I always considered myself a bit of a laptop bag “snob”, and have regularly purchased expensive bags to protect my goodies, but none of them are as well designed and well made as the Checkpoint Flyer. All the zippers on the top are splashproof thanks to special YKK zippers. The material feels bulletproof and I absolutely adore the color combination (I have the crimson/black version).

Of course, the real test happens at the airport, and I am happy to report that things actually went smooth; on a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam the bag unfolded and went through the X-Ray machine without any TSA agents yelling and screaming. And to be honest, it wasn’t the bag I was fearing, it was lack of training of the TSA agents. Thankfully most of them seem to have received the memo, and the bag was able to pass security without running the risk of losing a laptop. Unfortunately, the airport sterile zone is not the kind of place where you can pull out your camera and photograph what is happening, so you’ll have to settle for some photos made on my patio.

Of course, the new regulations are not just for our enjoyment, a recent report claims that passengers at US airports lose almost 12,000 laptops every single week, and while I personally doubt those claims a little, laptops DO get left behind at the X-Ray machine more often than in the past when they could just stay in their bag.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer costs $220. When you purchase the bag, you’ll want to add some accessories. The bags are currently on pre-order, but these orders are shipping out fairly quickly.

The bag does not come with a shoulder strap, so be prepared to add an additional $20 or $30 to the purchase price depending on the version of strap you order. On the bag I reviewed, I tested the “Absolute Shoulder Strap“. This simple looking strap has a stretchy shoulder pad, which acts as a shock absorber, greatly reducing the load on your shoulder.

Other accessories to consider are the Tom Bihn “Horizontal Freudian Slip” ($35). This insert increases the number of pockets in the bag including space for pens, folders and electronic gadgets. When you arrive at your destination, or simply need access to some of your items at the airport, you can pull the entire slip out of the bag.

Finally, Tom Bihn also has 2 different packing cubes ($18 each or $30 for the pair). While these may also be of the same excellent quality of the rest of the items, I’m not sure the price can be justified unless you are going for an “all Tom Bihn” look for your bag. The cubes are quite handy though, and they hold a large amount of stuff which is especially handy for bundling your cords or other loose items.

My conclusion is simple; this is a fantastic bag. It holds all the stuff I carry, and I don’t have to keep a constant eye on a $2500 laptop leaving my sight in a plastic tub. I’m absolutely in love with the style and the attention to detail Tom Bihn has put into designing it. There is no denying that $220 (plus some more for the accessories) is more than many people are willing to spend on a laptop bag, but if you are a frequent traveler, you’ll want to seriously consider investing in a bag that can speed things up at the checkpoint, and make you look cool at the same time.