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]

Travel Hacking: Best Holiday Gifts For Low-Tech Travelers

I’m an unapologetic Luddite. My colleagues at Gadling will attest to this. The fact that I write for AOL is both cosmic luck and hilarious irony given my initial reluctance to embrace the digital era.

I can’t help it; it’s hereditary. At least, that’s what I tell myself, whenever I watch my dad pecking away on my grandparent’s 1930s Smith-Corona (not a lie), or fumbling with the remote.

It’s unsurprising that when I travel, I try to keep things as low-tech as possible. It’s a matter of both practicality and part of my old school aesthetic that leads me to eschew costly devices and other gadgets. I’m also incapable of figuring out how to use them, so I look at it as less items to get stolen or malfunction.

I know I’m not alone, so I’ve compiled a list of holiday gifts for the die-hard travelers on your list who refuse to change their old-timey ways. Just remember, one of these days, us minimalists are going to be cutting-edge for being retro.

Gift card to an actual bookstore (preferably independently-owned), or travel store.
Yeah, books are heavier to lug than a Kindle or a Nook, but as a writer, I value the written word. So do a lot of people, and one of the joys of traveling for us is exchanging books with fellow vagabonds or trading in at a guesthouse or hostel.

Prepaid international phone card
Cheap, abundant, and a hell of a lot less of a hassle than dealing with Verizon overseas (in my experience). A prepaid international card is easy to purchase, although do note it’s usually less expensive for travelers to purchase cards at their destination. It’s the thought that counts.

Netbook or airbook
I may be tech-challenged, but I’m not crazy. I can’t earn a living if I don’t travel with a computer. My inexpensive little Acer has seen me through a lot of countries and fits neatly into my daypack, along with its accessories. Don’t forget a wireless mouse to go with it.
Waterproof journal
Many travelers keep journals, and some of us who travel occupationally still carry notebooks (I don’t even own a tape recorder). It’s a huge bummer, however, when the inevitable rain, beer, wine, or coffee renders covers soggy or writing illegible. An all-weather notebook is the solution.

Ibex undergarments
I used to work in a mountaineering/ski shop in Telluride, and I swear by Ibex. Their 100% merino wool, American-made boy shorts, long johns/long “janes,” cami’s, sports bras, and adorable, long-sleeve, stripey tops are the ultimate underlayers for cold weather adventures. I road-tested some items on a month-long backpacking trip through Ecuador, from the Amazon Basin to one of the highest active volcanoes on earth. I was able to do laundry exactly twice. Ibex: 1, Stench: 0. Men’s and women’s items available; they also make outerwear.

Travel scarf/shawl/blanket
Many women get cold on airplanes and long, AC-blasted bus rides. Since I backpack, I’ve found several different drapey items in my travels that pull triple duty. Depending upon what part of the world I’m in, I’ll use a soft, alpaca shawl to dress up outfits, as a lap blanket, or an impromptu pillow. In the Andes, I sub a llama wool poncho. In the tropics, it’s a pretty, airy sarong. When I get home, I have a wonderful souvenir.

If you’re buying for someone departing on a trip, any department store will have a wide assortment and price range of pashminas or scarves. Just be sure it’s a dark color, to hide dirt and stains, and that it’s made of soft, preferably natural-fibers, so it won’t absorb odors as readily. The item should be able to withstand sink-washing.

Multi-purpose beauty products
Regardless of gender, everyone loves multi-purpose travel products: more room for souvenirs! I like Josie Maran Argan Oil, which can be used as a lightweight, yet rich, face or body moisturizer, or to condition hair (use just a few drops for soft, gleaming strands). Rosebud salve comes in cute, vintagey tins, smells lovely, and soothes everything from dry lips and cracked heels to flyaways. Many top make-up brands produce multi-use products: I crave Korres Cheek Butter, which is also gorgeous on lips (all available at Sephora).

Lush makes luxe bar soaps that work on body and hair, but perhaps the kindest gift for the female adventure traveler? Inexpensive fragrance that does double duty as perfume and clothes/room freshener. I never leave home without Demeter’s Gin & Tonic Cologne Spray.

[Photo Credit: jurvetson]

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.

How To Turn Your Daypack Into A Traveling Office

No one is ever going to accuse me of being a tech junkie. But as a journalist, I’ve had to temper my Luddite proclivities so that I can earn a living while on the road.

Compounding the issue is my essential frugality and innate dirtbag tendencies. I only travel with a backpack, using a daypack in lieu of a purse. For low-maintenance or business/pleasure-combo travelers such as myself (although I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of ditching business attire and trappings; I’ve been known to stuff a nice computer bag and dress-to-impress items into my backpack), a daypack easily transforms into a portable office.

Because I also keep my passport, money, credit cards, camera, cellphone, adaptor, and other essential documents and items on my person at all times, it also means my netbook is never left behind. This serves the dual function of ensuring I have access to a computer should I need to edit a story or file a deadline, as well as alleviates theft concerns due to entrusting my valuables to my room or hotel safe. If you’re a budget traveler, I firmly believe it’s better to risk carrying anything of value on your person than entrusting them to the vagaries of youth hostels, dodgy guesthouses, or cheap hotels.

The key to creating a user-friendly portable office lies in choosing the right daypack. I’ve written before about my preference for using hydration packs, because if you remove the bladder, it creates a space to safely store documents. I’m 5’2′, so I also require a woman’s pack, and because most of my trips include some form of outdoor activity, I like having a hip belt (the zip pockets of which double as holders for my mouse and cellphone cord), and multiple exterior and interior pockets.

I highly recommend the hydration daypacks made by Osprey and Gregory. They’re incredibly durable, and have useful bells and whistles. I’m not a fan of CamelBak, as I’ve found they don’t hold up well. The brand and style are up to you, but do check to see if the pack you’re contemplating comes with a raincover. If not, it’s a wise investment, and will spare you the anguish of waterlogged gear and devices.

[Photo credit: Flickr user incase]

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.