edc

Muji Double Fastener Case Review

Muji has a line of pouches that I find very useful. They comes in three sizes, large, medium and small, and in multiple colors: blue, light grey, mustard and black. Here I am reviewing the medium and small case together. The medium case is 5in x 7in, or 13.5cm x 19cm, just slightly smaller than a A5 notebook. The small is 4in x 5in or 10cm x 13.5cm. 

Both cases have two compartments — the front one has a mesh front and the back compartment is enclosed. The two zippers have a different zipper pull on them. The front zipper pull has a thumb loop to make opening it easier. I can see replacing the standard pull with a custom pull, although the hole is just a bit too small for a standard size 550 paranoid.

The polyester material is good quality with a tight weave but thin. They are definitely not as rugged as say halcyon or cordura, but are perfectly adequate for normal use.

For the cost, I think these just became my favorite every day pouches.

Osprey Pandion 28L Backpack Review

I use this Osprey Pandion pack mostly as a three day travel pack for business. While at 28L it is on the small size, I love the light weight, the mesh back, and the kickstand for travel.

Main Compartment

Starting with the main compartment, here is where I put my clothes and toiletries. I use a small packing cube for things that I can roll up like t shirts, and a pack-it folder for shirts. I have a LL Bean small toiletries bag. All these and one or more smaller organizer pouches fits in the main compartment together with my laptop. The laptop compartment is suspended and well padded. There is a document pocket in front of the laptop area, followed by a medium size slightly padded zipper pocket. Maybe a small tablet can fit in there. I seldom use that pocket because my iPad Pro only fits in the document pocket.

The Pandion has a slightly larger brother, the tropos which has a separate laptop compartment. The size of that pack is 32L because the laptop compartment gives maybe another inch of depth. While sometimes I wish I can pull the laptop out easier, I do not want the extra depth and weight. The Tropos and the Pandion also differ in the front of the pack:

main compartment for cloths

That was inside

Laptop and tablet slots

 

Outer Pockets

Front Stuff Pocket

The Pandion has a elastic front stash pocket that is extemely useful for travel. I stuff my light weight outer layer in there when I go through TSA Pre or in and out of cars. It probably won’t fit a winter coat, but any light weight puff jacket or hoodie will fit just fine.

The Tropos has a center zipped compartment and I think is less useful.

Padded Eyeglasses pocket

The Pandion also has two large elastic and mesh water bottle pockets on each side. They are very deep, certainly fits a large 20L bottle. During travel they are more useful as extra dump pockets for things like snacks as well.

Finally there is a slightly padded, sunglasses pocket at the top of the pack that I use for dumping my phone when I go through TSA.

Second large compartment

Organizers

There is a second compartment in the pack that runs the full height of the pack. The back wall has organizer pockets up top, and a zipper pocket in the bottom half.  It is useful when I have random things I want to be able to get to quickly, like my Amazon Basics foldable iPad stand. This compartment is pretty deep (front to back) and I can fit my bond travel gear pouch in there with all my electronics.

 

Suspended Mesh Back and Kickstand

Suspension Mesh back

These are two innovative features of this osprey. I find the mesh back really comfortable for walking around the airport. Often I ended up walking 10, 15 mins or more around the terminals and the suspended mesh definitely makes the walk easier. Together with the load lifters, and the chest strap, the fully loaded feels like nothing during the walk. The pack comes with detachable half inch waist webbing, but I removed them since I don’t find that I need them.

One thing about the mesh back — if I am wearing something smooth like a synthetic hoodie, the mesh tend to move slightly as I walk and I can hear a whoosh-whoosh side is it run against the synthetic materials.

I read some reviews that said they do not like the kickstand and I never can understand that. Especially with the thinner profile Pandion (comparing to the Tropos) I find that the bag will stand on the kickstand 90% of the time. It is really useful when I am waiting in line at the TSA, or working in a conference room. I can just put the bag down anyway.

Conclusion

This is a great travel pack for business. I have used this for 10+ trips in the last few months. My alternative is the Cotopaxi Allpa pack that I also like a lot. I can fit more things in the Allpa but I have to leave it at the hotel once I get to my destination. Whereas the Pandion I take that to work each day at my destination.

Check out my Video Review

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Vanquest Katara 16 Backpack Review

The Katara 16 is a 16L everyday carry backpack that can be converted easily to a left or right single shoulder sling bag. There are a lot of options out there for a 16L day pack. The Katara serves this space well with smart design and nice styling.

Styling

While the pack is only available in tactical colors (coyote tan, wolf grey, black, multi cam black) , I find the multi cam black can pass for, must to the dismay of true fans of tactical gear, more of a fashion statement because of the pack’s overall styling. The Katara has a much softer outline. The low profile hypalon MOLLE and the low key Vangquest logo on the front helps as well. Both the front and side profile are much softer. The two external pockets has a wedge shaped side profile that make the pack more distinct and also giving it more capacity.

Materials

The use of 500D really make the pack softer and lighter. Note that high wearing areas are still made with 1000D. The inside are all done with 210D high visibility Vanquest orange that I personally really like. There are also several zippered translucent pockets in all of the compartments.

Design and Usage

The compartments in the Katara naturally falls into three categories. The main compartment is the largest one with a hydration or laptop pocket. I can fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro with touch bar and my 10.5 inch iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard attached in there. Note that with a slim profile( 3.5 inch from my measurement although their spec says 4), these electronics will eat into the rest of the available space. This laptop pocket cover is tapered at the top so that you can get to whatever is inside from the sides when you use this pack as a sling. I am not sure this design is needed. If I have a small iPad or kindle in there I can get to it from the side. But with my MBP there is no other way to take it out other than from the top. The front of this pocket is looped covered which is great, but with that tapered top it drastically reduce the usable area for the looped back.

 The top of the main compartment, on the front side, has a full wide zippered pocket that is just over 4 inch tall I find I can get to this pocket by zipping open just the top of the pack. The zipper stopping webbing on both sides help with keeping the rest of the pack close. For a EDC pack, it is all about quick access to many items and I find this design very smart.

There front of the main compartment also has a three way opennng pocket. Again this is designed for side access. In this case it works well and let me keep some items separately from the main content and get to them quickly. If you do not want to use this pocket, you can also unzip it completely and roll it down to the bottom, giving you a simpler main compartment.

 

But there is more! The sides of the main compartment both have a pocket and webbing at the top. If you have narrow longer items, you can put them in there. Flash lights and tools perhaps?

Review Break

Let’s take a break. As you can see at this point — this pack in typical vanquest fashion, has (too many) many organization features. This is a good thing because while you cannot use all the organization at the same time, you can fit the pack to your particular usage. This is a signature design of Vanquest and I am a huge fan of that.

Front Compartments

The two front compartments both have an interesting side profile. The bottom one is deeper at the top, and the top one is deeper at the bottom. Both compartments have open pockets in the back and a zipped pocket in the front. The top compartment’s open pocket also have one row of elastic webbing. I find that with these two compartments, I can sort out my EDC items between them. I put the most frequently accessed items in the top compartment, and secondary items at the bottom compartment. The Katara design is not perfect, I wish there is a pen slot somewhere. I ended up just slotting my pens behind the elastic webbing. I also wish there is a fleece lined eye glasses/phone pocket.

 

The outside of the top front compartment is completely covered with loop materials so that you can decorate your pack with a lot of patches. The vanquest logo is sewn on discretely. The only problem I have with the loop front is, because of the shape of front and the lighter backing material, it is slightly difficult to make the patch stands out.

 

The Back and straps

The back panel is very well padded. The last quarter of the back padding is extra thick. This helps this small pad rest on the lower back. The design of the convertible straps to switch from backpack mode to sling mode is very well designed. The pack comes with stowaway waist straps. I don’t think anyone would use the waist straps with such a small pack. At least the straps are small and easily put away.

The shoulder straps have a lot of design feature. The straps are well padded and S shaped. There is a one inch webbing sawn on top, segmented for easy lashing There is a detachable chest strap. The straps can be opened near the bottom, and the buckle is covered by a elastic loop for security.

There is a padded top carry handle on the pack. The padding is great, but there is a small seam that runs along the center underneath. The padding is nicer than the padding on the same handle on the Javalin 3.0.

Conclusion

This is a very well designed small everyday carry pack. It is a good balance of organization feature and weight. Think of this as the other extreme from a Goruck Echo. While I like the sleek look of the Goruck, I always think for smaller packs, well design built in organization is important. For that I really like the Vanquest Katara 16.

Video Review

Bond Travel Gear Escapade Gear Pouch Review

I own a lot of different pouches, some no name brand ones, some expansive ones from well known tactical gear companies. As a mobile tech professional, I find this pouch fits my EDC need extremely well. I carry my MacBook Pro charger and cable, my slim rechargeable battery pack, my Anker small charger, several cables, all in this pouch. Adding to that lip balm, pen, and other smaller items.

The key to this pouch is the organization design. It is not just a few rows of elastic loops. I do not find elastic loops useful for office gear. They are good for flash lights and multi-tools, but I am not carry those around. Instead, the different size pockets in the Escapade pouch let me organize my gear inside and keep them separate. As a result, the overall, full packed size of the pouch is still very small and slim. Very space efficient. The elastic loops also have a sticky rubber strip inside of them, which helps hold on to items if they are not fully stretching out the elastic. Great design detail.

I only have two minor complains, one is the material, while rugged, seems to attract lint and other particles. I also wish it has a small strip of webbing in the back so that I can use it as a handle.

Overall, this is a really well design and made in America pouch. With the lay flat opening, I take this with me as I move between offices. Once I am at a desk, I zip this thing open and everything I need is inside, easily accessible. When I am ready to leave the office, or leave for the airport, I just put everything back inside, zip up the pouch, throw it into my bag and I am ready to go.

 

 

 

Alpha One Niner Chio Bag Review

Helmie of Alpha One Niner continues to design and produce bags that serve his own travel needs. I really like his designs. So when he released the Chio everyday carry bag I have to get one to try out.

Last weekend I took the bag out for a day trip on a family event, where I would mostly be waiting around for the whole day in a conference center. So I took my 10.5 inch iPad Pro, a book, my A5 notebook, and my nockco pen case with me to do some work. I took my Bose noise cancelling headset, iOS device charging pouch, and my mini EDC pouch with me. Add to that a hat, wallet, and mints.

All of these things fit snuggly in the bag. I also installed a Mill Spec Monkey loop panel inside the outside large compartment to hold a few pens. Note that while the bag has 5 outside pockets, they do not offer additional depth to the bag. i.e. any space taking up by these pockets pushes partially back into the main compartment. Or in my case, because the book and my notebook and my iPad with a Smart Keyboard cover together are quite thick, it does not leave a lot of extra rooms for the other pockets to hold anything beyond thiner items.

That is not an issue though — I have my wallet, my pen case, my car keys, and my mint tin placed in the outer pockets. The rest of the items fit perfectly in the main compartment. I like how the bag, once filled, fill out nice and symmetrically and the bottle flattens out. The bag can almost stand on it’s own. This goes to the very careful design of the shape of the bag.

Fully filled and weighted, the 1.5 inch strap feels comfortable either cross body or on one side. The zippers are buttery smooth. The construction of the bag is of very high quality — but then I expect nothing less from Alpha One Niner. The Evade backpack is one of my go to backpack for travel.

I went with the Kryptek typhon material because all black I think will be too boring for a everyday carry bag. I am not a big tactical bag guy but I really like the typhon pattern on this bag. For the average person it just look interesting. My minor complain is that the material feels a bit rough to the touch. My Evade has the two tone ripstop material that is very nice. However in this bag, the Kryptek may offer a bit more structure, especially when the bag is not fully loaded.

In conclusion, the bag works really well for as an every day carry bag. This is going to replace my smaller sling bags, or sometimes my Jack Spade canvas field bag as my EDC bag.

My Very Old Swiss Army Knife

Having moved from country to country, I have very few possession that I kept with me over the years. This Swiss Army Knife is one. My father bought this for me when I was very young. I do not remember when exactly but checking the stamping on the blade against this webpage, it is a pre-1973 ecoline model.

I remembered my dad taught me how to sharpen it on his wetstone, and I have sharpened it many times. There is a chip in the main blade but I do not remember when I chipped it. I have kept this in actual use with me as I moved from Hong Kong to England to America, as well as a lot of trips overseas. Recently I decided to "semi-retired" it to my desk drawer at home, so that I can pass this on to my kids.

Vanquest JAVELIN 2.0 VSlinger Sling Bag Review

After a lot of research, I bought the Javelin 2.0 from Vanquest as my first “tactical” bag. Chances are you will not see me using this sling bag in the woods. Instead, I am using it daily to and from the office, and running around with the kids on weekend. There are a lot of great features on the Javelin. It is a mid size sling bag that carries a good amount of stuff, great for daily EDC for work, or as a camera bag. It has amongst many things:

  • a front small zip pocket, perfect for a wallet, that can be optionally “locked down” with a snap closure
  • the front admin pocket and the main compartment is designed to be accessed primarily when the bag is swung to the front of the body while the bag is on your shoulder, or from the top if the bag is standing up like a bag pack 
  • a CCW back pocket that fits my iPad, or can be used with a hydration pouch, with all the routing necessary for the feeding tube
  • lots of hook and loop and molle attachment points on the outside of the bag
  • removable dividers for the main compartment — I use them when I use the bag as a camera bag

Some of the especially nice things about this bag are:

  1. quality — the build quality of this bag is top notch. Threads are straight and well sewed. Zippers are smooth — in fact getting smoother with usage. Plastics on buckles are strong and well molded. We are in contacts with the bags we carry all the time, and the quality feel adds to the enjoyment of the bag.
  2. design — There are a lot of nice details in the design of the bag that make it very functional. One particular — the C shape zipper opening of the main compartment — makes getting items in and out of the bag while on body or off body very easy. I love this design. Placement and padding of the top carry handle, the bottom grab handle for pulling the sling forward while on body, are all very well designed and executed.
  3. The orange interior color — I like bright color interior. It helps locate items in the bag.
  4. Carry comfort — the sling strap is wide and padded. The strap geometry is just right. This is one of the most comfortable bags I have.

While there are no real problems with the bag. Here are a few items that could be improved, at least from my usage pattern:

  1. The bag is not wide enough for carrying a 13 inch macbookPro and a lot of other items. The MBP will fit, but stretches the main compartment enough to make carrying a lot of other items difficult. The bag is also not wide enough to carry letter size paper portfolio (which tends to be slightly wider than letter sized).
  2. Too much velcro — while I understand that for a sling bag, internal compartments have to be useful in two directions. Therefore a velcro closure on the large internal pockets make sense. However, for use in an office environment, the velcro is loud. Also it is hard to open, particularly the big pocket inside the main compartment one handed or in one go. I often have to “tear” the velcro with two or three pulls. For my use I would love to see a zipper closure instead — while understand that a zipper makes the opening and ease of putting things in and out a bit harder.
  3. Minor personal usage issue: because I use this as my office EDC, I would like to have a little less molle on the front of the bag
  4. There is no water bottle pocket — I understand for a sling bag it is hard to design in a water bottle holder that works in two different orientation though.

Conclusion

This is a great bag that became my main EDC bag weekdays and weekends. I can’t wait to get my hands on the 3.0 version — and hoping that it is expanded in width as Vanquest has said so that it can more easily carry a laptop and paper. 

Ti2 Design TechLiner Pen Review

The Ti2 TechLiner pen differs from my other fav Kickstarter pens in that it uses magnets to hold the cap to the pen. How cool is that? My Titanium with gonzodized (by Brad Martin) finished arrived today. What a beautiful finish ! It is hard to describe it in words. Checkout the pictures.

The grip section is really comfortable. The pen is thiner than, say the Tactile Turn Mover, and it is a little lighter. Overall I find it very comfortable to hold and write with. The magnetic cap is neat, but it also makes capping and uncapping quicker. Useful. I do not know if the Signo 207 refill will dry out if left uncapped. Anyone knows?

I bought the extra lanyard cap. I think it looks much nicer. I find a small issue with it - the cap has a slight give when capped, which does not happy with the standard cap. I wonder why.

The magnets are really strong so there is no danger in the pen getting uncapped accidentally. In fact is is really fun to play with the cap and pen. Note that polarity matters. So when you take the pen apart, make sure you put the magnets back in the right orientation.

Take a look at this diagram (drawn with the TechLiner) below. There is a filler and a magnet in the back of the pen. When I took the pen apart to see the refill, they fell out and I nearly lost them. So be very careful when you disassemble the pen. There is also a small ring in the front that acts a little like a shim. Do not loose that!

Over all, this is going to be my fav pen now. It uses a very nice Signo 207 0.5mm refill. Since there is a spacer in the body, other refills may work also. Stay tune for an update.

wise-walker OS-01 urban day bag review

I have always interested in getting a Nomadic wise-walker bag. Jetpens sells some online, but from the description it didn't seems to fit my needs. Luckily I am in Hong Kong and found the right bag for myself. Here is a review of the wise-walker OS01 bag.

Why is this bag so good? It looks small on the outside, but the carrying capacity is great. It is comfortable to carry, and it is secure.

The bag has a large rectangular main compartment, and a ton (well maybe 14) of organizing pockets and areas. When travelling or commuting, a lot of the items I crarry are small. They will all fit outside of the main pocket, leaving the main compartment for the larger items like laptop or camera and a sweater.

The bag is comfortable to carry. I like to carry these bags messanger bag style, with the bag resting on my lower bag. This bag has the air meshed in the back to reduce sweatiness, important when in Asia. The shoulder strap has a padded pad in the middle.

The bag is designed to keep its content secure. This is especially important in some cities like Hong Kong. I can keep wallet and ID cards etc in areas of the bag that is very difficult to be pick pocketed.

How to Use

When running around the city:

  • I carry my Olympus E-M10 for pictures, a polo shirt for when entering crazy air conditioned restaurants and malls, and sometimes my kindle, in the main compartment
  • My battery pack for my iPhone also goes into the main compartment
  • My field notes and pen goes into the back compartment with my wallet
  • Sun glasses, lip balm goes into the front compartment under the flap

When flying:

  • Amazingly, same items as above, plus
  • my travel wallet in the back main compartment
  • currencies goes into the secure compartment
  • when going through security, all my metal items goes into the front compartment under the flap temporarily

Details

The shoulder strap pad is sewn on as part of the strap. It is not movable. As a result it will not slide back and forth. This I think is a good design, but there are two related problems: one is that sometimes I like to slide the bag from my back to my front, for example when I am on a crowded subway train. Because the pad location is fixed, when the pad is set right for the back, it will be wrong for the front.

Most of the inside organizer pockets are made with a semi transparent mesh. So you can see what is in them. The ones that are not made with messed are padded.

Packaging -- look at the little "tab" that is used to wrap the strap in the packaging. Nice touch.

There are 10 pockets according to the product leaflet. In fact there are more. Check out these little touches:

  1. inside the front outside zipped pocket, there is two small shallow pockets that are good for subway pass cards.
  2. under the front flap, the lower zip pocket is for plane tickets
  3. the second zip pocket is double zipped, has three meshed organizer pockets
  4. the zip openning on the pocket is 2/3 high of the actual pocket depth. So things are not likely to fall out after the zips are opened
  5. the main compartment under the flap is about three inches deep, which is what I like about this bag compare to others. A 13 inch MBP fits into it with no problem
  6. the back zip pocket is double zipped, and the openning is 1/2 of the height, again good for not having things fall out
  7. inside there are two mesh pockets across the very back (outer side), three slightly padded pockets and two pen slots on the other side, and two meshed pockets behind them.
  8. There is a headphone cord openning right at the center of the back of the bag
  9. The back of the bag has the "airmesh" type materials. I can tell you it really makes a difference after testing it out in the hot humid (33C, 70% humidity) Hong Kong environment.
  10. There is a "security" pocket in the back of the bag between the back pocket area and the main area of the bag. Why it is a security pocket? It is closed with velcro across the entire length of the bag. If someone try to reach into there it will be difficult, and you will definitely hear and feel the "ripping" of the velcro
  11. and finally, there are two water bottle pockets on either side of the bag, and they are large enough for 500ml size bottles.

Problems

  1. I wish the bag has either little feets on the bottom, or maybe a different materials on the bottom, for when I need to put the bag down on the floor
  2. This is the only medium size problem -- the bag has a flawed side wing design in the main compartment. In theory when the front flap is closed, the side wings will fold inwards to make sure rain will not get into the bag. But I find that most of the time the wings ended up folding outwards instead (see pictures).
  3. Finally, the none movable strap padding problem as I mentioned above. I may replace the strap with something custom or more comfortable

But seriously this is a very well thought out bag. I highly recommend it. However I seems to not be able to find it online in the US, nor in Shanghai. 

L.L. Bean Underseat Commuter Bag Review

Running from one gate to another at the airport with minutes to spare. Laptop, jacket, bag of chargers, kindle all stuffed into my Tumi messenger bag. By the time I made it to my seat, my shoulder hurts, my back aches. That is no way to start a 15 hours flight to Shanghai. It is time to get a small wheeled carry on bag.

Here comes L.L. Bean

Tumi makes a few wheeled brief cases, but the cheapest one, the T-Tech network is US$400. When I found this $169 L.L. Bean Commuter Underseat bag, I bought it.

Organization

A bag is all about organization. Too little pockets and everything gets lump together, making retrieval difficult. This is particularly bad while traveling. Sometimes I just need to get to my headphones, or passports, or whatever while standing in the TSA line or stuck in a cramp seat on the airplane.

Too many pockets is not good either. How would you remember where things are? And if any of the pockets are too large or too small, they just become not useful. How does this L.L. Bean bag perform?

Main Storage Area

The main storage area zips open like a mini suit case. On the "bottom", it has a deep storage space complete with a tie down strap on the bottom, useful for holding down clothing's. This is where I put most of my travel items. A package compression thing  just fits inside.The area is covered by a zip around mashed cover. The main area is just large enough to fit an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Folder 15 (the smaller one). I managed to pack for a two day business trip, travelled by train in China, using this bag with the Pack-It kit.

The "top" of this main area has a padded computer storage area, and a smaller lined area, perhaps for an iPad. The computer area is quite large. My 13 inch MacBook Pro fits in it with a lot of room to spare. I think you can fit two 15 inch MacBook Pros in there if you need to.

There are a few issues with this main storage area:

  • If you place the bag on it's back and open the main area, the laptop and any thing else tends to slide down and out of it's space (see picture). So you should make sure you strap down the velcro tab to protect the laptop.
  • It seems natural at first to put any paperwork, folders etc in between the front and the back of this main area. But because the meshed cover of the back area, if you try to insert anything stiff, like a file folder, into the bag while the bag is upright, it will likely get caught by the mesh cover.

One big improvement for L.L. Bean will be to add another document pocket, or a stiff divider, in this area.

Small pockets on Top

The bag has two horizontally zipped small pockets on the top. One is lighted with a soft white water resistant material. This pocket is quiet deep. The other is lined with a felt like material. Both area is great for phones and other small items. I use them to hold small items like headphones, phone and wallet when I have to empty my pockets going through metal detectors.

Sides

One side of the bag has a grab handle and a hidden luggage tag. The grab handle is really handy when you have to retrieve the bag from overhead bins. This is one of the great little design touch of the bag.

The other side has a zipped pocket that is slightly too small even for a small water bottle. Maybe it is for a compact umbrella?

Front Section

The other storage area is a zipped open front section that contains the usual organization pockets for pens, business cards etc. There is a small zipped meshed pocket at the front, good for storing more valuable things like passports and wallets. The sides of the half entire front section has "wings" that prevent things from falling out while the section is opened - good design.

Miscellaneous Features

One very nice thing about this bag is that both handles are very well padded. When you have to lift the bag to a overhead storage bin, or pick it up to walk up long flight of stairs much easier.

There is a little attachment point on the front of the bag, presumable good for attaching a small flash light or something. I have yet to use it.

There is a pass thru strap on the back of the bag that allows you to slide the bag over the pull handle of another luggage. I find that it does not fit over the very wide handle of my travel pro roller board.

The zipper pulls on the main compartment have eyelets for a lock. The zipper pulls on the smaller front compartment do not.

Telescopic Handle


The telescopic handle is hidden under a zipped opening, which is nice. The handle pulls out easily, but I find that I always have to give it an extra tug to get it fully extended and locked in place. Once extended, together with the very smooth rollerblade type wheels, it rolls easily. I dragged the bag over a mile of cobble stoned sidewalk of shanghai and it worked fine.

Conclusion

I have taken this bag on a few long haul flights, a few short haul flights, and one train trip. It has been holding up. It is definitely better than a messenger bag in terms of comfort and capacity. Even with the minor issues noted above, I recommend this bag.