The MixBag is versatile, but it won’t necessarily make you look super-cool. Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac
I was pretty sure I would never need to look any further than my trusty Chrome bag when it came time to be out and about with my electronics. It was a simple system, really: Just chuck everything into the bag’s cavernous pocket, buckle it in and go. It was quick, and it worked — until I needed to actually get anything out of there.
See, for all its style and the novelty of its seat-belt strap, Chromes are really only meant to transport one or two larger packages. Because they’re messenger bags. You know, for messengers.
The MixBag takes a different approach: It’s smaller, but it has a pocket for everything you might possibly need to carry around.
Bags, bags, bags. Literally – there are three hot bags in this week’s gadget roundup, and if you buy them all, you’ll be out by around a grand. Or you could buy the ultra-expensive Leica M-P, a new camera so minimal it doesn’t even have the trademark red dot on the front, yet still costs $8,000. Or you can go to the other end of the price range and pick up LensBaby’s new iPhone optic for just $70. And that’s just the beginning…
H.O.T. Those are the three letters that best describe Pad & Quill’s new Attaché bag, a beautiful leather satchel with unbreakable, high-copper-content hardware and parachute-grade stitching on the outside. Inside, you'll find padded MacBook and iPad pockets, plus orange suede pocket linings.
As a bonus, the marketing copy for the Attaché seems to have been written by Hannibal Lecter, containing this line: “Your taste buds and your liver deserve top shelf [and to be] savored in a glass.” (some words added for comedic effect). How much? $420
You can’t get much simpler than the Dragon device holder – it’s a pair of aluminum clips that snap onto the cylinder at the back of your Apple wireless keyboard and slide up and down, letting you space them to fit anything from an iPad to an iPod nano. The clips have a tail at the back to provide stability, and a little lip at the front to hook the bottom edge of your gadget. If you use a full-size keyboard with your iPad, this little gadget should be in your bag. $25
This bag comes from Brooks, the English bike saddle maker. Weighing in at a hefty 1.6 kilos (well over 3 pounds), it has a roll-top enclosure and adjustable clips that can attach the bag to the rear rack of your bike. The body is “water resistant cotton” and the straps are leather. The price? Around $400.
There’s little to say about KERO’s micro-suction portable battery other than, “What a frikkin’ great idea.” It’s a regular, modest-capacity backup battery (1800mAh, which will get your iPhone back to 75 percent) with a USB port and status-indicator LEDs, but on one side it has a micro-suction layer so you can stick it to the back of your iPhone, over and over. This is so much smarter than having to use a special case to clip the battery on, or just using a case with a built-in battery pack. Or you could do what I do, which is use a regular backup battery and a rubber band. $19
The Pyle PSBCG90 Smart Bicycling Computer tracks your rides with GPS and displays them on Google Maps back at your computer. You can also hook up any ANT+ accessories wirelessly (heart rate and cadence sensors, power meters and so on), and even challenge yourself, Mario Kart-style, using the ghost-route feature. It looks like a decent alternative to something like the Garmin EDGE 500, and it costs only $130.
Lensbaby now makes a sweet-spot lens for the iPhone. It sticks on with magnets (you need to stick the included ring over the iPhone’s lens) and blurs everything in your photos except a sharp sweet spot in the center. It's just like the regular Lensbabys, only less adjustable and made for the iPhone. There’s another neat feature – the front has a metal ring on it, too, so you can attach any other iPhone lenses you have onto the Lensbaby for some really freaky FX. $70
The Magnus Air updates the minimalistical Magnus that originally shipped for the iPad 2, way back in the mists of 2012. Typical of TenOne’s design, it is so simple it almost doesn’t exist, sticking to the Air with magnets and adding an almost invisible stand that holds your iPad at 22 degrees from the vertical, and at 22 degrees from the horizontal if you lay it down to type. And that’s it – an aluminum bracket that looks kinda like a taco shell, for $40.
Fact: Cobra Brief is the name I gave to my favorite pair of underwear. And now, it is also the name of a “business laptop” bag from Booq. It has all the compartments and pockets you’d expect, with a space for almost literally everything, plus an outer quick-access pocket for your iPhone and iPad. You can even hook it onto the top of your carry-on trolley, allowing you to be one of those morons who sneaks too many bags into the plane and takes up all the overhead bin space. $295
Do try this at home — if you’ve got a LokSak. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Today I’m going to review a plastic bag. A new low, even for me? Maybe, but this is no ordinary plastic bag. It’s a bag that has beaten out pretty much every waterproof gadget case i’ve ever tested, because:
It fits almost every gadget I have
It weighs almost nothing. I can keep one in every bag I carry.
The bag is the LokSak, and it’s designed to keep your gadgets safe.
Everything for a couple weeks away, including transport. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Travel can be a chance to practice minimalism, or an opportunity to drive yourself nuts. What am I talking about? Luggage. You can pare down your essentials to fit in a carry-on – even if you’re away for a month – or you can throw in every item of clothing and every charger you have. The second approach will result in a broken back, and you’ll still find that you left something essential at home.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing technique so that I only take the bare minimum. And when I say “perfected,” I mean “struggled with.” But it works for me, and the principles can be applied even if you’re the kind of person who hires a boy to carry your trunks for you when you take a cruise on the Titanic.
So here’s the Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light, a roundup of strategies, product recommendations and other tips to make your next trip a breeze.
Tote-ally awesome: The Franklin Tote can go anywhere. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
This is Waterfield’s Franklin Tote and I l-l-love it. It’s an open-topped leather bag with hand/shoulder straps and a bunch of pockets inside and out, and it’s just about the most practical daily carry-around I’ve ever used. Does is replace a backpack? Of course not.
Does it do the job of a messenger bag when on the bike? No frikkin’ way. But can I reach into my backpack as I walk to grab sunglasses, or drop in that sweet cantaloupe I just bought from the fruit store on the high street? I think you know the answer to that one.
This week's Gadget Watch has a special summer something for everyone. Fixing up the house? Laying around the house? Getting drunk and stumbling about the house? Then these toolboxes, breathalyzers and hands-free, in-bed iPad stands will serve you well.
The Flare pan looks like an oversized aluminum cupcake cup. It has heat-catching fins on the outside, like the opposite of a heat sink, and a regular-shaped inside. The idea is that the heat (not the flame – keep that turned down like you would for a regular pan) from your gas hob will stream up the sides and pump its energy into the pan through the increased surface area of those fins. The best part of all? It was designed by a real rocket scientist. $150
This magical adapter performs the seemingly impossible. Not only does it put Nikon (or Canon) lenses on your Micro Four Thirds camera body, but it also boosts the speed of the lens by one stop. That’s right – it doubles the maximum amount of light your lens can gather. It also reduces the crop factor of your lens by 0.72x. That won’t keep your wide-angle lenses wide, but it will stop them from turning telephoto. I’m in. $160
When I saw the Tablift, my first thought was “LOL.” And that was my second thought, too, if I’m honest. But as a person who uses his iPad in bed far more than is healthy, I began to see how the stable stand could help me. What’s better than hands-free viewing in the sack? Angle-adjustable hands-free viewing in the sack, that’s what. Yup, you can even tilt it down to watch while lying in bed. You might scare yourself when you wake up, but you’ll never fall asleep and drop your iPad onto your nose ever again. $60
I’m writing about this gadget mostly because of its name – Forked Lightning. It lets you charge two devices off a single USB port, which is certainly handy for those travel situations where you only have access to one power outlet (I’m looking at you, cheapskate hotels). You probably don’t want to plug two iPads 4 into one iPhone charger, but other combinations should fare better. $50
I don’t even care that RØDE makes great microphones, I just want the new Lightning-compatible iXY to play with. Look at those stereo mics: Don’t you just want to twiddle them? Or try to jam your finger between the barrels? No? Perhaps you’d rather record sound through the two half-inch condenser capsules and onboard analog-to-digital converter. You can totally do that. $200
These Japanese toolboxes, painted in bright blue enamel, are tough enough to use every day, but pretty enough to live in the house without anybody complaining. They go from a stackable small trunk-style box up to the big cantilever model with a double-hinged top level and movable dividers. From $20
Do you know how many drinks you should have if you’re driving? None. That’s how many. What if you had a couple and then you need to drive, for an emergency or whatever? Nope. Get a cab, or you’ll be killing a cyclist or a pedestrian to do whatever thing is so important that you’re happy to risk another person’s life doing it.
If you insist on drinking and driving, breathe into the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer first – if you’re not too far gone to use the keychain device. The Vio will measure your blood-alcohol content, send the result to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and even estimate how long it’ll take you to return to zero. $70
Let’s face it – the people you go to the beach with are boring. They either spend the whole time with their nose in a paperback, or they insist on annoying the rest of the folks on the beach by kicking a volleyball around the place, or whatever it is you do with a volleyball. So, you should either pack some weed and just get stoned, or bring along a Solio Sun-Powered Charger to keep your iPhone going in the bright sunlight, so you never have to interact with your “friends.” $70
Load up your manly new leather tote with dreamy camera filters, stick a handmade lens on your Leica, slip into a hideous, advertising-overloaded shirt from Rapha and jump on an outrageously expensive bike that’s unique selling proposition is its paint job. What could be more fun this July 4th weekend?
This is basically three of Blackbird's Pitch Black Field Notes notebooks, stuck together at the spines with real tar and wrapped with a cord that has had its tip dipped in yet more of the special Field Notes tar formula. If it sounds like some kind of Clive Barker-esque nightmare, that’s because it is. Don’t write the names of any loved ones in this book. Just in case, you know… $24
I tote-ally want this bag for the summer. It’s a carry-all version of WaterField's Rough Rider messenger bag, fashioned from the same tough leather with colored panels and pockets. Nonslip shoulder grips and interior pockets organize your gear, and a big central chamber will swallow all your other crap. $289
Got a GoPro? Want to add some sweet filters in front to pep up your pics? Then you need Lee’s new Bug Action Kits. There are two kits: one for underwater and one for everywhere else. The underwater kit slips green or blue color-correction filters in front of the lens in a special mount, and the dry-land (and air) kit features a polarizer and neutral-density filters, for amping up saturation or cutting out excess light. They’re reasonably priced, too, starting at around £45.
Still got money left over after wasting ten grand on a Leica M? Then you might want this handmade Perar 24mm ƒ4 pancake lens to go with it. The millimeters-thick sliver features a 10-blade aperture, full manual focus and rangefinder coupling, and can even be converted to fit other cameras. Around $660
Rapha makes lovely clothes for cyclists that don’t make you look like a dork when you’re off the bike. Usually anyway – the Team Sky jersey is not only as dorky as can be, it is also plastered with logos, so you are effectively paying the $225 asking price to become a human billboard. But you’ll be a very comfortable human billboard, with mesh fabric, angled rear pockets and a full-length zipper. I’ll stick with my merino wool.
Not long ago, anyone could buy the best bike in the world. Whichever bike that might have been, it would have been affordable to Average Charlie with maybe just a bit of saving up. But then things got ugly. Take the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, a bike as useless to the non-team rider as an F1 car is useless on the road. This carbon-fiber princess costs $20,000, and its prime feature is that it is painted in the “same location where the $1.2 million McLaren P1 supercar is painted.” If you like, you can read the specs with a calculator close at hand and tot up the weight savings – 30 grams here, 10 grams there. Then you can chuckle to yourself that the dentist who buys this bike will add all that weight back with a single hamburger.
Strictly utilitarian, the Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve will carry your notebook plus anything else you need to take along with it. Carved from a block of 900-denier polyester canvas, closed with YKK zippers and trimmed with “military grade” webbing, the pouch and pockets keeps your MacBook, power supply, trackpad and other essentials all together. Not that you ever actually need a power supply with today’s MacBooks, but you could always stow a delicious sandwich in there instead. $60
The Nissin i40 is billed as a flash for Micro Four Thirds cameras, but it’ll work just fine with anything that has a hotshoe up top. The MFT part really refers to the size – it’s small enough not to look ridiculous mounted on a tiny camera body.
It also has two sweet clicky dials on the back so you can easily set the output power (for manual use) and select the auto-modes if you hate having control of your own photos. $269
It’s Instagram IRL, for your iPhone or other cellphone camera. The Dream Scope clips onto the iPhone and an adjustable filter mount can be finagled into place over the lens. The filters themselves are graduated circles of color, clear at one side and red, blue or yellow at the other. Use alone to hop up the hue of a dull scene, or combine to get totally psychedelic. Best of all, the whole shebang costs just $30, and nobody will be able to snoop your metadata and call you out as a #nofilter faker.
A good piece of gear can make your life better. And, just as surely, a crappy bit of kit can turn an ordinary task into a profoundly irritating experience. This month's Lust List items keep us moving in the right direction.
Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C
Pushing my bike into what can only be accurately described as a head-sided tailwind and attempting to navigate the tourist-riddled Golden Gate Bridge towers, I was once again thankful to have the Cosmic Carbones mounted to my whip.
There are faster hoops. There are rims that have spent more time at the salad bar. But if you are looking to go faster, over more “epic” terrain, with nary a concern about how precious your carbon wheels may be, then the Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C (1,990 euro a pair list) should be on your upgrade shopping list. They will get you where you need to go regardless of the condition of the tarmac or what the weatherman has in store for you.
On that recent trip across the international orange landmark, I experienced just about every microclimate and terrain known to man. The braking surface worked surprisingly well in the wet foggy conditions, the climb up hawk hill was a joy and only during the nastiest of crosswinds did I notice the Carbones’ deep rim. Mavic took its sweet time releasing their first full-carbon clinchers, but they nailed the Mavic tradition of building bombproof, lust-worthy wheels. — Jim Merithew
You know what I hate about Apple computers? The precious keyboards. They look lovely, with their sleek designs and tiny little keys, but they absolutely kill my wrists and fingers. That’s why I plug a grimy old Goldtouch keyboard ($129 list when they made ‘em) into the MacBook Air that I use for work. I even take the weird-looking A-frame keyboard with me when I travel. It’s not an elegant-looking solution, but it’s a lifesaver.
I’ve dealt with typing-related RSI for decades. While I use voice recognition when I have to write something lengthy, it’s not the perfect tool to accomplish every task in every situation. Sometimes I need to hammer away on a keyboard, and when I do, the Goldtouch makes the experience far less painful. It’s split down the center, with a ball joint that lets me adjust the angle between the two halves as well as the height at the center. And the soft-touch keys just feel good to me. — Lewis Wallace
I'll admit it: I checked out Rocket Girl from my branch library
out of a thing for cat-eye glasses and an ingrained curiosity about
smart women that history has forgotten about.
Even if you don't care about either of those things, pick up this biography about rocket
scientist Mary Sherman Morgan. It's written by her son George D. Morgan,
who found that the Los Angeles Times was unwilling to print the obit he
wrote because so much of what she accomplished "couldn't be verified."
So he painstakingly pieced together her story — from her
hardscrabble childhood to some tendencies that today we'd probably call
OCD — while tracing the history of rocket science in
Rocket Girl ($18) reads like a novel (and, in fact, the work first debuted
as a play at CalTech). The story about Mary’s now-credited invention of
liquid fuel Hydyne, which powered the Jupiter-C rocket, is super-compelling.
It's a great read, whether you care that she was our first female rocket
scientist or not. — Nicole Martinelli
Sailing at the local Friday night beer can races used to be more humiliating than fun: The dispirited crew of Baby Blu almost rechristened the boat Dead F***ing Last before I got armed with Garmin's quatix marine GPS watch ($449.99 list).
As the defacto crew tactician of the decrepit Cal 20, I followed the oldest advice from racing sailors: Start first, keep ahead, finish first. Now that I'm sporting a good countdown watch and can accurately gauge the distance and time to the start line, we are often first off the mark. The navigation aids and speedometers on the quatix help us with the “keep ahead” part, though they can't do much to cover the fact that the old lady we sail desperately needs a face-lift. The best part: I got to keep our first commemorative beer glass from the first win. Arr, thanks quatix! — Stefano Maffulli
The first time I saw a Vinturi wine aerator in a Sonoma County tasting room, I pegged it for a gimmick. The woman behind the bar opened a bottle of red and poured some into a glass. Then she poured some of the same vintage slowly through the Twinkie-size plastic contraption into another glass and invited us to try the two side-by-side.
It was an effective demo.The flash-aerated wine clearly tasted better: richer, fuller, a little bit softer. More balanced and less brash. The Vinturi ($39.95 list) opened up the young wine, allowing its true character to shine through. Wine snobs have been decanting their vino forever, but dumping a bottle into a separate container and letting it “breathe” properly takes patience. The Vinturi gets the job done in seconds flat. The strange sucking sound it makes is air that’s getting mixed into the wine as it flows through the funnel-like device (thanks to the Venturi effect). It’s not for everybody, and not for every wine, but when you pop a cork and you don’t want to wait around, it’s a fantastic time-saver. — Lewis Wallace
The Shape Shifter and I just returned from a photo shoot in Utah. I could not have asked for a better travel companion. I stuffed two camera bodies, three lenses, a Q-Flash, various cords, cards, batteries and battery chargers, my laptop and oh so much more into this gear-swallowing beauty. And then I carried it on and stuffed it under my seat. Amazing.
I have also put a minimal amount of kit into it and zipped the compression zipper shut, so I could commute on my bicycle with this pack. It has waist and chest straps to keep it securely in place and plenty of pockets to help you organize your life.
Think Tank builds serious camera bags for serious photographers. If you like to travel light, like to work out of the same bag you travel with, or only carry a minimal amount of gear, then this thing is overkill. But if you travel with a pack of cameras, love adventure photography or just like to get your shit organized, I can’t say enough positive things about the Shape Shifter ($264.75 list). It’s the perfect bag for the photographer who likes to go loaded for bear. — Jim Merithew
When the standing desk craze took off, I thought it was
another overblown trend created by the same fitness yuppies that
turned gluten into the most dangerous edible compound since
trans-fats. Then I got a NextDesk Terra (starts at $1,497) and
I’ll never go back to a boring, sit-in-your-chair-till-your-ass-is-numb
The design is perfectly simple. The stained bamboo top is gorgeous and
enormous. But the best thing about the NextDesk is how smooth and
quickly it moves up and down, thanks to the 18-volt DC motors in each
leg that raise it up to a max height of 50.5 inches.
Fast-forward 18 months and not only have I cut my Red Bull dependency in half by
moving around to stay alert, I’ve become a master at typing while
dancing as Google drones through another painful three-hour keynote. — Buster Hein
For the first time in my life I was hailed a DJ hero at a picnic thanks to two things: 1) I’d downloaded the great 20 Reggae Classics and 2) I brought a Harman Kardon Onyx Bluetooth speaker.
Sitting up by the Russian River in the baking sun, there’s nothing better than the incredible sounds created by Jamaica's legendary Trojan label. And the Onyx did them justice, thanks to the four speakers and two passive radiators packed into its distinctive round enclosure. The Onyx has a stainless steel handle that makes it look a ringed planet. It’s big for a portable speaker, and well-built, but it’s light and easy to carry.
Best is that it sounded great — rich, balanced and loud. It has every connection option under the sun, including AirPlay (via Wi-Fi), DLNA and NFC/Bluetooth for our Android friends. Buttons are touch-sensitive and there’s a simple, easy-to-use app that can be downloaded from the App Store. Battery life wasn’t great (five hours unwired/ eight hours wired), but it was adequate for a long afternoon’s partying. It’s a bit pricey ($399 on Amazon) but for a speaker of this high quality, well worth it. — Leander Kahney
A bamboo bay for your Beats by Dre? A cellphone-charging carabiner? A creepy drone that follows you around? What about an iPhone case that looks like a (tiny) broken skateboard? If you were looking for any of these, you’re in luck.
‘sup dawg? No – literally. What’s up? Dog? This is the AirDog, a drone/RC ‘copter that follows you around. Hang a camera from the mount under the hovering doggy and strap the AirLeash to your wrist. Sensors beam info to the drone and it will follow your exact trajectory, only up in the air. Launch and landing are automatic, and an iPhone app can be used to tweak the flight path for, say, a continuous loop. $1,195
Possibly most notable for introducing the term “DreStation,” this bamboo stand is much more affordable than the headphones it holds. And you don’t even have to use Beats cans – any over-the-ear headphones will hang just as easily from this dumb wooden desk tidy.
It’s not all good though: The lack of a hole on the base means you can’t charge the iPhone or iPod while it stands in there. $40
Who doesn’t love a carabiner? And who doesn’t find themself in need of a Lightning cable from time to time? Nobody, that’s who. And that’s who will buy the Nomad Clip, a carabiner that unfurls to become a charger for you iDevice. Made from steel and polycarbonate, and not suitable for climbing, you can also choose a microUSB version. $39
If you like the look of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud apps Sketch and Line, but don’t fancy buying the $200 official stylus to use with them, you should pick up Adonit's new Jot Touch instead. It has a tiny “Pixelpoint” tip instead of a disk or fat rubbery point, and it works just like Adobe’s Ink stylus, letting you copy and paste to/from the Creative Cloud as well as access files and Kuler color palettes. Best of all, it’s just $120.
What’s a duck head? It’s the little interchangeable block of power plug prongs that slots onto every Apple power adapter from MacBook Pro to iPad. And the Duck Head Saver from DenVog is a widget that sticks onto the side of your AC adapter and adds a prong onto which the unused duck head can slip whenever you use a foreign duck head or the long adapter cable. $35
The cedar used to make the barrel of the Timbrr stylus contains lots of natural resins. Not only will this make it smell as good as a humidor full of Cuban cigars, but that resin also helps conduct the special human waves that are required by a capacitive screen to detect a touch. Otherwise the Timbrr is a regular ol’ stylus, with a rubber tip and a fat, easy-to-hold barrel. $34
How about a nice safe wired keyboard for your iPad? This Lightning-equipped number from Belkin doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t even require that Bluetooth be switched on on your iPad. It’s also thin, Apple-certified and comes with all the usual media keys for controlling your tablet. And with the wired connection, nobody can snoop on the keystrokes you’re sending over the airwaves. $60
Can’t decide what kind of bag to buy? Then buy the Bowerbag, a modular system that takes five (5!) separate sacks and joins them together with a modular system. Each bag, complete with its straps, connects to all the others in a huge compromise of buckles and webbing. Who cares how much it weighs? You have choice!$360
It’s an iPhone case. It’s fashioned from silicone. It looks like somebody snapped a skateboard in half. What’s not to like? Apart from the fact it won’t ever fit your pocket thanks to those wheels sticking out the back? Or the fact that you can’t reach the iPhone’s power button? Nothing, that’s what. Oh, maybe the price tag: $45
When I opened the (huge) shipping box that brought the new Boa Flow to Cult of Mac’s German HQ, I thought I’d hate it (the bag, not the box). But it turned out to be one of my favorite bags for lugging a lot of gear with me.
The Boa Flow is made for “creative professionals.” That is, it’s for anyone who needs to carry computers, cameras, headphones and other accessories, and to this end it had zillions of pockets and storage sections. The best part is that there are many options for every kind of item. You can put your MacBook in the separate slot by your back, for example, or you can slip it into a pocket in the main chamber.