| Cult of Mac

Kings backpack treats your tech carry like royalty [Review]


The Kings laptop backpack by STM Goods will shoulder the burdens of the working class.
The Kings laptop backpack by STM Goods will shoulder the burdens of the working class.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The Kings laptop backpack by STM Goods is handsome enough, but one small detail on the inside got my attention.

Tethered inside one of the two compartments I found a zippered pouch that could be used to store pens or cords. I stow my various incidentals in similar pouches in my shoulder bag, so it seemed like this particular backpack was designed especially for me.

Versatile backpack carries the load with style [Reviews]


The Moshi Arcus backpack wants to shoulder the weight of all you carry for a day's work or travel.
The Moshi Arcus backpack wants to shoulder the weight of all you carry for a day's work or travel.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Red flags go up for me when a shoulder bag or backpack is described as having a “minimalist” design. Minimalist is code for “won’t carry all my crap.”

However, in the case of the new Moshi Arcus multifunction backpack, the minimalism actually conceals an ample and well-thought-out space. A surprising number of pockets in various sizes accommodate all the tools of a daily carry.

Finally, a holiday gift guide you actually care about [Deals]


GG - Mainframe
Beats by Dre, UE ROLL 2, and lots of Mac amenities make for some very happy holidays.

The people on your holiday shopping list deserve cutting-edge gifts. That’s why you won’t find ugly sweaters or gifts that are actually meant for pets not people in the Cult of Mac gift guide.

Loaded with tech gift ideas for Apple fans, this handy guide will make you the best gift-giver in the family for once.

MSI’s backpack PC makes high-end VR portable


Oculus in the park? Not quite.
Photo: Oculus/Cult of Mac

Thanks to headsets like Google Cardboard and Gear VR, the virtual reality experience is already pretty portable. But on a smartphone, you’re only getting a watered-down version.

That’s why MSI decided it would be a good idea to build a PC into a backpack, allowing you to enjoy high-end VR on the go.

Backpack built for bikes lets you carry more on two wheels [Reviews]


Get more out of your commute with one or two of these pannier backpacks.
Get more out of your commute with one or two of these pannier backpacks.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Best List: Convertible Pannier Backpack by Two Wheel Gear

When I commuted to my office via bicycle a few years back, I had two choices, a backpack or a pannier bag. The backpack usually won out, because who wants to carry around a massive set of bags when they get to the office?

But a backpack can get heavy and sweaty as it sits on my back while I pedal furiously across town to get to work, so I’d end up trying the pannier thing every once in a while, dealing with the awkward carry when I’d arrive.

Two Wheel Gear has a nice compromise, however, a convertible bag that’s made to connect to your rear bike rack, pannier-style, that also converts into a handsome, rugged backpack to easily carry around once you reach your destination.

It’s the best of both worlds, really.

Poros backpack lets you commute with style and a little extra power


The Tetra by Poros greatly reduces low-battery anxiety.
The Tetra by Poros greatly reduces low-battery anxiety.
Photo: Poros

You could say John Borofka has put a handle on power.

He founded Poros, a company that designs travel and accessories bags with built-in battery system to charge your devices. The company’s fourth bag is a stylish backpack called the Tetra.

The Tetra carries a 10,000 mAh lithium ion battery, enough juice to fully charge a MacBook Retina or an iPhone 6s four and a half times. It can be ordered with a dedicated Apple Lightning Connector and is ready for the future with USB-C compatibility.

The Cult of Mac gift list, optimized for maximum cool at minimum cost [Deals]



Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

‘Tis the season to freak out over what to get for the tech savvy folks in our lives. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast variety of gadgets and gear on offer these days, especially if you’re on a budget, which is why we’ve put together this list of five deals on some of the coolest gifts out there. From USB-powered guitars to VR headsets and upgraded SNES controllers, pick up one or grab the whole list — there’s something here for everyone.

Best List: Electric wheels, trick packs and a selfie stick even Apple could love



Each month, Lust List rounds up the products that made us break out the hats and hooters. This time we're throwing down the jam with perfect packs, an electric mountain bike, a super-sick selfie stick and other essentials.

Steelcase Gesture office chair

This chair saved my ass. After months of sitting on a cheapo spinner made of molded plywood from IKEA, I was getting a little sick of the numbness in my hams: Every time I got up after a long session of hacking away at the keyboard, my legs felt almost useless.

Plopping down on the Gesture chair by Steelcase (starts at $974, with options) changed all that. I feel much more comfortable after a long day of at the desk, but the Gesture goes beyond that: It's designed to accommodate a variety of sitting positions, from straight-up typing to kicked-back tapping on an iPad or smartphone. A four-position selector lets you dial in your level of lean; an easy-turn knob lets you adjust the seat depth while a simple lever allows height adjustments.

The truly novel part is the "limb interface" adjustments: The chair's grippy rubberized arms adjust effortlessly up, down, in and out so you can position them right where your arms want to be at any given moment. And unlike some overly complicated office chairs, tweaking this beast to your heart's (and your back's) content is very intuitive.

When it comes to looks, it's stylish enough for any modern office. The comfy gray fabric covering the seat and back reminds me of a subtle flannel suit, but Steelcase offers the Gesture in a wide variety of less-staid colors (and leather, too). — Lewis Wallace

Buy from: Amazon

I discovered Rite in the Rain notebooks like a lot of people: struggling to write in a downpour while standing next to someone effortlessly jotting notes as if there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

My days of covering football games in all sorts of weather are behind me, but these notebooks have stayed with me. The company has been around since 1915 and produces all sorts of products, from index cards and loose-leaf paper to notebooks of all sizes. The specially coated paper allows you to write through a wet surface using a pencil or ballpoint pen (though not gel or fountain pens). I prefer the 3-inch-by-5-inch spiral-top notebooks ($3.95) and the small Field Flex books ($4.95). Don't wait to get caught in bad weather to learn about these rugged notebooks. — David Pierini

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The most important feature when looking for an infant carrier pack is the fit. Not just for you but also the baby. Osprey Packs' Poco Premium is the Cadillac of carrier packs, with enough adjustments to fit both newborns and young toddlers, while also fitting perfectly for both parents.

Our 2-year-old was more than happy to come along for hikes around the lake, and he was even comfortable enough to doze off during nap time. We've got baby No. 2 on the way, and once he is old enough for adventures, fitting the carrier for him will be a breeze. The saddle raises and lowers, the baby’s shoulder straps adjust, and the entire harness has straps on the sides for a secure fit.

The sun shade is perfect for hot summer hikes and sets up much more easily than expected, providing ample protection to prevent your kid from getting burned. It also comes with a ton of storage. There's a hydration sleeve that can fit a 3-liter bladder; large, zippered compartments that are easy to access on the go; and a removable pack for when you're tired of carrying Junior around.

Osprey even threw in a changing pad that's all too handy for swapping out diapers in the middle of the desert. Initially, I thought carrying around my son on my back would be a pain, but Osprey makes the experience ridiculously comfortable. My son is always asking to go hiking and now I am happy to oblige. — Blake Abel

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

Mountain biking has never been my thing. I’m a hiker and I love to take my sweet precious time on trails instead of hurtling down them at breakneck speeds. But Currie Technologies' iZip E3 Peak electric mountain bike may have converted me into a cyclist.

Powered by a 350-watt center-drive motor, the E3 Peak ramps up the torque while still making it feel like you’re riding a regular bike. It can reach top speeds of 28 mph if you’re pedaling with all your might, or you can cruise around at 20 mph for a more leisurely pace.

Riding this thing is incredibly fun. I took the E3 Peak on a few spins through Papago Park and it felt like I was riding a rollercoaster through the desert. Just select between four levels of pedal assistance, rev the motor for a quick start, and you’ll be blowing past crews of cyclists as they struggle to climb a hill while you barely break a sweat. It feels like cheating, but who cares?

Not only is it wicked fast, but iZip made the E3 Peak super-easy to set up and maintain so you can spend less time fiddling with the mechanics and more time on the trail. Using the drive-assist control pad was more intuitive than I expected, and with a range of 25 to 35 miles, I get in more sights in one hour than I would in 10 hours of hiking. And my legs don’t even complain. — Buster Hein

Buy from: Currie Technologies

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

Lepow's Poki external battery is thin, powerful, fast and fashionable. With a touch of pleasing aesthetics, thanks to pastel colors and a crafty carrying satchel, it stands out from the boring array of generic power bricks.

Just in time, too. Moments ago, we packed away our external battery cases and power bricks because the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus battery life is so amazing that the need for extra juice was basically eliminated. But along comes the Apple Watch, with battery life being short of a full digital day of activity, all of a sudden we want an extra charge cable and an external battery to toss in our backpacks alongside the watch's magnetic charger. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Carrying a selfie stick can be pretty embarrassing (they're banned from this year's WWDC), but these trendy devices can be truly useful. Getting a shot of yourself and all your pals at a sporting event, on top of a mountain or even just goofing around the backyard is much easier when you can extend your iPhone away from you a bit to get a wider shot.

The iKlip Grip is a great selfie stick, for sure, but it packs loads of extra functionality into a seriously useful package, letting it serve as a tripod and remote shutter button as well. The mount is based on IK Multimedia’s iPhone holder for musicians, the iKlip Xpand Mini, so the Grip is a solid, safe way to hold your iPhone when it's not in your hand.

In addition, the iKlip Grip features a three-legged tripod that folds up into the selfie stick's handle; it’s a brilliant bit of engineering, letting you use the Grip either in hand or on a flat surface. And if you need to get away from the tripod-mounted iPhone for a big group picture, the iKlip Grip comes with a remote key fob that will let you click the shutter from a distance.

At just $59.99, the iKlip Grip is a great deal for anyone who needs to capture selfies and group shots as part of their adventurous lifestyle. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: IK Multimedia

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I'm a wine drinker but when the price on the bottle reaches the $10 mark, I keep my wallet in my pocket. I'm the same way with camera and computer bags. I love them, even collect them so I can switch them out, but anything more than $100 seems outrageous to me.

But I discovered a vintage that is worth the extra money. The Buttpack by Able Archer costs $250, but its style and construction suggest you'll enjoy it forever.

Weatherproof, military-grade canvas (in leaf, sand, cement or ash colors), pockets of various sizes, and grids of webbing inside and out provide added protection for your gear and extra places to attach pouches. Get this bag in your hands, explore the main pouch and sling it on your shoulder. — David Pierini

Buy from: Able Archer

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

This is perhaps the most innovatively designed Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen: It's like a travel alarm clock for your tunes. InnoDevice's INNOFlask Bluetooth speaker comes in attractive black, blue, orange and white colors, and closes into a clever holder — about the size of a glasses case — that also serves as a stand.

The $129.95 speaker, which resembles a flask for your favorite hard alcohol thanks to its rounded back and basic rectangular shape, is perfect for slipping in your back pocket as you head out the door. It’s an easy pairing situation, as well: Just hit the Bluetooth button, find the INNOFlask in your Bluetooth preferences on your iPhone, and you’re rocking the latest Mumford & Sons in style.

The sound quality is good, and only improved by the resonating chamber created by standing the speaker up within the case. This is a solid, useful little speaker that will definitely turn heads when you set it up on the picnic table to listen to your favorite podcasts while you write in your journal this summer. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

In direct sunlight, the GoSun Sport solar grill ($249) can cook a hot dog in 10 minutes and a steak in about 40. That’s a pretty impressive use of the sun’s rays. Designed to be used as a smokeless food cooker and water sanitizer, the GoSun Sport heats your vittles in a vacuum tube that’s been placed in the center of two parabolic metal reflector “wings” that direct sunlight onto the tube.

Just slide a tray of cut-up food down the center of the vacuum tube to be cooked at temperatures up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. You can even boil and sanitize water with the GoBrew, an optional insert for heating liquids. A larger model, the GoSun Grill, is coming soon.

The company donates one out of every six stoves it makes to a family in need through an empowerment program, helping those in endangered by cooking with dirty fuel. For those of us in the first world, it’s a great way to get off the grid and cook foods without a lot of impact on the environment. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Sometimes you just need a little extra power to get you through a busy iPhone day. While the Boostcase's rechargeable 2,700-mAh battery only provides 60 percent of a full iPhone 6 Plus charge, the design of this thing lets it transcend that limitation.

With the Boostcase ($99.95), you slide your iPhone into a clear, thin plastic sleeve that will protect it from most drops and bumps. The power case attaches to the rear of this case and the Lightning port on your iPhone, bulking it up only when you need the battery. It’s like having two cases in one, really, with the clear plastic showing off both the beauty of your iPhone (when the battery isn’t attached) as well as the inner battery and circuitry of the Boostcase through the back and sides of the attached battery case.

I’m loving leaving the battery case to charge at home until I know I need some extra boost, then simply clipping it onto the back of my iPhone 6 Plus when I head out the door. You can even charge your iPhone and the case at the same time via the micro USB port on the bottom of the Boostcase. Five LED lights let you know how much boost you’ve got left, and an on/off switch lets you save your battery bump until you really need it. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Boostcase

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Best List: Gear that will take your adventures over the top



Each and every month, Lust List rounds up the products that fooled us with their style and ease. This time we've got iPad accessories, international travel aids, bags and sporting gear, turkey jerky that's anything but foul and more.

Twist Plus World Charging Station by ONEADPATR

ONEADPATR's Twist Plus World Charging Station ($44.99) solves a problem I didn’t know I had. On a recent trip to Portugal, I was able to twist myself to a European plug and get all my charging needs out of single power outlet. It turns out that was the perfect country for such a gizmo, as the Portuguese are not overly generous with their power outlets.

You just slide your MacBook power block onto the Twist Plus and push in a handful of USB cables. In a matter of seconds, I was charging my laptop, my phone, my Garmin bicycle computer and my iPad. I won’t travel again without it. — Jim Merithew


This Kickstarter-funded iPad keyboard and case combo will wow you with its delightfully grippy faux wood grain finish. Designed for the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2, the three-piece Libre Keyboard Folio comes with a case that holds your tablet snugly plus two interchangeable covers. One boasts an incredibly thin, backlit Bluetooth keyboard that works exceedingly well. The other is a simple cover for when you don't need do any typing.

CaseStudi’s design for the Libre is pretty fantastic. The part that holds the iPad comes with a cool kickstand, and it's a cinch to switch between the various covers. Some custom covers are available at $11.99 each, including one with a dog dressed like Michael Jackson and another with a cat costumed like Lady Gaga, with more styles on the way. The gray felt cover is my current favorite, bringing a crafty, homey comfort to the high-tech wonder of my iPad.

The magnet that holds the covers in place shut offs and wakes the iPad just like Apple’s Smart Covers do. The magnet is amazingly strong, too: You can hold the cover and dangle the Libre's iPad case with zero separation anxiety.

You can preorder the three-piece Libre Keyboard Folio for $79.99 for delivery in July. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: CaseStudi

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Battery packs are a dime a dozen these days, but Mophie continually sets itself apart as the gold standard. The new Mophie spacestation ($149.95) comes equipped with a 6,000-mAh battery that promises at least a couple of full charges on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

But wait! There's more! Mophie boosts the spacestation beyond your average battery juicer by including internal flash storage that acts like a portable hard drive for your iOS device. The dedicated Space app is quite nice for adding and managing photos, videos and other media from the spacestation. Knowing you have extra storage on the go, even with the 32GB base model I have (it goes up to 128GB), brings peace of mind.

I’ve used plenty of battery packs and cases in the past (many of which have been from Mophie), and this spacestation is as good as any. It’s shorter than an iPhone 6 and pretty light, which makes it super-easy to throw in a bag and forget. The only downside is that it charges through micro-USB (I was hoping for Lightning). — Alex Heath

Buy from: Mophie

Photo: Alex Heath/Cult of Mac

WaterField Designs' Bolt briefcase is not for hoarders who want to carry every infernal gadget with them everywhere they go. Like the impossibly thin new MacBook, it's stripped down to the essentials — and the essentials are stylish, sturdy and compelling.

The $249 Bolt will surprise you with its slimness. It comes in two sizes — the small one I tested holds up to a 13-inch MacBook Air (the larger model holds up to a 17-inch laptop). After sliding in an 11-inch Air, an iPad and an envelope full of documents, the Bolt was fairly full; there was barely room to toss in a pair of headphones.

But that's the point of the Bolt. It's designed for carting around your must-have gear in a sleek, pleasing package. The brown waxed canvas bag looked good out of the gate (and even better after a few trips gave it more character). The chocolate leather accents, including a thick bottom that's perfect for keeping grime at bay, seem like they will only look better over time.

The craftsmanship employed by the San Francisco bag maker is evident from the first zip of the Bolt's hefty, waterproof zipper or the first flip of the "snaps" that close the front pockets. (They're not really snaps: They look like snaps, but in reality they're magnets that effectively hold the pockets shut but are 1,000 times easier to work than your typical closure.)

A leather-faced pad on the removable shoulder strap boasts a grippy, rubberized back that keeps the Bolt from sliding around. And speaking of not sliding around, the simple pass-through on the back of the Bolt is perfect for sliding the petite bag over the handle of a piece of carry-on luggage.

If you go from a backpack to a Bolt, you will undoubtedly miss all that extra space for cramming in jackets, water bottles and half-eaten sandwiches. But, like a decluttered house, the Bolt's wonderful minimalism will grow on you. — Lewis Wallace

Buy from: WaterField Designs

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Kitsbow clan call themselves "The Obsessives," mostly because they are intensely interested in making some of the best mountain bike attire available. They take some heat for making their price point somewhere north of where most dirt dogs deem necessary, but after laying your hands on a few of their pieces you will understand why they get all the rave reviews.

The new Kitsbow Power Wool Base Layer ($115), designed in conjunction with Polartec, is no exception. Kitsbow calls it a base layer and it certainly could be used as one, but I found it to be versatile as either a jersey by itself or as a cozy shirt on a cool evening. The Polartec Power Wool uses Merino wool on the inside and polyster/nylon on the outside, wicking the moisture away from the body, evaporating the wet to keep you dry. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Kitsbow

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

It's hard to believe, but one of the first things I want to do after a particularly hard bicycle ride is take a hot shower and zap myself. Ever since receiving a Marc Pro for review, I’m addicted to the post-ride electro contractions.

The Marc Pro ($649.95) is a little box you hook up to electrodes that you stick on your quads, calves, back or any muscle group in need of some active recovery. Then you dial in the amount of impulse you are comfortable with and, over a 30-to-60-minute period, the little box gets those muscles contracting and relaxing.

The idea is that you will move more oxygen through your wasted muscles during these “non-fatiguing” contractions, thus purging all the gunk you built up in there. The Marc Pro website can give you loads of science behind this but, unlike compression wear, this technology appears to deliver more than just a placebo effect. It makes me feel almost human the day after a big ride. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

You can turn your iPhone into a killer live music recording rig with this slick little appendage from IK Multimedia. Called the iRig Mic Field, it plugs into the Lightning port on your iPhone and will record any sound source you can throw at it.

Use it with the free iRig Recorder app for your iOS device and record interviews or live demos from your band. Flip your iPhone into landscape mode and use it to record anything your heart desires, from live gigs to student plays. The little light on the front of the Mic Field shines blue if the source is too quiet, red if it’s too loud (so you can turn down the gain) and green/yellow if it’s just right. If you have any audio or video recording to do, the iRig Mic Field is the way to go at $99. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon, B&H Photo

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I like to think I'm a minimalist photography gear guy, but I’m not. I hate to be on a shoot, thinking I never should have left the macro at home or wondering why I didn’t pack this cable or that lens. So even though I have spent my life searching for the perfect stealth camera bag, I almost always reach for the same giant backpack to load my camera into.

Along comes ILE with an offer to test their Ultimate Photographers Bag -- MKIII. It's an enormous photo backpack and I, of course, hesitated. What would I do with all that room, all those options and all those pockets?

How about plan a trip to Portugal where I need to take all my gear? The $380 bag handled both my DSLR cameras, three lenses, my Q flash, batteries, chargers, cables, etc., and I still got to fill the top compartment with all my carry-on needs, my laptop and snacks. The bag swallowed everything I could think of and, although it was quite a handful once loaded, I was still able to adjust it to be almost comfortable on my back. I didn’t take advantage of the tripod pocket, but the little clip-on accessory pocket came in extremely helpful for my wallet and passport.

I know pink and black might not be the first choice for everyone, but I think it looks baller (and you can always order one in the color scheme of your choice). — Jim Merithew

Buy from: ILE

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The New Primal's Free Range Turkey Jerky is crack for carnivores. It's got none of the farmyard funk that fouls lesser brands: These thin, chewy strips of meat taste fresh and wonderful, with a delicious, delicate sweetness that had us scanning the ingredients list for sugar.

We were relieved to discover that this premium turkey jerky is made from humanely raised birds that weren't pumped full of hormones or antibiotics before they were plucked from the pasture and turned into nutritious snacks. Marinating the turkey breasts in apple cider vinegar — and flavoring them with pineapple juice, honey, onion, white pepper and ginger — infuses these meaty treats with layers of satisfying flavor.

The only problem is the size: The 2-ounce envelopes, which sell for $26.95 for four, aren't exactly giant. You'll be jonesing for your next packet as soon as you finish the first. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

With a creative blend of natural fibers (Merino wool) and Space Age fibers (polyester and elastane), super.natural conjures garments that wick moisture away from your body while keeping you toasty-warm.

We didn’t have any real winter here in Northern California this year, so even though I left the $85 super.natural Base 1/4 Zip 175 jersey in my go-bag for months, it never got the call. So I pulled out the garment and stuck it in my suitcase for a recent cycling trip. I used it as my stay-warm-during-the-cool-nights base layer; it performed flawlessly (and also looked damn nice). — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon, super.natural (their online store is slated to open later this month)

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

It has taken me forever to embrace the "bigger is better" theory of putting new kicks on my road bike. I guess I still cling to the old-school notion of super-thin, super-high-pressure tires, even though all the recent research points toward bigger tires, running at lower pressure, being faster in addition to more comfortable.

I've made the move slowly, going from 21s to 23s to 25s. Now I'm finally up to a set of the new Clement Cycling Strada LGG Clincher 120 TPI Tire 28s on my daily whip and I gotta say, from the very first ride, I have been wondering what I have been waiting for.

Clement is well-known in cyclocross circles for making some amazing rubber for the run-and-ride set, and their first foray into road bike tires seems to be a success. I only have a handful of rides on these treads, but with some varied San Francisco spring conditions they seem to roll great and have just enough grip to inspire confidence. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Stuck on the side of the road and need a jump? Why call your flaky friend or an expensive tow truck when you can just pull the Cyntur JumperPack mini out of your trunk or glove box? This tiny powerhouse will keep a full car battery’s charge for up to a year, which is all kinds of awesome. It even has a port so you can charge any gadgety device that powers up via USB, making this a clear winner for those of us who like to leave the comfort of our houses and cars for adventures in the woods.

Better yet? It’s completely rechargeable via a wall plug at home. Never leave home again without this sexy battery pack. It’s super-compact and comes with a lovely zippered case where you can store the wall plug, all for $99.99. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac