This backpack makes lugging life light work [Review]

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Shift Pack
The Shift Pack by Alpaka.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

My closet floor resembles a bullpen. But instead of pitchers, it houses a rotation of backpacks and bags ready to be activated for work, day-long excursions or extended travel. Depending on the week, I could shift between four or five bags.

But when Shift Pack recently arrived for a tryout, it threatened to retire a couple of my veterans. It is a single backpack that aims to cover all the bases, work, play and travel or all at once if necessary.

Kings backpack treats your tech carry like royalty [Review]

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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.

Best List: This stealth speaker is a Power Mac’s Mini-Me and more

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Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that gives us a fever of 103. August's secret rendezvous includes a stealthy Bluetooth speaker, a smartwatch that's not made by Apple, sweet Star Wars headphones and much more.

 HiddenRadio2 Bluetooth speaker


This stealthy little speaker would look right at home next to an inky-black Mac Pro. While most Bluetooth speakers go for a rugged, sporty look — hell, this year's cutest model even comes with a pool-ready float — the HiddenRadio2 will really class up the joint.


The secret is the glossy black dome that slides up an inch when you touch the top of the HiddenRadio2. A sensor in the sleek cover lets you adjust your music's volume, jump between tracks or answer phone calls, with nary a button to be seen. It's not the loudest speaker you'll ever hear, and at just 5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide, it's not designed to pump out the bass like bigger speakers.


Instead, it's all about subtlety, clean lines and that aforementioned class. The audio is crisp and vibrant, whether you're streaming AC/DC or a Bartok cello concerto, and the utterly clutter-free design makes the HiddenRadio2 truly remarkable. Currently on sale for $179, it comes in glossy black, platinum silver and a pricier gunmetal. It'll bring a smile to your face every time you fire it up, and I can't wait till the promised apps (for iOS and Android) arrive to give HiddenRadio2 even more subtle powers. — Lewis Wallace


Buy from: Hidden

Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that gives us a fever of 103. August's secret rendezvous includes a stealthy Bluetooth speaker, a smartwatch that's not made by Apple, sweet Star Wars headphones and much more.

HiddenRadio2 Bluetooth speaker

This stealthy little speaker would look right at home next to an inky-black Mac Pro. While most Bluetooth speakers go for a rugged, sporty look — hell, this year's cutest model even comes with a pool-ready float — the HiddenRadio2 will really class up the joint.

The secret is the glossy black dome that slides up an inch when you touch the top of the HiddenRadio2. A sensor in the sleek cover lets you adjust your music's volume, jump between tracks or answer phone calls, with nary a button to be seen. It's not the loudest speaker you'll ever hear, and at just 5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide, it's not designed to pump out the bass like bigger speakers.

Instead, it's all about subtlety, clean lines and that aforementioned class. The audio is crisp and vibrant, whether you're streaming AC/DC or a Bartok cello concerto, and the utterly clutter-free design makes the HiddenRadio2 truly remarkable. Currently on sale for $179, it comes in glossy black, platinum silver and a pricier gunmetal. It'll bring a smile to your face every time you fire it up, and I can't wait till the promised apps (for iOS and Android) arrive to give HiddenRadio2 even more subtle powers. — Lewis Wallace

Buy from: Hidden


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Best List: Heartache is in the (stolen) bag, plus audio gear and more

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Jeans designer Ulrich Simpson likes to say he makes jeans for everybody. And when he says

Jeans designer Ulrich Simpson likes to say he makes jeans for everybody. And when he says "everybody," he really means "every body."

The biggest problem with premium jeans is finding a pair that fits. They tend to come in a very narrow range of cuts and sizes. Not so Simpson's UBi-IND jeans, which are available in five styles and sizes from 29- to 48-inch waist.

They'll fit any body type, from skinny skateboarders to Olympic speed skaters with grotesquely overdeveloped quads (see the Athletic cut). In fact, Simpson's customers range from NBA stars to surfers and cowboys. Simpson's jeans are 100 percent made in the USA from premium Cone Mills denim. — Leander Kahney

Buy from: UBi-IND (online and in San Francisco), Union LA (Los Angeles), AB Fits (San Francisco) Standard & Strange (Oakland), Canvas (Malibu)


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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ILE Equipment bags are made in America but big in Japan

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"Inspiration comes in weird places," says Eric Fischer, owner of ILE Equipment. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

BERKELEY, Calif. — ILE is big in Japan. The California bag company has found a market with the Japanese bike website Blue Lug, and the collaboration keeps pushing ILE into new bags, materials, hardware and color choices.

Eric Fischer, 26, launched ILE (short for “Inside Line Equipment”) out of his apartment four short years ago. He was racing bikes, buying fabric and making bags one at a time for himself, his friends and friends of friends.

“I always liked making things, but building buildings didn’t seem scalable,” Fischer told Cult of Mac. “Making bags seemed more like a painting rather than building a house.”

Best List: Killer gear for iPhone lovers, bike riders and ax wielders

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I want extra pockets without having to wear goofy cargo pants. So while perusing one of my favorite guy websites, Everyday Carry, I came across a little bag made by Koyono called the bolstr bag.

It's perfect for tooling around Chicago, allowing me to discreetly store a phone, iPad mini, notebook and point-and-shoot camera. Plus, its slim design and asymmetrical shape look way cooler than knee-level flapped pockets on either leg.

The bolstr small carry bag comes in a variety of colors and left- or right-side orientations (as a lefty, I appreciate this design consideration). — David Pierini

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac


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Timbuk2: 25 years of sewin’ bags in San Francisco

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Custom bag buyers can specify the color of the Timbuk2

Custom bag buyers can specify the color of the Timbuk2 "swirl" icon that will be stitched on their bags. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


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SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty-five years ago, a bike messenger sat in his garage and used an old-school Singer sewing machine to stitch his mark on the world.

That bike messenger was Rob Honeycutt, and the bags he made in 1989 were called Scumbags. They were designed for use by the city’s notorious two-wheeled delivery riders, whose fashion sense tended toward crude cutoffs, T-shirts and hoodies.

A year later, Honeycutt changed his operation’s name to Timbuk2, and the company’s been crafting an increasingly ambitious line of bags ever since, expanding far beyond the world of tattooed dudes on fixies.

“Timbuk2 wasn’t going to the office 25 years ago,” CEO Patti Cazzato told Cult of Mac during a recent tour of the company’s Mission district factory, where all of Timbuk2’s custom bags are made.

MixBag has all the pockets you’ll need (but you pay for every one)

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The MixBag is versatile, but it won't necessarily make you look super-cool. Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac
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.

Gadget Watch: Bags, bags and … bags. Plus, some cool new camera gear

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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…

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…


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This cheap plastic bag will waterproof any gadget

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Waterproof. Do try this at home. Photos Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
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:

  1. It fits almost every gadget I have
  2. 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.