The RFID-Blocking Luxe Neck Stash in Olive from Lewis N. Clark
On a trip to Europe this spring our contributors took a $22.49 RFID-Blocking Luxe Neck Stash in Olive from Lewis N. Clark (owned by LCI Brands, 2781 Katherine Way, Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60007, +1 312.455.0500, www.lewisnclark.com, email@example.com). The slim made in China nylon neck bag, 8 inches by 5.5 inches, performed well and only weighed 5.5 ounces. It hung from a thin adjustable neck cord and could be tucked beneath clothes to conceal it.
While they did not require Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) blocking for credit cards and passports it was good to know the Neck Stash had it should the need arise. Pluses included the discreet olive color and size as well as its single see-through window and dual zippered pockets. A central Velcro flap pocket that opened at the top was ideal for passports. The neck bag was convenient to carry important documents and cash around cities, and for easy document access at airports and while traveling. The durable, ribbed TravelDry fabric was designed to resist shrinking, odors, and mildew. It showed no signs of wear after six weeks.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
Using the Clutch I held the camera in position, ready to shoot during a cliff side hike
I had a chance recently to field test the Slide and Clutch camera straps from Peak Design. Prior to using the new straps, the Canon EOS-7D SLR I use when traveling sported the manufacturer supplied neck strap and I rarely gave it a second thought. It was a bit annoying when using the tripod to have the strap hanging off the camera, but it was too much trouble to remove or even adjust the old fashioned length clips, except in extreme circumstances.
When walking around to photograph a property or a destination, the strap provided a measure of safety to avoid dropping the camera, but I had to be alert and hold the camera in my hands to prevent the lens or body from smacking against something and being damaged. When hiking, I usually place the camera into a padded pack or case. With the camera securely packed away, I noticed a tendency to only pull it out and use it at particularly special spots, sometimes passing up shots that I would regret later. Holding the camera with the Clutch make it more likely for me to take those spontaneous photos, and for that I was glad.
The Slide shifted the weight of the camera away from my hand during long walks
The Peak Design straps offered some noteworthy innovations that made it easier to carry the camera securely and be ready to take a shot at anytime. The Clutch was a surprising pleasure to use. It allowed me to hold the body securely with my hand positioned to shoot. I adjusted my grip using its small strap to fit my hand snugly in place. Adding the Slide strap made it easy to carry the camera along on a hike, ready to shoot at all times, while shifting the weight to my neck. The Slide strap was sturdy, made from the same material as vehicle seat belts, and reinforced with padding in the center. It was simple to adjust the length of the Slide by opening the clips, moving the strap through them and locking it securely.
The quick release clips made length adjustments easy
The Anchor Link quick-connectors attached the Slide to the camera body and the bottom of the Clutch. The top of the Clutch attached directly to the camera, with a quick release spring to prevent accidental release. A plate provided with each strap could be mounted onto the bottom of the camera body using a standard screw. Multiple quick-connectors could then be attached to the plate. I prefer to use my custom fit plate from Kirk Photo on the camera body because it allows me to turn the camera sideways on the tripod and provides a stable surface to set the camera onto (provided the attached lens is not too heavy). Fortunately, my Kirk Photo plate includes a nice little slot to mount the quick-connectors. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the sleek lines of my single plate which is custom shaped to the Canon body and will not twist or turn when I adjust the camera on the ball head.
The plate supplied with the straps provided four mount points
My Kirk Photo custom plate also provided a useful mounting point
The quick-connectors allowed rapid attachment and removal of the straps, perhaps my favorite feature. They gave the set-up solid feedback, and could support 150 pounds each, according to the manufacturer. The interlocking of the lozenge shaped anchor into the clip provided easy visual confirmation that the strap was secure. With a few extra Anchor Link quick-connectors on hand, my spare camera body can be ready for action quickly. All it requires is that I move the straps. I liked being able to remove the strap when placing the camera onto the tripod, eliminating one potential tipping hazard. I never found it necessary to detach the Clutch, other than when I was playing with different configurations of the Sling, a few of which used the top attachment point on the camera body.
The Anchor Link quick-connectors attached the straps to the camera securely
It was a matter of moments to set up the Clutch attachment to the camera
Peak Design took the mundane camera strap and updated every aspect of it. They improved the method of attachment, how it is adjusted, the options for carrying the camera and enhanced my overall experience as a photographer. I plan to continue to use those straps as part of my ongoing equipment configuration. The Peak Design mission of enabling "photographers, adventurers and outdoors enthusiasts to better capture the beautiful world around them" appealed to me. I was pleased to discover the products fulfilled this mission for my purposes. Peak Design, 2325 3rd Street Suite 410, San Francisco, California 94107, http://peakdesignltd.com
+1 312.203.8427, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
The Playaway audiobook player (headphone jack along the bottom)
For many years, I have enjoyed listening to audiobooks. They fill the hours on long flights and often go with me while I'm doing routine chores and running errands. Audiobooks bring the text to life, with a good narrator strengthening the performance with different voices and proper emotional emphasis. It is easy to imagine the appeal of radio programs before television made visual entertainment the dominant force that it is today.
The process of downloading audiobooks involves multiple steps and the menus in my favorite player require extensive navigation to play a book. I have gotten used to it because I enjoy the medium, but I suspect that less technologically inclined people might not survive the effort.
The case and the player
I recently had the chance to try out the Playaway all in one audiobook player assembled in Ohio. It is an audiobook with a dedicated player bundled in a convenient plastic case. The case and player I received mimic a book cover, with a typical summary description of the story and credits. The case held the two ounce player and a single AAA battery (for longer term storage to avoid any chance of corroding the player). The player fits comfortably in my shirt pocket. The top of the player is heavier with the battery and slides into a pocket naturally. The standard headphone jack in the bottom (headphones not included) of the player faces the top of the pocket so that my headphones remains untangled.
The case holds the player and the battery
The player controls are standard, allowing me to navigate the contents of the single audiobook, with a back lit LCD display clearly showing the current position and messages during startup and shutdown. The layout of the flexible rubber buttons allows space for large fingers. The buttons respond to comfortable pressure, and the power button toggles a lock to prevent accidental pushes when in a pocket. The player features a speed button, allowing five different playback speeds.
The player displays the book cover
The main target audience for these audio books is lending libraries and facilities where multiple people can borrow the books to listen and return them when they are finished. There are thousands of titles offered on the site in various genres. According to the seller, the audio players are well suited for children, seniors and visually impaired individuals, as well as avid readers like me. My personal experience of using the Playaway audiobook has been positive.
The battery compartment is on the top of the player
In our house, we read many paperback books. Once finished, they go to a local charity or recycling bin depending on their condition. We keep several bookshelves of fiction too good to part with after the first reading. These consist of hard to get, no longer in print, or favorite authors we expect to take out again. It is easy to imagine using the Playaway books to build a library of audiobook favorites. In summary, the Playaway all in one audiobook offered me the convenience and simplicity of function in an attractive portable package. Findaway World, 31999 Aurora Road Solon, Ohio 44139, 1-877-893-0808, www.my.playaway.com, email@example.com
By Laura Scheiber
Photos by Matthew Harris
I love scarves. As a native Arizonian living in New York City, I find they help keep me warm during the long winter months (which is how I justify owning at least 20 of them). Always on the hunt for a scarf with a unique design, I was pleased to discover the Camilla Olson Chiffon Scarf in marigold which has become my new favorite formal accessory.
I first wore the Camilla Olson scarf to dinner at an upscale restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. I purposely wore an outfit I typically might bring while traveling to see if I should add the scarf to my fundamental travel wardrobe. As someone who prefers to pack light, I usually bring neutral color clothes that can easily be mixed and matched. This is particularly true for a trip that demands active wear during the day, and dressier outfits at night.
The problem is that my travel clothes tend to be rather dull. On my night out in Brooklyn, the vibrant marigold scarf added pizazz to my ordinarily simple black top, skirt and tights. The golden orange color, reminiscent of a Hawaiian sunset sky, had flecks of burnt orange scattered throughout, which gave the scarf a sophisticated look.
Testing out the scarf in a different context, I wore it to work. Though light in weight, the 100 percent silk material kept my neck warm and protected against the bitter cold during my walk to the subway station. Shortly after arriving at my office, a colleague gushed, “What a beautiful scarf!” Not 10 minutes later another colleague asked where I had gotten such a gorgeous scarf.
With over six feet of material, the scarf is long enough to be worn in a variety of ways. Throughout the day, I enjoyed experimenting with different styles, including a loosely draped shawl, a long flowing stole, and a scarf wrapped snugly around my neck. The soft sheer chiffon material gave my outfit a flirtatious and feminine look.
I aim to be a conscientious consumer, so I was happy to learn that the design process included recycled materials and that 15 percent of online sales were earmarked for a college scholarship fund to support entrepreneurial women. Thanks to the hand printed process, I was also pleased to learn that no other scarf in the world has the exact same pattern.
What I like most about my Camilla Olson (Camilla Olson, 805 Melville Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301, +1 (650) 255-4518, http://camillaolson.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org) chiffon scarf is that it transforms my otherwise dull outfits, giving them a sophisticated look. The silk is light in weight, which makes it ideal for traveling. Knowing that my scarf has a unique design makes it extra special. I look forward to spicing up future outfits with my marigold scarf.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
Walking is the best way to see Paris
We recently spent some time in Paris during which we had a chance to try out the Flat Rate aXcess Plan from XCom Global, a MiFi service with a daily flat rate fee which provided us Internet mobile connectivity for up to five devices in France. The aXcess MiFi Mobile Hotspot box which provided the service fit in my pocket and gave us mobile data access wherever we traveled in the city. While service above ground was superior it also worked in the underground subway. Most of our handheld devices support wireless access, but for this trip the star was our Samsung Galaxy tablet.
When connected to the MiFi, the tablet’s map application found our position, including the street and direction. In the same way as a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit in a car, the tablet program offered verbal and text walking directions on the map as we explored the city on foot. This feature alone made having the MiFi along worthwhile. Also, having Internet access came in handy to compare prices online when shopping and to discover the right bus or subway to take on the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens or Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports) website. The MiFi service heightened our touring experience significantly.
Paris streets are challenging even with a map
Although we own a MiFi unit that we use at home in the United States to use the service outside the country we have to register for a plan with a limited amount of bandwidth. Because none of our vendor plans allows unlimited data even a small overage can cost hundreds of dollars. At the same time, connectivity is uncertain. For example, the first time we contacted our vendor, even after multiple calls, the unit never connected on a trip to Asia. We were unable to find out if the issue was frequency compatibility, roaming arrangement or something else. On the second try, we had a good experience in the Caribbean (see ATT Elevate 4G portable hot spot on the road).
The XCom service allowed us to bypass the geographic uncertainty since the service we had was specifically for France, and the bandwidth overage concerns. As long as we made reasonable use of the connection overage was not a concern. The company’s Fair Use Policy stated, “Our standardized FUP policy: if you reached 400 MB within a 3 days period, the service might get suspended or get slower.”
The XCom Global MiFi aXcess Mobile Hotspot kit
XCom Global service filled a niche, allowing us to plan the exact cost for unlimited use (within reason) of a MiFi with the correct mix of frequencies and data plans to roam in our destination country. Fair use policies in some countries limit bandwidth daily, but the data plan had no overage fees. The Flat Rate aXcess Plan MiFi device used the 3G network, not the fastest option, but widely available.
The kit included two batteries, a charger with multiple plugs, instruction manual and a case. XCom Global shipped the package to arrive the day before our departure to France and included a return mailer for its return the day after our arrival home. The insurance seemed wise considering the high cost to replace the unit if lost or stolen ($800). I would consider using the Flat Rate aXcess Plan from XCom Global, Inc. (5910 Pacific Center Blvd, Suite 320 San Diego, CA 92121, +1 858.222.8242, +1 858.222.8243, email@example.com, http://www.xcomglobal.com/) in the future.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
The FatCat mPower PowerBar 4200
The FatCat mPower PowerBar 4200, a battery charger for small devices, packs a lot of power into a small convenient package. With a lithium polymer battery that holds about twice the power of a smart phone (4200 mAh) and special circuitry designed to protect the devices it charges, this sleek 4 ounce package can keep the movies and music playing on a long flight, or keep a phone going at that critical moment. For day to day use, we find it much handier than keeping all the various wall chargers on hand when going out with phones, iPad and MiFi unit. It is comforting to know that even if the phone gets a lot of use, or does not get charged the night before, the PowerBar is there to make up the difference. Smaller than a deck of playing cards, the PowerBar 4200 has earned a slot in our laptop and tablet bags.
The PowerBar, priced at $69.95, arrived with a partial charge I was able to top up in four to seven hours plugged into a standard USB port. According to the manufacturer, the battery is good for 500 charge/discharge cycles with recommended topping of the charge at least every three months. The smooth case feels solid and there is a charge indicator on the front that shows a light for each 25 percent of charge the device is holding. We tested a black one on domestic travel. As of this writing the PowerBar is offered in five colors adding blue, red, orange and silver to the front of the case.
The accessory tips and cable came with a cloth bag
The package included a cloth drawstring pouch to hold the selection of tips and the cables. The tips included micro USB, mini USB, male and female USB, iPhone and DC 3.5×1.3. The website indicated less frequently used tips may be available. Most devices that will work with this charger will have a USB cable supplied that can be inserted into the female USB tip. So far all our USB devices have been compatible with the FatCat and the tips that were included. Made by Infora, the FatCat was designed in Sweden and manufactured in China. The company (Infora, 44 Amity Rd, Warwick, NY 10990, +1-845-258-9027, http://www.fatcatgear.com,firstname.lastname@example.org) website lists a two year warranty.