HP Odyssey backpack: First impressions

I have been using the HP Odyssey backpack for more than three of months now, mostly commuting to work by train – and it has been a pleasure. But how did I end up with the Odyssey?

I am always in search of a comfortable and practical backpack and I have been doing quite a lot of research over the last years. I have used backpacks with great organizational options but with limited space for bulky items, others with large main compartments but with weight balancing issues (i.e. not holding their shape), slim ones, bulky ones, many different kinds.

My last addition, the Bobby Compact by XD Design, was a great experience thanks to its anti-theft features and my frequent use of public means of transportation – at the same time, its small dimensions and limited capacity made it hard for me to keep using it as my daily gear. I do not need a huge backpack for daily use, but I would definitely need some additional space for the stuff I typically carry around.

The Odyssey by HP has always been in my wish list: It is a low cost and diverse backpack with sufficient volume and nice looks. When the time came for a quick replacement of my backpack, I found it dead cheap on the market (about 25 EUR incl. shipping) so I went for it. I was concerned by its pretty deep and narrow design (referring to its main compartment) but I had the opportunity to get my hands on it after noticing a colleague of mine carrying one around and I realized that this would not be a problem for me.

 

My first impressions, after these months of daily use:

1. Material: Material is thick enough without being too heavy. It is a mix of a faux-leather like material (front side) and a thinner one (on the sides). The back panel is extremely comfortable, and the same goes for the straps. The same thick material is used at the bottom of the bag, so it looks pretty durable and water-resistant (at least I hope so).

2. Organization options: There are different organization option, serving different roles:

a) Laptop compartment: Instead of being a part of the bag’s main compartment, it is cleverly located as a separate slot facing your back. This not only allows for a better weight allocation (the closer to your back heavy items are, the less the discomfort), but also makes it more secure, as the double zippers are practically at the height of your neck. The laptop compartment is well-padded and fits laptops larger than 15,6-inch. It can also hold larger than A4 paper documents, books etc.). It has a double zipper that makes it easy to access and prevents accidental drop of the laptop.

b) Main compartment: As I mentioned earlier, it is rather deep and narrow; however, it fits my typical lunchbox, which was really important! Its back side features a tablet pocket and a shorter pocket for e.g. small notebooks and smaller-size documents. On the opposite side you will find a zippered mesh pocket for even smaller items that you don’t want to spill in the bag (e.g. USB sticks, micro-SD cards, short cables, stationary etc.). On the sides (internally), there are two open elastic pockets that can be used for storing e.g. external hard disks; one of them has a small opening to the external side pocket, that can be used for passing through the cable of e.g. a powerbank so that devices can be charged.

There are also 4 elastic pen slots and a key loop; the latter is located pretty low in the bag so it looks pretty useless to me.

HP Odyssey features 2

c) Main compartment cover pocket: The main compartment has a closure with an external compartment; it looks a bit like the Thule’s SafeZone compartment, but without the extra protection. I use it for items I need to access quickly (e.g. keys, sunglasses in their case, a pen and post-it notes, access cards, transportation pass, spare change etc.). Its zip is protected by the thick, water-repellent material used in the front of the bag so it looks like well-protected from rain..

d) Side pockets: A typical mesh one for a water bottle (fits at least my 600 mL thick insulated water bottle) and another one with a zipper and an internal opening towards the main compartment (see above).

e) Safe pocket: There is a pretty small zippered vertical pocket between the water bottle pocket and the laptop compartment. It faces towards my back, so it is pretty secure. I use it for my magic wallet, a thin business card holder and my backup smartphone. A nice addition but since it lies between the water bottle pocket and the internal side pocket (occupied by my power bank), it tends to be squeezed and therefore hard to access…

3. Volume: I find it quite strange that there is no mention of its actual volume – anywhere! Based on its dimensions, I estimate it at about 18-20 lt. I can’t say it is huge (e.g. meeting my needs for a 2-3 day trip) and definitely it is not small (larger than the Bobby Compact). Its main compartment is indeed rather narrow and deep so it is mostly useful for bulky items (e.g. my lunch box, a couple of clothes, some grocery items etc.); you will have a hard time finding smaller items inside it.

Obviously, when the internal pockets of the main compartment are used, the space of the main compartment itself is minimized – the same goes for the laptop compartment, which also puts some “pressure” on the main compartment. Since I do not have to carry a laptop with me (just a 11,6-inch tablet w/ keyboard – and not all the time!), I have adequate space for a pocket book, a newspaper and other documents in the laptop compartment, which leaves some space in the main one.

The compression straps (on top and bottom of the backpack) look good but do not offer much as the bag looks hard to compress (due to its pretty thick material).

4. Practicality: It definitely is a practical backpack. It allows for quick access to its various pockets and compartments even while walking and the top pocket is great for this purpose. It has a sternum strap for better allocation of the weight, a practical front-side handle for carrying it around as a duffel bag etc.

My only complaint is the main compartment, which may get too cramped with items, restricting access to its internal pockets, mostly due to its top-loading design – but then, how often is my backpack that cramped? You can store items, you can hang items (e.g. a small flashlight, a reflective band etc.). The common water bottle / umbrella side pocket is there, quick access options are there.

I also don’t like the top handle; it is too thin and covered with this faux-leather material as the front of the bag. I would prefer a handle like the front side one, which is more soft and comfortable to use. However, I rarely use the top handle, so I do not mind that much.

HP Odyssey features 1

5. Looks: It surely isn’t a backpack aiming at business users, to be brought to formal meetings. It looks casual and has a tactical style (see the side next to the zippered side pocket), and its front handle allows it to carry it around as a compact duffel bag (but still without the perks of it). It still has a limited footprint. I would describe it as an urban backpack, which can be used for work and e.g. gym. I went for the black/gray one, so it doesn’t have these bright red/green details of other types of the same backpack and looks more discreet.

Btw, it reminds me a bit of the Targus Seoul backpack (top opening, front side handle, almost rectangle shape), but with a thicker material and no front pockets. I was about about to buy the Seoul for about 35 EUR but I actually didn’t like the fact that it wouldn’t hold its shape when not full. It also shares a lot of common elements (design-wise) with the recently announced Belkin Active Pro. While it is more than double the price, it looks more professional sporting a leaner design both internally and externally; a colleague of mine recently managed to pack stuff for a two-day business trip in it – I guess thanks to its “cleaner” main pocket design, which allows for more space (but less organization options – you need to balance your priorities!).

6. Bonus: Anti theft design? Well, the backpack is not advertised as an anti theft one, but thanks to its design, it feels more secure compared to most of the options available. One would notice that there are no zippers or pockets in the front of the backpack. Its main compartment has a top cover with a double zipper which can close at the point of your neck, so it would be pretty hard for anyone to have access to it. The pocket on the closure of the main pocket has the zipper protected under a pretty thick material, so it is hard to open unnoticed. Last but not least, the side vertical slot/pocket facing almost at your back is also well-protected. How cool is that?

Summary

A great backpack, spacious enough, comfortable and looking neat. Holds its own weight, it looks rain-proof and sturdy. My only complaints are the top handle (too thin and uncomfortable) and the zippers (seem like the weak lpart of the bag). But for a bit more than EUR 20, it is hard to beat its value for money. I have the feeling that it will serve me well for the next years.

If you want to see more of the HP Odyssey backpack, you can take a look at the numerous video reviews on YouTube. Even though none of them will show how much stuff the Odyssey will hold, they provide a nice visual overview of the bag.

 

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Lenovo Watch 9: First impressions

I was never especially attracted to fitness trackers; after all, I was not into fitness. But I am into collecting data related to my activities. And I recently started going to the gym.

I found the Lenovo Watch 9 on a sale for something about 20 euros (after applying a discount coupon), including shipping from China, and it was a deal I could not resist: A nice looking traditional watch with smart features.

When I first got it in my hands, I admit I got a bit disappointed…the app, without which the watch is not smart at all, looked crippled and incomplete. Lousy translations from Chinese, mixed bag of data etc. On top of that, coming from a Timex chronograph, which was my daily companion for the last years, the Lenovo watch looked pretty small, with a really hard to read scale and a lousy manual that left a lot to be imagined.

Lenovo-Watch-9

Since then, I have been using it daily and I admit I tend to like it more and more every day.

What I like

  • The unique combination of a traditional watch with several smart capabilities – at this price level.
  • It is pretty discreet: Its all-black color, with the brushed black body looks serious and I like the contrast with the white hands and bars.
  • It is light and feels comfortable even when wearing it all day – a significant difference compared to my larger Timex Expedition Chronograph.
  • It actually has a lot of features: I mostly use its pedometer and I realized that I can have an indication of the step count by pressing the crown button once (so without connecting to the app). In addition, when I reach my daily goal, the phone starts vibrating! It supports reminders, alarms, remote shutter (but all through the app)
  • I started using it for monitoring my sleep (and it does a surprisingly good work with that!), I play around with the heart rate functionality of the app (which I find rather inaccurate) and I have set a couple of reminders which make my watch vibrate.
  • The hands are (supposed to be) illuminous so they look rather bright at night.

 

What I don’t like:

  • I would like it to be a bit larger. It’s not a deal breaker, but I am used to larger wrist watches.
  • The pretty thin strap; I believe it could be a bit wider, to look more masculine.
  • The lack of light, so to be able to check the time in the dark; the Indiglo feature of my Timex is a really handy feature and a simple led would do the work anyway..
  • The lack of date indicator; I tend to look at my watch for keeping up with the current date. It is a feature I look for in all my watches and I miss this one.
  • I cannot share my progress through social media, as I do with the similar Samsung Health app.
  • The app is lousy, with bad translations from Chinese to English and weird organization of options. On top of that, the weather forecast never worked for me in Greece. I admit that a received a couple of updates over the past few days, which slightly improved various aspects of the app.
  • There is no Windows app, which could aggregate data from the watch, allow export in a standard file format and provide various visualization options.
  • Data about sleep monitoring seem to take ages to sync;
  • There is no clear info on how long / how much data can the watch hold before it syncs with the app.
  • The battery is not rechargeable; while it lasts longer (about 1 year, based on some reviews), it would be nice to have the option to recharge it via USB.

From one hand, it is a nice hybrid watch bout on the other hand, it is hard for anyone to imagine how a high-tech and acknowledged company like Lenovo produced something so incomplete (see the app and the Chinese-only manual).

In this context, while I was attracted to Lenovo’s Watch X and Watch X Plus (especially the latter, I am reluctant to pay for something that looks buggy and under development while on the market. I plan to keep the Watch 9 for as long as it lasts and then I will look around for alternatives, even at higher prices.

For the time being, I am happy with my selection and strongly believe that the Watch 9 is a great value for money – as long as one is happy with what it offers.

Using my Bobby Compact under real life conditions

I felt I had enough with constantly heavy traffic, numerous hours lost behind the wheel feeling bored and helpless so I decided to start commuting to work by public means of transportation: The suburban railway of Athens started a new, direct route from Airport to Piraeus (no change of trains required) and it looked like the perfect alternative. The route takes about 1 hour, and I make good use of this time: I usually plan my day at the office by organizing tasks, reviewing documents and going through work-related material. I also have the option to relax and read my favorite books or even do nothing when I am tired.

proastiakos-porta

I almost instantly switched my backpack back to the XD Design Bobby Compact, as it was the perfect gear for a crowded commuting mean like the suburban railway. Indeed, this is the environment where the backpack shined and showed its advantages over traditional ones. I was never afraid to wear it on my shoulders with other passengers behind my back thanks to its anti-theft design, the monthly pass card slot now proved useful and handy (compared to when using the same backpack when driving to work), and since the backpack holds its shape even when half-empty, I could easily let it on the floor without it falling to the side.

It felt light and comfortable on my back while walking from the station to the office (a 10-15 min walk), I had easy access to its contents even while on the road and its integrated rain cover proved useful during a couple of thunderstorms. On top of that, it forced me to pack light and be really selective about what to pack (and how to efficiently pack it).

However, after three months of daily use, I had to give up again…the reason? Its limited capacity.

I spend about 12 hours on a daily basis away from home (including commuting and working hours), so my lunch box and a couple of snacks (e.g. fruits, crackers etc.) are essential items for me. No matter how many different alternatives I tried, I couldn’t find a decent lunch box that would fit standing straight in the backpack. I wouldn’t want to risk putting it on the side, as any liquid inside it (e.g. oil, sauce etc.) might leak – and no matter how well I would protect it (e.g. inside plastic bags), any leak would affect not only the backpack itself but my work material inside it as well. I had the same problem with my Tech Air backpack, which was also relatively slim to fit such items.

lunch box office

On top of that, its limited capacity did not allow me to carry the occasional unexpected items with me (e.g. a couple of grocery items, a thick book etc.) on my way home from the office. I felt restricted and I had to find an alternative. I temporarily went back to my trustworthy Sentio backpack, which has a great capacity but suffers from its thin material and lack to hold its shape. And it is annoying (and looks awful) when at the office or during business meetings.

What I needed was a more spacious backpack that would fit not only my lunch box but also some additional (and bulky items) when needed, with some (at least) antitheft design elements and organizational options.

It was a matter of days before a brand new backpack joined the rest of my collection 😉

Traveling light with my wheeled backpack: first impressions

It has been quite a long time since I last travelled abroad for business purposes. In the meantime, I made quite an extensive research on backpacks that can be used for short trips and I also did my research on how to pack (more) efficiently.

For a recent 2,5 days trip from Athens to Berlin (flying from Athens on Sunday afternoon and getting back home on Tuesday midnight), I decided to skip my typical cabin luggage and I instead opted for a more compact and wheeled backpack. It was a backpack that I “inherited” from my sister – I am still not sure how and when. On top of that, I am not sure about its brand and model, as it seems to be a “Turnip“-branded backpack (Highlander Continental 30), probably meant for company employees or as a gift to customers; who knows? I could not find any information on the Web about it.

Turnip_Highlander_backpack_closed

 

Main features

The specific backpack is not the most spacious cabin luggage available on the market, nor a really practical one: It has a main compartment with a padded pocket for laptops and a small, shallow zippered pocket in front of it, suitable for securely storing your wallet, passport/ID or anything valuable but small. In addition, it has three pretty small & shallow (apart from one) external pockets on its front (e.g. for cables, chargers and stationary), along with two side mesh pockets for e.g. a water bottle and an umbrella.

Turnip_Highlander_backpack_open

 

Due to its design, the backpack hardly stands on its own when fully packed, as it tends to lean in the front and fall. Its strong point though are its wheels; it is the only wheeled backpack I have, so I went for it, even though my aging Trust laptop backpack seems to be able to hold much more volume.

Capacity

All in all, I managed to pack my essentials for this business trip, which were:

1. An 11.6-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard
2. A pair of trousers
3. Two shirts, really carefully folded
4. 3 pairs of socks & underwear
5. My pajamas
6. The typical transparent plastic bag with all my liquids (toothpaste, perfume, foot balm, hand sanitizer) as this was a cabin luggage, and my electric toothbrush
7. Packs of gum, medicine, refreshing tissues
8. 2 chargers (for the tablet & the smartphone)
9. 10 x company leaflets of 10 pages each, about 20 pages of A4 sheets with printed material, as well as my thick paper notebook with pens, markers etc.
10. An external hard disk & a powerbank with their cables
11. A pair of gloves and my wooly cap (Berlin was expected to be chilly, -5 to 5 Celsius during my stay)

There was still some space to fit e.g. my slippers or a small bag, but since the backpack was already heavy enough (about 8 Kg, as weighted at the airport counter), I opted to keep it light. There is also the possibility of having to carry some additional stuff on the trip back home, so this space could prove valuable.

As soon as I reached my hotel room, I removed anything not related to the meeting, so that I would look professional enough 🙂 In any case, it was great being able to walk around without having to carry all this weight on my back & shoulders.

Impressions

What I liked:

  • Wheels: Grateful for being able to push and pull my luggage instead of having to carry it on my shoulders;
  • Enough capacity for a two-days business trip; if this was a casual weekend, I could squeeze even more stuff (or have more free space)
  • Various organizational options – not the best ones for organizing stuff my way, but still I appreciated the pockets available.
  • The main compartment opens quite wide, so I could easily organize my stuff inside (not exactly 180 degrees, but I could do the work)
  • Shoulder straps are well-padded and totally invisible when stored in their pocket at the back of the backpack.
  • The storage pocket of the straps can be used for storing thin items, too; I used this space mostly for storing the leaflets and my notepad.

What I did not like:

  • Hard to keep the backpack standing straight; it usually tends to lean to the front.
  • I would like a different layout; e.g. a way to keep things more organized in the main pocket and probably to keep personal items in a different compartment than the work/professional ones. In this trip, I was forced to use bags for separating clothes from other stuff;
  • It is rather narrow at the top, missing some extra storage space that could be used if needed;
  • When using the shoulder straps, their storage pocket stays open – which doesn’t look good;
  • It looks bulky and rather ugly, due to its external pockets which extend.

Conclusions

To sum up, it was a great way to put the weight down to the ground and pull it instead of carrying on my shoulders; at the same time, I would appreciate some more storage and a better organization of the available space. It may be more sporty than I would like so I would not want to be unfair – maybe I was not exactly using it the way it was meant to be used (i.e. not for business trips or for thorough organization of items)

I would definitely use the backpack again in the future, for similar short trips but I would also keep my eye on any alternatives I have.

Tech Air backpack: Getting along with it

I started using my Tech Air TAN-3711 backpack daily since January, after I realized that I should store my XD Design Bobby Compact for future use, when it would become more necessary. I decided to give the Tech Air another try, in order to better understand its features and see if I could live with it – and if so, for how long. In these two months, including a 4-days business trip, during which it was my daily gear for a 12-hour per day schedule, I admit that I started finding it closer to my needs and more practical than I initially thought:

 

Air Tech backpack full
The Tech Air backpack has more storage space than I initially thought.

 

Positive points

  • The internal organization of stuff is convenient; I found good use for the 5 pockets of the main compartment (picture with pockets), and since I do not always carry a laptop with me, I use the padded pocket (the backpack’s strong selling point) for storing my external hard disk, chargers and cereal bars while the last compartment is used for A4 papers and other printed material;
  • Depending on the use, its main compartment may be expanded to fit a water bottle and even a change of clothes (not too much though) or even a small-to-medium-size lunch box on the top (close to the zippers);
  • The backpack features a waterproof, durable material at its bottom (externally), so there is no way to get this soaked if left on wet surface;
  • The zippers work flawlessly, even though they do not seem to be the typical high-quality YKK;
  • Shoulder straps are comfortable and well-padded;
  • The backpack has an almost square form and it had pretty large dimensions (especially width) but it is still lean, thanks to lack of external pockets for water bottles and umbrellas. Two sets of compression straps minimize the width of the backpack when needed;
  • Overall it is a well-built backpack with sturdy material; it keeps its shape even when empty and looks like it is built to last.

 

I initially underestimated the internal organization options of the backpack; found these pockets really useful now.

 

Negative points

  • As mentioned in my review, there are no small zippered pockets for smaller items like USB sticks, memory cards, paperclips etc. I still find this annoying and a big drawback
  • The back side is comfortable but does not feature a breathable design; haven’t used the backpack during a typical Greek hot summer yet, but I would expect an unpleasant experience (and lots of sweat stains) on the back;
  • Lack of side water bottles: A leak-proof water bottle could be stored in the main compartment, but this would minimize available space;
  • The backpack seems to be a bit on the heavy side; this is due to its relatively thick material and padding. However, taking into consideration the materials used, it is lighter than I would expect by looking at it.

The more I use the Airtech backpack, the more I understand that in contrast with the current all-purpose backpacks, it was made for business / professional use. Not for commuters (e.g. lack of water bottle pocket), nor for school (no way to fit all these school books or organize your stationary), or for casual weekends away from home (e.g. hardly fits a couple of t-shirts). It is a streamlined business backpack, with interesting (but not always practical) organization options.

A small experiment – going back to my Sentio?

I did an experiment the other day: I tried migrating all the stuff I have in my Tech Air to my old favorite Sentio Sporty. There were many items accumulated in the backpack since then, so this was a challenge. Since the Sentio has all its pockets in the front side (thus the unbalancing issue), I tried to put several heavy items (e.g. hard disk, powerbank, documents etc.) in the internal laptop sleeve and some others in the large main compartment. However, when I finished loading it with all my stuff, it still looked like a sack of potatoes, having a hard time balancing the weight… I had no other choice but to transfer all my stuff back to the Tech Air, which seems to be a champion in holding its shape despite the load; and this is something I really love.

To sum up: Even though I planned to start using my (lighter) Sentio backpack, I will have to stick with the Air Tech for the time being. I may switch to the Bobby Compact in the future, which is a great alternative, too, thanks to its excellent weight balance.

XD Design Bobby Compact review

(This review came later that I planned to, as I was struggling to find enough free time to put my thoughts in line. I planned a number of posts in the meantime but never had the time to complete them…)

To make a long story short, some time before Christmas 2017, I was among the lucky winners of one of the Vice.com online competitions/contests. I was informed by email that I should expect my Bobby backpack (no other details in the email) in the following weeks. I was in search of a new backpack (and in fact I was about to get one), so this was great news! The backpack finally arrived, brand new and well-packed, some time before Christmas, so it was early Christmas for me. As far as I remember it was the first time I ever won something in any of the numerous contests that I have taken part in, so I cordially thank Vice for that 🙂

The model I received was the Bobby Compact, so the smaller one of the two available backpacks, (and the more expensive one, to my surprise) fitting a 14-inch laptop among others. I am currently using a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard as my travel and out-of-office work companion, so I didn’t mind that. It came in pastel blue color, which was less vibrant than the rest of the series (and I also didn’t mind, as I was to use it for commuting to work and back).

Both Bobby backpacks have been extensively reviewed by various experienced reviewers on the Web, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to replicate standard things. To make things more useful for everyone, I will focus on my personal experience and how my setup fit (or did not) the specific backpack.

Design & Quality

Not much to say about the design; it has been copied by so many different companies that it speaks for itself. Design focuses on two aspects (i) Anti-theft, so no external zippers exposed to others and (ii) comfort, so that all weight is balanced rather better than in other backpacks – indeed, the backpack embraces the back of the body and make it easy to carry loads of stuff.

Quality of the backpack is outstanding, in every detail. Water resistant and cut-proof material, no loose threads, no bad stiches. Perfect zippers, sturdy straps, everything is top notch. Looks like a backpack made to last.

Practicality

The backpack is practical, for sure. Nice internal organization for both a laptop (14-inch) and a smaller tablet or A4-sized documents, elastic band pockets for e.g. hard disks, water bottles (no external pocket for that) etc, a small zippered pocket for memory cards, adapters and other (really) small items, an open pocket on top of it for quick access items, an internal side pocket for a small power bank (however, most will not fit there) etc. There are also two really useful (but small) side zippered pockets for quick access items like smart phone and charger, cards etc. and another interesting safe zippered pocket at the center of the back of the backpack, for e.g. wallet, keys and other valuables – no one will be able to access this one, too.

Another practical detail is the rain cover, available at the hidden pocket at the bottom of the backpack, which looks well-thought and designed.

It is also useful, especially for the larger model, that the backpack can open flat when a couple of internal buttons are opened; this allows a suitcase-like layout that can help in arranging stuff inside the bag even more easily.

Overall, it is a practical backpack, with some interesting organization options.

Size

The backpack is smaller than its brother, but due to its design (e.g. side flaps) it looks bigger. Internally, things to be pretty packed since most of the pockets are internal and occupy the limited internal space.

I personally managed to fit my 10-inch tablet & Bluetooth keyboard, a pack of paper documents (A4 size), my external hard disk & a small paper notebook at the two band-pockets, a couple of USB sticks and other tiny stuff in the zippered pocket, some markers and my 10.000 mAh powerbank on the open pocket above it (it wouldn’t fit in the dedicated side pocket). In the remaining internal space I could fit a medium-sized lunch box (on its side), a couple of cereal bars, a small flashlight and a medium water bottle. Nothing more.

I used the two external side pockets for one smartphone and its charger, and my (pretty large) keyring with lanyard, along with a pack of tissues. The central safe zippered pocket was occupied by my small magic wallet, another smartphone (backup one) etc.

I never got to use the Bobby Mini, a foldable tote bag packed with the Bobby Compact only. It is really, really practical and of course can be used individually.

My personal point of view

I am not carrying much stuff around (ok, maybe slightly more than the average) but I found the Bobby Compact a tad smaller than I would like to. Since I am not currently using public means of transportation for commuting to work (I plan to do so in the future though), I am not making use of its anti-theft features.

The backpack was really comfortable to carry on my shoulders and extremely practical, as I could access my most frequently used stuff (e.g. wallet, smartphone and charger) without having to open the main compartment. I never got to use the external USB port for charging my phone, but it would also come handy when wandering around the city or an airport. At the same time, I missed some more zippered pockets for my numerous USB sticks, microSD cards and other tiny stuff I have with me. I found a workaround for that with a small organizer that could hold a couple of short cables and adapters, memory cards etc.

In the few weeks that I used the backpack on a daily basis, I started seeing some smudges in the front, leather-like panel which I could not quickly remove with a wet towel (and we are talking about taking the backpack from house to the car and from the car to the office (and back). I do not mind some minor cosmetic issues so I didn’t bother trying more to clean it.

For the time being, I replaced the Bobby Backpack Compact with my Tech Air backpack, to which I gave a second chance after taking some more time to check out its features and allocate my stuff inside. However, I plan to use the Bobby in the near future, especially if I go back to commuting by metro; it could also help me reduce the stuff I carry around with me to the minimum required 🙂

XD Design Bobby Compact – Πρώτες εντυπώσεις

Εδώ και ένα περίπου μήνα είμαι κάτοχος ενός XD Design Bobby Compact (το γνωστό anti-theft backpack), το οποίο μου ήρθε σαν δώρο από έναν online διαγωνισμό του Vice.com, στον οποίο είχα λάβει μέρος. Μου φάνηκε παράξενο, καθώς είναι ίσως η μοναδική φορά που κέρδισα κάτι σε διαγωνισμό, αλλά φαίνεται πως άξιζε η αναμονή!

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact_ext

Ακόμη δοκιμάζω το πόσο με βολεύει για καθημερινή χρήση (σπίτι-γραφείο) σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδια που έχω, γιατί έχω μάλλον κάποιες παραξενιές όσον αφορά στο τι μεταφέρω καθημερινά και στο τι περιμένω από ένα σακίδιο. Επίσης το σακίδιο ήρθε σε ένα μάλλον φωτεινό χρώμα, το οποίο δεν ταιριάζει ακριβώς με το στυλ μου, αλλά αυτό είναι κάτι που μπορώ να παραβλέψω 🙂

Οι πρώτες μου εντυπώσεις από το σακίδιο είναι οι εξής:

Θετικά
– Πραγματικά αντικλεπτική σχεδίαση (όλα τα φερμουάρ και οι τσέπες είναι προστατευμένα στην πλάτη μου)
– Αρκετός χώρος διαθέσιμος για ογκώδη αντικείμενα (π.χ. βιβλία, αδιάβροχο, κλπ).
– Πρακτική υποδοχή USB για φόρτιση του κινητού (με τη χρήση του δικού μου powerbank – δεν περιλαμβάνεται)
– Πρακτικές θήκες στην πλάτη (π.χ. για πορτοφόλι) και στα δύο πλαϊνά (σχετικά μικρές, π.χ. για κινητά, κλειδιά και άλλα που χρειάζεσαι άμεση πρόσβαση). Επιπλέον “σχισμές” χωρίς κλείσιμο στους ιμάντες για κάρτες, εισιτήρια κλπ. που θέλετε να χρησιμοποιήσετε άμεσα.
– Πραγματική διαφορά στην αίσθηση βάρους που μεταφέρει το σακίδιο (το βάρος πέφτει κυρίως στην πλάτη και φαίνεται λιγότερο σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδιά μου)
– Καλή ποιότητα κατασκευής και πρωτότυπος σχεδιασμός, διαφορετικός από τα υπόλοιπα που κυκλοφορούν. Κρατάει το σχήμα του ακόμη και άδειο και αντέχει στη βροχή (δεν το έχω δοκιμάσει στην πράξη, αλλά το υλικό φαίνεται όντως υδρόφοβο).
– Σε σχέση με το κλασικό, μεγαλύτερο Bobby, συνοδεύεται από αδιάβροχο κάλυμμα (στη βάση του σακιδίου) και το πολύ πρακτικό Bobby mini (μια τσάντα για ψώνια που δικπλώνει και αποθηκεύεται σε θήκη-πορτοφόλι – έρχεται στο ίδιο χρώμα με το σακίδιο).

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact

Αρνητικά
– Δύσκολο άνοιγμα και κλείσιμο του φερμουάρ του σακίδιου – θέλει λίγη εξάσκηση και σίγουρα να “γυρίσεις” το κάλυμμα του φερμουάρ.
– Έλλειψη αριθμού εσωτερικών θηκών: Υπάρχει μία μικρή θήκη με φερμουάρ (π.χ. για USB sticks, SD cards και άλλα μικροαντικείμενα), μια “τσέπη” για μεγαλύτερα αντικείμενα (αλλά όχι μεγάλη και μάλλον εύκολο να αδειάσει) και δύο μεγάλα λάστιχα για π.χ. σκληρό δίσκο, παγούρι, ομπρέλα κλπ. Μαζί με τις δύο θήκες για laptop (μέχρι 14”) και tablet στην πλάτη στου σακιδίου και την υποδοχή για το powerbank είναι όλες οι θήκες. Αυτό σημαίνει ότι άλλα αντικείμενα όπως φορτιστές, καλώδια, γραφική ύλη, post-it, χαρτομάντηλα κλπ. είναι όλα χύμα στον κυρίως χώρο. Προσωπικά θα ήθελα περισσότερες θήκες με φερμουάρ εσωτερικά.
– Η “τσέπη” που είναι πάνω από τη θήκη με το φερμουάρ έχει ελαστικές θηλιές για στυλό (3-4) και νομίζω πως έχει ήδη αρχίσει να ξεχειλώνει από το βάρος (αν και δεν είναι πολύ σημαντικό).
– Θα ήθελα και ένα κρίκο για τα κλειδιά, που έχω συνηθίσει από άλλα σακίδια.

Γενικά

Πρόκειται για συμπαθητικό σακίδιο, με ορισμένα πολύ ιδιαίτερα και πρακτικά χαρακτηριστικά αλλά και περιορισμούς. Πιστεύω πως όσο το χρησιμοποιώ θα προσαρμοστώ στις δυνατότητές του και θα τις εκμεταλλευτώ καλύτερα. Αν ξέρει κανείς το τι να περιμένει από αυτό και έχει διάθεση να ασχοληθεί (η έλλειψη περισσότερων εσωτερικών θηκών αντιμετωπίζεται με τη χρήση π.χ. κασετίνας για τη γραφική ύλη, κουτιών για μικροαντικείμενα κλπ.), τότε αξίζει τα λεφτά του.

Σίγουρα είναι ένα σακίδιο που θα συνεχίσω να χρησιμοποιώ καθημερινά και φαίνεται ότι θα αντέξει άνετα την καθημερινή χρήση, λόγω ποιοτικής κατασκευής. Ίσως τελικά με καταφέρει να περιορίσω το τι μεταφέρω μαζί μου καθημερινά, να κάνω δηλαδή πιο minimal τον εξοπλισμό μου.

Tech Air TAN3711 15.6-inch backpack review

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in the hunt for yet another backpack, as I got bored/tired of the one I’ve been using almost exclusively for the last years, during my daily commutes to work and back. And when I was about to get a brand new one for me, I recalled a backpack I was given several months ago, now resting at my storage room. And I decided to give it a try.

The backpack is a Tech Air 15.6 Inch Backpack TAN3711, with the following dimensions:

Width 34.5 cm
Height 13.5 cm
Depth 46.5 cm
Weight 1.1 kg

I have been using the backpack for a couple of weeks now and here are my impressions:

What I like:

  • The bottom is rugged, with heavy duty rubber/plastic. This means that even if it sits on water, water will not soak the internal of the backpack.
  • The laptop compartment is reinforced, in a way patented by the company; it’s like having a sleeve for it, which is securely integrated in the bag.
  • There is a dedicated pocket for documents, folders etc. behind the laptop sleeve; this ensures that documents will not wrinkle etc.
  • There are 4-5 internal small pockets, open top, which allow the storage of e.g. a mouse, a phone charger, a wallet, a pocket notepad, wrapped cables etc. Keep in mind that all of them are open (see later on)

What I don’t like:

  • Both external pockets are badly designed: They only have one zipper (not the typical couple available nowadays) and it starts from pretty low point; this means that if you put small items inside they will likely fall when you try to open the pocket. For example, I have plenty of USB sticks with me and some of them were always about to fall when I opened the top pocket for storing my keys.
  • There are not internal zipped pockets: This means that all these small things that may end up in your backpack (and in case you decide to avoid using the external pockets for the aforementioned reasons) will spread inside the bag if it turns around. Securely storing coins, paperclips, rubber bands, USB sticks etc. is not possible with this bag.
  • There is no external side pocket/mesh for water bottles, umbrellas etc. This makes the backpack look less wide (it is already significantly wide) but I miss this feature. After all, I wouldn’t put my wet umbrella inside the backpack.
  • A deep and wide mesh pocket exists in the main compartment, which can be used for various items but with no organization. This also occupies space from the main compartment.
  • The main compartment will not fit a typical lunch box, as it is narrow and on top of that blocked by the internal pockets, all of which face inwards.
  • The material doesn’t look waterproof – let alone weatherproof.

All in all, it seems like a backpack aiming at professionals and not the typical city commuters, who carry their water bottles, umbrellas etc. with them, along with lots of small things that need to be securely stored in zipped pockets. I like its shape and it seems to hold its weight well-balanced (not carrying a laptop with me, though) but I really miss some features that I consider essential.

Despite that, I plan to keep using the backpack and will try to adapt to its features and limitations for the next weeks, too, but I will keep my eyes open for any alternatives.

In search for a new backpack

In search for a new backpack

I have been using my Sentio Sporty backpack almost daily since I got it, two years ago; I never expected it to last that long. I even used it as my main backpack during business trips lately, as I tried to travel light – lighter than in the past. In the meantime, I had some short breaks, using my Swiss messenger bag and even an old Trust backpack, trying to break this daily routine of using the same bag to and from work. After using it so intensively I can be a pretty subjective reviewer of it.

Sentio_Sporty_2048310

What I like:

  • It is really light;
  • It is compact: a 15.6-inch laptop hardly fits in its main compartment (no way to fit it in the laptop sleeve). I don’t have to carry my laptop so my tablet fits fine there when needed and I can easily store the bag virtually anywhere;
  • It is spacious: Its main compartment can fit my lunch box, along with chargers, cables, a hard disk, etc. – the main compartment expands a lot compared to the bag’s total volume;
  • It is practical: it has two external side mesh pockets for my water bottle and umbrella. It also has a three zippered pockets in the front, one of which with some basic organizational options (for pens, business cards and a small zippered part for coins and other small items. All zippers have their own loops, and are double, which makes them easy to use;
  • It is easy to carry around: It has soft shoulder straps and combined with its low weight you can hardly feel it.

What I don’t like:

  • Its material is so soft that it hardly holds its own weight; in most cases, the bag sits like a sack of potatoes…
  • The material is so thin that wears off when sharp or heavy objects are packed in the bag;
  • The bag is not well-balanced; since all additional pockets are located at the front side, the additional weight makes the bag lean forward, which is awkward when backpack is on my shoulders;
  • The top handle is not well-placed; for some reason it is located more towards the back of the bag.

For these reasons, I lately started looking for alternatives. What I wanted was a spacious yet compact backpack, comfortable for everyday use, with dedicated pockets for organizing all the small things I carry along, lightweight and durable, and even water-resistant if possible.

My short but in-depth online research came up with two potential candidates: Targus Seoul (a long time favorite of mine) and HP Odyssey. The former was a bit more expensive (about €45) than the latter (€25) but money was not an issue, as a backpack is a long-term investment.

Targus_Seoul

I spent hours checking out video and text reviews on Amazon, blog posts and images from manufacturers and users, trying to figure out how I would fit my stuff in their pockets and slots, which were their strong and weak points etc. I even had the opportunity to check the Odyssey at the office, as a colleague of mine had a couple of them in different colors. Seoul seemed more refined, with well-thought features (see the trolley and tablet sleeve, and maybe a bit more spacious) while the Odyssey seemed more rugged and less-refined but still practical. The Odyssey even got a reddot award / honorable mention in 2015.

»The HP Odyssey scores high for its well-thought-out functionality, which focuses particularly on the safe and comfortable transport of sensitive electronic equipment.«

And when I was about to get one of these for me, I recalled a backpack given to me several months ago, resting at my storage room. And I decided to give it a try…

(to be continued).

Packing light for summer holidays

Packing less is great, but you always have to carry the essentials with you; especially when you spend some time away from home. You need to carefully plan your stay, think about the items that you will definitely need, add some of those that you may need and then start packing. The easiest way is packing more, but this is not really convenient – especially during summer holidays.

During the first part of our summer holidays, I packed my stuff in my compact messenger bag: My 10.1-inch tablet with its charger and the Logitech K480 keyboard, a couple of smartphones with their chargers, HDMI cable for plugging the tablet to the hotel room’s TV (it was the first time the TV was unlocked and the cable proved useful for keeping kids busy watching cartoons), a notepad & pencils, wallet, my sunglasses etc. However, I hardly had the opportunity to use the bulky keyboard and instead I used mostly my smartphones for consuming content (e.g. checking out social media, looking for information on places to visit, GPS navigation etc.) and producing as well (taking and editing photos, updating social media). I also found the bag heavy to carry around.

As a result, during the second part of our holidays, I decided to get rid of some stuff and be even more portable. I challenged myself to fit all my essentials in a really compact mens shoulder bag that was given to me as a gift some time ago but never had the opportunity to use it. It may sound impossible, but this little bag held the following during my holidays:

  • My Magic Wallet
  • A pocket notepad and a couple of pens
  • A pocket book (one of the biographies of Black Sabbath 😃 )
  • Home keys, car keys and hotel room keys with keyrings
  • Two smartphones and one charger
  • My sunglasses in their pouch
  • A compact flashlight (it always comes handy when away from home)
  • A nail clipper
  • Coins
  • Fresheners & gums
  • All the receipts collected during the vacations and a couple of folded A4 pages with map of the area and other notes.

It was so compact and light that I could easily carry it around by the pool, the beach and our evening walks – virtually all the time. Of course I did not have my 10.1-inch tablet nor its keyboard with me, but I would hardly have the opportunity to use them anyway, based on my experience and daily schedule. This meant that I stayed a little bit behind with blogging, reviewing the places we visited etc. but this would happen anyway, due to lack of time for that (and not due to the lack of the items themselves).