Category: Luggage

Review Of The Dell Premier Backpack: Built For Business Travelers

I once said the Dell Premier Backpack might be the best electronics backpack for travelers and having taken another look at it again, would say the same – with a caveat. Finding the perfect backpack is difficult because it’s a very subjective measure and rather than trying to make something for everyone, Dell focused on the business traveler. In doing so, Dell very nearly created a perfect, generalized electronics backpack – but ended up with a very good bag for a particular type of travel. Frequent business travelers who need more storage for gadgets than other generalized travel gear like extra clothing should take a close look at the Dell Premier Backpack. My full review in the video here.

dell premier backpackDell Premier Backpack (1PD0H)

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The Osprey Sojourn 60L Is Nearly Everything Right With Luggage

Most luggage seems like it’s better designed to look good in a storefront than actually be used for traveling. Considering how bags are handled by airline staff, generally overstuffed, and often too heavy to avoid fees, you would hope someone would make a bag that’s light and durable – not to mention sleek and efficient.

osprey sojourn 60 literOsprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage (25-Inch/60 Liter, Metal Grey)

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The Osprey Sojourn 60L is a piece of luggage that, if you’ll let me be cliche for a moment, actually seems like it was designed by travelers, for other travelers. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s how I feel about the Sojourn 60L. You can watch my entire review of the Sojourn 60L luggage in the video above (after 8 years of wear and tear) or read on to find out why I think it’s so great.

To Roll Or Carry

There are two reasons I initially considered the Sojourn 60L. The first is the Sojourn 60L is wheeled luggage that can be used as a backpack; the second reason is because it’s just at the limit of what most airlines consider carry-on size. As it turns out, using wheel luggage is a lot more efficient when you carry two bags (no double-turtle shell) and the Sojourn 60L looks too big for airline staff except on the largest of planes.

sojourn 60L

In other words, I’ve hardly ever used the Sojourn 60L as a backpack and don’t usually bother entering a debate with airline staff by not attempting to bring it as carry-on. Despite not really meeting my two first expectations, my experience with the Sojourn 60L has given me a new checklist for every bag after.

Selective Size

Like a gas, you’ll end up filling most of the empty volume within a given bag, no matter how large it is. A bag that’s too small will increase pressure on the person packing, terrified they won’t pack enough. Scale the bag up to 90 liters and now you’ve got pressure on your arms, back, mind, and baggage fees. 60 liters seems to be a size that’s spacious but conservative enough to force yourself to pack wisely.

sojourn 60l osprey

Two internal compression straps can be used to secure and tighten your packed clothes, which not only keeps the Sojourn physically smaller, but reduces stress on the seams. There are two external straps as well, which also redirect a lot of the pulling that ends up destroying most luggage over time.

8 Years And Going

All of those design efforts, the compression straps, exterior stitching, and selectively used hard plastic are probably what’s made the Sojourn 60L so durable. I’ve been using the Sojourn 60L in the video for 8 years and it’s in great shape. I don’t plan on replacing it any time soon and considering I travel several times per month, I suspect it might last much longer for most people.

Knowing all of this now, the Sojourn 60L has certainly earned its price. Osprey sells the Sojourn 60L for around $250, which isn’t inexpensive but given its durability, is a good investment for frequent travelers. On top of that (literally) the Osprey Daylite day pack [full review here] attaches to the Sojourn; given how well that’s held up after a year, it’ll probably last forever too.

SwissGear Scansmart 1900 Backpack Review: Lots Of Pockets For Little Gadgets

The SwissGear Scansmart 1900 is a durable backpack with a lot of benefits for most travelers that leads to one big drawback for everyone else. One of the most popular travel backpacks, especially for people who carry a lot of electronics, the Scansmart 1900 has pockets for just about everything.

scansmart 1900  SwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack 1900

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Plentiful pockets is not surprising for a brand associated with functionality, but the Scansmart’s dividers rob it of a large main storage compartment, meaning it’s a great backpack if you only use 75% of it.

Durable Unlike Most Others

The SwissGear line of backpacks are designed to last – I used the Synergy for over 10 years – and have been using the 1900 as my primary electronics backpack for the past 18 months or so. (I switched because I needed a larger bag to carry this stuff.) The 1900 has held up very well over the extreme amount of travel I’ve done, though there are small indications of imperfection I never noticed on the Synergy.

swissgear scansmart 1900

A slightly loose plastic logo on the handle and a few errant strings in the stitching are things I wouldn’t even mention for other backpacks but SwissGear have set their own bar very high. Still, the Scansmart will last, despite my constant over-stuffing of this bag, the seams have held strong and survived where many other backpacks I’ve reviewed wouldn’t.

Divided On Pockets

Originally I moved to the Scansmart 1900 when I picked up a Mavic Pro drone. I organized the drone, as well as my Panasonic Lumix G85, in two SwissGear toiletry kits. They fit perfectly into the front main compartment of the 1900 but two additional dividers in that compartment steal space if they’re not used. In other words, a notebook, cable organizer, and some other small items would fit well; it’s when you stuff the main compartment those dividers force the bag into an awkward, uncomfortable shape. Sure, the Scansmart 1900 can handle it, though your back might be slightly sore after a long journey.

swissgear scansmart 1900

Then, there’s the biggest complaint I have about the 1900: the thick dividers between the laptop compartment, tablet compartment, and main compartments. Those dividers take up space, again, which is fine if you’re not going to really fill the main compartment. Using the laptop and tablet compartments push those bulky dividers forward into the main compartment and if you try to fill it up too much your backpack will look like a water balloon ready to burst.

The Size Of Your Stuff

Alternatively, the North Face Recon I’ve previously reviewed, has roughly the same internal capacity though allocates much more space to the main compartment. It’s got one roomy laptop pocket in the main compartment without cutting it up into smaller sections. For travelers with a lot of small items, the Scansmart 1900 might be a better backpack, because it’s designed not to be filled anywhere near capacity.

The Recon on the other hand, has a large main compartment that can easily fit a DSLR, small drone, or otherwise be jammed with clothes when you don’t feel like packing properly. The Scansmart 1900 is a large backpack designed for small things, best compared to the Dell Premier backpack, if you’re not planning on pushing your bags limits.

The Cocoon Grid-It Is Cable Management For Your Backpack

Traveling with a lot of electronics means traveling with a lot of cables. Charging cords are especially difficult to manage inside a backpack and the Cocoon Grid-It is one of the few organizers that’s portable enough to be useful for travelers. The Grid-It isn’t for every backpack but for those it works for, can make frequent trips though airport security much simpler.

You can watch my full review of the Cocoon Grid-It in the video above or read on.

Grid-It Basics

The Grid-It comes in several sizes, though I found the most effective one to be the 10.5 x 7.5 inch (26.6 x 19 cm) version. That’s because the smaller the Grid-It is horizontally, the more space it takes up vertically. More on that in a bit, but first, how the Cocoon Grid-It works.

cocoon grid it

Basically the Grid-It is a flat panel with 12 elastic strips across, 6 down on one side, and two on the back. The most effective way to use the Grid-It is to coil a cable and place it under one of the bands. Longer or thicker cables should go under the longest bands and it’s important to spread out the cables as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll only accentuate the Grid-Its main drawback.

Advantages

Once you’ve got your cables all under the gentle, but firm grip of the Grid-It, taking all of your cords in and out of your backpack is a breeze. Being able to take all of your cables out at once, organized, makes going through airport security much, much faster than pulling out of a clump of cords. Plus you won’t have to worry about losing everything else that tends to get tangled up in cord clumps as you yank it out of your bag.

cocoon grid itCocoon Grid-It CPG8BK 10.5 x 7.5-Inch Organizer (Black)

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It’s also worth noting it makes the job of airport security easier too and the clear view of all your cables seems to put you on their good side. Always a good thing for a frequent traveler who wants to get to the lounge or gate as quickly as possible.

Organization Costs Space

I mentioned above, the Grid-It has one major drawback: the amount of usable space it takes up inside a backpack. Although it’s excellent at organizing cables, it takes up a lot of usable backpack space to do so. The more cables you have, the larger its horizontal profile – creating a bump that can be awkward to fit inside of a tight backpack. Coiled cables also have a lot of space in them which isn’t practical to fill up.

cocoon grid-it

Sure, you can stuff as much of your other gear inside the cable coils as possible, but chances are the Grid-It is going to occupy a lot of empty space. For travelers whose backpacks are less than 80% full, the Grid-It can provide much needed cable organization. If your backpack is in need of a diet, already stuffed, the Grid-It is probably going to take up too much additional space to be useful.

Clumps of cables are ugly but more easily smashed compressed inside of a bag. Chances are if you don’t have space for a Grid-It, you need to start with some basic backpack organization first.

The North Face Recon Is An Ideal Backpack If You Travel With A Lot Of Electronics

Getting a large electronics backpack right is something that many manufacturers haven’t quite mastered. The midsize gadgets backpack market is full of excellent choices, like the Dell Premier Backpack, but they don’t scale up in size efficiently. Unfortunately, most larger electronics are just that, bigger versions of smaller backpacks that don’t take advantage of the extra space.

The North Face Recon is a spacious backpack which manages to feel smaller than it is, while at the same time comfortably carrying a lot of gear. You can watch my full review of The North Face CLG4-JK3 Backpack in the video above, or read on.

Size Doesn’t Matter

It’s how you use it and the Recon, despite being a 31-liter backpack measuring 49 centimeters x 36 cm x 24 cm, seems both smaller and larger than its dimensions. (Lighter too, only 1.2kg / 2.5 lbs.) The first thing the Recon gets right is having one main, large pocket. For example, the Swissgear Scansmart 1900 I use breaks up most of its capacity into three large compartments. In essence, what this does it restrict the backpack into being primarily a laptop carrier.

the nrth face recon backpack review

The North Face Recon on the other hand has one large compartment with a smaller front pocket. The larger, main compartment has a laptop sleeve (lined with fleece) that can comfortably hold a 15-inch Macbook Pro. With that out of the way and no pockets to stealthily gobble up space, you can easily fit a DSLR, drone, plus regular travel items like extra clothes in the main compartment.

Whereas most midsize electronics backpacks are made for mostly for gadgets, the Recon was designed for your gadgets as well as other travel gear. At 31 liters, the Recon is very close to being a bag that can eliminate your need for a check-in bag for short trips or if you travel very light.

Small Details Of Quality

Having a larger main compartment opens up a lot of space, so you could use the Recon as your only backpack for a short trip, even if you are a person that travels with a lot of electronics. You can see all of the tech gear I use – the Recon held it comfortably (with the help of these Swissgear toiletry kits) – with a lot of space let over for clothes and actual toiletries.

the north face reconThe North Face Recon CLG4-JK3 Backpack

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The smaller compartment is sized to easily fit an iPad Air 2 (the iPad Pro might just fit too). The Recon’s smaller compartment also isn’t pocket deficient, taking the best of smaller electronics backpacks (pockets!) and making the most of them.

Looking at the exterior of the bag, although it’s not specifically stated, the Recon appears to be thoroughly weather-proof. Zippers are tightly stitched, there are no open seams, and the fancy ballistic nylon wicks away water. You can definitely take the Recon out on rainy days, personally I would even feel at safe to walk around in a substantial downpour, electronics inside or not.

the north face recon backpack

There are also small touches which imprint The North Face quality, that doesn’t come with an absurd markup. Both side compartments for water bottles are made of tight elastic, not just a single stretchy band like many other backpacks. The front, open compartment as well provides support across the entire pocket. Not only will this make the elasticity last longer, it ensures you won’t constantly be checking to see if anything’s fallen out.

Taking The Best From Big And Small

Straps are also some of the most comfortable I’ve used in all of the backpacks I’ve tested, a lesson the Recon takes from larger backpacks. The few gripes I do have with the Recon – the rounded bottom (the backpack can’t really stand up straight on its own) and the too-bright all white logo – are minor at best. It’s available in 10 different color configurations (unfortunately not an all black on black) and the rounded bottom actually makes it easier to fit the Recon under the seat in front of you on a plane.

The North Face have given the Recon CLG4-JK3 a premium feel for $99, a lot less than expected for this brand. The North Face Recon takes the the better parts of both large and small backpacks to make for a very versatile electronics backpack for travelers who want to occasionally ditch a check-in bag.

Protection Worth The Price? A Review Of The Ultra-Secure Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 Backpack

The Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 is probably the most secure daypack you can buy at a 15 liter capacity. Slash-proof internal meshing, RFID protection, and lockable zippers are all designed to prevent a brute-force attack on your backpack – but these protections might not be worth the added cost for every traveler.

Little But Strong

As you can see in my full video review above, the Citysafe CS300 is a compact daypack made specifically to protect against pickpockets and robbery. According to Pacsafe, the CS300 is a tech bag for women (the slightly larger CS350 isn’t sold as gender specific) but for a gear bag, the CS300 is pretty small. The Citysafe CS300 is more of a camera with some random stuff type of sightseeing backpack.

pacsafe citysafe cs300

Because it has an internal mesh to prevent a thief from cutting through the bag, the CS300 is actually better padded than most daypacks. One advantage being you won’t need an extra case for your camera or other gadgets when they’re in the Citysafe. The shoulder straps also can’t be slashed easily but all of this meshing means a heavier bag with less internal storage than regular daypacks.

Security Trade-Offs

At .58 kilograms (1.28lbs) the CS300 isn’t a heavy backpack but does have a noticeable heft for a bag that’s only measures 35x26x16 centimeters (13.8×10.2×6.3 inches). Surrounding the mesh also means more padding at the expense of internal space. But the CS300 is a daypack you get for its security features, not carrying capacity. RFID blocking (here’s what’s on your passport RFID chip) may be important for some travelers, in which case, the CS300 has you covered.

pacsafe citysafe cs300 daypack  Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 Anti-Theft Compact Backpack

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Who The Citysafe CS300 Is Good For

Although it has an RFID blocking pocket, the inconspicuously locking zippers are the CS300’s most practical protective feature. Slash and grab thefts aren’t likely to occur when you’re actually wearing your backpack – but sly pickpockets can easily slip into a bag in crowded areas though unprotected zippers.

Aside from the cleverly locking zippers, all of the other protections like knife-proofing are good for piece of mind – without a lot of practical benefit. Your bag being robbed by a thief who cuts their way in is most likely to occur when your backpack is under your seat on a bus or overhead on a train. Crowded festivals? Keep your backpack in front of you.

The Pacsafe Citysafe CS300 is good at being a backpack that thwarts pickpockets, bag slashers, and RFID hackers for a cost of around $100. Take away its extreme security features and the CS300 is an overpriced daypack. It’s up to you to decide whether or not complete bag protection is worth your money; though for roughly half the price you’ll get a more versatile bag in the Osprey Daylite Daypack.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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