Category: Luggage

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)

buy from amazon

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

buy from amazon

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

buy from amazon

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.

Osprey Daylite Daypack Review: Road Tested After 1 Year Of Heavy Use

The Osprey Daylite Daypack is a small backpack designed for hiking or short sightseeing excursions but built with features more common in larger bags. Most daypacks are usually very simple, lacking comfort and versatility; falling apart soon after you’ve forgotten how cheap the price was.

Although I generally treat my electronics tenderly, the luggage I carry it around in takes a beating. Reviews of backpacks when they’re new can be useful but seeing how they hold up after an extended period of travel shows you if they’re really worth the their price. This is my review of the Osprey Daylite Daypack, after a year of torturing traveling with it to over 10 countries.

Good Size For Many Uses

My primary carry-on backpack, the Swissgear Scansmart 1900 is very accommodating to all of the electronics I travel with but not very practical for lighter daily use or doubling as a sports bag. Since I’ve been using the reliable Sojourn 60L as my primary check-in luggage for years, I decided to try the Osprey Daylite, hoping it too would be worth the sightly higher price tag.

osprey daylite daypack

The Daylite is 22 x 22 x 45 centimeters, holding roughly 13 liters in two main compartments. It weighs 450 grams (~1 lbs), has mesh shoulder straps, and a foam back to help keep your back cool. (Nobody likes excessive lower back sweat.) The chest and waist straps (38-55 centimeters) keep the Daylite close to your body so it doesn’t smack into you back and forth when hiking – additionally they help make the Daylite a very comfortable backpack to jog with.

osprey daylite daypack  Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Backpack, Black

buy from amazon

13 liters is a good size to carry a pair of shoes, plus some extra clothes; the main compartment of the Daylite also holds the Swissgear Hanging Toiletry Kit (which makes for an ideal electronics organizer) perfectly when placed sideways. The smaller front compartment has a few dividers, good for keys, but they actually make the front pocket fairly useless. Being on the outside, it’s a tempting target for pickpockets so you’re not likely to store anything of importance there. Unfortunately, the front pocket with the dividers is just too small to be useful for much else.

Dual side pockets for water bottles and the hydro-bladder on the back remind you Osprey designed the Daylite with hikers in mind. With that in mind, the Daylite isn’t waterproof, although it’s very water resistant and can easily keep its contents dry after hours of strong rain.

Tougher Than Expected

Stretched, drenched, tossed about, the Daylite looks nearly new after a year of using it almost every day. Aside from some slight color fading on the interior pockets you can see in the video above, the Daylite looks flawless – especially after a wash. Add that as another benefit to the Daylite: being machine washable then drying in less than a few hours in open air. (Much faster than these quick-dry towels.)

For sightseeing, the Daylite lets you be selective about what you take from your hotel room when you’re out and about so you can travel light and leave your non-essential valuables locked up. A bit more expensive (they cost around $60) than a lot of other daypacks, for the price the Daylite is a versatile daypack that’s sure to last over many, many years of use.

How Long Does It Really Take For A Quick-Dry Towel To Dry?

What might seem like a silly question at first can be an important one for your time management when traveling. Microfiber, or quick-dry, towels are designed for campers and frequent travelers when they’re not likely to find a drying machine. Although they’re called “quick-dry” – and do dry faster than cotton, for example – the amount of time it takes varies widely depending if they’re hanging in a hotel room or by the beach.

Knowing the amount of time it takes to the average microfiber towel to dry in a variety of conditions can help you plan prior to packing. (A towel that’s even slightly damp can make your entire backpack smell of feet by the time you reach your destination.) As you can watch in the video above, I ran several experiments in order to determine average dry times indoors and out so you have a good idea of how many hours before prior to packing to hang your towel.

The Test Conditions

I ran four basic drying experiments with the REI Co-op Multi Towel Lite Large I’ve been traveling with for years in several common travel conditions.

  • Test 1: Indoors on a clothesline.
  • Test 2: Indoors hanging from a hook.
  • Test 3: Outdoors in the shade.
  • Test 4: Outdoors in direct sunlight.

rei quick dry towel

The ambient temperature in all the tests was between 20-22C (68F-72F). The Multi Towel Lite was completely dry at the beginning of each test; I took a shower, then used the quick-dry towel. I then hung the towel, set a stopwatch, and checked in occasionally to see the progress of water evaporation. These were the results:

  • Test 1: Indoors on a clothesline: 8 hours 5 minutes.
  • Test 2: Indoors hanging from a hook: 7 hours 58 minutes.
  • Test 3: Outdoors in the shade: 2 hours 43 minutes.
  • Test 4: Outdoors in direct sunlight: 36 minutes.

Indoor Versus Out

It’s probably not surprising that drying the towel outdoors was less time consuming. Though the difference in drying time – nearly 6 hours – might be a bit unexpected. How the towel was hung didn’t make much difference but it’s clear outdoors is preferable; even if the outdoor temperature is the same or less than indoors.

The Over-Under

Add more time obviously if you’re got longer hair needing more water absorption from the towel. Of course, you can shave even more time off by wringing the towel, or placing it near or (carefully) on a heater. Indoor drying times though are going to be 8 hours, in ideal conditions like I had during these small experiments. I suspect I greatly underestimated dry times in general, which has probably cost me a few extra laundry washes on several trips.

So, if you’re going to be using a quick-dry towel, keep in mind to schedule your shower a bit earlier on travel days when you might not have access to a balcony or backyard. Don’t pack more than two weeks of stuff, even for longer trips, and following the 80% rule might give your clothes just enough air not to stink for times you’re feeling a little less patient.

The Bags And Other Non-Electronic Gear I Travel With (And Highly Recommend For Travelers)

osprey sojourn 60

I carry a lot of electronics and when I recently posted all of the gadgets I travel with, many of you sent me messages asking what that gear was kept in. We often focus on the complex items, forgetting about the simple, yet critical bags, covers, and cases that protect our valuables.

These are the road-tested, non-electronic items I have used, in some cases for years, and would recommend for your travels as well.

Luggage: Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, 60L

osprey sojourn

The Osprey Sojourn 60L is a good medium between the larger 80L and compact 45L versions. The “L” is for liters of volume, roughly 63.5 centimeters (25 inches) by 35.56 cm (14 in) by 35.56 cm. It’s a roller; which I find preferable to a backpack so if you have another smaller backpack you don’t have to wear both in the “double turtle” tourist configuration. The Sojourn 60L does have backpack straps if you need to carry it on your back (a feature I’ve rarely used) but more useful are the interior compression straps. Those make it much easy to keep your belongings from dancing about, plus takes pressure off the exterior zippers. I have used the same Osprey Sojourn 60L for years, on hundreds of flights, over 6 continents, and they hold up incredibly well.

Electronics Backpack: SwissGear 1900 Scansmart Laptop Bag

swissgear smartscan 1900 laptop bag

This backpack has 15 pockets and comfortably holds all of my electronics, including the DJI Mavic Drone. Made of 1200D ballistic polyester fabric; I used a smaller version, the Wenger Synergy for over 12 years – only changing to the larger SwissGear 1900 to accommodate the addition of a drone.

Daypack: Osprey Daylite

osprey daylite

Carrying around a bag full of all your gadgets isn’t practical or very wise so for days out exploring. Fitting nicely into the Sojourn, the Osprey Daylite (22.86 cm x 22.86 cm x 45.72 cm) is an ideal size for a day pack, trips to the gym, or jiu-jitsu classes. It can carry a DSLR, Mavic Drone, gym clothes, though not all at once, it’s close. Weighing only 426 grams (.94 pounds) with a ventilated back panel, the Daylite is comfortable, small, plus has compression straps for times you need to push its capacity.

Cable Organizer: Cocoon Grid-It 10.5 x 7.5-Inch Organizer

I had put off organizing my cables for a long time but after another time in airport security having to pull out a clump of cords, send them back through the X-ray, and attempt to shake all the tangles out I decided on the Cocoon Grid-It, 5 x 7.5 inch organizer. It’s about the size of a standard sheet of paper with a very slim profile, plus its designed in a way that you don’t need to be very organized to make use of the Cocoon’s organizational benefits. Put the cable where they fit, then be on your way.

Toiletry Bag: SwissGear Deluxe Framed Toiletry Kit

swissgear deluxe toiletry kit

SwissGear make very durable products that are well thought out in design to an extent it’s easy to forget how useful they are. The main pockets of the SwissGear Deluxe Framed Kit are lined with rubber to make them water-resistant – ideal for packing deodorant, perfumes, shampoos or anything else you don’t want leaking into your luggage.

Drone Carrying Case: SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit

swissgear hanging toiletry kit

For those of you looking into a drone to travel with, the DJI Mavic Pro is a good combination of size (it’s collapsible) with excellent video quality (shoots 4K). Many of the hard cases sold for the Mavic are big, adding unnecessary bulk to a drone designed to be small. The SwissGear Hanging Toiletry Kit, odd as it may seem, is a soft case that perfectly fits the Mavic (in its sleeve), the remote controller (in the Altura Small Neoprene Pouch Bag), and charging cables nearly perfectly.

Laptop Sleeve: Incase Icon Sleeve

incase icon laptop sleeve

The Incase Icon Sleeve is a soft cover made for a number of laptops and what I keep my Macbook Pro in. The Incase has saved my laptop from what could have been a devastating fall at airport security, protecting it from the effects of traveling.

Wallet: J.Fold Men’s Roadster Torrent Slimfold

jfold wallet

Slim, durable, and as you may have guessed by now, with plenty of pockets.

A Few Other Covers And Cases

I don’t want to neglect mentioning the Moleskine Classic (5 x 8.25) Notebook. Although I tend not to be loyal to a particular notebook brand, I can recommend the Moleskine (5 x 8.25) because of the large writing surface for a compact journal. (The pages also fold flat; i.e. no gigantic hump when you’re writing in the middle of the notebook.)

Lastly, for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 camera, I use an off brand, particularly mundane looking black case. Another benefit to cases are they can reduce the perceived value of what’s in them and uglifying your gadgets when they’re public can make them less enticing for pickpockets. Like any good case or backpack, you want something functional, not much bigger than the things it’s carrying, with of course, plenty of pockets.

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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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