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Cleer ALLY PLUS Provide Budget ANC Earbuds For Travelers

For a long time active noise canceling (ANC) was a feature limited to bulky, expensive headphones. For travelers, the trade off has been a difficult one but ANC, when done right, is a technology that’s hard to travel without once you’ve used it. Cleer’s ALLY PLUS are a pair of ANC earbuds which have recently dropped in price and come with respectable ANC as well.

You can watch my full review in the video here.

Why ANC?

Most headphones have some sort of noise isolation – a pretty broad term meaning they block outside sounds so you can hear your music or podcast better. Noise isolation is somewhat inherent in headphones; they are, after all, sitting in or over your ears while simultaneously producing sound directly into them.

ANC uses reverse sound waves (analyzed by the microphones in the earbuds) to silence the outside world. When done effectively, it can make the cafe or airplane you’re flying in become a silent room. The ALLY PLUS aren’t as effective as the Bose QuietComfort or Jabra Elite 85h with its ANC. The outside world isn’t completely shut off but its the best ANC under $200 in an earbud I’ve tried. The battery life is decent, package small, and sound quality good enough to be a solid budget ANC option for many travelers.

DJI Osmo Action 2020 Review: Getting Better With Age

It’s rare that a tech product improves with time but since its release last year, DJI’s Osmo Action has gone from a cheeky upstart to a real contender for best action camera. Through a series of firmware updates DJI has corrected a lot of the initial problems present when the Osmo Action was first released still, those patches might not be for everyone.

To find out how good the DJI Osmo Action is in 2020 you can watch the video above or read on.

Breaking Ground

The most noticeable feature of the DJI Osmo Action is its front facing screen. The first 4K action camera to have a screen on the front as well as back, this valuable hardware feature had some issues. Notably lag and screen timeouts which, among other defects, have been fixed through firmware updates.

A front facing screen is invaluable in many situations though most obviously for frequent vloggers. Making sure you’re in frame with action cameras, although they typically have wide fields of view, is cumbersome without a way to see for yourself. Speaking of field of view, the Osmo Action lens can capture 145 degrees – not quite as wide as others but not as fish-eye looking either. Depending on your preference this can be a pro or con but I would say if you do a lot of helmet mounted filming (e.g. skiing, motorcycle) wider would be preferable.

Low Light Is RockSteady

Not surprisingly for a company that makes gimbals the Osmo Action’s RockSteady stabilization feature is impressive. RockSteady keeps your video looking smooth even if you’re bouncing down a mountain on skis. Additionally, the Osmo Action’s low light performance is impressive for an action camera; allowing you to see the darker parts of an image by not going overboard on contrast.

dji osmo action

Indoors are generally not good shooting conditions for the small lenses of action cameras but the Osmo Action does better than most. Colors are also represented vibrantly without over-saturating and skin tones look excellent. The microphone is decent, enhanced with a firmware update, or can be enhanced with hardware.

Lots In The First Gen

The Osmo Action is a look at the future of action cams with its front facing screen, solid stabilization, and image quality aiming to be a good camera that doesn’t necessarily have the word ‘action’ before it. Clearly a work in progress as the first action camera by DJI, the Osmo Action is improves and adds features with each software update every 1-2 months.

Still, users who don’t want to bother with firmware updates you might be better off looking at a fully baked competitor. You won’t get the latest cutting edge features but won’t have to deal with updating software. For travelers who want a front facing screen, good low light quality, plus a more realistic field of view the Osmo Action is really the top choice – but only if you remember to update its firmware on a very regular basis.

Is The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L Backpack Worth The Price?

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is a highly anticipated backpack for its features but controversial due to its price. A custom-designed collaboration between vlogger Peter McKinnon and NOMATIC, the Camera Pack aims to solve many problems with one-bag travel… for $599.

Many of you might expect that price puts the McKinnon Camera Pack 35L as a purely luxury item but for many travelers, certain functionality will justify the cost. You can watch the video above to see more or read on.

Unpacking The Price

Before many of us carried full offices on our backs, the primary piece of luggage we paid for was the check-in kind. Over the past 15 years though, laptops, cameras, drones, and other expensive items (with batteries that aren’t allowed to be checked) have made our carry-on more essential.

Interior designing a suitcase or backpack that will primarily hold clothing isn’t very intricate and the reason by hiking backpacks aren’t ideal for most travelers. Clothing requires a large empty space since the contents can get jostled around and won’t be access until you arrive at your destination. Exterior durability on a bag like the Timbuk2 Copilot is where a lot of the cost goes.

mckinnon camera pack

Modern backpacks, often filled with over a thousand of dollars of equipment have a much more difficult task. They need to efficiently keep interior contents in place, allow for easy frequent access, plus have a rugged exterior that’s light. Oh, and be carried on your back comfortably at the same time. Missing those marks is why some backpacks fail.

McKinnon’s Answer

For those of us who travel with a lot of electronic or photographic equipment, a carry-on is vital gear meaning we often have to check-in a bag for less important stuff like underwear. For longer or international trips, the carry and check-in combo isn’t too much of a encumbrance however on a weekend or day trip even, using a single bag is ideal.

For those of you who only travel with a laptop, then it’s likely you already have enough space in your backpack for a weekend’s worth of clothes. Now add in a DSLR like the G85, maybe some lenses or a drone and forget about it. The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is the solution to this issue Peter was facing.

Segmented Spaciousness

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L itself isn’t $599 – that’s the cost with all the accessories specifically designed for this bag. Without those accessories, the backpack is $399, on par with something like a GORUCK GR2. Much less expensive generic versions of the accessories (a battery pouch for example) can be found on Amazon to save money. Of all the accessories, the Camera Cube Pack – a larger organizer that turns into a daypack and can be used with any bag – is the one to take a look at ($129).

Segmented into two sections, one for bulky electronics and the other for clothing, the 35 liter Camera Pack expands to 42 liters. At nearly 3 kilograms (~6 pounds) the Camera Pack 35L is heavy but might meet your needs. You’ll need to evaluate the Camera Pack 35L based on these 3 things in this order:

  1. Materials – The importance of durability increases with frequency of travel.
  2. Design – How are those materials are arranged to organize your specific gear.
  3. Features – Frequent international travel means a quick access passport pocket will be useful, or loading straps for examples. These are the little things that determine the ease of use for you in particular.

camera pack 35l

Where the McKinnon Camera Pack is trying to differentiate itself is in higher level aspects of design and heavily on features and in many ways it will check a lot of those boxes for many travelers. There are though less expensive alternatives, like the Thule Subterra 34L or Aer Travel Pack 2 which have excellent quality with designs applicable to many people.

A bag with a lot of specific features, functions, and pockets means it will have a very specific user base. Given that NOMATIC has a generous 30 day return policy, the McKinnon Camera Pack 35L might be worth testing if it’s within your budget. Remember, your electronics bag is the most important piece of gear you travel with since it protects all of your most valuable belongings.

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is a heavy bag that comes loaded with features and might solve one very big problem in one-bag travel – a bag that can actually be that.

Should You Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Coronavirus?

The travel restrictions, bans, and other disruptions are changing rapidly – since I uploaded the video above a number of new safety measures have been put into place. It’s best to check your local government updates as well as news about your destination for the latest developments.

Here’s how to handle your travel plans over the next 45 days and what to do about planned travel soon after that.

What If You Have Travel Plans Confirmed?

A lot depends on where you’re going, how long, for what reasons (e.g. recreational) as well as whether or not you fall into any of the high-risk groups for a severe case of coronavirus (COVID-19). Additionally, if you have regular contact with anyone in the high-risk groups, you should take this into account as well.

london train station

The information here isn’t about the medial implications of traveling (the World Health Organization has a good primer) but how to handle your travel plans. If you have international travel planned between now and April 15th for recreational purposes all things considered, you should probably cancel or delay your trip.

Many international and domestic corona-related restrictions in place right now are set to be reevaluated over the next 2-4 weeks. Given the uncertainly plus widespread cancellation of many events, the sooner you move to cancel the better.

How To Handle A Cancellation

Flights purchased through a booking engine are the first place to begin. You’ll want to process a refund there first – make sure you’re detailed as to why you’re not flying (e.g. more than just saying “corona”) – and see if you can get a refund or voucher for future travel. Additionally, you may want to get in touch with the airline directly as well as your travel insurance provider for other options.

What About Those Great Travel Deals? (Next 45 Days)

Most travel insurers are no longer covering corona-related claims after early March, so it’s a massive risk you’ll lose money, arrive to a lock down, or otherwise have your vacation plans vaporize. Attempting international travel plans before the end of April is likely not to go smoothly, so plan any trips for after the next 45 days or so (May 15th) to be safe.

For those of you with planned (i.e. booked) travel between April 15th and May 15th, it’s best to keep those plans as the middle of April is when a major reassessment but governments and the travel industry is likely. We’ll all have a better idea of what the summer travel seasons looks like then, with hopefully better news.

Anker’s Soundbuds Curve Are Budget Wireless Earbuds For Runners Who Travel

No matter how good a pair of sports earbuds are, if they don’t actually stay in your ears it doesn’t really matter. Anker’s Soundbuds Curve are a pair of budget exercise earbuds that aren’t great in any one category but manage to be solid across the board. When added all up these nearly $25 Soundbuds Curve are a good choice for travelers who run.

You can watch my full review of the Anker Soundbuds Curve in the video above or read on.

The Hook

There are a few main ways earbud manufacturers design earbuds to stay put. Some, like the RHA MA390 use a thick neck cord for weighted balance while others like the NuForce BE Sport3 leverage wingtips. Anker has opted a blended solution: smaller wingtips to maintain stability just above your ear canal and a larger hook over the ear.

anker soundbuds curve review

The result is a clunky set of headphones that are surprisingly light, relatively comfortable, and certainly stable. Soundbuds Curve won’t fall out, even on longer jogs, sprints, or running up stairs. Having used the Soundbuds Curve on near marathon length runs they only needed a few minor readjustments (usually when I began sweating) along the way.

Sounds… Average

Anker has done a good job of making the Soundbuds Curve seem more premium than a $26 price tag would imply. They come with a case, a variety of wingtips to fit in different ears, and Soundbuds Curve have a sleek matte finish. The microphone plus 18 hour battery life are also good touches Anker has made – these are the main features most people look for in sports earbuds.

Soundbuds Curve have decent sound quality too – not terrible or great. Simply average with an okay amount of bass, something most earbuds lack anyway.

When you’re working out though or especially running outdoors, sound quality or isolation isn’t important to all but audiophiles. Being cheap enough also not to be a devastating loss if they’re stolen or lost not to mention IPX7 waterproof, Anker is showing what’s possible for budget headphones. A few tweaks to the physical design and the audio can only get better with each new version, the overall average Soundbuds Curve are a good choice for running travelers.

7 Great Travel Gifts Under $25

Travelers can be difficult to shop for since they usually have specific, pricier, items in mind they want for themselves. Getting a gift for someone who knows exactly what they want can be tricky since you might not know if that preference has changed, they bought the thing already, or maybe it’s over your budget.

There are however a lot of very practical, clever items you can get a wide range of traveler from frequent to business, all under $25.

1. Multi-Charging Cable ($14.99)

CHAFON multi-USB charging cable

Anyone who has seen one next to my laptop mentions what a good idea these CHAFON multi-USB charging cables are. All you do is plug in the USB-3 port into a laptop, portable charger, or wall outlet to provide power to multiple devices over USB micro, mini, A, C, or Apple’s lightning. Having one of these multi-charging cables means carrying less cables plus charge multiple electronics at once. And if you want to charge using the USB-C port, this converter will do the trick.

2. Herschel Travel Pouches 3-Pack ($24.99)

herschel travel pouches

Slim and coming in 3 color options, these highly durable poly ripstop travel pouches are perfect for cable and other loose item backpack organization. Not only is the material strong but it slides in and out of backpack pockets with ease for someone on the go. Lightweight as well, these Herschel travel pouches come in a 3-pack of sizes one small, medium, and large.

3. PortaPow Data Blocker ($12.49)

portapow

Not the most elegant name (PortaPow) but many people gladly plug their devices into plane seats and USB hubs at airports without knowing the dangers of being hacked. What these little PortaPow do is block the data line of USB plugs, so they can transfer electricity and nothing else.

4. Portable Humidifier ($15.99)

Hotel rooms often blow very dry air from the vents whether set to cold or heat. For someone with sensitive sinuses, this MZTDYTL portable humidifier might help them suffer less. It’s also USB-powered, just smaller than a soda can, plus lights up elegantly in multiple colors.

5. Glorious Large Gaming Mouse Mat ($11.99)

glorious gaming mouse mat pad

These 2-millimeter thin mouse pads have a rubber anti-slip base and a very smooth cloth surface allowing for very precise and comfortable mouse movements. Not just for gamers, another benefit is the Glorious Large Mouse Mat is machine washable with anti-fray stitching for high durability. Several sizes to choose from, all under $25.

6. SurviMate Filtered Water Bottle ($21.29)

survimate

One of the best filtered water bottle for travelers, the SurviMate has replaceable filters and can help anyone use less plastic. Using the FaucetSafe app (on iOS or Android) can show you where the SurviMate might be most needed, which makes a good addition to the water bottle.

7. Mossio Hanging Toiletry Bag ($10.99)

mossio hanging toiletry kit

Made of waterproof and durable 300D Oxford tent fabric, the Mossio is a toiletry bag that looks more expensive than it is. Aside from being practical, it’s also large enough for shampoo or other bottles that aren’t necessarily travel size.

Barely Over $25 Honorable Mentions

Although these other products are just over $25, you’ll often find them on sale through my Deals page on the tales sister-site. Anker’s PowerCore 13000 is a miniature but high capacity portable battery, the Soundbuds Curve are sports headphones that stay in your ears, and the Peak Design camera wrist and neck straps are the smartest ways to carry most cameras.

Did I miss anything? Let me know what you would add to the list in the comments below!

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