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.
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 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 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.
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.
The Bose Quietcomfort 20 are so good, Bose still sells the QuietComfort 20 as their premier wired, noise-cancelling earbuds, for roughly the original price. Most electronics aren’t on sale for more than a year, let alone 4, and still have a premium spot in a brand’s product lineup.
Road Tested: Bose QuietComfort 20 Review After 4 Years
In the video above, I review my original pair to show you how well they have and haven’t held up. Noise-cancelling has been inconsistent in the last year (Bose only guarantees it for 3 years after purchase) but even without it, the ear seals do a good job of filtering out ambient noise. The plastic and rubber cords and seals have held up surprisingly well, and the noise-cancelling battery still works, holding a solid 10+ hour charge.
There’s something refreshing about a tech company keeping a product on the market for a longer period of time, rather than releasing an incremental annual update. Some products obviously need shorter refresh cycles but more often than not companies often release what feel like beta products, in between actual upgrades, in order to keep on a predictable schedule.
Durable, lasting as long as you’ve got a headphone jack plus small with an audio super-power, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are the wired headphones to get, so long as you’re willing to pay upfront for years of use.
Travel apps are useful though tend to give you diminishing efficiency the more of them you load on your phone. Over the past 12 months, I’ve tested a lot of travel apps, but these are the ones I kept and ended up using the most in the last year. You can see all of the apps I would recommend to you in the video above or read on.
These are the travel apps you should load on your phone for 2018, in no particular order.
Although there are respectable alternatives like maps.me, once Google Maps added the ability to download maps offline it was game over. Google Maps, because of all the data the company collects from everywhere, is just so much more accurate than any competition can really hope to be. It’s also free – well, except that you’re trading in a lot of your privacy to use Google Maps – it’s so useful, a lot of people don’t mind the trade.
Mini Keepass [iOS/Android] – Manage all of your passwords in one place.
Signal[Android/iOS] – Private messaging, good alternative or addition to Whatsapp.
Track Your Movements
Although the science on sleep monitoring apps is questionable at best, they can give you reliable data on how much you’re sleeping, snoring, and Sleep Cycle breaks it down by location too. It’s fun to see how much you’re sleeping on various vacations and business trips, along with the other statistics Sleep Cycle keeps for you. Also available from the same company, Northcube, the Lifecycle app (iOS only) automatically tracks how much time you spend walking, in planes, on trains, working out at the gym, and countless other activities giving you an insight into your life and travels. (The data Lifecycle keeps is kept on your phone.)
Airport Wireless, Multi-City Flights, And More
A few other apps worth mentioning are Shazam to find out what song is playing on the speakers around you and Kayak, whose app offers a multi-city flight search, missing from most other travel search engine apps.
Finally, I can with bias, recommend two apps I created – WiFox [Android/iOS] and DroneMate [iOS/Android]. WiFox has airport lounge and wifi passwords for over 900 access points around the world (updated continuously) and DroneMate shows you all of the current laws for flying your drone in every country in the world.
Drones are most vulnerable when you’re first learning to fly them while repairs are just as costly and crashes potentially dangerous. Earlier this year I wrote the 12 things I learned from crashing drones you should know before your first flight. In the video version above I go over basic settings, why higher is better, and what types of birds do what to drones in the sky – plus more – all with the backdrop of drone footage from several countries around the world.
The two best video cameras under $1000 right now in late 2017 are the Panasonic Lumix G7 and the Lumix G85. Being so very similar, it can be difficult to tell why they differ by a few hundred dollars in price and if the additional cost of the G85 makes sense for you.
Both are under-priced and depending on your travel photography needs, the two best video cameras to choose from. Here are the main differences for travelers and how to decide between the Lumix G7 and the Lumix G85.
Peak Age And Price
Cameras, like PCs in the early 2000s and laptops now, are so good they don’t out-date themselves quickly. The G7 was released in 2015 and the updated G85, one year later – as time goes, their prices have dropped. The G85 is around $900 and the G7 is roughly $600, both going on sale frequently.
Lumix G7 Kit – Deals on the G7 consistently include 3 lenses, a case, memory card, mini-tripod and extra batteries.
Both the G7 and G85 are micro four thirds cameras with the same size sensor, shoot video in full 4K (the G7 has a software-enforced 30 minute limit, the G85 doesn’t), take 16 megapixels pictures, and are nearly the same physical size. Overall, there’s much more similarity between these two cameras than not, but where they diverge in particular affects frequent travelers most.
The G7 isn’t the same as the G85 in two major ways, especially if you’ll be using these cameras a lot for trips, vacations, and traveling in general: stabilization and weatherproofing. The G85 has 5-axis in-body stabilization (IBIS), electronic stabilization, and uses stabilization in the lens that’s attached. The G7 can only make use of any stabilization features in the lens you’re using with it. Basically, the more stabilization, the smoother your videos will be. You can see a comparison of the stabilization in the G7 versus the G85 in the video above.
How Much Stabilizing Do You Need? – For shots on a tripod, panning landscape shots, or filming people (e.g. shopkeepers) where you’re not moving, the G7 lens stabilization will work well. For travel vlogging or vlog style travel videos, the lack of IBIS can be jarring. Here’s a video I shot on the Lumix G85 with no effort to keep the shot steady to give you an idea.
Weatherproofing in general is a very overrated feature. Although the metal, 505 gram body of the G85 does make it feel more durable, weatherproofing isn’t waterproofing. The G7 doesn’t have weatherproofing, which protects the camera from splashes of water and dust. Though if you’re going to be shooting in the elements, you’ll need way more protection than weatherproofing anyway, like a DiCAPac waterproof case.
Choice Of Budget
There are other differences too of course but the G85 and G7 are so similar for most people, you’re choosing between a few hundred dollars. You can’t go wrong with either camera – the Panasonic Lumix G85 is part of the travel gear I’m currently using – and as I’m typing this it just went on sale with a full kit for $900. But if stabilization and weatherproofing aren’t worth your $300 or so dollars, the Lumix G7 is an excellent choice, plus you can save more for travel.
I'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