Category Archives: travel accessories

Sitpack Portable Compact Seat Review



Rather than the usual “hands-on” review, this is more of a “bottoms-on” assessment as here we have a Sitpack Portable Compact Seat. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mono+Mono announced the Sitpack on Kickstarter in 2014 and since then, over 35,000 Sitpacks have been shipped worldwide. Apparently it’s very popular in Japan, so let’s take a closer look.

At first glance, the Sitpack is not unlike a large drinks can and looks nothing like a chair, but it handily unfolds and telescopes out to T-shaped structure for an impromptu lean-to seat.

All folded up, the Sitpack is much the same size a 500 ml drinks can and weighs about 600 g. Made of glass-fiber reinforced polycarbonate, it’s solid in the hand and weighs in at 600 g. There’s a hinge on one end and peeling apart the other end reveals the telescopic pole, albeit slightly hidden by a large rubber foot.

The Sitpack uses a simple “extend and twist” to lock in place each segment of the leg. Fully extend a leg section and twist through about ten degrees until markers on each segment line up. Obviously it’s tricky the first few times, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

   

Fully extended the Sitpack is 87 cm tall. The Sitpack can be shortened by one segment for a smaller person, with shorter height of 75 cm. The material suggests that there is an even shorter length of 65 cm but I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it further as there are dire warnings on the top tube of shortening any other tube. If you want to see the extending and collapsing in more detail, Sitpack have a video.

What’s it like to use? The first few goes are really about building up confidence in the Sitpack and deciding the best length. I’m about 5’7″ and I eventually decided that the shorter length worked for me best as it was more of a sitting rather than leaning posture. At full extension, I felt I was leaning against the Sitpack and I didn’t have the confidence, especially on loose or slippy surfaces.

Is the Sitpack comfortable? Well, I’m not going to pretend that the top of the Sitpack is anything other than hard plastic and even Sitpack don’t recommend using it for more than 40 minutes at a time….but it does take the weight off your feet and it kind of feels that you are resting rather than standing. There is a seat cushion accessory (€25) for additional comfort but I wasn’t able to try it out.

For me, Sitpack works best when, say, waiting for a bus or train and you want to read your ereader or tablet. TIimes when you are reasonably static and either on your own or with adult company. It wasn’t a great success on a family outing, as trying to constantly corral two children meant that you never got two minutes to Sitpack still (sorry). I’d also suggest that the Sitpack isn’t the solution for an unsteady elderly relative: you need to be able to balance on the Sitpack.

Sitpack’s customer service is superlative. I had an unfortunate accident and managed to break one of the tubes. To start with, the Sitpack fully disassembles and there’s a video here on how to do it. I contacted Sitpack as an ordinary owner and they sent me out a replacement tube free of charge which arrived from Denmark within a few days. Brilliant.

The Sitpack comes in a range of colours; Pearl White, Pitch Black, Easy Blue and Power Pink plus a couple of special editions such as St. Patrick’s Green and Camo Black (it’s a camouflage pattern). The standard price is €55 / GB£46 / US$60 with one or two versions priced either side (€46 / €65). The foot can be customised too, with the standard black rubber swapped out for six other colours. It would be fun if Sitpack offered colour mixing as a black and white Sitpack with alternating sections would be cool.

Overall I liked the Sitpack and I can see the possibilities, especially for commuters on busy train stations without enough seats. Upfront, it does seem expensive at €55 but I think it’s one of these things where “the quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”. And Sitpack’s customer service is great. On the downside, it is relatively heavy – you’re not going to be carrying the Sitpack just in case, and you do get a bit of numb bum after awhile. The sacrifices I make for Geek News Central….

Thanks to Mono+Mono for providing the Sitpack for review.

 


Vintage Posters Galore!



The advertising posters of the mid-20th Century are incredibly evocative of a different era that ran from wartime necessity to the adventure of travel and foreign places. It’s that particular style of brash colour, typography and sheer style that draws us in.

If you’re like me, then Free Vintage Posters will be right up your street. It’s a big collection of historic posters gathered together from all across the internet into ten categories including Travel, Movies and Sports. They’re all fantastic.

Remember too that these were produced without the benefit of Illustrator or Photoshop – they’re sketched, drawn and coloured by hand before being reproduced and printed. Works of art!

You can download (relatively) hi-res images for your printing pleasure or for use a backgrounds, though usually the poster orientation isn’t a good fit for desktop monitors. Or you can simply browse through them and dream of a different time.


Link Mini NAS and Wireless Hotspot from Fasetto at CES



Fasetto are making good on their promises from last year’s CES with the announcement of the Fasetto Link, a palm-sized pocket NAS and communications hotspot. Building on the Fasetto’s cross-platform cloud storage, the Link is a 2″ by 1″ cuboid, packing in a maximum of 2 TB of storage and a range of communication technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth and LTE. The modular design is powered by a Linux-driven Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 7420 2.1 GHz processor.

The Link is designed for an adventurous life from the start with a water and temperature-resistant shell that should protect the owner’s data from the frozen tundra to the odd cycle in a washing machine. It’s water resistant to 45 ft (IP68) with an expected battery life of 5 hours going full pelt but there’s no detail on operating temperature. There’s an optional battery pack that clips onto the Link for additional time. The Link can be discreetly attached to D-rings and or kept out of sight inside a bag.

Link combines the most powerful commercially-available hardware with an incredibly sleek, but tough, design,” said Coy Christmas, co-founder and CEO, Fasetto. “In Link, we now have a living storage and communications device and platform that lets you stream, store and share all of your digital files through one secure location that can survive almost anything.

In addition to the physical protection, Link has “custom-developed reform security software, user permissions and multiple layers of hardware and software encryption giving users a high degree of security and control over their data.” That’s reassuring given how much data could potentially be stored in in 2 TB.

If you are wondering what you might do with this, imagine that you’ve taken loads of digital photographs but you are in the back end of nowhere. Rather than try to transfer or backup all the high quality digital photos across non-existent LTE, the photos can be stored more quickly on the Link’s storage via wifi, and then made available to other devices in the local area. That’s a fairly tame example as the octacore processor has plenty of power to record extreme sports or stream multiple HD video feeds.

Fasetto Link was named a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree in four categories, including Wireless Handset Accessories, Computer Hardware and Components, Software and Mobile Apps and Computer Accessories.

GNC and CES followers will recall that Luke Malpass from Fasetto was interviewed as part of the coverage last year and Link availability was expected for Q4 2014. This is has been revised to Spring 2017. Prices start at US$349 for a 256 GB version up to US$1,149 for the 2 TB version. More details at Link’s shop where pre-orders can be placed.

If you are attending CES, pop in to see Link in action at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Central Hall, stand 16734 from 5-7 January 2017.


iClever Outdoor Wireless Speaker Review



iClever LogoOn review here is the iClever Outdoor Wireless Speaker IC-BTS03. It’s an IP65 water resistant Bluetooth speaker with a 10 hour playtime. Perfect for outdoor tunes! Let’s take a look.

The iClever Speaker is a orange and black cuboid with speaker grilles on two sides, controls on the top, inputs on one side and a camera mount on the bottom with a rubber carrying strap on one corner. Roughly, 10 x 9 x 5 cm, there’s a bit of a ruggedness to the speaker too with a rubberised exterior and informal drop tests show that it’ll stand up to the odd accident. IP65 specifies that the speaker is totally protected against dust (6) and it’s sealed against low pressure water (5). Basically, it means that it’s ok to get splashed or dropped in shallow water.

iClever Wireless Outdoor Speaker

In the cardboard box, there’s the speaker, a USB-to-microUSB cable, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm jack cable and instructions. The USB cable is used for charging only and can’t be used to play music from a PC or laptop. Both the microUSB charging port and the aux in socket are under a rubber flap that needs to be peeled away to get access. iClever Wireless Outdoor SpeakerWhen charging, the sole LED on the front will light up red and it’s green when the aux socket is in use.

Across the top, the controls are straightforward – power, volume down, play/pause/answer, volume up. When turned on, the BTS03 is straight into pairing mode with the LED flashing blue. A voice helpfully intones, “Power on. Pairing”. You can then connect to the speaker in the normal way, receiving “Connected” when done and the LED goes a solid blue. As a bonus, the iClever can work as a speakerphone too – it’s kind of fun (or bonkers) if you are with a group of friends.

On the bottom, there’s a standard camera screw fitting which makes it compatible with a wide range of mounting accessories.

iClever Wireless Outdoor SpeakerThat’s the physical out of the way. What does it sound like? Well, if you are expecting this to sound like a $500 Sonos, then you are going to be disappointed. If you expect it to be a $30 5W portable speaker weighing less than 300g that you can throw into a bag for a day at the beach, you’re going to be happy enough. The sound is clear, with vocals coming across well. As you’d expect, the bass is under-represented but crank up the volume and there’s a fair beat. It’s not massively loud but it fills a room well enough.

Overall the iClever Outlook Wireless Speaker ticks all the boxes for an outdoor speaker. Semi-rugged, long battery life, splashproof and reasonably loud. It’s available now from Amazon.com (US$30) and Amazon.co.uk for GB£17.

Thanks to iClever for the review unit. Unboxing below.


iClever Tri-Folding Bluetooth Keyboard Review



iClever LogoI’ve always had a soft spot for folding keyboards, starting with the Palm Portable Keyboard from over fifteen years ago. On review here is the iClever Tri-folding Bluetooth Keyboard (IC-BK05), which brings the folding keyboard up-to-date with wireless connectivity and funky LED backlights. Let’s take a look.

iClever Folding Keyboard Folded

The keyboard comes in a small cardboard box with the iClever keyboard itself, a USB to microUSB cable, a cloth carrying bag and instructions. The keyboard’s dimensions unfolded are 29.1 x 11.7 x 0.8 cm and 16.6 x 12.0 x 1.5 cm when folded. The back or outer shell of the keyboard is metal, so it’s well protected when all closed up, and there are some magnetic catches to keep the keyboard close up. Unfolded, the keyboard feels a little flimsy in the hand, but once it’s on a firm surface with the two outer rests flipped down, the keyboard is solid enough. The iClever Folding Keyboard’s hinge mechanism is on display and looks neat, while also being part of the support for the keyboard.

iClever Folding Keyboard Unfolded

The IC-BK05 has a couple of notable features. First, it works with Android, iOS and Windows. Second, it connects both with Bluetooth and USB. Finally, it has coloured LED key backlights which can be cycled through red, green and blue. The keys are chiclet style with five rows of full size keys and a small sixth set of function keys across the top.

iClever Folding Keyboard HingeThe function keys provide a range of additional functions such as Home, Search, Cut, Copy, Paste, Play/Pause and so on. There’s some variation depending on what OS is in use but I found it handy to have a Home key with Android tablets.

The keyboard can be connected to two devices at the same time, though one has to wired via USB and the other wirelessly via Bluetooth. I’m typing this via a wired connection to a Windows 10 laptop but can switch back to my Nexus 9 with a quick function key.

The IC-BK05 turns on automatically when the keyboard is unfolded. Battery-life is a claimed 300 hours without backlight, but reduces to only 5 hours when the lights are on. The lights have two levels of brightness but I never typed long enough to find out if the estimate is correct. As expected, the keyboard is charged via the USB port.

iClever Folding KeyboardI used the iClever Folding Keyboard wirelessly with my Nexus 9 over a couple days to write a few articles for Geek News Central and found it very productive. I can touch-type and didn’t have any difficulty getting used to the spacing for the vast majority of the keys and everything was where it should have been on the keyboard. It’s worth noting that this is US (not UK keyboard) layout, so there’s no £ sign and @ is where ” normally is. Obviously the lettering on the keys can be overridden in the layout settings but it’s worth pointing out.

I only had one minor problem with the keyboard and that was with a couple of plastic covers on the hinges which had a tendency to pop off when pulling the keyboard out of the drawstring bag. The covers were easily popped back in and I suspect a drop of glue would keep them in place.

Overall, I liked iClever Tri-folding Bluetooth Keyboard and its definitely worth getting this or a similar keyboard if you are going to be doing lots of typing on a tablet. Priced at around GB£35 or US$55, it’s also worth considering non-backlight version (IC-BK03) which will save £10 / $20. The keyboard is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Unboxing video below.

Thanks to iClever for the review unit.

 


Néit Collapsible Luggage at Gadget Show Live



Neit LogoAlthough the march of technology has been towards miniaturisation and making gadgets smaller, there are some things that need to be big and there’s no value in making them smaller. For example, luggage and suitcases need to be big enough to get enough clothes and belongings in for the trip. This is perfect while the bags are needed on travel, but once home the bulk is unnecessary and a waste of space for those unfortunate enough not have storage in a garage, loft or attic. Nicky and the team at Néit have the answer with collapsible luggage.

Neit Collapsible Luggage

Winning a “Highly Commended” at the British Inventors’ Project, Néit’s collapsible luggage folds from a rigid suitcase to only 9 cm / 3″ wide. Once folded, the case can be stored anywhere convenient – upright in a cupboard, flat on top of wardrobe or hung from a clothes rail. Made from a polycarbonate shell and aircraft-grade aluminium, the picture shows the Néit case folded (the blue light strip is for effect only). In addition to space-saving, the Néit luggage has a couple of other tricks too. The handle has built-in scales, so there are no surprise excess weight charges at check-in. There’s GPS tracking too, so if the airline mislays the bag, the Néit smartphone app can track its location almost anywhere in the world.

The collapsible luggage comes in two sizes, a 90 litre hold bag and 38 litre carry-on and they’re available for pre-order from Néit’s webstore. Currently priced from GB£229 and £189 respectively, the bags are expected to ship in December 2016.

And in case you were wondering about Néit: he’s the Celtic god of War.


Moochew Baby Seat and Lunch Box at Gadget Show Live



Moochew LogoTravelling with children is akin to planning a military operation at times, with tons of gear and provisions catering for every eventuality. Looking to simplify maneuvers in the field, Moochew is a collapsible baby seat that doubles up as a cooler bag or lunch box. Taking part in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, Arun tells me more about the Moochew.

The Moochew is a backpack which can be filled with food, drink, wipes, nappies and toys ready for travel and adventures. The compartments are insulated to keep everything cool and once it’s time to eat, the Moochew unzips to change into a child seat which will attach to most standard chairs. Cleverly, the contents of Moochew can be extracted from the sides of the bag, so once the child is in the seat, he or she doesn’t need to be moved to get into the storage area. Genius!

Moochew Closed Moochew Open

The Moochew is available now for GB£39.99 from the webstore. My children are now a little too big for the Moochew but had it been around three years ago, I would definitely have bought one.


Ohyo Folds Bag to Size at Gadget Show Live



Ohyo_400x400Several areas of the UK now charge for plastic grocery bags as a green tax and reusable shopping bags have become very popular. Mind you, carrying round a scrunched up bunch of old bags is never a good fashion statement. Fortunately Ohyo has designed a good-looking accessory which morphs from a pouch to a messenger bag before completely opening up as a shopping bag. Participating in the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I chat with Guy from Ohyo about his thing for folding.

Ohyo Folding Bags

Guy and Ohyo has worked with designer Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, to create a flexible bag that changes shape to meet changing needs. The bag can be arranged into four different configurations, a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag. Available in four colours, the RRP is GB£79, but Ohyo are currently running a Kickstarter campaign where you can get in at £59. There’s just two days to go, so get in quick.

Ohyo have a track record in folding things – Guy’s previous invention was a collapsible bottle, which sold over 700,000 units and might be familiar to parents in Britain as it’s been previously sold in Marks and Spencer’s and Boots.


SleepSpace Travel Cot from BabyHub at Gadget Show Live



BabyHub logoLike me, many parents will remember the frequent struggles with travel cots: there was always that one rail that wouldn’t lock in place or the release handle that wouldn’t turn to disengage the mechanism. At times travel cots can be more frustrating than the tot!

Fortunately, the BabyHub team have worked hard to produce the SleepSpace, a travel cot  that can be put up and taken down easily with one hand. It’s lightweight (6 kg) and the clever folding mechanism is so simple it can even be setup while holding the baby. Here’s Catherine from BabyHub to explain more about the SleepSpace.

BabyHub SleepSpace

Uniquely, the SleepSpace travel cot is pyramid shaped rather than the more usual box and this gives additional stability plus the convenience of being able to drape mosquito nets or sun shades over the cot without worrying about the cloth falling into the cot. On travel, the cot can be re-purposed as a play space or tent during the day. It’s available in four different colours.

BabyHub SleepSpace

The BabyHub SleepSpace is expected to go on sale with national retailers in the autumn for around GB£139. Looks like another success for the British Inventors’ Project.


Keep In Touch with GoTenna at CES



goTenna LogoThere are still parts of the country where there is no mobile (cell) phone coverage. There are those who would say this is a good thing, especially when it comes to wildness areas and places of outstanding beauty. However, there are times when it’s good to be able to get in touch with others when out hiking or skiing, especially if people get separated. Aylee talks about the great outdoors with Jorge Perdoma, co-founder of goTenna, about their solution to this problem.

goTenna is a small radio transceiver that pairs with smartphones to provide point-to-point communication when there’s no cell tower in range. It’s a bit like converting your phone into a walkie-talkie but with modern features like text and GPS. The goTenna app on the smartphone works with the goTenna itself to handle all the communication and the transceiver doesn’t need to be in the hand at all – it can be stashed in the outer pocket of a backpack. Range is anywhere from a mile to a couple of miles depending on the environment.

The goTenna has been shipping for a few months and it’s US$200 for a pair of units from goTenna.

Aylee Nielsen is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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