Category Archives: travel accessories

Lighten Your Load with the Sitpack Zen



Sitpack LogoSitpack makesPerson leaning back against Sitpack Zen at railway station portable compact seats that transform telescopically from a small cylinder the size of a drinks can to a 90 cm tall T-shaped rest that makes waiting a great deal more comfortable.

I reviewed the first and second generations of the Sitpack back in 2017, and you can read my thoughts about these ingenious devices here and here. While I wouldn’t claim that the Sitpack 2 has seen daily use since then, it’s been taken out a couple of times when I’ve known in advance that I’d be hanging around and seating was unlikely to be available.

Person holding telescopic portable seatUnlike me, Sitpack haven’t been hanging around and the Sitpack Zen is the latest design iteration, with two lightweight models. The black aluminium tube version weighs in at 555 g, while the even lighter carbon fibre tube edition tips the scales at 455 g. Although the Zen might be light, it’ll handle people up to 136 kg.

Person holding folded up Sitpack ZenThe new versions look better too. Folded up, it’s less “drinks can” and more “light saber” which definitely doesn’t hurt. The Zen models have a different mechanism over the Sitpack 2 for the seat, using ballistic nylon straps under tension to provide a little more comfort. The straps do double duty for carrying the Zen as well.

Sitpack is not all about portability though – it’s about health too as it’s designed to ensure users rest with the right posture. Correct resting increases blood circulation, soothes a tired back and leaves only 30% of the body weight on the coccyx (that’s the remains of your tail at the bottom of your spine).

Lightness is one of those things you pay more for less, so while the polycarbonate Sitpack 2 is €47, the anodized aluminium Zen XI is €99 and the carbon fibre Zen XII is €189. Both are available from the Sitpack shop with worldwide shipping.


Pacum Sucks…And That’s a Good Thing



Master Space LogoBudget airlines have revolutionised air travel over the past few decades, and while the seats might be cheap, putting luggage in the hold can be pricey: I was recently on a trip where the ticket price trebled when hold baggage was added, so you really want to try and get everything into your hand luggage to get the cost down. Clothes can be bulky, though, and it’s difficult to get everything needed into a small trolley case.

Sitting on the bag in the hope of getting the zip done up isn’t the solution, but the Masterspace Pacum Travel Vacuum Compressor might be. It’s a personal vacuum packer, meaning the clothes go in an airtight bag before the air is sucked out by the Pacum, squeezing the garments down to a fraction of their size. That’s how you get more clothes in the trolley case. Let’s take a closer look.

Pacum vacuum compressor with accessoriesThe Pacum comes in a box which belies the diminutive size of the Pacum itself. Available in three colours; red, white and black, the Pacum is smaller than a 330 ml drinks can and is more rectangular than round. The actual dimensions are 86 x 43 x 43 mm and weighs in at 145 g. The Pacum looks good with features on three of the six surfaces. On the bottom are two rubberised air holes, one for vacuuming and one for inflation. On the top is a USB C port for powering the Pacum and on the side are three buttons for Eco, Super and Inflation modes.

In the box, there’s the Pacum itself, a 1 m USB C cable, a Pacum vacuum bag and adaptors for other vacuum bags, pool toys and sports balls, plus a small travel drawstring bag. To be clear, there is no USB charger supplied and, contrary to my first thoughts, there’s no battery in the Pacum either. It’s fully powered by the USB C port on the top, and a 2 A power supply is required, either from a mains charger or a battery pack. 1 A will not work and the Pacum will cut out with a flashing red light. Trust me on this.

Pacum on Bag Before CompressionReady to go on your holidays? Put the clothes you’re taking into the vacuum bag and arrange them to suit the available space in the luggage – you’ll not be able to do this afterwards. Close up the bag and make sure it’s properly sealed along the edge. Unscrew the cap in middle on the vacuum bag and then slip the Pacum over the nozzle. It uses the larger of the two air holes on the bottom so it’s hard to go wrong.

Assuming that the power cable is plugged in to suitable power source, pressing either of the two “minus” buttons (-) and (=) will start the Pacum up in either Eco or Super mode. Simplistically, Super sucks harder than Eco, although I can’t really see any good reason to use Eco mode. While sucking, the light on the Pacum flashes blue and it’ll go red if there’s not enough power being supplied to the device.

Pacum on Bag After CompressionUsing the supplied bag with a couple of t-shirts and jumper (that’s a sweater for those across the pond), it took about 90 seconds for the Pacum to evacuate all the air from the bag, resulting in a stiff but thin packet that uses a fraction of the original space. The two before and after pictures show the difference and you can watch my review video below.

The main purpose for Pacum is to remove air from vacuum bags, but that’s not its only trick. Inflating holiday pool toys usually involves much huffing and puffing, but Pacum will pump up the inflatables in no time. Use one of the three adaptors in the air outlet and press the Inflation (+) button. It would take awhile to inflate a large paddling pool but makes short work of rubber rings and footballs. The air outlet looks to be a standard size, so existing adaptors will likely work fine with the Pacum.

My only real gripe with the Pacum is that the supplied USB C cable is frustratingly short at only 1 m and would recommend twice the length for any practical use. Yes, you might get lucky with a hotel that has sockets on the counter but frequently they’re down behind the bed which is just a PITA with a short cable.

Pricewise, the Pacum is currently on sale at US$60 / GB£46 (RRP is $80/£61) and a set of five vacuum bags is US$29 / GB£22 (prices are rounded).

Overall, the Pacum is really neat little gadget that’s well-designed and works as described. Is it worth buying? Ultimately that’s a maths problem. If you fly frequently or travel as a family, I imagine it will be easy to save money with the Pacum by reducing or avoiding hold luggage charges. Do the sums.

There’s more in the unboxing and demo video below.

Thanks to Master Space for providing the Pacum for review.


Don’t be lost for (foreign) words with Pocketalk



Us Brits aren’t known for our linguistic abilities shamefully relying on our continental cousins to speak English rather than learning the local lingo. Fortunately, we can now cover our embarrassment by using the Pocketalk Voice Translator, a two-way voice translator that instantly translates between 74 languages.

The winner of the ‘Innovation Award in Mobile Computing’ at IFA 2018, Pocketalk lets you both talk naturally. You say what you want in your language and Pocketalk says the same thing in their language…and they can talk right back at the Pocketalk, which converts their response into your language. Genius!

The Pocketalk is small and compact, with a small screen to show a text version of the conversation. There are three different finishes – gold, black and white – and battery life is around 7 hours in use, with 10 days in sleep mode.

The Pocketalk does need a data connection to work and this can be WiFi, built-in mobile data or a personal hotspot. Of course, it uses “AI” to do the translation but the “Pocketalk Voice Translator with Built-In Data” comes with two years of free mobile data in over 120 countries. There are no monthly subscription fees for the first twenty-four months.

Yes, there are apps that do a similar function, but the Pocketalk is a dedicated device for the task and comes with noise-cancelling microphones, betters speakers and specialised software.

Noriyuki Matsuda, CEO and founder of parent company Sourcenext, said, “The need to connect cultures and make the world feel a little smaller is stronger than ever and that’s exactly our goal with this device. We developed Pocketalk to help people of all backgrounds providing them with an instant open line of communication and foster a mutual understanding and respect among different cultures. When you have the right tools, language is a gateway and not a barrier.

That might be true but when you need directions to the nearest toilet, Pocketalk will do brilliantly.

Pocketalk is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US for GB£259 and US$299 respectively.


Get Cooking with a Cauldryn at CES 2018



Stainless steel insulated water bottles are commonplace today and have largely taken over from the glass vacuum flasks – the latter are just too delicate, especially for camping and hillwalking. And while the steel bottles are good are keeping stuff warm, the liquid has to be hot in the first place….or does it? Cauldryn Fyre bottles have a built-in heating element which not only keeps liquids warm, it can actually boil water. Colten and Joe have a quick Americano.

The Cauldryn Fyre water bottles feature a modular design, offering a 16-ounce, stainless steel, vacuum insulated bottle with the revolutionary Fyre heating element. The standard Cauldryn Fire is powered from AC but the Fyre Mobile features a rechargeable battery to heat the liquid and keep it hot all day. The mobile base has a couple of USB charging sockets too. There’s a DC base available for heating from 12V / 24V.

The Cauldryn Fire system is modular. Want a smoothie? There’s a blender attachment. Need a light? Snap in the rechargeable battery. It’s even got integration with Ok Google. Seriously, I want one of these.

The Cauldryn Fire is shipping now. The standard Fyre is US$69.99, Fyre Mobile is $129.99 and additional battery units are $69.99. DC base $9.99.

Colten Clymer is one of the team at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Mynt Bluetooth Tracker Review



Going by a recent report in The Guardian people misplace their stuff all too frequently. Bluetooth trackers tap into our forgetfulness and it’s a big market with several popular brands, each with their own particular feature set. On review here we have Mynt tracker from Slightech, aiming for a stylish yet feature-rich device. Let’s take a look.

The Mynt comes in a small transparent box so that as the outer sleeve slips off, you can see the Mynt inside. Opening the box gives access to the tracker, instructions, a keyring and a spare battery (CR2020), which is a nice touch. The tracker itself is a little like a military dog tag, measuring 55 x 25 x 3 mm. That’s about 2 1/4″ x 1″ x 1/8″. The outer surfaces are brushed steel and there’s a black strip on the top surface for a button and a red LED. The battery compartment has a locking mechanism to stop the battery coming out accidentally, but battery holder is a bit flimsy. The design won a prestigious Red Dot Award in 2016 and IF Design Award in 2017.

Getting going with the Mynt involves downloading the software from the relevant app store. I was testing on Android so it’s a 55MB download from Google Play. First thing the app wants you to do is to setup an account – it’s the usual email and password affair. Once that’s done, the Mynt app takes you through adding the Mynt tracker to your account, with some helpful pictures.

Once connected, the app lets you choose a picture for the thing you are tracking, and you can adjust three settings for separation alerts. This is for when you want to keep an eye on something very important and expect to have it nearby all the time. In this instance, when the tracker goes out of Bluetooth range of the smartphone, the alarm goes off alerting you to the situation. The feature can be turned off too if you simply want to know where something is.

The alarm itself is a relatively strong tune: it’s not a blaring alarm but noticeable enough. It’s always difficult to quantify but you can hear the alarm from the Mynt tracker when it’s in a wallet inside a trouser pocket in room where there’s gentle conversation going on. You’re not going to hear it in a noisy bar.

The alarms can be triggered manually too. Pressing an on-screen button in the Mynt app will sound the alarm on the Mynt tracker and pressing the button in the middle of the tracker will do the reverse. Great for finding keys down the back of the sofa.

Of course if you’ve lost the tracker (or more accurately, the thing attached to the tracker), the Mynt app will show the last known position of the tracker on a map. Once you’re in range, the icon changes colour to show a connection and then you can trigger the alarm.

Overall, the tracking and separation features worked as expected but neither the app nor the tracker were the snappiest at responding. Sometimes, the alarm wouldn’t ring the first time, but hit the button or the icon again and it would. Having said that the Mynt genuinely helped me find a lost item. I though it was at home, but the Mynt tracker showed me that the missing thing was in work and I found it there. Good job.

Sadly, I can’t say good things about the Mynt’s remote control features. To summarise, the Mynt can be switched into a remote control mode where the button on the tracker can be used to activate and control apps. For example, it can be used as a camera shutter button or to control music – one press is play, two presses is next track, three presses is back a track. I couldn’t get this feature to work at all. To start with, it appeared that the Mynt had to reboot into remote control mode and once done, had to boot back into tracker mode. Even when in remote control mode, I couldn’t get the button to do anything.

While we’re discussing the bad points of the Mynt tracker, the next is a “two-in-one”. The standard of English in the app could be better as evidenced by “Your account has been logined at others”, which brings us neatly the second part. As this error suggests, you can’t be logged into the Mynt app on two different devices at the same time. Why not? Competing tracking devices don’t have a problem here. And overall, the app’s just a bit clunky and unresponsive in places – I was using the Android version.

Pricing is around GB£20 on Amazon.co.uk, depending on Mynt colour – there’s steel, gold, blue and black variants. US pricing is around $20 too, though there are discounts when buying more than one tracker.

Rounding up, I’m afraid that the Mynt is an also-ran in the Bluetooth tracker race. Yes, it works as expected (remote control excepting) and it looks great, but there are other trackers at a similar price with better apps and features. Look further.

Setup video below.

Thanks to Slightech for providing the Mynt tracker for review.


One Size Fits All with Ohyo 2Bag



Back in 2016 I interviewed Guy Jeremiah from Ohyo at The Gadget Show, where he was demonstrating a flexible use bag. Designed by Felix Conran, the bag could be arranged into four different configurations; a tablet bag, messenger bag, a back-pack and a grocery bag.

Returning to 2017, the team’s back together with the Ohyo 2Bag, a re-imagining which focuses on daily life. The 2Bag converts between a messenger bag and a larger carry-all, so imagine starting the day with a laptop in the 2Bag but then being able to buy some groceries on the way home. Inside, the 2Bag has two zipped compartments and as the smaller is waterproof, any leakages from the shopping won’t destroy the electronics.

Designed again by Felix Conran, the grandson of Sir Terence Conran, the 2Bag has additional pockets for keys and phones, plus a ring to hold a collapsible Ohyo bottle. Focussing on the re-usability of the 2Bag, Felix says, “I think we have a huge amount of responsibility as designers. It’s our job to consider everything and that includes where the product ends up… we don’t want to be designing landfill. I want to make objects that have a longer life-cycle than is expected of them because if you only need to buy something once, this is the ultimate in sustainability.

And it’s way more stylish when shopping than a bunch of tatty plastic bags.

To get the 2Bag off the ground, Ohyo has a Kickstarter campaign with early birds getting in at GB£49 (about US$65). The campaign needs a little help, as it’s just under 50% funded with only a week to go, so don’t delay if you want one. Delivery is expected in December 2017 so it could make a good Christmas present.

Ohyo has a good track record on Kickstarter with two successful campaigns for the earlier Ohyo bag but as with all things Kickstarter, just be aware of the risk.

The Kickstarter campaign video is below.

 


Reduce Travel Stress with GoBag BackPack



Domestic and short-haul travel has become a two-edged sword. On the one hand, budget carriers have made getting away from it all much cheaper, but on the other hand, poorly managed security processes, strict luggage allowances and jobsworths have made it tiresome and stressful. I once had an argument with the a security operator as to whether a transparent bag printed with a retailers logo in the middle counted as “clear”. It wasn’t a great start to the holiday. Anyway….

Spotting a niche in the market for carry-on luggage that meets the needs of the traveller, security and the airlines, James Fyfe launched the GoBag on Kickstarter back in 2015 eventually reaching 663% funded with almost 2,500 backers. The special feature of the GoBag is a vacuum-pack compartment that can be stuffed with clothes and then vacumed to suck most of the air out. This dramatically reduces the volume of clothing and is incredibly useful in maximising space. If a vacuum’s not available at the other end, sitting on the bag nearly works as well. Regardless, it’s great for short-breaks.

The Scottish GoBag team are back with an updated GoBag BackPack, a second iteration of the original idea, and looking to repeat the first’s success on Kickstarter. It’s already blown through its target of GB£10,000 and is past £30,000 in a couple of days.

The Backpack has nine features for stress-free travel.

  1. It’s perfect for carry-on at 35 x 55 x 20 cm.
  2. It’s got the vacuum-compression system.
  3. It’s got loads of zips. Makes it easier to find stuff.
  4. It’s got a transparent waterproof wash bag. No leaks and no whining from security Herberts.
  5. It’s got a top pocket for easy-to-get at stuff along with a soft pocket for sunglasses and mobiles phones.
  6. It’s got a secret pocket for important documents (seriously, don’t put your passport and tickets in there –  someone might steal the whole bag!)
  7. It’s got a backpack harness that hides away so it doesn’t snag when it’s not needed.
  8. It’s got a laptop pocket. Duh!
  9. It’s got two bottle pockets. Stay hydrated folks.

There are still a few “Early Bird” offers – get in quick for GB£125 / US$163. If you miss that, it’s £125 / $179.

As always with crowd-funding, don’t spend what you can’t afford to lose, but as GoBag are on to their second campaign after a successful first, there’s a good chance they’ll deliver.