Mobile Tech For 2015

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Okay, okay. I know I did say earlier this month I was going to be sorting out my flashlight situation, but I had a good opportunity to replace my now non-existent Nexus 7. I had been looking for a while to replace it due to poor quality memory (Either controller or flash) causing the thing to be slow as dirt for multitasking. It served me well for 2.5 years, but ended up leaving me as a gift to someone else. As a result, I’ve been tablet-less since Christmas, and I definitely missed not having one.

I really wanted to replace the Nexus 7 2012 with another Nexus device. The first possible choice was the Nexus 7 2013 which improved on the 2012 in pretty much every way. The only issue though is at this point it’s close to a 2 year old tablet, and the SoC (System on Chip) is getting a bit long in the tooth. A new 2 year old tablet started at 250 bucks, and there were better options for a bit more. On top of that, I wanted something just a bit bigger in the screen department. The next stop was the Nexus 9. Although it was a lot newer and faster, the 8.9″ 4:3 screen was a bit of a turn off, and the price point felt a bit high for what you were getting in a device.

Final stop for my tablet search is what you see above. In my opinion, it’s what the Nexus 9 should have been. It’s the Nvidia Shield tablet. The specs are:

  • 2.2GHz quad core Nvidia Tegra K1 w/ 192 core Kepler based GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage (MicroSD expansion available)
  • 8″ HD IPS display (1920×1200)
  • 5MP front and rear facing cameras
  • 6700mAh battery
  • 390g weight

Also included are dual front facing speakers, a stylus, micro HDMI output, and your usual array of connectivity options. The cherry on top of the package is it runs on stock Android Lollipop with a few Nvidia goodies baked in. I can’t really offer much beyond initial impressions, but compared to my Nexus 7 2012 this device is night and day difference. I was initially fearful that the 8″ size would be almost as unwieldy as a 10″ tablet like my Transformer, but it I was wrong to be afraid. The 8″ size makes it more appealing to grab compared to my phone when I’m looking to do reading or browsing. On top of that, it still retains similar portability of the Nexus 7, however I will need to look into a new sleeve for it.

The screen is considerably better and the resolution is exactly what I wanted. Though 2560×1600 would be nice, 1920×1200 is plenty high res for an 8″ device. Color reproduction and contrast is good and there aren’t any dead or stuck pixels. The back light is very bright, and goes down to very dim as well. The front facing speakers outperform just about any other tablet solution I’ve come across, making for good and clear audio even in noisy environments like the kitchen. Build wise it feels good in hand with no real flex or play. My only complaint with the hardware is the power and volume buttons. They’re very shallow travel and take time to get used to pressing, but I feel I’ll get used to this in due time.

Performance wise the tablet flies. I’ve experienced no real issues with lag or stuttering with normal multitasking. The specs on the tablet also ensure some future proofing, with the SoC currently being one of the fastest on the market when it comes to gaming and general day to day use. Although the tablet is marketed as a “The ultimate tablet for gamers”, my reason for purchasing wasn’t gaming. The device is arguably the ultimate 8″ stock Android tablet on the market currently. My only issues with performance would be in regards to battery life, which is a bit middling. This is to be expected considering the SoC in the tablet. I can estimate I’d get a good 8 hours worth of screen on time for browsing and general usage, dipping down to 2-4 for gaming depending on the title. Standby drain however is pretty exceptional, dropping only about 5% a day idle. So for casual use, I could expect the battery to last a few days, but only a day if I’m using the thing constantly.

The Nexus 5 and the Shield make for a very powerful and very portable Android pair. I don’t think I’ll have many complaints related to speed in 2015, that’s for sure. For now I don’t plan on adding anything more beyond accessories. Perhaps a sleeve, the Shield cover, a Bluetooth keyboard, and perhaps the Shield controller. Just enough gear to make things a bit more usable while on the go. Later in the year, if I plan on blogging a bit more, I may add a Windows or ChromeOS notebook. There are some things that the notebook form factor and “non-mobile” operating systems do better, and content creation is one of them in my eyes.

February Coffee: The Roasters Pack and Parachute

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It’s been a dark few months… Cafe Eureka closed up shop due to lack of interest in exotic coffees in the surrounding area, and I haven’t been able to find a really great local bean since. Any of the local retailers in Sackville sell some of the more locally available goodies – Just Us, Laughing Whale, Full Steam, etc. None of it features a roast date however, and none of it is really roasted to my liking. The end of January rolled around and I hadn’t used any of my coffee gear since December, and I was really disappointed. A few slow evenings at work lead to some researching and reviews, and suddenly I was subscribed to two wonderful Canadian coffee subscriptions. Both very different, but both offering exactly what I wanted: A consistently fresh and good cup of coffee, with monthly variety.

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First up, The Roasters Pack. The Roasters Pack curates three exceptional coffees every month, packs them in wonderful resealable bags, bundles them with some nice information on each coffee, and ships them express to your mailbox for $29.95. Now, The Roasters Pack is definitely more expensive than Parachute, however it gives me one of the major things I want: variety. You get three four ounce bags of coffee from a variety of roasters across Canada. The examples this month were fantastic: A Costa Rican roasted by Phil & Sebastian out of Calgary, a Colombian roasted by Bows and Arrows out of Victoria, and a Kenyan roasted by Anchored in Dartmouth! Each bag is good for about 5 cups of coffee (I use a 17:1 water:coffee ratio, and generally use about 20g of beans in a cup) which gives you lots of time to play with different brew methods or just dial in a great cup. I can safely say the tasting notes on each bag are pretty spot on! It’s not overblown or outrageous, just well documented notes that come out in a proper brew. The included info cards are awesome too, and there are included discounts for each bag of coffee, which is shipped direct from roaster when ordered. For variety and quality, The Roasters Pack should definitely be considered.

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Parachute Coffee is similar to The Roasters Pack, except they curate a single coffee each month and ship a 12oz bag directly to you for $25.00 flat. Parachute gives me 12oz of good coffee that I can reliably brew 15 cups out of. This month’s coffee was a Costa Rican from Detour Coffee! Notes are smooth, buttery, tangerine, and I definitely get that in the V60. There’s some nice brown-sugar, nougat-y flavors in there too. Parachute also includes some really well done info cards inside, giving you some basic brew tips, and the roaster’s thoughts on the coffee. For something different every month at a reasonable price, Parachute is a good choice!

Monday Mail Call

Yay Monday! I’m on a short vacation and back to work on Thursday, and wasn’t expecting a package until Wednesday at the earliest, but checking on the tracking for my MEC order this morning, my package was somehow out for delivery! Included in it was a Victorinox Cadet, a FourSevens Atom A0, and a nylon MEC rain cover for my backpack.

The Victorinox Cadet is my first “full sized” Swiss army knife, however it’s only an 84mm. It’s usually coined as the ultimate everyday carry Swiss army knife, featuring a main pen blade, a fingernail file and cleaner, a cap lifter/bottle opener, large flat head screw driver, wire stripper, can opener, and small flat head/Phillips driver. It’s extremely thin with only 2 layers, and the “Alox”  (Aluminum oxide) scales ooze quality. Overall first impressions are good fit and finish, nice snap to the tools, and good feel in the hand. Can’t wait to start carrying this around.

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The Atom A0 from FourSevens is a minuscule key chain flashlight formerly known as the Preon P0. It’s made of stainless steel, includes a Cree XPE emitter and runs on a single AAA battery. As you can see above, the thing isn’t any longer than a 58mm Swiss army knife – Perfect key chain light! The tail has a nice magnet in it that allows it to stick to any capable metal surface, meaning you can have it hanging hands free if necessary. It’s capable of tail standing too, though not really necessary. The head has no real way to concentrate any beam, so it’s a completely floody light. They’ve replaced any reflector inside with a glow in the dark coating, making the light easy to find if you drop it. At minimum, the light can run for 90 hours at it’s 0.25 lumen “moonlight” mode, perfect for navigation when you don’t want to lose vision. At maximum, the 25 lumen beam is good for about 5 meters, and can run for about 1.5 hours before needing a battery swap. The little thing is also waterproof up to 3 meters! Wow! Overall impressions thus far are that fit and finish is good, it feels nice in the hand, and it doesn’t make the key chain too bulky. A lot nicer than the Photon Freedom I had prior. The beam is definitely all flood, no throw at all like the Solitaire, but that’s what I need in a key chain light. In tests, the glow is bright, and no issues with the magnet!

As for the MEC cover, it seems well built and looks to fit my bag just fine! It’ll be great for rain and heavier snow. The little pack it comes with is connected directly to the inside, so I’ll never lose it. It’s going to be one of those nice additions to the backpack that’s been sorely lacking for a little while.

The Flashlight Dilemma

Well, not really a dilemma, but more musings on what I would really need in a flashlight. I recently put in an order with MEC for an Victorinox Alox Cadet, a MEC nylon backpack cover, and a FourSevens Atom A0 flashlight. The Atom A0 is intended to replace the Photon Freedom Micro on my key chain. The Freedom Micro is a nice light with a great size, however the output on it isn’t spectacular, especially compared to the cost of CR2032 batteries. The Atom A0 is one of the smallest AAA flashlights on the market, measuring not a whole lot longer than the battery itself. I look forward to covering this light in more detail when it comes in next week.

Of course, a new light got me thinking that I really don’t have much in the way of lights in my EDC, or even just available for usage if necessary. I didn’t realize until looking into it this week the multitude of light options on the market! I currently carry a Maglite Solitaire LED in my backpack, which is a fairly throwy little AAA light that can throw 37 lumens, and is built pretty well. Between that and my Photon Freedom, that’s about all I have. I really want to widen my range with at least one additional light, preferably something with more output, more throw, and a longer run time.

I have decided that lithium cells are a must. To maintain the size I want and get the output I want, you can’t beat a lithium cell for overall output. Of all the options, the 18650 cell appears to be the best value currently. Although the start up costs are going to be a bit steep, it’s worthwhile in the long run. You won’t get the same kind of output from a AA or 2AA light – The power just isn’t there. I’ve decided my best bet is going to be going with a Thrunite TN12 2014 edition, bundled with a charger and 2 Thrunite protected 18650 cells. The charger is universal as well, so should take care of AA/AAA NiMH batteries, and anything else like 16340s, 14500s, etc. The TN12 will put out about 1050 lumens at the high end, and a 0.3 lumen moonlight mode on the low end. It seems well built and compact, and reviews are pretty favorable. To buddy up with that for smaller jobs, I’m also considering adding a Thrunite Ti3 to my order – The little AAA light is a bit longer than what I’d like on my key chain, but is an absolute monster with a max 120 lumen output! It’d share the same cells as the Atom A0, so no need to worry about having to carry more than two types of batteries.

These are of course just musings, but I’m hoping to have my light situation sorted out by the end of the month. as for my MEC order, I should be expecting it sometime this coming week, so look out for some photos of the Atom A0 and Victorinox Cadet!

Leatherman Wave: My Review

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I love my little Leatherman Squirt PS4. The thing is as small as a 58mm Swiss army knife, but packs a lot more more useful features than something like the Classic SD. For anything I’d run across daily that requires pliers, it usually does the trick. I do come across some occasions however that may require a larger tool, and for that, I’ve chosen the Leatherman Wave.

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The Wave is a well built stainless steel tool featuring a total of 17 functions and outside accessible blades. It weighs in at about 8.5 ounces, is about 10 cm long when closed, and 16.5 cm long when opened. Both the weight of the tool and the tight tolerances in Leatherman’s machining lend to a very premium feeling tool with very little play in any of the features, no unwanted gaps in the pliers, and no real rattling. The pliers function well as both needlenose and regular pliers, providing good grip in most situations. The wire cutting portion of the pliers is both good for hard wire and regular wire, however I question the overall durability considering they’re not replaceable like some other Leatherman models. In real world testing, the cutters performed admirably, however I don’t believe I would use them on anything beyond high gauge wires.

The outside accessible tools are all locking, which adds to the utility and robustness of the tool. The 420HC blade is about 7.5cm long, adequately hardened, and has a nice utility edge on it from factory. Cutting tests so far have been satisfactory. The serrated blade makes very short work of fabric. The serrations are only on one side however, and aren’t ideally placed for a left handed user. One can differentiate the serrated and plain edge blade by the small amount of jimping on the serrated side. This makes identification easy. Both blades have a thumb hole, which supports one handed opening once you’ve worked the blades in. I haven’t had any reason to test the saw as of yet, however the teeth are fairly aggressive, and I believe it should do a very good job cutting through small branches or anything else that was required. The file is two sided, one side being your standard wood/metal file texture, and the other being diamond coated. Again, no real opportunity to test the file in any capacity as of yet, but for the small things I’ve filed with it, it has performed admirably.

Moving inside, you have the locking inner tools as well. The locks are very strong and easy to release when needed. Featured here you have a can opener that also has a wire stripper function, the large bit driver, the spring action scissors, the small bit driver, and the flat head screw driver. The can opener is a can opener, and will probably not get used regularly, however should perform well enough. The bit driver is one of my favorite features of the Wave, and one of the reasons for choosing it over other tools on the market. Coupled with the bit kit and bit driver extender, I have really no reason to carry a dedicated screw driver. Although the bit driver only supports Leatherman’s custom bits, the extender supports full sized hex bits, widening your range of possibilities even further. The included scissors seem to function well and the spring back action works admirably. The small bit driver is limited, but covers any need for a glasses sized Phillips or flat head screw. The large flat head screw driver is quite honestly more of a pry bar than anything, as the bit kit and bit driver tend to cover my flat head needs. Oh yeah, it has a ruler too – I almost forgot!

My final thoughts on the Wave are that it’s probably the best, most readily available EDC multi tool you’re going to come across. The Charge from Leatherman add a few nice things, however the Wave still covers all the basics. I like the build quality, the tight tolerances, and the good range of tools (bit driver!). It’s not all roses however, and there are some minor issues with the tool. I didn’t really like how tight it was out of the box, however a few days of playing with it made it a lot easier to open and close. On top of that, out of box there were a few sharp edges, which could be a bit hard on the hands. What would I like to see in the Leatherman Wave? First off, a left handed model. After that, longer scissors, and the flat head driver replaced with something else like an awl/reamer. Replaceable wire cutters would be a bonus too! I guess my ideal tool is a crossbreed of the Wave and the Surge…

In summary, if you’re looking for a premium multitool that’s going to cover just about any daily task you’d have, look no further than the Leatherman Wave. If you’d like to buy the Wave, feel free to help me out and use this link to Amazon! [Link]

 

EDC Update: January

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Long time, no EDC update. Not a whole lot changed for a while, however I’ve added a few things and changed one thing out. As you can see above, it’s largely the same. Between this update and last update, I was carrying a Ronson Jetlite, however didn’t find myself getting a lot of use out of it. When my Ingress challenge coin came in, it took the place of the lighter in my change pocket. I’ve retired the Jetlite to my backpack. The coin is a very special symbol for an amazing global community that I’m very proud to be considered a part of. I’d prefer not to display the other side, but it’s even more impressive. It also has my agent name laser inscribed on the side. It’s definitely something I’ll cherish for a long time.

I’ve also added a True Utility CashStash that I received for Christmas from Karyn. I’m still up in the air about putting some medication in it (Ibuprofen) or actually using it for backup cash and stowing a 20 dollar bill. I’m thinking the $20 is more useful, as I’m not usually too far from my backpack if I need something for a headache. If I got separated from my backpack, $20 could be an emergency drive home, or used for various other things.

I’ve also switched out my Galaxy Nexus for a Nexus 5, which I detailed in my previous post. I’d suggest reading that for my thoughts on it, but for a TL;DR – It’s an upgrade to the Galaxy Nexus in every way, and I’m happy to have it.

Making the return from last time we have my Syd ID card wallet from Fossil. Might switch it out for something different – Color isn’t my favorite, though it’s definitely a lot less bulky and I like carrying just cards. My True Utility clips and key shackle are still kicking around on a mechanics ring, as well as my Victorinox Swiss MiniChamp, Photon Freedom, tritium, and the same keys. The watch is a Citizen BM8180, which has also been flawless, although the strap is showing some wear now (Note the broken metal piece on the holes). I think I might end up playing around with Android Wear some time this year, as long as I can get something on the cheap side (LG G Watch, anyone?), so you might see the BM8180 swapped for something a bit more geeky.

Goodnight, My Old Friend

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I first purchased my Galaxy Nexus in February of 2012 as a hardware upgrade from my HTC Desire Z. I was really tired of the small issues with the Z, and found myself not using the hardware keyboard all that often. It was a big toss up between the Nexus and the Galaxy S II, however the newer, stock software and the HD screen ultimately won me over. From that point on it was my constant daily companion. Pictures? Handled. Scheduling? No problem. Games? Sure! The list could go on in regards to what functionality that phone provided me, but let’s keep it short. The phone was hands down the best smartphone I’ve owned in my lifetime, though that doesn’t say much.

In late 2012, the Nexus 4 was released. Although I wanted one, I couldn’t justify it over my then speedy Galaxy Nexus. The glass back had durability issues, and the camera, battery, and screen weren’t really much of an upgrade over what I already had. In late 2013, the Nexus 5 was released. This was what I could consider an upgrade, but again, the Galaxy Nexus was functioning fine, and I couldn’t justify the additional cost, even though just about everything would be considered an upgrade over the Galaxy Nexus. Once again, my Galaxy Nexus was getting slower and less shiny, but was still a satisfying device.

Over the years many software upgrades were seen. The jump from 4.0 to 4.3 brought a slightly slower device, but more fun features. When 4.4 Kitkat hit, I was flashing the latest custom ROMs, as Google’s support stopped at Jellybean. But things were slower. There’s only so much that can be done with a now unsupported dual core processor from a now non-existent company and a gigabyte of RAM. In 2014, discovering Ingress, I found the phone was functional for the game, but overall the GPS performance wasn’t great, and the battery was definitely suffering. Day to day performance wasn’t spectacular for me either, with newer apps causing lag, and an overall poor multitasking experience.

In late 2014, the monster known as the Nexus 6 was released. Although Android 5.0 Lollipop was attractive, and the specs on the phone were amazing, a 6 inch device is a bit too big for me. So again, the Nexus 6 didn’t cause me to leave my Galaxy Nexus. What did cause me to abandon the phone is failing hardware. The power button appears to have suffered from some water ingress, causing it to intermittently work. I could only take this for so long before deciding an upgrade was finally necessary. But what to upgrade to with the Nexus 6 being too large, and none of the common flagships supporting stock Android? I’d love to have a Play Edition Galaxy S4 or HTC One M8, but they’re expensive and not easily available in Canada. Everything else felt like it had bloated software or silly features. Look at Sony’s Z3C – The phone is perfect hardware wise, but the dated manufacturer’s skin makes it less of a pleasure to use.

I quickly narrowed my choices down – I needed a phone that was affordable off contract (Forget a hardware upgrade through Bell… I’d be shafted by the pricing on the new plans), and one running stock, or close to stock Android. Ultimately, my choices came down to the OnePlus One, and the Nexus 5. The OnePlus One was a very new and very affordable phone, with flagship specs. Unfortunately, it’s hindered by most things a new company has trouble with – Supply, quality control, and poor/slow support. They work (Or did at the time I was considering buying one) off an invite system. You need an invite to buy the phone, which most are either giving away sparingly, or selling. This is a bit hard to get a hold of, so one needs to hunt a bit to be able to buy the phone. On top of this, if you receive a poor device (screen problems, camera issues, etc), chances are you’re going to be fighting with poor/slow support just to get a replacement. To top it off, the screen is 5.5″, and after handling a Galaxy Note III (Approximately the same size), I determined it’d be foolish for me to own a phone that couldn’t fit in my pocket.

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So, process of elimination, the Nexus 5 was my choice. It’s an upgrade in every way to the Galaxy Nexus, and I can openly say I’m pleased with my purchase. It may be over a year old now, but I can easily say it’s one of the best performing budget smart phones on the market. A quick rundown of the specs:

  • 2.3GHz quad core Snapdragon 800 CPU w/ Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 4.95″ True HD IPS+ display (1920×1080)
  • 8MP camera with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and LED flash
  • 2300mAh battery
  • 130g weight

As soon as I received the phone I sideloaded the Lollipop update and was happily on my way. I feel I should have unlocked and rooted at the same time, but for now, stock is treating me well. Performance is better as expected with multitasking being very fluid – There’s no noticeable lag switching between apps or opening games, and all the animations run flawlessly at 60 frames per second. Reception is definitely improved as well – The radios are much better than the Galaxy Nexus. I get better reception in areas at work that I never did before, and I rarely lose signal in our basement apartment. The camera, although not as good as some other flagships, still performs well for me. Color balance is natural and low light performance is decent, but not great. This still puts it way ahead of the Galaxy Nexus when it comes to shooting photos. To top it all off, it’s thinner and lighter too, while maintaining the same approximate size. This means it still fits in my pocket great, and doesn’t add any more weight to my pockets.

My only issues with the phone are the same that most have had with it. The battery life is a bit mediocre, although this definitely should improve when developers start implementing the project Volta API into their apps. The phone still gets me through a whole day, and on WiFi I can probably expect about 5 hours of screen time. On mobile data, depending on signal quality, 3 hours seems to be the norm.  Poor signal drives that number down of course, and even with the improved radios, signal quality isn’t great at work. It’s definitely enough to get things done though, and I’m never too far from a power outlet or my Anker. My other issue can’t be fixed, that being headphone port placement. It’s on the top of the phone, which makes placement in my pocket a bit odd. A minor nuisance, and I’ll get used to it over time. My final small problems are software related, but should easily be patch-able in the near future. One being the current issue with Lollipop memory leaks, and the other being the camera/LED flashlight going non-responsive if the light is left on for too long. Reboots resolve this issue, and they don’t come up too often, thankfully.

Overall I’m pleased with my decision. It’s an affordable device that should last me at least another year or two, until a better sized Nexus comes out. I like it so much however, that it might end up staying with me until I wear it out.

5.11 Tactical Rush 12: My EDC Bag

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Throughout college I regularly relied on cheap backpacks to get me through each year. Sometimes I’d end up switching out packs two to three times due to them wearing out, and generally they were fairly bare bones and uncomfortable. Once my last backpack bit the dust, I went on an epic search for something better. I had a few requirements. Durability was king. I wanted something that would last for a good long time. Size was the next big requirement. I didn’t want it to look like I was carrying a bag for the apocalypse, but I still wanted something that could fit everything I needed for the day plus more. Comfort was a big deciding factor as well. I’m going to be carrying a bag every day, it may as well be something that fits well and holds up under load. Finally, it needed good organization. I didn’t want to just dump everything into a pocket like my older bags, and hope for the best.

Enter, the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12. This bag is a beast. It was definitely designed for active duty. Everything about the bag screams quality. From the nylon chosen to the stitching to the buckles and zippers, the thing is built to last. The overall capacity is about 21 liters, which is a really good size for me for a daily carry pack, or even a 2 day pack. The 12 does indicate that one can go 12 hours with this pack, but it’s longer for me for sure. The inside of the main compartment features 2 mesh zipper pouches on the front, along with a half height pouch on the back with an elastic drawstring. I tend to keep snacks, spare socks, and a packable water resistant jacket in the mesh pouches, and my small umbrella and some plastic bags in the nylon pouch at the back. The front features lots of MOLLE webbing and a couple of hook and loop patches for morale patches and name tapes. I’ve affixed mine with the Resistance logo and my current agent access level for Ingress.

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The thing is covered with MOLLE webbing, and even though it’s a tactical thing, it doesn’t really draw any attention. You can see on the side here more MOLLE, along with a basic compression strap. Also shown here is the zipper compartment for the back plate and the water bladder compartment. Beside the handles on either side is a hidden port for a drinking tube to be passed through. I tend to use the back compartment for my tablet, however if needed, it can fit at least a liter sized bladder in there for hydration. Between the straps and the carrying handle is a felt lined sunglasses pouch, which I use to store my power bank. Zippers on both the main compartment and the admin pouch on the front go all the way to the bottom of the bag, allowing it to be opened entirely like a clam shell.

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The back has slightly padded sections which definitely assist in relieving pressure on larger loads. You’ll see on the bottom padded sections two slightly rubberized patches which prevent the pack from shifting too much when in motion. The pack is also very comfortable due to the plastic backplate, which prevents things in the pack from digging into your back and causing discomfort. The straps are well padded and fully adjustable, and include more MOLLE webbing. You can also attach a chest strap here, which I don’t have attached unless I know my load is going to be very large and require the extra support. The chest strap prevents the pack from swaying side to side too much. You’ll also notice at the bottom is a drain hole, which is there in case of hydration badder leakage.

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The front features two pouches, a small pouch near the top, and the larger admin pouch near the bottom. The admin pouch is definitely where the backpack shines. As you can see, there’s a lot of organization available in the admin pouch, which keeps things pretty secure and easy to access. The nylon is all very heavy weight, just like the main construction, and the pouches are well thought out. You’ll see two large pouches on the front, and a huge assortment of smaller pouches on the back, which makes it easy to sort things like pens, cables, medicine, and sunblock. There is also a zipper compartment at the top which is rather spacious, and two plastic clips on nylon leads, which are great for holding things like keys, or in my case, my Maglite Solitaire and Leatherman Squirt.

After carrying this bag for around 5 months, I can say I can openly recommend it to someone looking for good organization and build quality in a backpack. If the tactical looks turn you off, you’ll be happy to know most don’t notice it. The pack is great for light backpacking in a city for a few days, daily carry, or hiking. If the size is still too large for you, there’s also the 5.11 Tactical MOAB 10 and MOAB 6, which both offer a smaller size and a sling configuration. If you’re looking for larger, the Rush 24 or the Rush 72 are the big brothers to my current pack, and all carry similar features and the same build quality.

If you’re interested in purchasing the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12, it tends to go for about $120 on Amazon with free shipping. This might seem like a lot for a bag, but for something that is built as well as it is, and something that is going to last as long as it is, I believe it’s well worth the asking price. [Link]

Stuff I Like: Anker Batteries

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If you have a smart device of any sort, you probably know battery life is always going to be king. Your smart devices probably have plenty of juice to last through an average day. There are times however, when your devices get used more frequently, and searching for a wall outlet and sitting stationary for an hour or two just isn’t going to cut it. With my recently acquired obsession with the mobile game Ingress, an augmented reality game for iOS and Android, battery life is even more precious. An hour or two of gameplay can burn my battery for the whole day!

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Enter Anker: Possibly one of the best companies when it comes to portable batteries and mobile device charging in general. Huge power banks with multiple USB ports to keep you going for days. Or, a 17 hour marathon of Ingress gameplay, which is exactly where I tested this battery.

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I have two Anker batteries, but the one showcased here is the Anker E5 15000MAH model. Truthfully, after conversions the actual output is about 10000MAH, however it’s still plenty for an entire day supporting both my tablet and my phone. There’s enough juice to fully recharge my phone 5 times, or my tablet twice! The battery features both a 1A and a 2A port (supporting the charging of two devices at the same time), battery level status indicators, and even an LED flashlight (not very bright, however could theoretically last for a very long time). The weight is about half a pound, so it’s no feather.

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Generally these units are also packaged with a single USB cable of pretty decent quality, and a protective case. When in use, I generally keep the battery in my back pocket, and don’t really notice it unless I’m moving quickly or doing something that needs a bit more stretching than walking.

Overall I can highly recommend the Anker. I went from not thinking I’d need something like this to relying on it almost daily, and definitely on any outings. If you value access to your mobile devices and not being tethered to a wall for a few hours, a power bank is a must buy!

The E5 is available at Amazon.ca for 59.99 with free shipping and no tax. You can use this link to purchase. Be warned, at the time of writing this post, only the white version is available. [Link]