Here are the latest gear reviews, indoor and out.

Aerogogo GIGA Pump 4.0

The tiny GIGA PUMP 4.0 is small sleek and powerful. It measures 50mm x 48mm x 60.5mm and weighs just 100g. Small enough to slip into your pocket or a tiny space in your backpack, it’s the ultimate camping accessory.

The air pump is handy for inflating and deflating air mattresses, pool floats, and other inflatable items when you’re out there in the wilderness. With a maximum inflation pressure of 4.5 kPa, this air pump can inflate large items quickly and efficiently.

It comes with five different nozzles to fit all kinds of inflatable items, ensuring that you’re never without air. It’s also rechargeable with the supplied USB Type-C cable, perfect for all situations on the go. A useful added extra is that it also works as a camping lantern to light up the darkness, handy when your phone has died.

It also useful for home use as it can work as a vacuum pump, making packing easier and saving extra backpack space. You won’t believe how such a compact item can pack so much puff.

Aerogogo GIGA Pump 4.0

Sale price $38.99USD down from regular price $55.00USD from their website.


Granger Wash + Repel Clothing 2 in 1

We’ve all had that sinking feeling when you’re caught in a shower or heavy downpour and your waterproofs let you down. Simply they let the rain in and you end up damp and miserable. Of course when garments get dirty, the pores get clogged and they are no longer breathable. The waterproofing also wears off over time and they just don’t work as they should.

To solve the problem, it’s usually necessary to wash your gear and then reproof it – time consuming and energy wasteful. Fortunately Grangers have come up with a simple solution, a liquid which cleans and reproofs at the same time. You just pour two 50ml capfuls into the detergent drawer of the washing machine, then wash your garment on a full cycle at 30°C/86°F. Take it out and let it dry and you’ve got a clean reproofed waterproof.

300ml of the liquid comes in 100% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) bottle containing Ocean Waste Plastic (OWP) and is enough for three washes. It’s simple, effective and saves you from dumping those non-functioning waterproofs. I’ve tried it and it really does work.

Grangers Wash + Repel Clothing 2 in 1

£10.50 from their website. Orders over £20 qualify for free delivery.

Magic Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel

You might not think that you could reinvent the humble bath towel but those clever folks at MP Magic have just done that. In the past, I’ve tried their odour free socks which worked like, well magic, and their new waffle towel doesn’t disappoint. It’s made from 100% Egyptian cotton and, even better, it’s Giza 86. This is really the king of cotton as it’s grown and harvested close to the Nile and 86 grade is the top quality.

Next, they claim the fabric is knitted using the most advance tech in the world, giving more space between fibres - this means the towels dries faster and lasts longer. It also uses long staple cotton which allows for tighter knits without fraying, breaking, or separating. It also holds the dye better. Size is generous at 150cmx79cm but it weighs only 530 grams, making it one of the lightest towels of this size I’ve ever encountered.

So how does it work in practise? Of course the main purpose of any towel is to dry your skin, absorbing moisture from the body. The fabric worked wonders, taking in the water quickly, yet feeling super soft at the same time. The towel dried quickly and, even better since it’s fitted with MP Magic Deodorant Tech, was odour free, just like their famous socks. Over the course of my tests I soon became a great fan of MP Magic's Egyptian Cotton Waffle Bath Towel. It’s efficient, comfortable, voluminous yet extremely light.

MP Magic Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel
They’re crowdfunding the towel at the moment so get along to their website and sign up. You'll also get a substantial discount.

MP Magic Classic Merino Wool Socks

I've reviewed MP Magic Socks before and I've found them very handy when you’re travelling. Because they’re lined with thin silver, copper and zinc wires, they keep your feet odourless, they say, for six days.

I must admit I haven’t pushed them to these limits but it’s certainly true that the stink factor is impressively reduced. And apparently their antibacterial properties are good for over 50 cycles of washing which means you could wear a single pair for a year. And they’re also fast drying so you wouldn’t have to wait too long in between washes.

A year ago they launched their Merino wool model but now they’ve come up with an improved version which they are crowd funding. The 70% high performance Merino wool is a premium fibre which naturally resists odour and manages moisture keeping your feet fresh and dry in all seasons. That means they’re warm in the cold and cool in the heat.

Out of the packet, I can see that they’re mid-calf length, cushioned on the sole and thinner on top with different weaves. They’re marked L and R so you can remember which foot is which but there’s a higher purpose to this. They’re designed anatomically, more space for your big toe and less for the little ones, which makes good sense.

The heel has reinforced knitting for longer life and the loop structure of the sole reduces the chance of blisters. There’s also a cuff at the top of the sock, reinforced with Lycra which prevents them from falling down.

Although initially I thought they were a little small, they were extremely comfortable, soft fitting and fleecy. Out of habit. I automatically was ready to put them in wash after the first day but I persevered in the name of science.

After three days I returned from my trip and they were still pretty stinkless. Best of all, you can wash them cold or hot so I could throw them in the washing machine with the rest of my clothes. .

MP Magic Classic Merino Wool Socks
3 for £37 from their website.

Shinesty Ball Hammock Boxers

These undies are moisture wicking, stretchy, and very comfy. They claim their ball hammock is the perfect pouch for ball support, ideal for long plane or train journeys. Certainly they cling to your nether regions like a glove, the micro modal fabric gloriously soft. They even offer a monthly subscription for the boxers which arrive automatically for those with a busy schedule.

Shinesty Ball Hammock Boxers
$24.99 or $15.99 on monthly subscription, from their website.

Evo-The World's Smallest Global Travel Adapter

There many travel adapters in the market with inconsistent quality and many problems. They are often too bulky, don’t fit properly, fall out of the socket or take up too much space. The Evo Universal Travel Adapter has a compact, lightweight design and easily converts from 3 pin UK plug to 2 pin US, 2 pin European and even 2 pin Australian by a clever sliding system. This works well although the UK plug requires you to attach a plastic tag to create the third pin which is a bit of a fiddle.

The adapter is made of hard black plastic, apparently fire-resistant material PC94V0, and claims to have multiple safety protection systems designed to prevent overheating among others. There are two USB outlets (lightning, MicroUSB or Type-C) which means you can charge two devices at the same time. Each outputs 2.1A which is more than most of these adapters and proved ample for charging my Surface laptop.

On the road I found it extremely useful, light and small enough to carry everywhere, and with the added advantage that it easily converts from European two pin to US two pin at the push of a button. UK three pin is more of a problem as the third pin attachment seems slightly flimsy so I would take a standard USB UK plug just in case.

Overall I think this is a great piece of kit and should be in all travellers’ luggage. It’s suitable for backpackers and business travellers alike and the two USB outlets mean you it’s easy to keep all your devices fully charged.

Size: 20.3mm x 30.5mm x 69mm.
Weight: 50g
Input: 100-240V
Output: 5V, 2.1A
Max Power: 12W

Price $35 direct from the Chinese Micronovelty website or $25.99 plus shipping from

Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away

The Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner combines the versatility of an upright vacuum with the freedom of cordless technology. A single Lithium Ion battery, charged either on or off the vacuum, gives up to 50 minutes run time.

I live in a house with a huge number of stairs and cleaning them with a conventional vacuum means humping the machine up and down, a thankless task. Also, every time I move, I have to connect to a different plug outlet. With the Shark, I can move around with ease and everything takes a fraction of the time. Even better, what they call their Powered Lift-Away Technology allows me to split the detachable pod containing battery and dust receptacle, away from the floor head, so I carry the weight in my left hand whilst operating the head with my right.


This lightweight handheld mode makes it easy and comfortable to vacuum stairs, reach curtains and ceilings, and clean underneath furniture. It allows you to access difficult to reach areas, dust surfaces and even vacuum the car. Amazingly, it has the same amount of power in Powered Lift-Away mode as when used as an upright That means, in effect, I have a conventional upright which can be transformed into a cylinder model.


Another innovation is their DuoClean floor head which features not one but two motorised brush rollers, working together to remove debris, small particles and fine dust from all floor types. A soft, velvet-like brush roll replaces the floor head’s front wall, making direct contact with floors. Rather than pushing dirt away, it actively draws in large and small debris and removes fine, stuck-on dust from hard floors. The second bristle bar gets deep into the carpet pile to draw out embedded dirt.

It’s fitted with led lights at the front so you can spot the tiniest of dust. A flick of a switch on the handle converts the head from carpets to hard floors. For extra suction there’s also a booster switch which gives you added suction, although that can drain the battery so it’s wise to use it sparingly. The filters incorporate Shark’s Anti-Allergen Technology, which captures and holds over 99.9% of dust and allergens inside the vacuum and not back into the air you breathe. Great for those with hay-fever or pet allergies, or simply for health-conscious consumers. There’s also a special model which comes complete with the Pet Power Tool, designed to remove embedded pet hair from sofas, stairs and car seats.

As you’d expect it comes with a 20cm crevice tool, dusting brush and wide upholstery tool plus charger and cradle. The machine is guaranteed for a total of 5 years (2 years for the battery). I enjoyed using it, although it’s wise to consult the manual before you get going, and I found the battery lasted for numerous housework sessions.

The Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away IC160UK costs £449.99 from direct from Shark with free next day delivery. It’s also available at Curry’s.

For more info contact:


Coffee Gator Themal Insulated Cafetiere

Coffee Gator, a premium coffee making accessory brand, claims its new French Press coffee maker or Cafetiere is precision designed and engineered to make the new breed of coffee connoisseurs smile. "Without doubt coffee is the new wine. It's no longer just a drink, it's a passion," says the company Founder Phil Williams. "When we started work on this product, I made a promise to myself that it would be the best French Press on the market. After 191.5 days of research, design and development I feel happy that we have achieved that," he explains.


The company says a major problem for coffee lovers is that their brew goes cold too quickly. The new Coffee Gator French Press solves this problem, with a vacuum insulated double-skin design. It's made from surgical grade 304 stainless steel, with product walls that are 33.33% thicker than other products on the market (0.8mm compared to 0.6mm) and 20.54% heavier. Compared to the traditional glass-sided version, this will keep your coffee (or even tea) hot for at least 32 minutes longer. Meanwhile, the double-layer mesh filter guarantees a cleaner cup.

It comes with a bonus eBook guide called 'The 5 essential steps to better coffee'. Most people make the mistake of using boiling water but the optimum temperature is 96 degrees centigrade. After pouring the water over the grounds, then you stir and put the lid on. Leave for 4 minutes to steep, then spoon foam from the surface and leave for another 4 minutes. Steadily push the plunger and then pour slowly into your cup.
It’s an article of beauty but also tough, durable and rust proof. In the words of one customer, it’s “built like a brick”. So unlike glass or cheap, flimsy versions, it won’t break if you drop it - but you might need someone to repair the floor. Even better, it comes with a free mini canister for storing your next serving of coffee beans.

The Coffee Gator French Press has a retail price of £60.00 from Amazon.

Mallorca Destination MICE

Destination MICE will be a major conference in Palma, Mallorca’s capital, held on the 12th and 13th December 2017. The city is a great destination for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Congresses, and Events, with many international flights and just 30 minutes from the airport to the centre. The new Congress Hall can host up to 2000 delegates in a modern and beautiful building, with stunning sea views, and it’s just 5 minutes’ walk to the city centre with its shops, museums, restaurants, and nightlife.


The conference will feature round table events with business tourism destinations, both new and emerging. There will also be key representatives from local institutions plus tour operators, flight companies and hotels. It will be an excellent opportunity for networking. Add the excellent food and wine of Mallorca and you have the recipe for an inspiring time.

Mallorca Destination MICE

For further information please contact:
Pidelaluna events
C/Jovellanos, 1, 1ª 07001 Palma
+34 971 896 035 / 646 480 120

Glovax Gloves

A pair of these bright orange gloves landed on my desk recently requesting me to try them out. Apparently, they’re made from a new cut-resistant yarn material, mixed with other high density products, that make them ideal for multi-use, whether in the home or outdoors. Even better they’re lightweight, moisture absorbent, skid-resistant, water-resistant and oil-proof. They talk about using them in mechanical processing, machine maintenance, drilling and oil extraction, packing and logistics, construction, automobile manufacturing and marine vessel industries but my needs are simpler.

Slipping them onto my hands, the first thing that is apparent is how flexible they are. The palms are coated with an abrasive material giving excellent grip, whereas the backs are much softer and breathable. The insides are ribbed silky soft material and the cuffs are strongly elasticated to stop them falling off. After a few minutes I forgot I was wearing them since they weigh less than 50g each.

First I tested them in the kitchen, pulling hot trays out of the oven, and they survived that well. Next I went out to the garden and spent an afternoon pruning branches, pulling out brambles, and digging in the soil. Again full marks for survival. I also tried them for hiking and found they gave an excellent grip on slippery rocks and kept my hands warm. I will definitely use them in the future and my only qualm is the colour – bright orange doesn’t quite fit my style profile when I’m out and about.

The gloves are currently on Indiegogo at a special price of $15 plus shipping, estimated for delivery in August 2017. The MSRP will be $39.

Verdict: 5 Stars

Mushroom Hunting in Kent

I’ve always been fascinated by wild mushrooms and my father taught me to identify common field mushrooms. As a result I’ve picked and cooked many of these and lived to tell the tale. Beyond that my knowledge is limited, even though an Autumn stroll through the woods reveals many varieties. Now a new book by Geoff Dann should change all that. He’s the UK's first full-time professional mushroom foraging teacher, an adviser to cooks & chefs, and is keen to promote the fun and flavour of foraging safely, for both beginners and experienced foragers

I take the train to deepest Kent to meet up with Geoff and be taken on a mushroom safari. It’s a fine day with no rain, so he’s brought along some varieties that he collected earlier, just in case we don’t have any luck. As we walk across the meadows he picks some field mushrooms and I proudly claim I can identify them. Although they are easier to recognise, he tells me that it’s easy to confuse them with the poisonous Yellow Stainers, the cause of the majority of poisoning.

Out of his bag he produces the delicious Penny Bun, or Cep, which is definitely on the gourmet list. Other edible species he’s collected are Shaggy Parasols, Chanterelles, Coastal mushrooms and Porcelain or Poached Egg Fungus. His poisonous examples include Fly Agaric with a red speckled crown, Deathcap, Deadly Webcap and Brown Rollrim. He says the trick of mushroom foraging is to recognize the inedible or poisonous lookalikes of edible species.

We set off into the woods and there seem to be no mushrooms to be seen. Geoff explains that this year has been very dry and he hasn’t really seen as many as he would normally. I’m beginning to think we’re on a hiding to nothing, but suddenly, on a decaying trunk he spots a Jelly or Jew’s Ear, a small brown specimen which apparently is edible. A little further on he finds some poisonous Yellow Stainers, easily identified by their yellow stem when cut.

Suddenly there’s a sighting of a group of Shaggy Parasols, in far better condition than the ones he’s brought along. He collects these and then there’s a clump of Hen of the Woods brownish fungus at the base of a tree. The Japanese call these Maitake and they often make it to the menus of gourmet restaurants. We find a Stump Puffball, also edible, but it’s past its best, and Geoff’s advice is that if a mushroom is beginning to rot, then it’s best avoided

We make our way back to the woodland camp and heat some oil for a tasting. It’s a simple matter of slicing them up and frying for short time, adding salt when they’re ready to serve. I must say they’re all delicious and there’s a wide range of flavours. On the train home, I leaf through the book making a mental note of the mushrooms we’ve found and eaten.

Geoff has spent five years taking photographs of each species and he lists the easy varieties first, the ones perfect for beginners, and shows how you distinguish them from their lookalikes. It’s certainly given me more confidence in my own foraging – I'm just waiting for some damp weather.

My journey to Kent was on Southeastern trains and it took less than an hour from London.

Edible Mushrooms by Geoff Dann is published by Green Books at £19.99.

Verdict: 5 Stars

Is the KEEN Uneek the Ultimate Travel Sandal?

I’m always looking for footwear that’s comfortable, yet stylish, so I was interested in trying these sandals. In fact I’ve road tested them over the last few months and they’re smart and stylish enough to work in formal situations, yet tough enough to sustain some lightweight hiking.

The clever idea is that these fit to your foot by just two pieces of parachute cord: one is woven into a pattern that secures your foot in place, and the other works like a lace to tighten them around your foot. I found them a bit of struggle to get on in the morning but, once there, they were so comfortable that I could forget about them for the day. The interesting thing was that other people remarked on them, perhaps because of the yellow and black colour scheme, and their feedback was all positive. I never thought I would be at the forefront of fashion wearing sandals but the Keens seemed to do the job.

They’re not particularly light, weighing in at 290g, but that’s because of the combination of the microfiber-covered foot bed, providing arch support, a PU midsole and a treaded outsole of rubber which provides excellent traction on slippery surfaces. What you get is a versatile sandal which keeps your feet cool, because of natural ventilation blowing through the cords, but yet is strong and tough enough do some adventuring.

The other great thing is that they’re completely washable so any mud or grime can be sponged off and you can even wear them in the shower. What you shouldn’t do is wear socks in that inimitable English style, as they’ll just get soaking wet in the rain. I liked these sandals and they’ve become my footwear of choice over this summer and they seem to be extremely durable.


- Lightweight PU midsole
- Metatomical footbed
- Microfiber footbed cover
- Microfiber heel back
- Non-marking rubber outsole
- Polyester braided cord with Polyamide core for increased strength
- Razor siping for improved ground traction
- Secure fit lace capture system
- Price £89.99

The Uneeks come in 12 colours and there’s a new version which uses thicker 8mm cord. For more information visit the KEEN website.

Verdict: 5 Stars


Testing the Sony Alpha 7R Camera on Hampstead Heath with Joe Cornish

A master class with ace landscape photographer, Joe Cornish, on London's Hampstead Heath, with the new Sony Alpha 7R camera, is too good to miss.


I'm no stranger to tramping around Hampstead Heath and I love its mixture of wilderness and parkland. It's big enough to get lost in, yet easily accessible from my home in North London. Joe Cornish, is a brilliant landscape photographer and his work for the UK's National Trust is particularly noteworthy.


The Sony Alpha 7R is a full frame mirrorless camera, easily competing with full-frame SLR's, yet much smaller and lighter. So imagine my joy in being invited to spend time in the company of both Joe and the Sony.2014-05-12-SonyAlpha7R.jpg

It's a warm sunny April day when I set out, ideal for testing the camera and the light is crisp, a mixture of cloud and sunshine. The a7R feels comfortable in my hands, the body weighing only 465g, and I've been given a 35mm lens for the day. So far, there are only five native full-frame E-mount lenses but Sony promises fifteen by 2015. In fact the camera has the unique ability to adapt to nearly every 35mm lens ever made thanks to a wide array of available adapters, so this is not a problem at all - just remember you'll probably have to focus manually.


I take my first shots looking out over London from the top of the Heath. It's slightly hazy in the distance but I'm pleased with the view. Next I move into the woods and get some pictures in the shade, avoiding the mud from the previous day's showers.


The camera handles well and I like the facility to swing the viewfinder away from the body, great for low and high level shots. Over lunch at Kenwood House, Joe sets the day's challenge - take intriguing pictures of everyday objects in such a way that they can't be recognised. It reminds me of the quizzes they used to have in children's comics and I realise I'm going to have to be ingenious. It's tricky with the 35mm lens but I find I can get really close and fill the frame with detail. A tight shot of a drain cover and a fragment of bark on a tree are some of my successes.


The trouble is that they are not great images - finally I see a coloured inflatable ball lying in the grass and get down and shoot it from ground level. I'm ensuring that the background is out of focus, by shooting wide open, and I decide that this is my best image.


Joe encourages me with faint praise for my efforts and I'm pleased that I've managed to pull my weight. I realise that I'm only really scratching the surface with what this camera can do, and would love to have it for a longer period of testing.


The Alpha 7R is not cheap but is ideal for both serious enthusiasts and professionals, looking for a more portable full-frame camera. It does have a slightly cheaper cousin, the Alpha 7, with fewer features and a resolution of 24.3 megapixels rather than the Alpha 7R's 36.3 million, but if you take your photography seriously, I would advise the 7R - at £1,699 for the body only, it's a stretch, but well worth it.


For full specifications of the camera, visit the Sony website.


Is the Fujifilm FinePix F800EXR the Ultimate Travel Camera?

Of course, as you know from this site, I'm always on the go and therefore constantly looking for the ultimate travel camera. I need a big zoom, the ability to control settings manually and also to be able to shot RAW as well as JPEG's. At around 230g, the Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR seemed light enough to fit the bill with a major attraction of a 20X optical zoom.

I usually tend not to use automatic modes but in certain circumstances I use this just to see how well the camera handles a changing situation. Setting Auto ISO at 3200 and using Program(P) Mode the images tended to work well. My only problem was in dark forested areas where the camera choose longer exposures with blurry results, but I resorted to the Sports setting and all was fine. I didn't really explore the EXR settings as I tend to do my own post processing and it all gets too fiddly if you're trying to catch a moment.

I also didn't use the Wireless Image Transfer tool to instantly upload my images but prefer to process them on my laptop and then post them on Facebook or Twitter. My verdict: pretty much fits the bill and I particularly enjoyed using the long end of the zoom to get close. Of course a lens like this is bound to be a compromise in terms of aperture, but I found that that I could get round this by upping the ISO without too much problem. Until something better comes along, I'll be using this camera and you can see the results scattered over the site.

• 16 megapixel EXR-CMOS II sensor
• 20x optical zoom
• Up to 40x Intelligent Digital Zoom
• 3 inch, hi-contrast LCD screen
• Full 1080p HD movie recording
• RAW shooting
• Wireless Image Transfer
• Advanced Filters

For more information visit the Fujifilm website.

Verdict: 4.5 Stars


Is Cabin Max Stockholm the World's Lightest Trolley Bag?

I’m always on a mission to cut down on weight so I was interested to receive the Cabin Max Stockholm Trolley bag that only weights 1.45 kg when it’s empty.  With dimensions of 55x40x20cm, the Stockholm fits the allowed IATA limit, although you have to be careful of bulging pockets.

They say it’s made from ultra-strong, non-tear honeycomb nylon and is guaranteed to hold a massive 44 litres.  This is a major advance on most trolley cases which lose space because of the wheels and frame. My only worry is that if you pack it too tightly, the zips may not be quite up to the job, but that remains to be seen. There are also 2 front zip compartments, but realistically they’re only really useful for documents, of anything that packs flat, like a spare pair of socks.

The main compartment has elasticated straps which are useful for holding clothes packed flat and you might even arrive without those dreadful creased shirts and trousers. The lightweight trolley mechanism is detachable and the whole case can be packed flat.  Since it’s so light, I can see that packing it in your main luggage, and pulling it out to fit in the things you’ve bought would be a great bonus.  Indeed I would be wary of using it as my only luggage but bringing the souvenirs back home is another matter.

I do think this is a great innovation and will be testing it in the future to see how well it endures the rigours of the road.  At £29.95 you can’t really go wrong.

  • Lightweight 1.45kg
  • Honeycomb ripstop fabric
  • Dimensions 55 x 40 x 20 cm
  • 44l capacity - folds flat for storage
  •   Telescopic handle

For more information visit the Cabin Max website.

Verdict: 4 Stars for innovation


Tasmanian Tiger Flight Case – the Perfect Carry-On Bag for Business?

This slightly more expensive version of the Tatonka Flight Case 1150 is apparently designed for the police but does that make it the perfect business carry-on case?

I've used a Tatonka Flight Case for the last 20 years and it's never let me down. Perfect as carry-on baggage, yet strong and spacious enough to take all that I can pack into it, it's the perfect flight companion. This new version really does look like a serious piece of kit, with the top cover of the main compartment transformed into an organiser, offering pencil holders and a zippered pocket. The lid is also redesigned so it's padded to take a laptop and case is made of strong Cordura 700 DEN material.

The one thing that's stayed constant are the IATA approved dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20 cm and the flight case meets these and is even slighter slimmer at 32 cm wide. Thankfully there are no wheels, and the rear zipped compartment opens up to reveal shoulder straps – now, unlike the 1150 flight case, these are not padded and there's no hip belt. It works perfectly well as a rucksack although I don't think you'd want to use it to trek in the Himalayas. But it's designed more for the business traveller and there's a padded shoulder strap so you can just slip it over your shoulder. Two padded handles make it easy to carry and quality is excellent throughout.

So how did it perform? The padded compartment in the lid is really useful for a large laptop, although you can also pack extra shirts and trousers there to avoid creasing. The organiser on the inside is perfect for all passport, credit cards, mobile phone, keys and camera, and the smaller zippered pocket will take a pair of shoes. Quality is excellent throughout, although the extra-strength Cordura does make it slightly heavier than the 1150. Best of all, it looks smart, more a case than a rucksack, perfect for business and, of course, all the extra size zips work like a dream. If you don't have to carry it for long distances, this could be the perfect carry-on bag – and if you're a policeman tracking an international criminal, it's the perfect way to stay incognito…

Main Features
Harness cover
Carrying strap
Outside padded notebook pocket
Main body with strong #10 zipper
Organizer and zipper pocket inside flap
Compression straps
Material: Cordura 700 DEN

Height 55cm x Width 32cm x Depth 20cm
Weight 1.95 kg
Capacity: 40 L

For more information visit the Tasmanian Tiger website.

Verdict: 4.5 Stars

Tatonka Flight Case 1150 - The Perfect Carry-On Travel Bag?

This new improved design of the original Tatonka Flight Case shows significant improvements and may well make it the perfect carry-on bag.

For the last 20 years, in my job as travel journalist, my luggage of choice has always been my faithful trusty Tatonka. I can't say I've been kind to it, always stuffing it with all the extras you acquire on press trips, but it's never let me down. But, as with all faithful retainers, there comes a time when retirement beckons so I thought I'd test their latest version.

Now there's been a major redesign, so it becomes more like a real suitcase than a backpack. As well as the main compartment, there's another full size compartment in the lid and the bag opens out flat so you can pack both sides. Gone are the interior compression straps to be replaced by mesh covers which zip over each compartment. There's also a roomy exterior pocket at the front which is useful for stashing all those items that security demands to see, like laptops and liquids.

The one thing that's stayed constant are the IATA approved dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20 cm and the flight case meets these and is even slighter slimmer at 32 cm wide. Thankfully there are no wheels, and the rear zipped compartment opens up to reveal padded shoulder straps and a hip belt with an excellent back system. Strangely there's no chest strap, which I always found useful to stabilize heavy loads, but apparently this is available as an extra. If you don't want to utilise it as a rucksack there's a padded shoulder strap so you can just slip it over your shoulder. Two padded handles make it easy to carry and quality is excellent throughout.

So how did it perform? The extra compartment in the lid really does seem to add extra space, so I found I could get more in, without straining the zips. The old version had small inside pockets in the main compartment which I used to stash charging leads, alarm clock and other sundry items, and initially I did miss these. I soon got used to stowing these in the lid in an extra pouch but there is a danger that if you put too much there, the bag expands to exceed the IATA dimensions. It's not a real problem, you just have to take care with your packing if you're travelling on one of those airlines that insists on checking your luggage with one of those steel frames at the gate.

When I was researching this article I did see that Tatonka do make a slightly more expensive model under their Tasmanian Tiger brand, called the TT Flightcase, apparently designed for the police. Now this looks like a serious piece of kit with the top cover of the main compartment transformed into an organiser, offering pencil holders and a zippered pocket. The lid is also redesigned so it's padded to take a laptop and it looks like the case is made of stronger material. I can't wait to get my hands on one of these and will let you know how it performs in my next review.

Main Features
Zip-away carrying system
Padded hip and shoulder straps
Separate compartment on the inside of the lid
Large main compartment
Flat zip pocket on top of lid
Hanging strap to go over body
Practical compression straps

Height 55cm x Width 32cm x Depth 20cm
Weight 1.65 kg

For more information visit the Tatonka website.

Verdict: 5 Stars

UPDATE: This has performed well in all circumstances, just don't pack the inside pocket too full, or you'll breach the size restrictions.

Kathmandu Litehaul v2 – the Ideal Carry-On Travel Pack?

Checking your luggage into the hold is always a risky option, but the Kathmandu Litehaul gives you the chance to take only cabin baggage.

In my job as travel journalist I'm always at airports, catching planes to far flung destinations, but flying seems to get more stressful as I get older. Anything that can relieve some of that pressure is always welcome so I always try to take only carry-on baggage – that way there's no anxiety at the baggage carousel at the other end. It does mean that you have to pack wisely and I'm always on the lookout for the perfect bag. When I heard about the Kathmandu Litehaul it seemed to be just the solution I was looking for.

Now many people swear by wheelie bags, but I find them too heavy, with the wheels taking up much needed space. I prefer to go for the rucksack option, with the straps folding away behind a zipped compartment, and the Litehaul has a proper semi-rigid harnessed back system with padded chest straps and hipbelt. This is also detachable, a good idea as it means you can slip the bag over your shoulder for short term use.

As a man with only one cabin bag, the sight of the steel frame at the departure gate always fills me with considerable dread, particularly on the low budget carriers. Baggage restrictions do differ from airline to airline so the published dimensions of the Litehaul at 55cm x 31cm x 23cm seem to satisfy them all, apart from Ryanair which only allows a depth of 20cm. When pressed, I suppose you just squeeze the bag into the frame and squash it to fit. I usually just sling the bag over my shoulder, as though it weighs nothing at all, smile at the official and hope for the best.

This is the updated version of the original Litehaul and they've added extra pockets without increasing the dimensions. There's a small front pocket, large enough for a couple of paperbacks, a fleece lined pocket on the top which can take a compact camera and a large full-length zipped compartment, accessible from the outside, designed for a 15" laptop or a couple of sweaters. Helpfully there's even a bottle pocket on the side.

Inside the 3/4 opening flap there's one main large compartment, and there's also a 3/4 length mesh pocket on the underside of the lid, perfect for a pair of shoes or your dirty laundry. The stated storage space is 38L and one thing that I miss from other similar bags is horizontal securing straps to keep everything compact. Apart from this, I did manage to fit everything in from my normal packing list, and kept the weight down to less than the 10kgs stipulated by many airlines.

The bag seems well made, a mixture of 840D ballistic nylon, 420D nylon check, with a polyester lining, and comes in red, blue and black. The zips seem strong, and the padded shoulder straps and hip belt make it a comfortable carrying proposition. With a recommended retail price of £89.99 it's not cheap but, as you say, you gets what you pay for – it should serve me well for many years to come.

Main Features

  • External access 15" laptop sleeve
  • Lockable main zip
  • Convertible hipbelt
  • Zip-away harness
  • Bottle pocket
  • Organiser pockets
  • Height 55cm x Width 31cm x Depth 23cm
  • Weight 1.44kg

For more information visit the Kathmandu website.

Verdict: 4.5 Stars

UPDATE: This doesn't take as much as the Tatonka and probably not as durable, but is ideal for a few day's travel - it even fits under an aircraft seat.

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