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Patagonia MLC – The Best ONE Bag?

The Patagonia MLC is my go-to bag for travel. It’s been all over the world with me.

Patagonia MLC Review

I’ve been a fan of Patagonia for a while now – since about 1984 if I had to think back. Since then I’ve had about a million fleece jackets and shirts and I’ve destroyed more baggies shorts on the river than I care to imagine. I’ve found what I think are some real gems in the Patagonia line-up – gear they’ve made for years that stands the test of time both from a design and a use standpoint. I think their iconic Snap-T fleece shirt is one of those items. I think the Patagonia MLC is another. 

Patagonia MLC

Here’s my video review of the Patagonia MLC – jump down if you want the old-fashioned experience of actually reading something, 

I bought my first Patagonia MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-On) in the late 90’s? I had it for a while and sold it. I bought another one in about 2005 and sold it about ten years later. I bought the updated Headway 45L version about a year ago, then the Black Hole MLC at the end of the summer. I then actually bought back the one from 2005 (a friend had it)  and now my son uses it. The Patagonia MLC is just that good. It’s really the do-everything bag. 

(Patagonia offers two different versions of this bag now – the Headway MLC in a ballistic nylon, and the Black Hole MLC in a ripstop, trucker tarp style. I show both in the video above, but the photos here are only of the Black Hole MLC.  I’ve fond I use it a little more, although I appreciate the subtlety of the Headway version, which lacks the bold branding on the exterior of the bag.) 

Technical stuff? The Patagonia MLC It’s 22.75″ x 6.75″ x 18″. It’ll fit a 17″ laptop. It has a ton of pockets. If you get the Black Hole version the interior is bright orange, if you get the Headway version, the interior is a more subtle gray. The interior pockets differ slightly on the two versions of the bags, but not in any meaningful way. 

Patagonia MLC

The zippers on the version I have from 2005 are huge – probably overkill. The zippers on the current version are much smaller, but seem to so the job. In fact they seem more in line with the design of the bag than a larger zipper would. The bag in these photos is blue and orange, although sometimes it definitely looks black.

Patagonia MLCPatagonia MLC

The shoulder strap works well and the backpack straps are comfortable. I’ve always loved being able to stow or hide the backpack straps when they’re not being used. While users give up a little comfort for the convenience – dedicated straps and a more complex back pad might be more comfortable over the long run – this isn’t necessarily a dedicated backpack. it’s designed to get you the airport, on the plane, and out again as quick as possible without having to check anything. 

Patagonia MLC

Patagonia MLC

The backpack straps on this version of the Patagonia MLC are a departure from earlier models. They’re a little more… curvy? I’m sure the technical word marketers and sales people will use is “ergonomic” and maybe they are – I can’t really say I find the curve to be all that useful. What I do find useful is the side-release buckles that attach the shoulder straps to the bottom of the bag. These plastic side release buckles are a vast improvement over the older, metal style clips that I always found to be finicky. 

Patagonia MLCPatagonia MLC

The backpack straps can, like all the earlier MLC designs, be stowed in the back panel when they’re not needed. I find this is one of the most useful features of the bag. I love having the straps when I need them, but I hate it when they’re in the way when I don’t need them. If i’m just carrying it from my house to my truck and then into a hotel I’ll just use the (detachable as well) shoulder strap or even opt to leave that off and just use the top handle. 

Patagopnia_MLC_Review_0037Patagonia MLCPatagopnia_MLC_Review_0039

At 45 liters, not the largest bag. I’ve noticed the amount of days I can comfortably pack for with just this bag really varies with two things; the weather, and the level of dirtbag I’m willing to adopt for the week. If it’s summer and I’m going bumming around and no place where flip-flops are frowned upon (my preferred travel style) then I’m all set. I could live out of this thing. If I’m doing more of business casual (argh!) where I have meetings and meals beyond roadside burritos, then I can comfortably get three days of clothes in it. Winter, with a jacket/fleece requirement hits me pretty hard when using this bag.  It’s tough to pack heavy clothes, warm jackets, and winter running gear all at once in this bag. Maybe I should stop running?

It’s got a pocket on the rear that opens to form a pass through so users can slip it over the handle of a rolling bag as well. If you’ve got the shoulder strap removed, and the backpack straps stowed and slip this thing on a wheelie bag, there’s nothing to hang off and trip you up. It’s pretty slick. 

Patagopnia_MLC_Review_0040

There’s some office-style pockets in the top flap/pocket of the bag, but I rarely use them. I think this bag is better suited to actual luggage than kind of an every day carry bag. Still, they’re there if you need them. There’s a padded laptop compartment in the rear of the bag as well. 

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All in all this is just about my favorite bag to use. I have tons of bags – drybags, backpacks, totes, daypacks, etc… but I use this one most for travel.  I’ve had similar bags from other manufacturers, but I usually sell them quick and come back to the Patagonia MLC. 

Pros? 

  • Bomber construction
  • Largely water resistant
  • Simple, time-tested design
  • Useful size
  • Meets Carry-on requirements 
  • Comfortable to carry in all configurations
  • Straps hide away when not in use
  • Padded laptop compartment

Cons?

  • Small for long trips unless you pack very light
  • Not a great backpack, just an OK one
  • The blue color is really hard to photograph!

 

 

 

 

We Shot a Bus – Video/Vlog

Video of Jason and I horsing around and photographing a couple buses for the Moab Adventure Center Website. Video shot on a 2005 Casio ExLim Z750  – a crappy, 12 year old digicam that maxes out at 640×480. Pretty low resolution. 

If you don’t already know – YouTube changed it’s rules regarding monetized content. In order to show ads, content creators (that’s me) must now have 4000 hours of videos viewed in the last 12 months and have 1000 subscribers. I have 4800 hours of video watched but only have 275 subscribers. I’m 725 subscribers short. I know it sucks to watch the ads, but it’s nice to get a little money from Google every now and then (I made 200 bucks last year, so it’s far from a fortune). Go to my Strayfoto Youtube page and simply click on “Subscribe”. Thanks.  I may make it yet. 

Cataract Canyon – September 2017

Just got off a 6 day Cataract Canyon trip in Moab, with Tour West. I love Moab rafting for the small crowds and warm water.

Great guides, great guests, great weather and a decent water level. The combined flow of the Colorado River and Green River below the confluence was 6400 CFS. That means I still can run left to right in Big Drop II, but one could also run right to left, like Joe Bennion did.

I only whacked the motor once – in Satan’s Gut (Big Drop III) which is kind of standard operating procedure at this water level. I didn’t get stuck in Waterhole, and the newest rapid below that one (have we named that one yet?) forced me to do some serious moves to avoid the rocks, but we never got hung up or hit the motor. 

We had partial clouds for the run down to Dark Canyon, and, as usual, I was reminded what a gorgeous section of canyon that stretch along the Colorado River is. I can’t help but hope Lake Powell stays low and all those rapids come back in my lifetime. One of the guests (Justin) asked if seeing Dark Canyon rapid was sort of my “White Whale.” I’d never thought about that before and it’s stuck with me. I’m a pretty conservative boater when it comes to rapids, I’m kind of in it more for the camping and general outdoors experience than I am for the adrenaline and the rapids. If I have a life-long dream for something I’ll probably never get to chase down, it’s the dream of good camps and less mud below Gypsum Canyon. More rapids is always better, but I’d trade big rapids for small ones and better camps. Perhaps more rapids could lengthen the trip and make it worth spending a few days getting to Hite instead of 8 hours of slogging across flat water. I’ve always said I understand not draining Lake Powell, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they did. 

All in all a pretty good trip. A private group stole our camp at Lower Red Lake, but we ended up with a great camp just below Rapid 2. Video and stills below. 

Julie in the HoleRapidsWhitewaterLow Water PonderingLooking Back at WaterholePoroverColorado River Looking EastRapid 24Oar DetailAfter the Rapids

 

Thanks for looking…

 

 

 

Mesa Arch at Sunrise – Nikon KeyMission 360

 

Mesa Arch at Sunrise – Nikon Key Mission 360

I had the chance to get one of the new Nikon KeyMission 360 (spherical, panoramic, VR, whatever) cameras a few weeks ago. I didn’t have much of a chance to play with it until now. 

The Key Mission 360 is well built and easy to use if you don’t rely on the Nikon Snap Bridge app. I found some Key Mission 360 recommended settings online and optimized them using the app connected to the camera the first time I turned it on, and since then I’ve not opened the app once. The camera seems (for me) to stand fine on its own. It’s basically a compact, heavy little point and shoot that does some video. On the bright side, battery life and the microphone are both better than I’d hoped.

I find editing the video to be quirky – Premiere seems to freeze up now and then and I have to sopt and restart the program. I’ve never lost any footage, but It’s an annoying quirk. 

The video of the Nikon Key Mission 360 isn’t that great either – the stitching on the sides where the images meet is totally visible in Virtual Reality. If objects are further away, then they appear a little better, but the KeyMission 360 seems to struggle to stitch together items that are closer to the VR camera. I imagine Nikon can fix this with a firmware update – I just hope they don’t take too long, because it’s an annoying flaw that needs to be addressed. 

I went and shot some footage at the always incredible Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. If you’ve never shot Mesa Arch at sunrise, it’s worth a visit. If not for the photos, then for the classic Mesa Arch photographer spectacle. The morning I went was pretty mellow – most mornings after Vetran’s Day are – but this was a Saturday and the parking lot was almost full of cars. 

While there were a lot of photographers there, none were hostile or arrogant. You’d be surprised how often that happens out there. I’ve seen photographers screaming at each other and fighting for a spot right on the front row. I think it’s more entertaining to shoot the photographers themselves than the actual arch, but of course I’ve been there a bunch, so the newness has worn off. It’s still a beautiful palce though, one that even in cloudy or cold weather is still worth the short drive from town. 

I’ve made a video with my thoughts and feelings (more in depth) about the Nikon Key Mission 360. In short, I find it difficuilt to understand the relevance or place of this camera in my workflow. Check it out below. 

via tumblr http://ift.tt/2g9ri4O

Soundbot SB512 Review

Soundbot SB512 Bluetooth Speaker Review

Soundbot SB512 Bluetooth Speaker Review with Video

Recently I wanted a Bluetooth speaker for my phone. I’ll be honest – I wanted a cheap one; one cheap enough and light enough I could throw it in a backpack or clip it to the outside and let it get hammered or lost and not care. I wanted one that easy to use and would serve me for a few minutes here and there while driving shuttles around town and up to the river. I even thought if it was light enough I might throw it in an outside pocket on my backpack and take it on a trail run. Since wireless Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days I figured finding one would be easy.

Soundbot SB512 Review53

 

I was searching around (not looking real hard) and found the Soundbot SB512 – it’s small, claims to be water resistant, and was super affordable (read: cheap). I had 140 reviews on Amazon, although like the worst of Amazon, I assume most of the reviews are generated by folks who got the thing for free. It appears to be identical to the VicTsing speaker – to the point where the photos are identical. At any rate, I liked the price. I liked the size, and I liked that it had MicroSD capability.

I bought it.Soundbot SB512 Review54

It’s super average. Some of my initial attraction to the speaker holds – it’s about the right size, it’s lightweight (which in a speaker generally means poor sound quality, but my expectations in this department weren’t high), and it makes sounds from both the MicroSD card and my phone.

Connecting my phone was a pain. It took way longer than it should have. Several tries. I had to reboot, forget the SB512, reboot again, connect again and again, etc. I finally got it to work.Soundbot SB512 Review55

The MicroSD card thing is cool in theory. The ability to insert some memory and not have to connect the phone is actually easier than connecting the phone – quicker too. The Soundbot SB512 defaults to the MicroSD card and it starts playing music the second it’s turned on. The downfall is that with the MicroSD card it always turns on to the same volume – LOUD, and there’s no shuffle ability with the memory card. It makes using the memory pretty useless. Users have to listen to the same songs, in the same order. Every. Single. Time. Sure, users can turn on the unit and then push track forward several times and you might end up further down the track list I suppose, but that stinks.

The alternative is to, of course, connect a phone. It’s not as easy as simply hitting the power button and listening to the music, but at least a smartphone allows a user access to a method of shuffling and playlist alternatives.

One other thing that bugs me is the button layout. All the buttons are directly opposite one another – pressing almost always means pressing another. It’s annoying and shows poor design.Soundbot SB512 Review56

If you can take the lack of shuffle on the MicroSD card, and the finicky phone connection, and the poor button layout and the volume resetting to LOUD every time, then you might like this little speaker. If you can’t deal with one of those, then there’s got to be a better option out there for a few bucks more. The next one I buy will have shuffle or random mode associated with the expandable memory.Soundbot SB512 Review57

Long Term Topo Designs Daypack Review

Topo Designs Daypack Long-term Review

I’ve added a second (much better) video review of the Topo Designs Daypack and it’s it’s up now on my strayfoto Youtube Channel, also embedded here:

Keep reading for the good, old fashioned, text and photo review.

strayfoto

I bought the Topo Designs Daypack in the summer of 2011, and I’ve used it almost every day since. I’ve hiked, run, traveled, and ridden motorcycles with it. It’s carried clothes, water bottles, jackets and the occasional tick with style. Not only is it my current favorite backpack, it’s one of my favorite bags of all time.

Topo Designs Daypack The Topo Designs Daypack is sleek, somewhat minimalist, and only medium-sized. The shoulder straps are wide and comfortable but not thickly padded. The back padding too is thin but adequate and comfortable. It’s not bulky at all. The pack itself is big enough to carry everything you think you need, but small enough to make sure you don’t take any more than that.

Topo Designs Daypack

I’ve owned a ton of backpacks over the years. I’ve owned ones with too many pockets, ones with not enough pockets, and everywhere in between. I’ve owned lots with too many straps. The made in the USA Topo Designs Daypack is the right combination just a few straps and bomber design.

Daypack backpack If I have a complaint – I do occasionally wish it came with a provision for carrying a bladder/hydration system. Especially when riding a motorcycle. I’m usually a water bottle type hiker, and don’t mind taking a break to enjoy the scenery, take some photos, and fish some water out of the pack. But with a helmet on, a hydration system and a hose makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t change anything other than a slot in the top for a hose to pass through. I suppose I could add my own, but like I said, it’s a small complaint.strayfoto

Topo Designs Daypack

If you look close you’ll notice I’ve actually posted photos of two different Topo Designs daypacks. The first one I ordered was an early model with steel hardware. I wasn’t happy with how much the shoulder straps slipped while hiking or running. I contacted Topo Designs and they replaced it immediately with a newer model with plastic hardware (I think they all come with plastic hardware now) that slips much less (not at all, really). If you look closely, you’ll notice the replacement pack has an upside-down logo, and we’ve often joked that makes it much more rare and valuable. Either way, it functions well and gets used daily.

rucksack daypack

When I travel with the backpack, I usually carry my laptop and accessories in the bag, and then use it as a normal rucksack once I get where I’m going and I’m able to leave my computer behind.

strayfoto

strayfoto

I actually own three Topo Designs Bags. In addition to the daypack, I’ve got the Mini-Mountain Bag (which I review HERE) and the duffel, which I like as well. Everything I have from Topo Designs is well-made, well-designed, comfortable to carry and, above all else, functional. I’ve had some people notice the somewhat “retro” look of the bag – I’d argue it’s more classic/functional than retro. Its made to work, and it’s design is simply dictated by its function. It’s not “retro” it’s classic. It’s classic because it works, and it works well.

strayfoto

Below is a short video walkthrough of the backpack. Thanks for looking, and be sure to check out my reviews of the Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag, and the Topo Designs Field Bag, which I use as a great little camera bag. I’ve also just added a review and video of the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase as well. 

 

 

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I’ve written and illustrated two children’s books that are now available in print and digital versions; Coyote Life, and The Cat’s Glasses. If you’ve got kids, check them out. If you enjoy them, please leave a review, tell your friends, etc. Thanks.

The Cat's Glasses

Kid’s Books: The Cat’s Glasses

Does your cat need glasses? How do you know? Follow one little boy as he tries to find out in The Cat’s Glasses by Quinn Hall

Find out more on MagCloud

Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Kid’s Books: Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Coyote Life is a short, rhyming children’s book about coyotes in the Southwest.

Find out more on MagCloud

 

Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop.

Ancient-ViewSalt_Flats_Hot_Rod_One

My wife Leah also makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear. minimalist leather handstitched walletCamera Strap by Aestus Gear

Photography T Shirts and Stickers at Redbubble:

Buy my work

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag Review

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag Review

Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag

I’ve owned the Topo Designs Mini Mountain Bag for a little over a year now, and it’s become my most-used and most-loved bag of the last several years. That’s saying a lot. Continue reading

Arrow Moccasin Two Eye Tie Moc

Arrow Moccasin Long Term Review Arrow Moccasin

I bought the two-eye tie moc by Arrow Moccasin in the fall of 2011. I opted for the double sole version, and it’s lasted over a year with almost no real perceptible wear. I have a feeling these will last a very long time. They’re great shoes. Continue reading