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Wannabie for The Wannabe

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There are bags & there are fannies! I’m so honoured for this privilege of being the bag ambassador of our homegrown, Greenroom 136, a funky waterproof bike bag that is named after my birding reputation as the Wannabe. Patrick Lim, (not my dad but a rather younger & more dashing version) the founder, had toyed with the idea of launching a series that serves commuters like us to protect our belongings from the sudden onset of rain & hail. When he did & came up with the range, I was so proud to advocate this range for him! And liking waterfalls is one of the reasons why I would prefer to use waterproof bags to hold my belongings when I cycle any day.

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Built in a tough 1000 denier Cordura outer shell, the Wannabie is a combination of solid vinyl and 420 denier ripstop, that would take whatever sprays the sky or FRU trucks throw at you. It’s especially handy for a quick grab of power gel stowed in one of its compartments with my phone in the main. Hanging on the handlebar of my Oriptimus Prime (my foldie that acts like a Transformer!), my Wannabie can pack in an emergency tool, additional blinkers in addition to my chunky Galaxy Note. The bag looks great on my classic foldie too!

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In July, I was charmed (conned) into cycling a 54km round journey to Chenderiang Falls by friends. We headed to Kampar & then cycled from the train station to the huge waterfalls, making plenty of stops as I pedalled along. I had a push from Ronnie on my uphill leg while CK took my panniers after I got too ambitious carrying rations……like toys for the waterfalls. 😀 Dr. Ang kept me company for 10km & then we reached the falls. The entire ride was hilarious when I accepted a ”˜tow’ from a motorcyclist, hand in hand, pulling me for 2km to the chargrin of the rest of the riders who were waiting for me at a junction only to hop off their foldies to take a stance ready to snap pictures of me getting a ”˜ride!’ Brilliant! He came back to offer me a huge durian later too! Perhaps Patrick could come up with surprise packs for offerings-of-such along my rides. I never know whom or what I could pick up next time…… 😀

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I made it……I made it….!

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Soaking is the order of the day after a hot ride…..

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Chenderiang Falls as seen from the PLUS NKVE (highway)

The fannies are great. I have the Manny reserved for when I bring my bigger camera. Anything can fail you but the bag that keeps your belongings safe, shouldn’t. 54km was my breakthrough on my foldie (minus 2km of being towed) & I believe in staying fit to let me enjoy all my outdoor pursuits anytime. And my Wannabie lived up to it. Get yours now!

Wannabie
I have a fanny, Whose name is Wannabie,
She’s none the ordinary,
But a brimful of joyous life and unpredictability.
Always the eager beaver to seize the mind,
Some know her as one kind, A wildchild none the other,
Always random that’s how we love her.
I have a fanny,
It’s my Wannabie!

Samsung’s Galaxy of Boundless Possibilities

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Samsung has outdone its opponent this time, in a largely worthier, slimmer & sexier Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread contender, the Samsung Galaxy S II. If you think the way people clamour for Adam’s phone & acquiring it is a cult, I will show you THE religion. After this review, you will never look at another phone the same way again. Mobile phones have revolutionised the way people communicate & connect with the world by incorporating electronic standards & infusing information technology over-the-air, something Android was made to thrive on. Samsung has taken this platform & further inspired it with an unprecedented technology of Super AMOLED(Super Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) Plus screen in the Galaxy S II, resulting in a brighter, more vibrant-rich screen that has a lower power consumption compared to its predecessor, AMOLED screen.

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The technical specifications to many people, are just that, technical. For anyone to understand what these specifications do, I will give you a personal insight to what it did, what it will do for me & what you can do with this ultra-slim beauty. The deciding factor of a powerful phone for me, has to lie in its processor speed, OS (operating system), camera/video, GPS (global positioning system), internet connectivity, wifi, storage & RAM (Random Access Memory). If you are a traveller, photographer, blogger, journalist, reporter, naturalist, scientist, environmentalist or fashionista, pay special attention here because I will describe the usage that would greatly benefit your profession! Even if you don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, after going through this review, hopefully you will be inspired to get the Galaxy S II & start a blog right away!

Samsung has a Social Hub app that aggregates your social network updates in one. It integrates your e-mail, text messages, calendars, and social networking feeds into a steady stream of communication. This means, my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (I don’t use this though), Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Live Messenger, GTalk, Yahoo, Hotmail & Gmail can now be fed to a single hub. On top of Android’s native Market for applications download, Samsung also has its own SamsungApps featuring some pretty cool applications such as access to full English dictionaries for FREE.

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Screenshots of the Samsung Apps.

The TouchWiz UI (user interface) puts forward your most-accessed apps & content in 7 customisable pages of widgets & apps.

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Screenshots of TouchWiz UI customised with my choice of Milky Way wallpaper.

Coveting Speedy Gonzales.
After Samsung provided a unit for me to review, I realise how other phones I have used suffer significant lag in comparison. With a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, applications fly! There’s almost no lag in the launching of apps & what’s noticeable is the constant speed no matter how much you multi-task. Thanks to the 1Gb RAM where most of the apps’ resources sit while apps run in the foreground. Imagine not too long ago, laptops launched with 1Gb RAM as a standard spec! I could be running 10 apps concurrently, switching between them & still, suffer no lag. This is great! Believe me when I tell you it’s fast. I have owned 7 laptops & 14 mobile phones in the last 12 years, 5 of these phones were pda/smartphones. Mobile phones have definitely caught up with technology & Samsung is on the cutting edge.

Contact Management
People need a phone to stay in constant touch with what goes on around them. It’s no longer just a communication tool, it’s almost a mini computer at your fingertips. Your contacts are your most precious resource & heaven forbid, if you ever lose your phone, you can still retrieve your contacts if you have it in cloud storage. (Cloud storage is online storage using third party servers). If you have a large number of contacts, it would be a nightmare to restore. I synchronised (synced) my contacts with Google in Gmail & with the connectivity in Android OS, when I signed into Google with the Samsung Galaxy S II all my 5,000+ contacts were transferred/restored to the phone within 20minutes via the telco’s 3G network. At the touch of a button, you can also delete/wipe out all data on your phone if it ever gets stolen (heaven forbid, again)! Brilliant feature as I wouldn’t want anyone gaining access to my personal contacts built over the years!

Photo/Data Management for Bloggers/Photobugs/Journalists/Anybody
Take a snapshot with the 8 megapixel built-in camera (and LED flash) & never lose a precious moment ever. With 16Gb of internal storage space & a further add-on should you wish to utilise the Micro SD card slot, space will never be an issue again. You may want to upload it into your Dropbox for easy accessibility across the platforms of devices & computers if you own more than one. (If you have a desktop, a laptop & a Netbook, it would be good to sync your calendar, email & contacts with Google so that every one of your devices gets updated automatically.) You may also use Kies Air app to sync your Galaxy S II with your computer over wifi by enabling both devices to pair-up using the IP address.

There’s an option to share your snapshot via social media network or upload it into your photo album in Picasa or Flickr depending upon the apps you already have onboard. The options pop-up the moment you select ”˜Share via.’ A pretty neat option if you constantly share your mealtime pictures with your salivating friends on the other side of the network. I do it all the time. How can anyone not record the cleverly, concocted culinary art? Even if just a sprig of parsley or a dash of fried minced garlic is added to the food. Have I mentioned how fast the Galaxy S II is???

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Screenshot of Gallery & sharing options.

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Food pictures taken with the Galaxy S II & uploaded to Twitter/FB/Gowalla/Foursquare.

With the available filters & various options, you can take a self-portrait or cartoonify your subjects as what I’ve done here:-

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My entourage & I have been cartoonified by the Samsung Galaxy S II!

Practical Uses of Camera – Documenting Statements
Since the introduction of thermal imaging in points-of-sale machines, receipts have been fading faster than the technology itself. By the time you want to tally your credit card receipts with your monthly statement, it’s almost illegible & worse if you have to submit an official claim to get a reimbursement. Fret not, the camera records & the OS enables you to make use of the apps to store a PERMANENT COPY that helps you retain the much needed information for use later. I use Dropbox. The phone doubles up as a scanner, taking shots of documents & whatever else that you need minus the bulk or fear of losing the information. Plus, it stops the forests from being cut down by eliminating the use of paper.

Snap copies of your certificates so that they are easily accessible when you meet headhunters who can pair you with the right employers.

I keep a snapshot of my passport, ID, driver’s license, all my cards, insurance info & whatever else I need online, a copy in my email & another in my Dropbox, to verify my identity should I lose my travel documents when I’m travelling (heaven forbid, NO!). Now with the Samsung Galaxy S II’s insurmountable storage for critical documents like these, it has become a standard in book-keeping. Again, the speed in which you access them in a slim package is just amazing. If you turn on the GPS, you would even have geotagged your pictures with latitude & longitude! Perfect for you to find where you have taken those shots if you have forgotten where you have taken them at. Did I tell you that I love the 1.2Ghz dual core engine???

Broadcast & Watch Videos Live for Journalists/Aspiring Film-makers/Spielberg Wannabes
Apart from the superb picture-taking ability, the Galaxy S II also records HD (high definition) videos in 1080p at 30fps (frames per second). Which means, all you need to do is plugin to a HDTV with a HDMI cable, and you’d be able to enjoy high definition documentaries you have taken (or taken from elsewhere)! If you find yourself in the thick of things & want to whip out your phone to quickly record incidents to broadcast live on the internet, the Galaxy S II is the perfect tool for you. Accessing the UStream app (downloaded from Market) is swift but the only limitation is the connection speed of the 3G network you subscribe to. Once you hit ”˜Go Live,’ your video will be tweeted over Twitter & your followers (and literally, the world) will be watching with you! Perfect for demonstrators (and live demonstrations!) who want to show how-tos for product launches or for naturalists to stalk nature aka NatGeo-style! (I’m absolutely speaking from experience, such as times when I wait for my lifer (rare bird) on the field. If the Galaxy S II could dive, even better. I’m hoping technology would advance to the point where an underwater housing would be made available & 3G network can penetrate through the ocean, I’d be offering myself to test it!) Meanwhile, if you are an armchair naturalist like me when I’m not doing anything NatGeo, you can watch live videos of Stork or Macaw nestings on UStream…..The S-AMOLED Plus screen makes the subjects in the movie pop-up with clarity & vibrance!

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Screenshots of UStream app & list of live streams.

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Screenshot of live video of stork nests!

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Screenshot of live video of Macaw nest!

Making Your Own Videos – Videomaker App
The native app called Videomaker enables you to assemble media into a movie which you can upload & share with your friends. Here, I selected several pictures of my new camera bag & a pre-recorded video earlier to make THIS video:-


The video sequence ended very abruptly & it would have taken longer for me to edit it on the computer which defeats my purpose of showing you what can be done with the phone. The engines so fast, you can create movies & showcase them immediately once you share on YouTube. This file is only less than 3mb.

You can take videos of virtually anything, your pet or anyone doing something funny (not BLUE), and play it back to wow your friends with the HD resolution. Amongst other things, relive memories as you laugh at recorded moments. Another feature of the Galaxy S II allows you to have video conferencing with the 2 megapixel front-facing camera. If you are not into videos, the camera mode has a setting in which you can indulge in narcissism & constitute evidence of it.

FM Radio
You can listen to your favourite station using the Galaxy S II as it streams radio over the radio waves using RDS (radia data system) & the headphones plugged into the 3.5mm jack acts as an antenna so that you would not miss your favourite programs again while at work.

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Screenshot of FM Radio app.

Whatsapp
With an unlimited internet connection over my 3G network, I am able to connect with other Android users as well as iPhone, BlackBerry & Symbian OS (Nokia) users in my contact list using Whatsapp, an instant messenger that aggregates your contacts’ phone numbers rather than requesting for PINs, email addresses & such. Instant text messaging is FREE over the wifi/3G network where previously we had to rely on SMS which is chargeable on each send. Using Whatsapp on the Galaxy S II can reduce significant spending on staying in touch!

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Blogging
I don’t want to tell the world what I’m doing all the time but had this phone been available at the time when I was involved in a major rescue operation, it would have saved me from great pains of collating info from 4 different gadgets, namely my Netbook, USB modem, camera & GPS. I had to keep all the supporters updated with the progress of saving 400+ dogs dumped on Pulau Selat Kering, a (mis)deed committed by the Pulau Ketam residents & Klang Municipal Council, putting Malaysia into the spotlight for the wrong reasons again. If you ever get into this kind of situation requiring you to blog on-the-fly, pinpoint your location, snap pictures to report a situation & connect to the internet at the same time, then the Samsung Galaxy S II has everything that can do it all for you:-

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I use WordPress & here’s the app downloaded from Market with the login page.

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Once you set perimeters & include pictures that you have taken for your report/blogpost, you are ready to publish straightaway.

Using GPS to Pinpoint Your Location, GIve Directions & Rescue Somebody, If Not Be Rescued Yourself
The GPS is one gadget that I use a lot given that I’m always out at sea & navigating through the country to get here & there for diving & getting to remote dive sites. A good GPS locks onto satellites fast, giving you the edge to assist in a rescue as time & accuracy to obtain coordinates & navigating to the incident, can increase the success rate of a rescue. The Samsung Galaxy S II uses the SiRFstarIV chip to power the GPS & uses only five percent as much power as its competitive set, thus increases sensitivity & accuracy & won’t drain your battery as fast as its predecessor.

Give Directions & Get Rescued – This is quick & simple way once you get to know the steps. Using the native Maps by Google, you can find any place by keying in the road name, building, landmark or place of interest & select ”˜Get Directions’ to get a preset route’s precise directions to your destination. If you are lost, you can zoom in on your location to send the coordinates to your friend to let them come to you (provided they are equipped with a GPS/phone too)

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Screenshots of directions given in Maps & the map of the direction.

Use Places app (if Non Life-Threatening) – If you travel like me, you would probably be searching for points of interest near where you are. You might also want to search for eateries or places to eat (recommendations) on top of adding your own opinions. Perfect to kill time in a foreign place by checking out local museums, cottage industries & the local keropok-maker or basket-weaver. The Galaxy S II’s GPS enables me to venture into towns & beyond to get more out of my travels than a regular travel guide can give me.

Rescue Somebody – In September 2010, a boat capsized off Tenggol Island, causing 16 people to drift in the treacherous sea for more than 18 hours. While effecting the rescue from the ground, I alerted the Maritime Coastguard & coordinated with relevant authorities to eventually send helicopters & a ship to the scene. Rescue carried on till next morning when all 16 were found alive. What could have been useful was that if any of the passengers had their phones in a waterproof clear-bag, they could’ve sent a signal to triangulate their position using communication towers for the rescuers to find them. Having a GPS chip in the phone & not just A-GPS, you can navigate while in offline mode independent of network coverage to log your location & send via SMS once there is coverage. My account of the rescue operation can be found here. In short, you could be using your phone to save somebody (or 16 people) if you could navigate to them (or send others) to render assistance in time. All coordination was done in our various positions in KL, Dungun, Tenggol, Tioman & Terengganu via the mobile phone so it pays to have a GPS phone that works when you need it to! (More on the GPS in other postings.)

Using Location-Based-Services – Gowalla & Foursquare – Don’t look down or disdainfully at these apps no matter how annoyed you get seeing your social media networks’ timeline filled with everyone’s check-ins. These services can be a boon to business if you subscribe to it, as the application can send out notification of offers, discounts, specials to anyone who is in close proximity to your business premises. The more people there are in the vicinity, the more people your business gets to reach. One such place was an outlet in Perth which offered a free glass of wine on first visit which prompted me to check them out. Not only did I get my free glass of fine wine, I spent AU$20 on cakes & cheeses to go with it! Clever marketing! I would have preferred to have walked in showing the swanky Galaxy S II in my stride but a month in Australia with numerous check-ins almost left me broke. Almost. I make exceptions for gadgets & bags. 😀

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Screenshots of Foursquare’s trendy places & profile page of Gowalla.

Disaster/Earthquake Notifications
Having a phone that can verify sources of disaster quickly, is very handy & there are apps in Market that would give you quickest access to it. Again, the speed of access to applications is crucial when we want to verify breaking news like today’s (14 June 2011) earthquake in Sumatra that reverberated the region. Both Disaster Alert & Earthquake Alert are apps that you can download free from Market.

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Screenshot of location & details of the earthquake given real-time in a combination of images.

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The possibilities are endless with a souped-up smartphone, there is absolutely no other reason to not stay in touch. The 1650mAH battery powered the phone for more than 12hours of usage, including making 3 calls, replying messages, accessing apps & downloading them. Absolutely impressive. I left out the technical bits to the technically-inclined & picked-out the bits that would work for people like you & me to illustrate what Samsung can do for you. I can tell you how slim, how beautiful, how sleek the phone is but the power of the phone is realised when you see productivity go up by leaps & bounds (you get your tasks completed faster & fuss-free).

While waiting for the launch on the 22 June 2011, I will go back to stalking nature in my free time, aspiring to be Jane Cousteau when I’m ocean-bound & pitch my next story to Asian Diver & National Geographic Traveler magazine to detail my adventure to you. Any which way, the moment I laid hands on the Galaxy S II, I was pretty much sold.

Ahem….by the way, it just so happens that Samsung supplies a lot of components to the maker of Adam’s phones & it takes no rocket science to see Samsung’s winning edge in the Galaxy S II.

Unique Handmade Camera Bag With Love!

When I was browsing the net for something cute, I stumbled upon a site that showcases a photographer’s passion of handmade, unique, camera bags made out of leather & fabrics! Robyn Porteen is an award-winning photographer who started designing these bags for photographers who want unique bags other than that is in the market today. I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection & since she had only one of this design, I am so proud to say I own a Porteen Bag! I ordered it online & it came 10 days later! Thank you, Robyn!

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It arrived in a ribbon-wrapped parcel within a box.

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Ta-da! My new camera bag by PorteenGear.com!

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It carries a tag bearing the same name too!

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On waxed canvas, the construction of the bag sees the webbing strap sewn on the sides for better reinforcement.

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The inside is partitioned into 3 parts, separated by foam dividers.

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It has a zippered compartment & came with a small pouch too!

For something so nice, it’s really worth the price. Most of the fabrics used are sourced personally & usually tasteful. I like all her designs but you can opt to design your own too. Visit her blog at www.porteengear.com & proceed to her Etsy shop to select your own special bag! She does smaller & bigger camera bags as well as camera straps. Now my Little Wonder has a new cosy enclosure to go travelling in! I ordered a leather case for it too. Hopefully it would arrive before my trip. 🙂

High Fashion Shopping Online

Shopping has taken a new turn since the new breed of emerging techno-preneurs have taken the fashion business to the internet. Anything & everything is available at the click of the mouse & the press of a few buttons on your keyboard without the hassle of getting through crowds to get to the sale where the whole world & his brother would be attending. No frustration of not finding a carpark space too. I’ve joined an exclusive club to get offers from international brands as well as from local designers & the sale is ONLINE! Hishop offers hand-picked boutique brands & authentic items at a great discount!

As a member, Hishop notifies me of an upcoming sale two weeks prior to the items being displayed. Everything comes with a 100% authenticity guarantee! What you get is the real deal.

Browsing through the collections, there are goods for both men & women.

Here’s a sneak peek:-

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Calvin Klein bags but not at CK prices!

For him:-

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Shoes that make his feet sing!

From cosmetics, watches to dresses & bags, fine items like these would hardly be available in one place if not for Hishop’s concept of exclusive online shopping! Sign up for your access to the sale previews here!

Watch the video to see why you would prefer to shop exclusively in the privacy of your own space!

Loopbag Backpacks for Laptops

Travelling & going on expeditions subject bags to rigorous testing, not to mention, the hazard of having your items damaged by the infamous airport baggage-handlers. Checking in your laptop is definitely NOT an option but carrying it need not be burdensome. Before I continue my journey to showcase the most exciting part of my exploration of Exmouth, Western Australia, I would like to recommend a laptop bag for you. Being a chronic bag-user, when it comes to computer bags, price is the 2nd last factor to determine my choice. Choosing to invest in a functional & well-cushioned bag to protect your investment safeguards your RM5K – RM7K Macbook Pro especially when you tend to subject it to knocks & bounces as you move around. It doesn’t make sense to put it in a bag that’s not made well for it. Being functional means a bag would have to have 3 main criteria, COMFORT, CAPACITY, CARRY-IT-OFF Factor. I have bought & used many kinds of computer bags, from Samsonite to Crumpler. Here’s one that I favour the most, the Loopbag Backpack.

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Comfort
Straps are broad, ergonomic & cushioned with nylon – patented shock-absorbing padding. It sits on the small of your back & not weigh your shoulders down. Bag is firm & well-padded. Stays close to your back unlike certain backpacks that hang away.

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Anth Lilac Olive

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Sand Azure Lime

Capacity
The 14” Loopbag Backpack can carry the 13” Macbook, power adaptor, multiple cables, Mighty Mouse, collapsible umbrella (in the event you park outside the building you are entering & it pours), a mini speaker, iPod Classic & headphones, 2.5” external hard disk, documents, computer cable-lock, snacks & computer stand. Not bad for a bag that looks so compact! Zips & bag material are water resistant (Loopbag Vanguard) too. The award winning design of the bag, enables you to unzip the top flap all the way to the bottom of the back, giving you easy access to all your peripherals.

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Loopbagbag 13-inch Laptop Backpack Sand Orange purple

Carry-It-Off Factor.
Some laptop backpacks look as if you are gearing for war. Some look dysfunctional while some look too business-like so if your wardrobe consists of mainly beachwear, pareos, sundresses, bikinis & boardshorts like mine, then you would need a bag that looks good no matter what you decide to put on, even If on days, you wear a power suit (carrying your laptop in a backpack that screams the laptop manufacturer or the sponsor of the lucky draw just wouldn’t cut it) the award-winning Loopbag backpack is the laptop bag for you. Comes in stylish black & red trim, olive & lilac, sand & orange, sand & azure, whatever your style, Loopbag complements it!

Get FREE shipping worldwide when you click here or on the pictures above!

There are messenger bags & iPad bags too:-


Loopbag Transit iPad Case Anth | Anth | Green


Loopbag 13-inch Laptop Messenger Sand Orange Purple

Choosing The Right Backpack with Lafuma

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Choosing an appropriate backpack is not easy considering the kind of traveller that you are & the frequency that you would be using a backpack while you travel. Listed here are the common considerations before you take the plunge & spend on a backpack that you end up stuffing into the storeroom after your trip, never to see the light again. Backpacks are designed to take your load on your back & free up your hands to climb/walk/trek with a walking stick or a camera. Your first task is to determine the kind of travel you intend to do.

What kind of trip:-

  1. Laid-back, backpacker accommodation, no frills trip with many stopovers or trekking from town to town, crossing river or bridges.
  2. Jungle or mountain trekking. Beach or town accommodation.
  3. Semi-comfort, self-planned, single destination, one resort/accommodation, day tours.
  4. Luxury travel, first class air travel, accommodation-in-style – backpacks are not for these kinds of trips. Get a luggage with wheels instead unless you need to fly to your destination before hiking.

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What to look for in a backpack:-

  • Sturdy straps – apart from comfort on the shoulders, the bag should fit your torso.
  • Compartments – to keep accessories, wet & dry items when you need to move from place to place, drinking bladder for hikes etc.
  • Zip construction – plastic don’t rust but is less hardy to use & abuse. Waterproof zipping systems prevent leakages from rain even with rain-cover on.
  • Material strength – High technology materials like those used for parachutes are very strong & light. Heavier construction material can withstand rough use.
  • Weight – Overall weight of bag determines how difficult your treks will be. The key is to pack light!
  • Colour – Bright colours grab attention but is easy to spot if someone carts away with it. Dark colours hide dirt & is less conspicuous to thieves.
  • Capacity – 30 litres for a 3-day trip, 40 – 60 litres for a 5-day trip, 60 – 80 litres for an expedition in the North Pole!

Branded or copies:-

Choose branded bags – they have warranties & tested construction. The last thing you need is for your bag to tear at the seems & have all your personal effects spreaded out in full glory or worse, over a cliff or while crossing a jungle. My choice is Lafuma & they are located in Bangsar.

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I chose Lafuma Sakya 25litres for a 3-day dive trip to Tioman. It comes with a separated mesh between my back & the bag, allowing air flow to take the heat away.

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Watch this video as Mr. Ng elaborates on the features of different kinds of backpacks to give you an idea of what & where to pack your belongings for your next trip!

Lookout for the upcoming posts of other travel-friendly items from Lafuma & Lifeventure in time to come!