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Peak Design Everyday Backpack: Review (part 2)

Posted on Jun 18, 2017 | 0 comments

Everyday Backpack

This is the follow-on report I promised when I wrote the original blog post some months back. I have now lived with the Everyday Backpack on multiple continents and taken several trips with it. So I feel I have given it enough time to give a fairly accurate report. I have taken it to Europe (several times), to Indonesia and Singapore, to Dubai, the Caribbean, and Southern Africa. As I write this, I am waiting for a return plane in Johannesburg. This African trip took us to Cape Town, Windhoek, Etosha Game Park and Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. So the bag has seen a bit of action!

Before I bore you, (if you are not an avid photographer you are already bored) let me simply tell you what I like and don’t like about the bag, in no particular order.

What I Like

The bag does not look like a photography bag. I really like that. I often get compliments about the bag. It looks good and seems to wear well. It got a lot of desert sand and dust in Namibia. I cleaned it off easily with a damp cloth.

The multiple carry handles are really a nice feature.

It has lots of “nifty” pockets. The two I like the best are the one on the inside flap of the front, accessed from the top of the bag. It’s great for passports and things like that. It is held closed by a magnet. Everyday Backpack Passport Holder

Next, the one in the back sleeve (where the laptop goes). This one holds things like pens, my memory card wallet (the other pockets don’t hold memory cards very well) and my trusted Kindle that goes everywhere with me. Easy to get to and simple to drop little items in. (I love the Kindle holder in the Peak Design Messenger Bag even more).

Everyday Backpack Pocket




The pockets on the inside of the side flaps are very useful. I like the fact that they can be closed by a zipped cover to further secure your items. As I said above, I am a little surprised that there is not a better memory card holder but perhaps the reason for the that is that cards come in different sizes.

Everyday Backpack Side Pockets

The laptop sleeve on my 30L pack is great. Easy to deposit a MacBook Pro 13”. This is the huge weakness of my F-Stop bag that used to be my go-to travel bag.

The divider system for the gear works reasonably well. It is not a versatile as the guys at Peak Design make out. I think the dividers may work better in time as they loosen up. However, it took me a while to configure the bag to my liking. But the problem is that I use different kit on different trips.  I have two or three big concerns. First, the compartments are often insufficient in their depth. So your lens perches very precariously in its compartment and can easily fall out if the flap is open and the bag is picked up or moved (see photo below). I have taken the elastic strips from my other bags (yes, like most of you I have a collection) and used them to help prevent possible falls, but they don’t grip sufficiently well for my liking. Second, when you have multiple cameras or lenses, the weight of the cameras or lenses puts pressure on the bottom sections, making it more difficult to insert or withdraw cameras. Not a major issue but something to factor in. Third, I find I have some unused space, particularly when you have lenses attached to the cameras.

Everyday Backpack Dividers

Overall, the bag carries a fair amount of gear. On this trip, I carried a Sony A7RII with the G Master 24-70 attached most of the time. Plus the 16-35mm F4 lens. I also carried a Nikon D750 with the 28-300mm lens, the Nikon 20mm 1.8 prime. I also carried the Metabones adapter for Nikon to Sony, some ND filters. There was room in the top compartment for odds and ends including a lightweight sweater. On earlier trips, instead of a second body, I carried the DJI Mavic Pro drone.

I do like the front latch system for the main flap (top photo). One of the major advantages of this bag is how quickly you can get to things. It really is the best bag I have used for travel, not just as a camera bag but as a travel bag. I spend far too much time on planes and in airports. This bag really works for me. However, the front latch system is not perfect and I have found occasions where I thought it was latched but discovered later that is was not. This happens less often now that I am aware of the potential for it. On the plus side, it makes access easy.

What I don’t Like

The biggest issue for me is the potential for gear to fall out if you don’t zip up the side flaps (above photo). I ditched one camera bag that I loved because I found this happened too often. While it hasn’t occurred in a serious way with the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, I am concerned that it is eminently possible. Referring back to my earlier comments, some of the compartments can be quite shallow, particular for lenses. If you forget to close the side flap properly and lift the bag up, lenses will fall out. If this happens to a $1000 lens, it is a serious problem. I really believe Peak Design should have put a simple, lightweight net system with elastic attachments that would catch/prevent the lenses and other things falling out. For the storage systems on the side flaps, they have the great zip shut covers. But the really expensive stuff is sitting in the main compartment with nothing to stop them falling out if you pick up the bag the wrong way.

Second, the ergonomics of the bag as a backpack are not quite right. If you go to my earlier post on the issue, I found the shoulder straps slipping off when I was wearing a down jacket. It is better when your clothing is not made of slippery material but it is still not 100% right.

The third issue, and this is a common mistake of bags, is that there is nothing to stop the stuff you place in the top compartment above your camera gear from falling down, either out the bag when the sides are open or into the area where your camera gear is stored. I have got around this (for my f-stop bag initially) by using a drawstring bag into which I place my loose items. But they really need to provide a moveable/removable “tray” divider that separates the top section from the bottom section.

Another issue is that I wish there was more padding protection at the bottom of the bag. That’s the spot that I place my heavy cameras. I have taken a divider from another camera bag and placed it at the bottom to increase the padding. 

The bottom line ….

Unequivocally, the Everyday Backpack is the most suitable camera bag I have owned. It is really easy to travel with, particularly in and out of airports. I love the fact that it does not look like a camera bag, although some folk recognizes it as the Trey Ratcliffe Peak Design creation. There are a number of ways the bag can be made better, the most important of which, to my mind, is the addition of a “safety net” to prevent kit falling out. I also think the ergonomics of the bag while carrying it could be improved.

Would love to hear comments from other people on their experience.

For more about the Everyday Backpack go to Peak Design

A review of Peak Design's Everyday Backpack

This post contains affiliate links.

5 Days in Cape Town: Day 1 Waterfront and Winefarms

Posted on Jun 13, 2017 | 2 comments

5 Days in Cape Town: Day 1 - Waterfront and WInefarms

Overview

Our trip took place in late May. The weather was mild, and as we were visiting in off-peak season prices were lower than in the summer and nothing was crowded. We = two adults + 2 teens (our daughter and her friend). We would definitely recommend this as a great time to visit!

Where we stayed

We stayed in the Lawhill Apartments at the V & A Waterfront. (We booked through Booking.com and if you click through our link as a first-time user you get $20 discount and they give us $20!) It cost about $200 per night for a 2 bedroom apartment. The apartment was modern and very comfortable. And the location could not have been better. We overlooked a canal and could see the harbor in the distance. And it was a 10-minute walk to the shops, restaurants, docks etc.

Getting around

We rented a car and downloaded Google maps of the area before we left home as we didn’t have cell service there. If you don’t want to rent, Uber is cheap and very convenient.

Morning adventures

Obviously, the first thing we wanted to do was explore the Waterfront. Everyone was starving so we headed to the Mugg and Bean coffee shop for a hearty breakfast. We all chose omelettes to go along with our coffee and they were HUGE and filling and delicious.
Mugg and Bean coffee

The girls wanted to shop next. The Waterfront boasts not only many unique South African stores but also popular chains from around the world. We spent most of our time in Lush, Topshop and Zara which we don’t have in our hometown.

We skipped lunch as breakfast had been late and very filling.

Afternoon adventures

As we only had 5 days in Cape Town, we opted to go wine-tasting at the local wineries instead of driving to Stellenbosch for their wine-route. First up was Klein Constantia. Wine tasting was R50 per person – but the fee is waived if you buy some of the wine you tasted, as we did. (If you go with more than 6 people be sure to book, but that isn’t necessary for a small party) Klein Constantia wine tasting

Our host, Alan, was a lot of fun. He told us that Jane Austen recommends in Sense and Sensibility the Constantia dessert wine for “its healing powers on a disappointed heart”. The estate’s award-winning Vin de Constance is indeed a revival of this famous wine.

Alan even took us downstairs to show us the cellar which you can book for an exclusive wine-tasting experience.Klein Constantia Cellar

We then moved on to the Buitenverwachting Estate. Here you sit at an outside table and they bring you the wines to taste.
Wine tasting at Buitenverwachting

They also have light snacks available. We bought koeksisters, a traditional South African pastry deep fried in oil and the soaked in syrup (I know … not healthy at all!!).
Koeksusters

It is a great setting and there were a number of moms enjoying a glass of wine on the lawns in front of us while their children ran around. Lawns at Buitenverwachting

Our final wine farm was a newer one – Constantia Glen. The wines we tasted weren’t amazing, perhaps because all the current wines were already sold out, but the view made up for it. We ordered a cheese platter there to keep us going until supper. Cheese Platter at Constantia Glen

Dinner

Staying at the Waterfront means there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from in walking distance. And the walk to them is beautiful. We chose the Cape Town Fish Market and our walk took us past the Clock Tower which is beautifully illuminated at night. The food was disappointing. The rice in the sushi was overcooked. The kinglip (local fish) was just OK but not memorable. The girls were happy with their choice of fish and chips and a Greek salad. But with so many restaurants to choose from, I would suggest you try something different.

Continue reading about what we did on Day 2.

5 Days in CT Day 1 Waterfront and WInefarms

Honeybee Coffee Shop: Farragut

Posted on May 30, 2017 | 0 comments

Whether you are passing through Knoxville or happen to live there, you will want to try out the Honeybee Coffee Shop in Farragut.

It is conveniently located on Kingston Pike – but the sign doesn’t stand out very well so look carefully or you may miss it.

HoneyBee Sign

Do not be concerned about the lack of appeal when you first view it – the exterior looks like a warehouse! But take one step inside and you will have a different picture. The wall of windows gives the coffee shop plenty of light. The bar is in the center of the main room and it is surrounded by small tables.

HoneyBee interior

There are two more rooms off the main room. One has some comfortable chairs and couches and the other is big enough to host a meeting in. This means there can be many customers in Honeybee without it feeling crowded. And you are likely to be there with quite a few other people as it is definitely popular!

The servers are friendly and helpful. The menu consists not just of coffee, but also tea and beer. We have enjoyed their cappuccino, regular latte, honey lavender latte, brown sugar iced latte and IPA – and all of them were excellent! There is also a small selection of baked goods and yogurts available if you are feeling peckish. We didn’t eat anything so I can’t comment on how good they are.

Honeybee opens at 7am on weekdays and 8am on the weekends which means you can stop by for breakfast. It stays open until 9 or 10pm (closes at 7pm on Sundays though) so also a great place to drop in for evening coffee. The variety of seating options makes it a great venue for people wanting to chat, or for those wanting to work.

Honeybee does have a second location in South Knoxville. Be sure to try out one of them when you are next in the area!

Honey Lavender Latte

This post was written for the 30 Places 30 Days Local Travel Challenge. Please also check out
Chicago’s Top Donut Spots which is also part of this challenge.

Honeybee Coffe Shop - Farragut, Knoxville

Clock tower at Cape Town Waterfront, now and then.

Posted on May 29, 2017 | 0 comments

This clock tower was the original Port Captain’s office at the Cape Town harbor, built in 1882. The clock itself was imported from Edinburgh and placed in a gothic style tower.  An amazing fact is the red color of the tower is exactly the same red used in the original tower, having been matched from scrapings of the original paint.

Another interesting fact is that the tower leans about 1/2 cm, but work has been completed to prevent it from leaning further.

For more interesting facts about this tower,  go to this page.

This is the clocktower today.

Cape Town Harbor Clock Tower

This is the original clock tower circa 1883.

Cape Town Clock Tower in 1883

Clock Tower

5 Days in Jamaica

Posted on May 24, 2017 |

jamaica

We (2 adults and 2 teens) visited Jamaica over Spring Break. This was our first visit so we had no idea what to expect.

Our impressions

  • Jamaicans, for the most part, are very friendly people. They are very laid back and operate on island time, so forget about doing anything in a hurry. Getting our car from Budget Car Rental took about 45 minutes after we landed – and it took close to 30 minutes to return it a week later!
  • While on the beach or walking around the tourist areas, vendors will approach you but they were never pushy with us, so we didn’t mind at all. One of the things you will be offered frequently is weed.
  • The driving is rather crazy. We decided that on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst in the world), Jamaica probably ranks round a 6. Horn honking is very popular. You do it to warn others about what you are going to do, to thank others and to tell someone you are annoyed. Or at least that is what we decided some of the uses were!

Where we stayed

As we were only going for 6 days we elected to stay in Montego Bay as we could fly in there and not have to travel further to our final destination.

We found a 3 bedroom apartment with access to a pool on Booking.com for $800 . It was less than 10 minutes drive from the beach and generally in a convenient location. If you are looking for budget accommodation this is the way to go. It also allows you to stay where the locals live and get a more authentic experience of Jamaica.

However, Jamaica – or at least the parts we saw – is geared to tourists who are staying in the large resorts. Most resorts include all meals and have their own beaches and offer many activities. This made it more challenging than we expected to find restaurants and affordable options for water-sports.

Where we ate

Most of the restaurants offer wifi. The ones near the beach areas are used to coping with lots of people and service is reasonable fast. However, the ones we went to in the suburban areas made your food to order, so expect a long wait. These are all the places we went to – you will notice some are US fast food chains. We really did struggle to find affordable lunch options so don’t judge us!

Note 1: if you look at Google maps you will see restaurants that are no longer around. Twice we drove around looking for a place that must have closed down or moved.

Note 2:: if you look at online menus before you visit a restaurant, take that as a very very general idea of what might be on the current menu. We discovered most of the online menus are years our-of-date.

  • Wendy’s
  • Pizza Hut (twice) – close to where were staying i.e. convenient
  • Scotchies (twice) – authentic local cuisine. Great prices and ambiance. Read full review here
  • Cafe Blue – both the food and the coffee was great. This is a good place for a lunch.
  • Facebaar – pictures of famous people adorn the walls. The food is pretty good but took a while as it is made to order. I know the place says it is a bar and nightclub, but at lunch time we didn’t see any of that.
  • Memorabilia Bar and Grill – see full review on TripAdvisor. Would not go back!
  • Sandbar Grill on Doctor’s Cave beach – very convenient if you are spending the day at the beach. Nothing amazing but prices are reasonable and the food wasn’t terrible.
  • Bigg’s BBQ Restaurant – on the Hip Strip near the Doctor’s Cave beach. Sit outside and watch the ocean. The food was nothing special buut not bad either.
  • Coffee n Creme Cafe– we enjoyed their food for lunch and also their coffee
  • Cosmo’s Seafood Restaurant (this was in Negril) – the location is great, literally right on the sand. We ate and then spent the afternoon on the beach and grabbed some drinks before driving back to Montego Bay.

What we did

The day we arrived it was raining heavily and we were all tired so all we did was find lunch and later supper. One other day we also had rain all day and so spend the day in the apartment playing cards and doing some work.

Twice we spent the day at Doctor’s Cave beach. From what we read online we had expected it to be very crowded, but it wasn’t that bad. The beach has quite a few shady trees which I really appreciated. I am not a beach person, but I really didn’t mind spending a few hours here while the teens enjoyed the water.

One day we drove to Seven Mile beach in Negril. The drive allowed us to see more of Jamaican life as you go through a number of small towns. It took us about 1 1/2 hours. There are some public access points but as I had read that they aren’t easy to find we opted for going to Cosmo’s Restaurant to eat first and then paid to use their beach (400 Jamaican $ each).

Getting ready to snorkel in Jamaica

On our final day, the sea was calm enough and clear enough for us to go snorkeling. I had been emailing Netty from Kelly Watersports since we arrived in Jamaica and she was keeping us informed about the conditions. I thoroughly recommend using them for water sports (they offer a lot more than just snorkeling). They operate out of a resort (Sunscape) but you just tell the security at the gate you are going to Kelly’s and they call them to escort you in. Netty is extremely nice, the prices are the best I found and their boats and equipment are in great condition. The boat captain who took us out was a lot of fun and he snorkeled with us. I would definitely recommend you use them.

Netty from Kelly Sports

Netty from Kelly Sports

5 Days in Jamaica

Reaching new heights – Clingman’s Dome

Posted on May 20, 2017 |

Over 11 million people can’t be wrong! That’s how many people visited the Great Smokey National Park in 2016. Only the Blue Ridge Parkway (close by the Smokies) and the Golden Gate National Recreational Area receive a higher number of visitors. The Smokies cover a vast area of Tennessee and North Carolina, with a wide array of things to do and see.

Clingman’s Dome is the highest peak in Tennessee at 6,643 feet and only Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina tops it (by 41 feet) as the highest point east of the Mississippi.

The vistas from Clingman’s Dome are spectacular. On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles across 7 states.

Known for amazing sunsets, Clingman’s Dome is also equally breathtaking at sunrise. The shot in this picture was taken at sunrise. Everyone was facing East looking into the beautiful sunrise. I happened to turn to the North and saw this amazing cloud formation, lit by the rising sun.

If you want a secure spot to view the sunrise or sunset from the viewing platform, prepare to come early. The walk from the parking lot, though not particularly far, does tax out of shape people. So give yourself time to make the hike. A great time to visit this area is during the Fall. At these higher elevations, Fall normally begins in early October, but generally, the peak Fall times in Tennessee are towards the end of October. There are plenty of places to stay nearby. From campsites within the Smokey Mountain National Park to nearby towns like Gatlinburg and Townsend (Tennessee), Cherokee and Maggie Valley (North Carolina).

While you are in the area, take some time to hike to many of the picturesque waterfalls in the Park. Go to this blog post to learn about the Top 9 Hiking Trails with Waterfalls in the Smokies. Or visit the famous Cades Cove. However, I recommend you avoid peak tourist season to navigate the loop through the cove. You will be caught in one of the most frustrating traffic jams. A unique way to visit Cades Cove is by bicycle. Twice a week the 11-mile loop is closed to vehicles until 10 am. For more information visit riding your bike through Cades Cove.

Clingman's Dome

This post was written for the 30 Places 30 Days Local Travel Challenge.