Some First Impressions

As we head into the new year, I have quite a few items I am currently testing, which I doubt that I’ll be ready to review for a while. Instead, here’s some previews and first impressions of items I’m testing.

21L GORUCK GR1

Yep, more GORUCK, more GR1. I’m a huge fan of the GR1, but I’ve never tested the 21L — so I have two that I am testing. Logically, I thought this bag would be perfect, however I’m torn on initial use. The 26L feels way more comfortable on my back, but it’s often a bit too much room for me when I travel.

So far, the 21L has been great for travel, but can feel a tad short on my overly long torso. That said, it’s yet to be uncomfortable. I reserve my right to change my mind later on, but as of right now I believe I prefer this to the 26L size — though not outright. One main reason: it fits under the seat in front of you way better than the 26L does.

GORUCK Packing Cubes

This was a very limited run, and I snagged both the 10L and 20L sizes. These are massive packing cubes. My first impression is that they are nearly useless to me as they are much too large. I do like the clamshell design, but wish they were half the thickness. However, footprint wise they are great. I pack both my kids in the 20L packing cube and it works well for a few days of their crap.

Materials, design, all great. Size is far too large for me though. I’ll keep testing them, but I doubt they will be go-to for me. GORUCK did mention more coming in different sizes later on, but as of right now these are more geared towards heavy packers than light. And certainly work better in a GR2 than a GR1.

GORUCK Echo Field Pocket

I picked this up specifically to keep in my Rucker. It’s a neat size, very narrow and long. You’ll be hard pressed to find a wide array of uses for it, but for a small durable survival kit, it works really well. It’s also nice to have it as an optional attachment in the internal GR1 MOLLE, or the the outside of my GORUCK bags if I run out of space inside. Neat size, but I still think the GR1 Field Pocket is the ideal size and form factor.

Some of the stuff they scaled down on this Echo pocket is a little comical — like the internal mesh pocket. Take the size measurements to heart, and you won’t be disappointed, because once you find something which fits in it, you’ll be happy. I bet I end up picking up another, and GR2 pocket, while keeping my plethora of GR1 pockets for most things. (P.S. I really miss the simple field pockets.)

Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie

I picked this up primarily because I wanted to see what the state of the art is in “active” insulation. Meaning warm jackets made to keep you warm, but also from overheating when you are active. More than that, unlike down, they don’t lose the ability to insulate to the degree that down might when wet. This one is made with Polartec Alpha Direct, which is crazy stuff.

The jacket weighs next to nothing, is comfortable, warm, wind resistant, and breathes insanely well (I’ve rucked with it on a couple times). My only complaint: there’s not a single color option which doesn’t scream “hiking!”. That sucks, but otherwise, super nice. (Check out Everyday Wear if you want to see more of my clothing reviews.)

Filson Tablet Briefcase

I am fairly certain Filson is doing away with these. But places like Nordstrom Rack and Bespoke Post, are selling them at a discount. I picked one up to compliment my beloved Filson Original Briefcase and have found it to be a near perfect size for me. I’ll likely use this a ton.

The downsides are that it doesn’t feel quite the same as my Original Briefcase — not sure why. The shoulder strap attachment and strap are not great. But it looks far better than I expected. It’s Filson, so acquired taste, but I do like it.

Lots of NATO Watch Bands

I’ve been trying to find some decent NATO watch bands. So I’ve ordered probably a dozen at this point. My issue is finding bands which feel premium, and not really shitty. My favorite so far are the Crown & Buckle Premium NATO straps. They are a bit more money than what you find elsewhere, but they are the best of the lot. I have more coming in, but these are going to be hard to beat.

Costco Down Blanket

Every fall Costco sells a Down Throw Blanket for about $19 in the store (often shows for $29 online). The “make your own gear” communities love these. I picked up two, and I’m impressed. They are light, pack down to nothing, but are nice and warm. We have fancier blankets we use in the house, but these are awesome for tossing in the car, or just having should the power go out.

If you see them, grab some. Wish I had bought more.

Handkerchief Carry

I’ve been experimenting with carrying a handkerchief full time, and I’ll go into that more later. But so far the 4 Corners brand is easily among the best. Just the right size, and top notch material.

Stand-Up App

I’ve given up on my Apple Watch, but I still wanted a gentle reminder to stand up and take a break. I’ve been testing this app on my iPad, and I’ve found it is simple and effective.

aLOKSAKs

Massdrop had a run of these a couple months back and I picked up a few. They are glorified ziplock bags which are made to keep your devices dry. I picked ones that fit iPhones and have dropped them into each of my travel bags. Great little addition, take up no room, and seem durable enough. While not breaking the bank if you use them for something else.

Handy.

Namisu X-01 Rollerball Pen

I have a thing for Brass pens, so I snagged this on Massdrop as well — where it’s a daily struggle not to go broke. It’s insanely heavy — almost too heavy. The mechanism for deploying the pen is finicky. And overall I don’t really love writing with it. I do, however, love playing with it. Doubtful that I will use this a ton, but it’s neat.

Machine Era Field Pen

I also grabbed one of these in brass of course. It is fantastic. It takes a space pen refill which isn’t ideal for a lot of writing, but is ideal for keeping in your bag. This is way better than any space pen, and hell probably more durable.

I really dig it. If it wasn’t $65, I’d own a lot more of these.

Enloop Pro Batteries

At the beginning of the year I bought a bunch of Enloop Pro batteries to use with my flashlights. It’s been a long time since I used rechargeable batteries, but these are great. They have a ton of battery life and are pretty easy to manage. Recommended. They also are better for things like flashlights.

Outdoor Research Transcendent Jacket/Sweater

I needed a new down jacket because the only one I had was insanely puffy and had some sort of melt happen to the logo which made it sticky and gross. I picked this one as it is thin, and well made. And that’s about what I’ll say for it. It is warm, not too warm. Not too bulky, fairly light to carry. Compresses well. Is well made.

Nothing at all fancy about it, and I like that.


If you liked this post, it’s something I will be doing more of — first look type posts of items I may or may not write full reviews on later of. But it will be a member only feature going forward. Grab a membership this year, because in 2018 I’ll be increasing the price of the memberships (while current members get to keep the price they have now).

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
7 minutes to read.


tl;dr

A quick look at some items I’m testing right now.