OK, we're going to change pace here a bit from the sturm und drang prepper stuff to to a good old-fashioned product review. After all, the tag line of this blog is "practical tools for making hard times happier", right? Well, here are some practical tools I've been using for the past year or so that have made my travel – and even my everyday work – happier.
I have not been paid or received any form of compensation for this review, nor will I get any kind of benefit if you choose to purchase from this company.
I just love their stuff.
The Genius Pack Hype
I'm a sucker for a good story. The press behind Genius Packs describes a scrappy little crowd-sourced startup trying to apply New Economy ideas to the ancient craft of the suitcase. If you think about it, the "box to carry things in when you travel" is one of those technologies that pre-dates almost everything (which do you think was invented first: the suitcase or the chair). So you'd think that we'd have it right by now.
As a frequent traveler for the past decade, I'm here to tell you: we haven't. When I read about how Genius Pack wanted to revolutionize my packing and travel experience…I resisted. I like to think I am a savvy consumer, and after all, continuing to buy a $2 used suitcase every trip was more frugal, right?
Perhaps it was, money-wise, but there are other costs. Stress, for example, when you're lugging just-under-50-lbs through an airport and a wheel breaks off, or the handle jams. Watching your luggage come down the conveyor belt with the TSA tape wrapped around it because the zipper broke. Things like that. I tried buying "new" luggage from department stores, thinking the lower price tag would give me something along the lines of what Genius Pack promised – only to have them break within one or two trips, if not sooner.
Since I bought my first Genius Pack suitcase – the 21" Hardside Spinner – those stresses have gone away. It fits easily in the overhead, it packs enough clothes and equipment for me for a weekend or more easily, and it just works. From the lock to the wheels to the handle, it is solid construction, but with a high-tech twist, kind of like an iPhone. It just feels well put together.
I did have one disappointment – I had thought the model I bought would have their patented "Laundry Compression Technology" – a way to easily manage clothes when on the road. The spinner didn't, but it worked amazingly well. Side benefit: the finish on the case easily holds stickers of various kinds, which makes it even easier to manage.
Genius Strikes Again
The brilliance of the company's marketing plan is that they have regular sales. Even though my initial look at the G3 22" Carry On Spinner put it out of my price range, at one point it seemed just a no-brainer to me and my wallet – so I shelled out the cash.
Best travel decision I have ever made.
You'd be surprised at the killer features. It's not the "separated pockets" (to be honest, they weren't big enough for me, and I ended up using them for other things). No, it's things you wouldn't expect, like the zip-out water bottle holder, or the umbrella pocket (I don't actually use it for an umbrella, but it's a handy storage space).
And it does have Laundry Compression Technology, which basically functions as an integrated laundry hamper that comes out as a laundry bag, keeping clothes (and, I'll be honest, more importantly, odors) separate. This is one of those things that is better than you'd ever expect, trust me.
I tend to overpack, and the rock-solid zippers and expansion capacity are lifesavers. I also tend to travel with a weird assortment of equipment, and the size and structure of the case work well for everything from gymnastic rings to pancake platters (both of which I had on my most recent trip).
It's not perfect, mind you – the edge of the case is starting to fray from the travel I've been doing, but we're talking multiple trips a month, and if a little fray is all I get from an elegantly functional case, I'll take it. I've never had any functional problems with either of these suitcases in over a year of pretty heavy travel – and that's not something I could have said about any other luggage I've purchased.
The Daily Genius
After a year of using these two products, I was pretty much a Genius Pack evangelist (as you may have noticed). Now, I wasn't totally buying in – I like my own power pack battery and speaker, for example, and besides, I like to disguise my poverty as frugality. But I found myself eyeing the High Altitude Flight Bag more and more, especially as those long flights on coach added up.
Aside from the general features that you'd expect from any tech satchel, it had one very innovative idea: integrated straps that would attach the bag to the underside of the tray table in front of you on the plane, leaving the space under the seat free for your legs. It may seem like a minor thing – but as an owner of broad shoulders and long legs and big feet, it sounded like heaven.
But I was skeptical. Would it work? More to the point, my partners will tell you that I am infamous for finding, buying, and then discarding tech bags because they don't work with my particular equipment needs when I'm on the road or doing a Daily Carry. There was the not-insignificant danger that I would buy this and find that the pockets were too small, or the Velcro too loose, or something else. In fact, I waited until I could actually try it out on a plane before writing this review.
Guess what? Genius Pack is three for three.
Strapping the bag to the tray table was easy. Folding it up meant that I had all my gear – notebooks, pens, headphones, battery packs, cords – within easy reach while still being out of the way. I could still fold down the tray and use it, no problem. And the pack is small enough that even when I did put it under the seat in front of me, it still took up less space.
There are other unexpected benefits. One of the techniques Genius Pack likes to use is labeled pockets – so there's a "headphone" pocket, a "battery" pocket, etc. Even if you don't use the pockets for what they're labeled for, the advantage is that you have a system for telling other people how to use your bag. I can be facilitating and tell my assistant "Here, I don't need my watch right now – put it in the device pocket" and not only do they know exactly where to put it, I also know exactly where to find it.
Again, it's not perfect – my preferred battery, for example, doesn't quite fit the labeled pocket – but that's minor. About the only serious flaw is in the shoulder strap, which is a little too short for my body and, more annoyingly, has a nylon shoulder strap that consistently slips off my shoulder. There is also a carry handle that, while durable, is not as ergonomic to the hand as their other products. I purchased a different strap, though, and plan on weaving a little paracord handle to make it better.
Meanwhile, the bag has become a daily companion, not just for air travel. It fits my two notebooks, portable keyboard, iPad, battery, phone, cords, headphones, and assorted other things that I like to have at hand. It means that I have a self-contained and portable office, and has more than justified the already-reasonable purchase price.
The Principle Behind the Genius
Here's the thing: I don't get anything from writing this review (though, Genius Pack, if you're listening, those compression packing cubes are mighty sexy…). But I have come to love these integral parts of my travel and daily life, and more to the point, by taking the time and money to purchase them I feel more loved by my past self, who took the time to research and purchase them. The benefits of relieving stress are manifold, and this particular brand has improved my travel experience by a significant amount. Whether you buy one for yourself or not is irrelevant; I do hope, though, that when you find yourself irritated or stressed, you might take a moment and think about what kind of investment – monetary or otherwise – might take that stress away, and leave a little more room for love in your life.