Peak Design Travel Line - Wash and Tech Pouch

I’ve written before about my love for Peak Designs bags and products. My current Peak Design bag lineup includes

Black 5L Sling - this is what I use when I’m shooting with my Leica camera or as an accessory bag for flying and family vacations to store a water bottle, battery.

Black 10L Sling - large enough for my MacBook, camera, 2 lenses I travel a lot with this bag.

Black Everyday Backpack 20L - this is for trips where I’m bringing most (but not all) of my camera gear, one or two laptops, headphones, Nintendo etc

Peak recently launched a new “travel” line that starts with the Travel Backpack 45L. This is an incredible bag but it’s large and designed as a primary bag for travel OR a back that I use for photography trips where I am brining 2 bodies, 4-5 lenses, iPad, and all the necessities for a flight.

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Surface Headphones

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A year ago I wrote about the Bowers & Wilkins PX noise cancelling headphones. I have put a hundred thousand miles on these things flying this past year. They continue to be a great product.

People ask me why the B&Ws over the Bose which tend to be the “gold standard” for these situations. There are a few reasons for this… 1. The B&W headphones has better features, 2. I am done purchasing products that charge using micro-USB. That’s really it - I think the Bose are great and if you have them keep using them.

However, I’m here to write about the Surface Headphones - my new pick and recommendation for travel. I prefer them over the B&W for a few reasons.

  • Like the B&W they are USB-C for charging

  • Like the Bose they have audible alerts to tell you information such as battery life and pairing status

  • They have touch controls and physical dials to control volume and the amount of noise cancellation - which works amazingly well. This is probably the best differentiating feature. The B&W uses buttons.

  • They support the ‘assistant’ on your device - be it Siri, Google or Cortana

  • They don’t require an “app” like the B&W to control basic settings such as how much ambient noise to let in

  • They pause when you take them off and resume when you put them back on

  • They can pair to two devices at the same time - a feature the Bose do well and the B&W’s claim that they do - but rarely work.

My main issues with the B&W were that after long periods of wear they are uncomfortable on the top of my head where the band is. The Surface headphones have more padding here. The B&Ws have a wonderful premium feel to them though.

The second issue I had is that whenever I switched devices between iPad or iPhone I had to manually connect (a problem frankly I also have with the AirPods). The Surface Headphones just connect to both and you can even stream audio content from both at the same time.

The Surface Headphones are not perfect. They don’t pack up as compact as the Bose (but similar to B&W). They are gray and not black - I’ll be honest and say that I love black and the new Surface Pro 6 and Laptop 2 are stunning in black. Not space gray or space black - actual black.

I’ve had some minor problems with maintaining pairing with two device - mainly when I get up from my start on a plane and go to the restroom and return - but hopefullly these will be addressed in a firmware update.

The Surface headphones command a premium price at $350 but I’ve seen them come down to $300 on Amazon. I have also heard great things about the new Sony headphones - but I don’t have a pair to try and frankly I’m a bit skeptical.

I’m biased in that I work at Microsoft but I feel that the hardware we are making is some of the best out there and the headphones represent a great first entry into this market.

If you are looking for a new laptop this year I can enthusiastically reccomend the Surface Laptop 2 or Surface Pro 6 if you want a hybrid. Avoid the Surface Book 2 - too heavy. If you have kids, the Surface Go’s can’t be beat - both our kids have them.

If you are looking for headphones this year - give the Surface Headphones a try.

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Omar’s Holiday Picks 2018

It’s that time of year again and I thought I would write you about some gift ideas to think about for the Holidays. Many of the items on last year’s picks are still good too!

Many of the items below are also on sale through Monday.

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Away Luggage

While I remain a huge fan of Rimowa - nothing can beat the Topas Aluminum in Stealth Black, I also appreciate that at that price point - it’s not a great option. I’ve been really impressed with Away. We got our kids their first set of carry on luggage.

I am a huge fan of having these three sizes of bags for travel

Carry On - Normal Size - 34-39 Liters. Great for 2-3 days.

Carry On - Large Size - 45-50 Liters. Some airlines let you bring on this giant a carry on bag - so I have one. I can usually fit 5-6 days of clothing in here. British Airways allows this size.

Check In - I think the sweet spot is 60-68 Liters. Anything bigger is too hard to carry and probably does not meet the weight limit anyway.

I am a big fan of aluminum bags as they have a non zipper and gasket so your bag is shut and nothing is getting in or out of there. This suitcase will get dented and scratched but that adds to the charm.

Use this code and get $20 off your order (I will get a $20 credit) 

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Aura Frame

I wrote about these last year - and they now have a new design. I find that these are the best quality frame out there with a really great iPhone app for updating photos.

Buy - Aura Frame

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Apple iPad Pro

For most people who have an older iPad or for people that don’t, I’d recommend the 11 inch iPad Pro with the Smart Cover Keyboard and Apple Pencil. The new iPad is brilliant.

Buy - iPad Pro

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Apple iPhone Wallet Case

The Apple Wallet case is really well made. I know both men and women that use this - and it was my wife’s holiday pick

Buy - Apple Wallet

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best watch Apple has made so far. It’s a really great product and I love mine. I personally love the black stainless steel, but all the models are great.

Buy - Apple Watch

Apple AirPods

This product is hands down one of the best inventions Apple has made. They last forever, are useful for phone calls or listening to audio books and podcasts. I take mine with me everywhere.

Buy - AirPods

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Surface Go

I think the Surface Go is the best laptop you can get for your kids. Both our kids have them, love them, and use them all the time. They are a bit small for an adult, but for kids no problem. And they won’t break the bank. Yes you could get a cheaper chromebook for your kids that does less.

I would get the top end model (8GB / 128GB HD) with the Pen and the Keyboard.

Buy - Surface Go

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Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer

My wife still loves her hair dryer and so do I (it’s so quiet)!

Buy - Dyson Hair Dryer

FitBit Ace Activity Tracker for Kids

Our daughter loves her Fitbit Ace. This is a tracker designed for kids.

Buy - Fitbit Ace

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Sill Indoor Potted Plants

Plants always make for a great gift, and this company Sill, delivers a whole kit to anyone you want as well as tutorials and instructions for how to keep them alive.

I really like Calathea plants as they look nice and are easy to care for.

Buy - Sill Plants

Proof Merino Shirt

The most amazing t-shirt I own.

Buy - Proof Shirt

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Power Pic

I don’t have this, but I think it’s a fantastic idea - a picture frame by day, a phone charger by night. Twelve South makes awesome products.

Buy - Power Pick

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Nomad Wireless Charger

Another company that makes fantastic products is Nomad. I really like their new Apple Watch + iPhone wireless charger. They also make great cases, wallets and other accessories. They are offering 30% off many items on their site for black Friday.

Buy - Nomad

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Begg & Co Wispy Scarf

This is one of the nicest scarfs I have ever held. I own one in gray and in the winter I take this with me everywhere. It’s unisex and comes in 40 colors. Lora and I each have one. Made from the thinnest Cashmere I have seen. These are really wonderful and they ship directly from Scotland.

Buy - Begg & Co Scarf

Swarovski Annual Edition Christmas Ornament

This is on my holiday list each year as it makes for a great gift or something you can collect each year.

Buy - Swarovski Ornament

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Oura Ring

Lora and I both sleep with the Oura ring - a really impressive piece of technology and sleep tracker.

Buy - Oura Ring

Prepworks by Progressive Magnetic Measuring Spoons

These make for great stocking suffers for the chef in your house.

Buy - Magnetic Measuring Spoons

Kindle Papwerwhite

The new Kindle Paperwhite is awesome - it’s now waterproof too. I like the flush front design and increased storage. I personally have the Oasis as I like having hard buttons, but the regular Paperwhite is a great option for kids as it has a backlight and you can upgrade the storage. I got my son the 32GB model since he reads so many of the same books over and over.

Buy - Paperwhite

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AfterShokz Headphones

I had heard of these before but never tried them. They are hard to describe till you try them on yourself - but essentially these are headphones that you don’t put into your ear - or on your ear. They sit in front of your ear and then make vibrations that are sent into your body and “heard”. The nice thing about them is that you can hear everything around you - which is very convenient for my wife and kids who listen to things at home and when they do it’s nearly impossible to get their attention.

These are great for listening to podcasts or audio books.

The AfterShokz Trekz Air are great for adults

The AfterShokz Minis are great for kids

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Blu Skillet Ironware

The one thing I own in the kitchen that I love the most are my Blu Skillet pans [review]. I have purchased gifts for some friends and family too - but they are hard to come by. So if you are interested they just announced their holiday ordering plans - try and get a 13 inch fry pan or a smaller 10 or 9 inch. If you don’t have one I would start with the 13 inch fry pan. We own the 13 inch fry, french and 9 inch fry.

If you are local to Seattle, stop by in December (get there early) and you’ll probably have good odds of getting one that way too.

Holiday Order Information

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Brown Buffalo Bags

I recently discovered this bag maker in Costa Mesa, CA and have purchased some of their products for myself and family. Their Standard Issue Backpack makes for a great school backpack and I have the Conceal Bag in Camo.

Buy - Brown Buffalo

Fujifilm Instax Mini

These cameras are fun for kids and adults. Our son has one and it’s fun to see the things he likes to photograph and to also slow him down a bit and take photos with a scarce resource - film.

Buy - Fujifilm Instax













Merino Wool Shirts

I’m currently in South East Asia and wanted to travel light for this trip. As such I was on the look out for some merino wool shirts. I have brought two brands with me that I am enjoying and I thought I would write about my experience.

Over the past few years you’ve probably noticed more and more merino wool products. Merino has many qualities that make it perfect for travel (or really every day usage).

  • Works in any temperature - Merino works well in both cold and warm weather
  • Odor resistant - Merino wool can usually be worn for days without any odor occumulation
  • Quick drying - Merino wool dryes quickly
  • Wrinkles - wrinkles don’t form

I've been trying them both out on this trip. They both clock in around the same price - $65-$68 a shirt. 

Proof Crew Neck shirts from Huckberry

This shirt is made from 16.5 micron New Zealand Wool and Nylon blend.

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 Unbound Crew Neck Shirt

This shirt is made from 100% 17.5 micron New Zealand Wool.  They are about to launch a Women’s line too. 

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You don’t need very many of these as a few shirts can be worn for days. They also pack light.

I personally like the Proof shirts more. They are just a bit thinner and have a nice drape to them. They have a bit of nylon blended into the shirt which allows the shirt to be washed and dried (I don't recommend - just hang dry as it’s fast drying). 

I have the black, blue and grey and the colors are just what I was looking for. 

The shirt can be worn as a layer but can also be dressed up. 

Here is me in the proof shirt in medium in black 

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Heath Ceramics

2 years ago, we replaced all our Dinnerware with products from Heath Ceramics. After more than 10 years with our previous dinnerware we wanted a product that would last a long time and was incredibly durable.

Heath Ceramics has been making Dinnerware since 1948. Some of their pieces will be found in many restaurants around the country. Their products are hand made.

If you have a chance to visit their store in the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or their showroom in the Mission - it’s well worth it.

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iPhone Xs and Apple Watch Series 4

Last year Apple released the iPhone X. This was arguably the biggest change in the iPhone since the introduction of the “Plus” sized phones a few years prior. You can read my review from last year.

I was very bullish on the iPhone X and I regard this as the best phones I have owned… until now.

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are an evolution of this product. The changes are not significant but they are meaningful. Whether they are meaningful enough for you to upgrade - that’s up to you but I will spell out some scenarios to consider.

The biggest decision when considering the Xs is the size. I decided to purchase the “Max” or the bigger one. I will admit that this was the toughest decision or me to make. After living with the phone for a week, I’m glad I made this choice - but it’s not a perfect choice. I think the size of the new iPhone Xr (which I won’t plan to review) is closer to what I’d want.

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