- Buyer's Guide
Cardamon Wallet Review :: Drive By
Long-time readers of this site know that one of its founding ideas was banishing the bulky wallet. The main “carry” for many of our (male) readers is the wallet and we’ve long subscribed to the idea that thinner is better, and to reduce the load as much as we can. The Cardamon team feels the same way and reached out to us, to get our thoughts on their new wallet. We were sent a few samples and I have been EDC-ing one for a few weeks.
The Cardamon Wallet, currently on Kickstarter, is the culmination of three years of R&D which resulted not only in a surprisingly thin wallet, but the development of an new material called MeridianShell, which is a 300D weight Nylon-Polyester fabric that boasts waterproof and stain resistant properties. It comes in two sizes to accommodate most global currencies and measures just 3.5mm empty and 10mm when full (8 cards). The Cardamon Wallet comes in five colorways , which are all twists on your base colors. For example, the yellow is appropriately named mustard since it is a darker hue than the traditional yellow. Through the use of high-frequency welding and a heat press, they were able to construct a wallet with minimal stitching and virtually no stitching visible.
Who It Suits
The Cardamon Wallet is for a user who is comfortable with distilling down their EDC, and for someone who also appreciations materials and construction. First, the wallet has some stretch to the Meridian Shell material, but Cardamon recommends a maximum of four cards per side. In my use, I’ve found I rarely need more than this, and often will carry four on one side and three on the other, leaving me some breathing room for receipts, or ticket stubs that I want to keep.
The material choice is excellent here, with a hand-feel similar to washed (not raw) denim. There is a slight abrasiveness to it (again, like denim), so it’s different than the soft leather wallets you may be used to. Finally, as described above, the construction is great. I cannot find any visible stitching or thread. Believe it or not, each wallet is constructed out of a single sheet of material, which is impressive to keep in mind while you inspect it.
Who It Doesn’t
If you have fast food receipts and business cards from last year in your wallet, turn away now. In the same vein, it’s not for someone who needs to carry a lot of cash or cards, because any real excess of either will cause the wallet to sit funny, and defeats the purpose.
Let’s start with the fabric Cardamon invented, the Meridian Shell poly-nylon blend. It has a great hand-feel, offers stiffness and structure, which is further backed by the cards you carry. The interior of the wallet is coated with a slightly glossy finish which I think is probably for added abrasion resistance. While comfortable holding it’s billfold shape, the Cardamon wallet also is soft and flexes when needed, contouring itself for pocket carry.
The colorways are vibrant and fun while maintaining a really natural look to them, the way something knit our of a natural fiber might look. The construction is top-notch and it’s not hard to believe that they spent a significant amount of time figuring out exactly how to cut then fold the Meridian Shell material to form the exact shape they were after. I could not locate any visible (or stray) stitching or glue. It’s a rare case of something that is able to look simple only as a result of so much complexity.
Finally, the branding is classy and subtle, though I would have prefer a smaller font or a graphical representation of their logo, which would have been even more discrete.
The Not So Good
Ok, here’s where things might get a little weird. For every positive aspect of the wallet, I’ve found some niggles that balance them out. For example, the great material I was talking about? Well I used my yellow sample with a new pair of unwashed denim. Just pulling out the wallet and returning it to my rear pocket throughout the day, caused the indigo to rub off on the wallet. This is really no different than having your raw jeans dye your new white kicks, or your mom’s light colored new sofa. Cardamon is aware of this and considers the coloration a “patina”. I am not going to fault them much on this since this type of use and wear is common with EDC items (for example, belts that age and color over time).
My second complaint is a really nit-picky one. I love how thin it is, but I feel like it could almost be too thin. I think this is just a result of expectations, meaning, if you are not used to carrying something this light, it might be strange for a bit. When I ned to carry something compact, like a single key (say for a mailbox), I don’t feel comfortable carrying it alone. I feel like I need to attach it to something beefier like a keychain or some sort of charm, so there’s some heft to it. I don’t like the uncertainty of a small item being “lost” at the bottom of my pockets, or in the bottomless pit of a backpack messenger bag.
As a male who carries his wallet in a back pocket, I am constantly doing a subconscious “feel check”. During the week I carried the Cardamon Wallet, I found myself doing physical “safety checks” (just a quick tap of the pants pocket) to make sure it was there. I’ve also found that when you put the limit (8 cards, some cash), the way the wallet sits can be changed wildly with the delta of just one item. I have an expectation that my wallet sits flat with nearly parallel lines, but without contents, the Cardamon wallet sort of bows out a little.
Also, with the two sizing options, Cardamon was able to accommodate much of the world’s currency. I have the US version and I am glad that the bills portion is large enough to fit (I hate it when it is barely large enough or too small). However, I would have liked it if it was a bit shorter. There is over an inch (1/2″ on each side) of excess space. Understandably, they may have had geometric constraints since the billfold nature of the wallet means reducing credit/ID card space when you reduce total width.
We see a lot of wallets come through these halls. Heck, I have close to two dozen sitting in a drawer at home. I want to tell you that I rotate through them every few weeks, but the truth is, wallets are a very personal item (like a pocket knife), and it’s the one of the few EDC items that I think some people keep for years. The bifold is also a very old invention and hasn’t really changed much because it is so simple. It’s hard to really improve on it, but somehow the team at Cardamon has both created something new, yet familiar. At the Kickstarter discounted prices, I think it’s a no brainer. And at full retail, I think it’s at least worthy of a look to see if this is something that you could see yourself using for years to come.