Top 5: Best Accessory 2020
Accessories really are the finishing touch on any sort of carry. They allow you to organize, sort, supplement and enhance your traveling or EDC experience. This year we have everything from a tech pouch to a tripod that packs down to a size smaller than previously thought possible. Read on to see what makes each Best Accessory of 2020 special.
Previously, the only small pouches found in every packing list were dopp kits but now, in addition to carrying a toothbrush and shampoo, a second dopp kit of sorts is required. With laptops, tablets, cameras and smartphones all requiring their own entourage of adapters and cables, the tech kit is a necessary evil to keep things organized.
The Tech Kit from Bellroy comes in three colorways: Marine Blue (Baida Weave), Black or Light Grey (both Recycled Ripstop PET). I think it’s fascinating that Bellroy gives not just a color option but material option for most products in their collection. This puts the decision-making onus on the consumer but it also empowers them to learn about and appreciate the sustainable material(s) that go into the product they are buying.
The Tech Kit measures 130 x 230 x 72 mm which is a Goldilocks set of proportions for me. It’s large enough for all your essentials but also small enough to encourage you to bring only what you’ll need. It lays flat for easy access and features a magnetic slip pocket for your power bank, stretch mesh for your mouse or laptop charger, and an elastic cable organizer that is wide enough to actually hold any cable type or length you throw at it.
Bellroy designs their products to be functional (in this case a protective home for all your peripherals) but they also know products can invoke emotional attachment. The Tech Kit has a bit of structure and form to keep its shape, even when empty. This is done through careful patterning and the use of die-cut foam. The darts in the corners and the windowpane weave of the material is even reminiscent of a tailored suit.
Using the Tech Kit is a joy. It holds everything I need with enough stretch to allow for flexibility in sizing but not too much to risk items falling out of place. The pen (or stylus) loop is a clever addition because having a pen nearby never hurt anyone. The structure means the kit stays a consistent shape and it offers protection for your valuable contents.
The attention to detail is evident with a leather pull tab that allows interaction with a buttery smooth No. 5 zipper. Leather makes an appearance at other locations too, such as a tasteful Bellroy font patch on the top and a small one featuring just the logo at one zipper end. What sets the Bellroy Tech Kit apart from its competitors in this field is the focus on sustainable materials, the clever use of patterning and a sartorial nod and the lay-flat feature. I think it’s such a great middle ground size that’s big enough to fit your essentials but still able to easily fit in your backpack, briefcase, or duffel. It’s the perfect quiver to carry your tech kit!
Elegant and eco-friendly materials
Like espresso, there’s both an art and a science to pour-over coffee. Enthusiasts pore over the details of grind size and weight, water temperature and the ratio between bean and water weight.
MiiR has been producing some of the best performing steel and vacuum insulated drinkware since 2010. In 2018, at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, they gave a sneak peak of the Kickstarter campaign they were about to launch for The Pourigami, a small packable dripper for coffee drinkers on the go.
The Pourigami weighs just 4 oz and measures just 6.2cm x 12.7cm x 2.4mm unassembled. When packed inside the included pouch, complete with elastic keeper, it is thinner than most wallets and narrower and shorter than a small notepad.
Setup is easy and takes less than 15 seconds with practice; you simply line up the long edges horizontally and interlock the deep and shallow grooves. Once that’s done, put it on top of your drink vessel (a camp cup perhaps), top it with a filter (V60 No.2 works great) and some coffee, and you’re set. The triangle design assures stability on top of the cup and the powder-coated stainless construction means it’s able to withstand the weight of the grounds and water and the heat during brewing.
There are other travel or portable pour-over solutions on the market. Some are single-use and comprise of a tea bag filter material with two stiff wings that spread out and hook over the sides of a mug. You then open the perforated top and slowly pour water in. While this method is very portable, it is very slow to use because the bag is filled after just 1-2 oz of water and you need to wait as it flows through the grounds.
Other designs mimic the traditional pour-over filters but just construct it out of plastic, instead of ceramic. While this keeps things lightweight, the odd funnel shape of the coffee maker means it’s delicate to pack and takes up too much room.
I make some form of pour-over coffee almost every day and I’ve always been keen on ways to recreate the home experience outdoors. What sets the Pourigami apart is it is sturdy, holds a filter securely, and totally packs flat, down to the size of a few credit cards stacked.
Often it is just an accepted sacrifice that when you travel or are out in the wilderness, good coffee is simply not practical. But, for the coffee enthusiast who wants to control how their coffee is brewed and will have access to hot water at their destination, the MiiR Pourigami means that great coffee is not only possible but well within reach.
For many, the arrival at a work or home office desk to start the workday includes an obligatory pocket dump of wallet, keys, phone and perhaps an assortment of fob, EDC tool and pen. This might land on the desk just below the monitor, or for the more tidy employees, in an office drawer.
The Nest, which launched via Kickstarter earlier this year, is Orbitkey’s fourth campaign and their first foray into products to help you organize outside your pockets!
The Nest is a portable and customizable desk organizer. It could be described as a more elegant version of the valet you have on your nightstand. It measures 240mm wide, 120mm deep and is 41mm tall. The top is a genuine leather surface which won’t scratch or damage your accessories. The interior is covered in a nylon poly melange fabric which provides a soft touch and cushiony feel.
The top cover is secured with an elastic band which hooks around zinc alloy hardware but can be unleashed and opened back, off a clever hinge design, allowing you full access to the contents. This same cover can be completely removed by lifting it straight up. Inside, you’ll find six movable dividers to make the space your own.
Besides the portability and customizable interior space, the Nest has one more trick up its sleeve – the top is a 10W wirelesss charger that is compatible with an iPhone 8 and newer, Android phones and other devices that are Qi enabled. This makes it both the perfect resting spot for your smartphone and a convenient charging spot as well. It takes a single USB-C input for power, thankfully.
Besides placing a valet tray on your work desk, or just arranging your pocket contents neatly into one corner, there is not much out there that rivals the Nest. It is perfect for someone who carries a smartphone, set of keys and wallet to work each day (probably the majority of people), and wants a convenient “home” for them to live in. The charger means your phone is always juiced but the wireless aspect means you can easily pick it up to answer or check a notification. The interior is perfect for the item you need occasionally (power bank, chapstick, cables and adapters) but don’t need to be visible at all times. The elastic band gives peace of mind and also serves to allow the whole Nest to be taken with you to a meeting room, while the pen/stylus loop in the back means you’re ready to take notes or make design sketches.
There’s really nothing like the Nest that I can think of. There are desk valets, but this takes it to the next level. It is a convenient place to rest (and charge) your phone, wallet and keys but goes a step further by providing additional storage. You can grab it and bring it along to meetings or outings and you have a little accessories kit with you at all times.
Orbitkey has defined a product category with the Nest, giving a sense of home and organization to everything that we carry with us, every day.
Compact, portable and customizable
Peter, Art, and the team at Peak Design have the Midas touch, and anything they set their sights on seems to turn to gold. Whether it’s improving on sling and lash options for cameras, or turning the EDC and travel pack industry on its head, you can be sure the crew from San Francisco always come correct.
Winner of Carryology’s 2019 Best Innovation Award at Outdoor Retailer, the Travel Tripod is the latest in Peak Design’s string of hits. The first thing that stands out is the amazing use of space, or rather lack of wasted space, in the design. A traditional tripod is comprised of a center column and three legs around it, forming a triangle. Each of these elements is a simple cylinder; round surfaces don’t mate very efficiently. Peak spent four years redesigning the tripod to eliminate dead space and minimize packed-down size. In fact, it gets down to 39.1cm in length, with a 7.9cm diameter.
They also eliminated protruding knobs, so packed down, the Travel Tripod fits easily in water bottle pockets for easy transportation on your next shoot. It comes in two versions – aluminum at 1.56kg and carbon fiber at 1.27kg and can reach a maximum height of 130.2cm.
Once you get to your shooting location, the deployment is super fast with their cam levers. You can operate multiple levers at a time and with practice, you can deploy the tripod in under 15 seconds; 20 if you don’t rush. A ballhead is built in and comes with an ARCA-compatible Standard plate.
Speaking of, head operation was dramatically simplified – with a single adjustment ring providing total articulation and a locking ring for additional stability and vibration reduction. Three portrait cutouts means swapping orientation is lightning fast.
But it’s not just the space-efficient design, rapid deployment and quick-adjust head that make the Travel Tripod a joy to use; it’s the flexibility it offers, allowing it to accompany and support your workflow instead of asking you to conform to it.
Case in point: a stowable universal mobile mount is included and is hidden in the center column, ready for your next adventure. This means no additional adapter or phone clip is required. The Travel Tripod is also extremely versatile. It can be converted to Inverted Mode in seconds to allow for a top down shot, perfect for macro or product photography. It can also be configured in a Low Mode, giving you a low to the ground perspective. With the ultralight conversion kit, it turns into a tabletop backpacking tripod.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is an industry leader in this space for many reasons. The way the legs were designed to fit around the core is much more efficient than how tripods are traditionally designed. Speaking of legs, they deploy extremely quickly due to the cantilever locks and can hold up to 20lbs. It has a single, easy to grip and manipulate, knob that adjusts the head. And tests have shown that it’s both stable and stiff compared to heavier tripods.
I haven’t touched on all the features, but it’s clear why the Peak Design Travel Tripod has made it into this year’s Top 5. It’s thoughtfully designed, versatile, lightweight, easily packable, and performant.
Wins in innovation
Top-tier build and construction
Tile was not the first tracker I used, but it’s the one that has stood the test of time and has constantly improved on their technology and offerings. The premise is simple, you attach a tracker to your keys, backpack, laptop, anything you don’t want to misplace, and the app informs you when something gets out of range.
The Tile Sticker was launched in Fall 2019 and is one of their newest products. It’s the size of a thick coin, just 27mm wide and 7.3mm thick. It is waterproof and comes with a three-year battery and an adhesive back. It boasts a range of 150 feet. The last feature is what sets it apart in the Tile line and from other trackers. It’s easy to stick it and forget it on anything that you want to track.
I’ve been locked out of work a few times so it went straight on my ID badge the moment I got it. I’ve had the card in my pocket and pulled it in and out of my backpack every day when I was going into the office, and there’s no peeling or any sign of it coming loose.
As mentioned the non-replaceable battery is rated for three years and it includes a single UX element on it – a small button on the surface. Press the button and your phone rings. Yes, it works in reverse as well, helping you locate that phone that’s somehow gotten between the cushions or left on a nightstand.
Besides the set it and forget it design, the app is the best part of the Tile Sticker, or really the Tile collection. It lets you manage individual trackers, set preferences like ringtone and volume, and share your Tiles with family so they can help you locate the items. Another powerful tool is community find, which allows anyone with the app and who is within range of your item to update its location. For example, in my area there are 848 members who could potentially help me locate a lost set of keys. I think this could be especially useful in crowded areas like a mall or airport terminal.
I’ve used other tracking products and I think the Tile stands apart for a few reasons. First, if you ever were to need to turn to crowdsource product-locating, the one that would probably fare the best is the one with the largest network of users and Tile takes the crown here. Second, the battery on the Tile Sticker, while not replaceable, has outlasted competitors by twice the amount of time. My original battery still hasn’t worn out yet. Finally, the Tile doesn’t provide any false positives that I have seen from competitors, incorrectly reminding me that I may have left my keys behind.
For users who want additional convenience and peace of mind, Tile offers a Premium service that adds Smart Alerts to remind you when you’ve left your item behind, battery replacement (only for the Mate and Pro), location history, unlimited sharing, and an extended warranty. However, out of the box, the Tile Sticker checks all my boxes for an unobtrusive tracker that gives me some peace of mind that I know where the items important to me are.
Voting for Best Accessory ends September 15th