Product Review

Reviewing Alkr's Urban Protection Sleeve

Alkr Laptop Sleeve

I keep my MacBook Pro shinier than a baby's bottom. Never do I set my backpack down without taking extra care for my precious laptop. And when my travels brought me to Fiji in December, I needed something special to cover my silver slab of genius through the bumpy rides, sweltering heat, and cyclone weather. May I introduce my Alkr Urban Protection Sleeve; it's Fiji-tested.

The Melon Shock Sleeve

The dudes at Alkr are just like me; they love their technology and love to travel. They pose an interesting question, "Why not put your beloved gadget in something that excites you, much like the gadget itself?" With its cushioned interior and a flamboyant, durable neoprene exterior, it gets the job of protecting and invigorating...done.

The Urban Protection Sleeve offers the following:

IMG_1383

Complete notebook protectionPadded at every angle, this sleeve absorbed the shock from multiple bouts of rough transportation, namely the carrier from the coastal highway to the inland valley of Namosi. Namosi means "valley of pain," since the journey to the interior on foot was a difficult one (the journey in the carrier not being that much better). Not only did the sleeve absorb the bone-rattling drive but also kept leaking tuna head juice on the floor from penetrating my laptop. That's some serious protection.

Form-fitting 3mm neoprene construction It certainly was form fitting, and this is one of the two reasons why I had a little difficulty with my sleeve. I have a 15" MacBook Pro, and placing it into the cover was always a tight squeeze, especially when I closed the zipper. I'm guessing it's essential to have the neoprene hug the computer in order to offer optimal protection, but a few millimeters here would have taken the pressure off the zipper and allowed it not to snag.

Heavy-duty zipper with closed-seam construction The closed seam and strong zipper, along with the tension of the tight squeeze, could be why the fabric holding the zipper became thin and unable to handle all the activity. It probably lasted a good month before I couldn't zip it fully anymore, for fear of not being able to take my laptop back out. These days, I simply place my computer in the sleeve and leave it unzipped, which still protects the laptop to a good extent. Sadly, one of the zipper handles also fell off because that which held it in place was bent from the pressure of zipping too strongly.

Cushioned interior with soft fleece lining As I said previously, the cushioning was fantastic, and the soft fleece lining superior. No complaints here!

Compatibility with many laptops The urban protection sleeve can accommodate the 13" MacBook, Air, and Pro, as well as the 15" MacBook Pro and PowerBook. Alkr is a new company, and their product line will grow in the future, possibly accommodating 17" MacBooks.

The Pro/Con Balance

My melon shock sleeve is one tight little case, as the appearance certainly reflects a creative and exciting air. I received my product mere days after the company launched its sales in certain countries, so I assumed I received one from a preliminary litter. Therefore, I was very understanding that it had a fit and zipper issue; it takes a while to perfect the product line. However, I would have preferred to have a fully functional case for my laptop in Fiji and today on my wee intra-state trips.

I didn't pay for this sleeve, but would I purchase my next one? Yes, because my issues with the sleeve's malfunctions would be covered in the warranty and replaced or repaired at no cost to me. I'd rather not go back to something dull and lifeless.

DSC_0157

The Real Travel Situations I put my laptop and sleeve in a thin backpack on the floor of the carrier en route to the village. A woman sitting at the front of the bed had recently purchased a frozen fish head that was melting its juices in a stream toward my backpack. I didn't realize what happened until we grabbed the pack and smelt the odor. Thankfully, my laptop didn't smell at all like fish, and the sleeve easily rid itself of the smell in a simple hand wash.

I took at least ten trips on the village carrier, three-hour bumpy rides through rivers, potholes, and hurricane aftermath. My laptop never incurred any damages.

The zippers easily fit together to lock up, keeping unwanted guests from playing games and fiddling with my laptop.

The Bottom Line

Part of the reason why I'm still a fan of Alkr is the person behind it. Juergen found me via twitter after I inquired about laptop cases. His outreach was amazing, and I found him to be a very kind and reliable guy. I'm not interested in doing business with apathetic people, and as I've told many backpackers I've met around the world, I simply love Germans. Win...and win for Alkr.

Next time you consider buying a gadget accessory (a laptop sleeve perhaps), give Alkr a perusal, because if you like any color in your life, you'll be barking up the right tree.

These sleeves are sold in stores in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Netherlands and Switzerland, but they can also be shipped via UPS around the world for a reasonable fee.

Reviewing JanSport's Air Kirkwood (Day) Backpack

JanSport Air Kirkwood

JanSport Air Kirkwood

Anything that can last through two and a half months of rigorous travel, changing climates, and the constant use of the World Traveler Internship deserves some feedback on its performance. Since my bag from the Big Journey ripped at the seams, I was out a day pack until JanSport sent the top ten finalists a set of three luggage pieces. Included was the pictured Air Kirkwood Backpack with all sorts of snazzy elements. I'd used JanSport's classic backpacks in grade school but had yet to use their more specialized models.

JanSport describes itself as "the Original Outdoor Gear Brand that embodies a culture of fun and discovery. We equip people globally with quality, enduring and reliable products that enable the freedom to experience life's adventures." I'm here to tell you if they delivered on this promise.

The Bag - Air Kirkwood (TQK1)

"Our goal at JanSport is to design, engineer, manufacture and market products that can help you get from point A to point B, wherever that may be."

My points A and B were the same place: home. The route between them was one heading westward across the Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and America. The Kirkwood bag needed to last those 38,322 miles and still make me look stunning. The bag functioned as a laptop case, a camera case, a filing cabinet, a plane nighttime bag, a library, and oh so much more. It was always my carry-on piece and was able to carry nicely the 10 pound maximum sometimes enforced on certain airlines.

Let's take a look at the details, shall we?

AirLift™ shoulder straps

Padded by a solid gel-like matter, referred to by JanSport as AirLift, the straps held the loads nicely by distributing the weight across their wide surface. Curving and contouring to the body, they didn't cut into my underarms or back of the neck.

One large main compartment

In this middle, main pocket, I normally held my books, DSLR and HD cameras, clothing, or larger items purchased out and about. I always had to be careful setting it down because the bottom isn't padded at all, but I don't suspect many backpacks have this feature. I often filled this, as well as all, compartments to the brim and never did the zippers snag or malfunction in any way.

Organizer compartment with dual accessory pockets

One main compartment with Quilted-padded Laptop Sleeve

One main compartment with Quilted-padded Laptop Sleeve

The dual accessory pockets were great for pens or an old school Nokia phone, but I especially liked the central zip pocket perfect for storing extra coins from world currencies. They didn't clutter up the floor of my bag, and I believe me when I say nothing gets me more urked than reaching into my bag and fingering through undergrowth of pen caps, food, coins, and gum onto get a rogue crumb lodged under my finger nail. Pure hell.

Quilted sleeve fits 15" laptop

The laptop(s) always slept soundly in this rear compartment, which obviously had adequate padding (though I sometimes worried about the bottom of the bag and the impact of placing it on the ground. It's also a nice place for folders and papers.

Fully padded back panel with ventilation channel

The center of the backpack's back has a little air canal amidst mounds of padding for your left and right shoulder/lat areas.

Tricot lined V-loft pocket

I don't know what that description is really talking about, but I enjoyed the soft lining and convenient positioning of the pocket on top. Quite shallow and easy to access, this was perfect for ear plugs, eye cover, aspirin, and anything else I utilized on transportation. Large enough to hold iPods and decks of cards, I really appreciate any bag with a little specialized pocket, for which you can apply a much-needed purpose.

Side water bottle pocket

Also good for catching dirty tissues when your hiking with the swine flu, roll of toilet paper in hand.

Reflective details for nighttime visibility

Yes, this bag can see in the dark.

Side compression straps keep pack close to the body and manage the load

These straps certainly keep the load to the body for enhanced movement, and they also create instant cleavage.

Padded grab handle

When this bag is packed to it's 30.32L capacity, it can be a little too much load for one feeble and travel-weary back. That's when having a padded grab handle comes in handy. Without cutting into your hand as you walk around the airport or museum, you can only blame your discomfort on your poor upper-arm strength.

The Pro/Con Balance

How many runway models, jet-setters, and local inhabitants do you see wandering around cities with backpacks on if they're not business men who bike or obviously going/coming from school? Not many. In certain destinations, backpacks are incredibly vulnerable to petty crime (e.g. bag slashing in Zanzibar's Stone Town). In others, it's just an easy indicator of an out-of-towner, and this sometimes-unavoidable distinction can create more difficulties for the toter.

However, wandering Kata Tjuta's massive, red formations is a perfect opportunity to utilize a bag like the Air Kirkwood. And what was beneficial for me, someone who likes having all their valuables and entertainment nearby, was the fact that the two straps put the load across my entire back and not on one shoulder (like a messenger bag would). Not to say this bag didn't add stress to my frame, but evening out the load makes things much easier on an already fatigued back.

A backpack is, well...to put it brilliantly, a backpack: it must be taken off to be inspected; it can never come across as a purse or a man bag; it immediately makes any ensemble look sporty or ultra-casual. It all depends on how you function on your travels. If you're always running across rocks and plains, hiking up clay-like mud heaps and carrying heavy loads, the Air Kirkwood would fit your needs quite well. However, it's no fun placing your backpack on your front when walking through a crowd or a notorious area for petty crime. Museums hate backpacks and make you store it or hold it at your side.

It's also something to think about how your day pack is carried when you wear your large backpack. I found my combined JanSport Klamath and Air Kirkwood duo was quite uncomfortable while in transit, and I wouldn't want to walk around a city or even an airport too long like this.

The Real Travel Situations

Even fully loaded, this bag fit in every overhead compartment and under every seat in front of me.

The lack of accessories on the front of the pack enable this surface, as well as the padded back, to be used as an impromptu pillow while waiting for transportation or trying to sleep on a plane.

A travel partner in South Africa, to put it nicely, blew chunks (maybe that wasn't such a nice way to put it) all over this fully packed bag. It came out victorious, barely soaking in any of the moisture and keeping my articles dry.

After washing the bag for the first time in the washer, it came out smelling like dirty feet. I don't know what that was about...

Bottom Line

Leaving Indy with my JanSport Klamath and Air Kirkwood bags

Leaving Indy with my JanSport Klamath and Air Kirkwood bags

JanSport delivers on their product mission of designing, engineering, manufacturing and marketing products that get you from A to B, accentuating quality, endurance and reliability, and they certainly do "equip people globally," as I've seen children across India, Africa and America carrying their classic backpacks. When this item was put to the test this summer, it proved victorious on virtually all accounts, except for maybe a versatility factor. You definitely can't seamlessly go from the farm to a chic club with this bad boy.

Did this product review help you out? Comment below!