Summer 2016

Three songs that are helping me enjoy the start of Summer 2016


Cabin Zero Bags and Packing Cubes

I have been living here in rural France for coming up to six years now. I frequently travel back to UK and other European cities by air or train and occasionally by car.

Travelling can be a joy if you have the right luggage. You don’t have those moments at the airport wondering if your bag is going to fit within the restrictions imposed by the budget air carriers or that you will not have any spare capacity for a little bit of shopping from where ever you are travelling to. You also want something that is hard wearing and comfortable to carry, those gates at the airport can be some distance from the train station and I’ve not mastered using a skate board quite yet!

My Cabin Zero bags satisfy all of these requirements and more. I’ve had the two bags now for some time (the blue one below and a grey one), on some trips I’ve used both bags, it has been easier to use two of these bags than one larger suitcase. Traversing the Paris Metro can be a nightmare with a wheeled suitcase, there are lots of steps and rough surfaces in places. Also the Cabin Zero bags fit in to the overhead rack of the TGV trains easily. No contest really.

Naturally I only use one of them on airline flights, but the Cabin Zero bag was designed around the size limitations for such flights. I’ve developed a packing list that lets me have everything I need for a weekend away and as a bonus it all fits neatly in to the Cabin Zero backpack.

Cabin Zero bags come in two different styles and a large range of colours, it’s best to see the current range on their website than for me to try and describe it. Here is the description from the website:

The ‘Classic’ ultra-light cabin and travel bag in features a large 44 litre capacity, side compression straps, top and side handles, a front zipped pocket with inside zipped and mesh pockets.

Additional standard features include:

  • Built in Global Luggage Tracker, powered by Okoban
  • Lockable Zippers on main compartment (lock not included)
  • 10 years warranty (upgradable to 25 years free of charge if you ‘like’ us on FaceBook)
  • Thick padded shoulder straps
  • Fully Lined

Volume: 44L 
Weight: 760 grams (approx)
Dimensions: Fits 55 x 40 x 20 cm
Composition, Outer: Waterproof polyester, Lining: Polyester

Cabin Zero Ultra Light Cabin Bag Cabin Zero Bag reverse side

One issue I had the first time I used my Cabin Zero backpack was trying to keep the contents in order. Making the journey through security easier and without the contents spilling out everywhere. I solved the problem with some cheap packing cubes (small nylon zip bags) these help me organise the contents in to logical order and things stay where they should when you carry the bag and when you have to open it and retrieve things.

The ones I originally bought in London where ‘ok’, but I wasn’t 100% happy with them. I commented on the Cabin Zero Facebook page that I thought the whole experience and utility of using the bag would be improved with the addition of some packing cubes to the range of accessories. They acknowledged my message and thanked me for the idea and they said they were working on exactly what I had suggested.

It is always nice dealing with companies that listen to their customers and then exceed their expectations when they deliver a new product. Cabin Zero offered to send me a set of their new packing cubes as a thank you for being a loyal customer, naturally I said yes and I looked forward to receiving them in the post.

I received a set of three Cabin Zero Classic Packing Cubes promptly in the post and unpacked them and inspected them. Compared to the ones I bought from a store in Oxford Street store in London, they are a huge improvement on the ones I have been using. They are made from top quality materials and the icing on the cake is that they are fitted with YKK zips, this brand of zips are also used on the Cabin Zero backpacks as well and they are extremely tough and well made. They are acknowledged as being the best zips made. Therefore they should last for years of service.

The Cabin Zero packing cubes currently come in two sizes of Medium (25 x 17.5 x 8cm) and Large (25x35x8cm)   They are made with a nylon outer and polyester interior lining. Each bag has a carrying handle so you could use it easily on its own outside of your bag.

Medium Packing Cube

Large Packing Cube

In common with the Cabin Zero cabin size bags the packing cubes are also equipped with a luggage tracking tag, which lets you register your bags and packing cubes with Okoban which operate a notification service should your luggage go missing somewhere on your travels anywhere in the world.

The packing cubes are a very practical size, not too big and their dimensions mean they fit in to the overall dimensions of the Cabin Zero back packs perfectly, a set of three (2 medium and 1 large) also don’t take up all of the capacity in your bag, there is still plenty of room for a jacket, laptop and other things like your toiletries, or another set of packing cubes even.

Filled Packing Cubes

Filled bag Large packing cube below the medium size

I’m very pleased with this addition to the Cabin Zero range and I can’t wait to use them on my next trip, sadly that isn’t until early May… but my wife has been eyeing them up and she has offered to ‘test’ them out for me in a couple of weeks time. She is a published author and has already tried the packing cubes out for size for her books, it looks like I will have order her a set as well.

Thank you to Cabin Zero for supplying the samples.


Afternoon walk – Photo challenge

I went for my/our usual afternoon walk, in fact I did it twice although not intentionally, but that is another story.

Today I was on my own and decided to take my old DSLR camera a Canon EOS20D, it’s about 11 years old, but it still all works.

Although I replaced it with a much more modern (and lighter) Canon EOS 100D at the beginning of this year, I still love the way I can find my way around the simplicity of the 20D without having to look at it really.

The 20D has been superseded many times over by the 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D and 70D and I suspect the 80D is just around the corner, quite what they are going to do when they get to 100 I don’t know… my current camera takes up that slot!

So why use the 20D when I have a much lighter and higher spec 100D in my other camera bag? Good question, I came across this blog post a few weeks ago.

I liked the idea behind it of using your digital camera like a film camera. I still have a Canon film SLR but I rarely use it because of the cost of film processing. So this digital equivalent appealed to me.

So the basic rules:

  1. Limit the number of photos to 12, 26 or 36 exposures, the same as the popular 35 mm format.
  2. Lock your ISO speed to one speed and don’t change it.
  3. Turn off the LCD so you can’t review your pictures afterwards, it’s so small on the 20D anyway!
  4. Wait 3 days before you download the pictures off your memory card.

So why use the 20D… well in amongst my collection of Compact Flash cards (CF) that the 20D uses I discovered some quite small sizes, 128 MB, 256 MB, as well as my usual 2GB and 8GB cards. In the highest resolution the 128 MB CF card would let me take 26 pictures or about 12 in RAW format… perfect for this challenge! Also with it’s limited specification (8 Megapixels, lower high ISO performance) the 20D is closer I feel to my film camera than anything else, oh and the weight.. about 1.5 kg with the zoom lens!

So suitably equipped and with the batteries charged I set off on our usual circuit of along and down in to the small hamlet of Fertevault, then along beside the river Thouet to the hamlet of Chambre, then back up the hill to Croix de Chambre. It’s about 3.2 km and normally takes me about 40 minutes. We generally do this same walk either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

I took some photographs and just enjoyed the scenery as always. The photos are nothing exceptional, I’ve taken similar shots before but it is nice to go around with a camera to hand and look for something different to photograph in this familiar landscape.

And here are the photos.

I will do this challenge from time to time, I quite enjoyed it. It was also nice to get familiar again with my old camera.

And why did I do the walk twice… somewhere on my walk I lost my reading glasses, so I went around again, I didn’t find them although, we will look out of them next time around, in the mean time I’m using an old pair!