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Review: Gate8 Trifold Cabin Bag – Part 2

For a long time I’ve struggled to look past the SwissGear and the Wenger kit for my choice of bag. From laptop bags to backpacks and on to rollaboards I’ve found them to be robust, well build and very capable of fulfilling my needs – except for one – carrying suits. Discussing (debating really) with John one evening he suggested I try the Gate8 Trifold Cabin Bag to see if it would work for my needs.

Once I got it I could see immediately that the key plus with this bag is its ability to fit my clothes for an entire week including spare suits and all while fitting in main cabin storage on every domestic flight. I travel to a number of remote regional airports and frequently find myself on puddle jumpers where anything bigger than a back-pack ends up valet checked at the gate (adding 10-15 mins to your wait at the destination gate).

Gate8 Fits easily on all planes

Gate8 Fits easily on all planes

The Gate8 Trifold is perfect for these scenarios and I’ve not had a single gate-check since I started using it.

Packing the Gate8 Trifold Cabin Bag

Packing this thing wasn’t easy the first few times and perhaps I was missing some key instruction cards that John forgot to pass on but in the end I figured it out and wow was I impressed. Take next week as an example, I’ll fit 3 x suits, 5 shirts, spare shoes and various other small bits into the bag which kit me out perfectly for a week at TechEd 2016. All told I can fit all the clothes I would need for 5 days at a customer site with very little problem. It takes a few tries to get used to but now that I have my system worked out I am incredibly comfortable packing for a week including spare suits, evening-ware and of course gym kit.

The Laptop Case

The Gate8 Trifold gets two negative marks from me, some issues around the handles as you’ll see later and the laptop bag. The accompanying laptop bag is a big let down in a lot of ways. Firstly it is designed to zip onto the front of the bag to create one unit. Since I got the bag I have NEVER used this feature for a number of reasons:

  • I normally use my laptop and charger etc. in-flight so having it attached to the bag in the overhead bin is not necessary. I prefer to place it at my feet as it takes up little/no space and can be placed upright between the floor and seat leaving ample legroom.
  • When full with a spare suit, shirts, spare shoes etc. the main bag becomes a bit bulky with the front becoming slightly bow shaped so that getting the laptop bag onto the main bag is nearly impossible to do easily. I prefer to carry the laptop bag on top of the main bag latched onto the telescopic handle.

Secondly I have found the laptop bag to be a disappointment for me in general. Don’t get me wrong, it works and I have been using it but you could change a little to make it a LOT better. Take for example the front area for smaller items. What I look for in a bag is smaller individual compartments to hold items such as:

  • Passport
  • Business Cards
  • Headphones
  • USB storage keys

I’m probably a bit picky on this but if a laptop bag is going to carry my day’s worth of kit (laptop, charger, notebook and other smaller bits) I need it to have a bit more structure and have something similar to the Wenger laptop briefcases. The search for a combined laptop bag and main tri-fold has very clearly led to trade-offs in the laptop bag and creating an underwhelming experience.

Build Quality

For the most part I can’t fault the build quality of the Gate8 TriFold with a single exception. Unfortunately the leather-like handles of both the bag itself and the accompanying laptop bag began to flake and fall apart after using the bag for just 5 weeks straight and now, almost 3 months later, there is no coating left on the handles.

Handle Issue with Gate8

This isn’t the end of the world as the bag itself is so good in other ways however its very annoying to be carrying the bag and then look down to find pieces of the handle covering your hands – not good and easily fixed I would think. Otherwise it is well build and I haven’t seen any other problems.

Accessories

As John mentioned in his post, the bag comes with a number of accessories such as the 3-1-1 bag which is excellent as well as triangle zip holders which fit excellently into the main area of the bag for carrying socks and other things. I haven’t got the shirt holder yet but I’m certain an investment in that area will be happening in the future.

Conclusion

In all honesty, the only thing I can say about the main bag is that I love it – I only have the two negatives I mentioned above as my bug-bears. For the laptop bag I can see myself replacing it with another of my laptop bags in the near future. I’ve forced myself to use the one that came with it until now but realistically it’s just not for me. On the handle front, I’ll have to look at my options to get those replaced if I’m going to continue to use the bag.

The Gate8 Trifold is perhaps the best bag I’ve used to date when it comes to traveling for work for 3-5 days. Its size, functionality and overall design make it my go-to bag for weekly travel and I can’t see that changing. A big thumbs up to the guys at Gate8 for creating this well thought out bag.

My parting suggestion for the future though – don’t try to be all things to all people. I would give up the laptop bag aspect of the design and concentrate on it being an awesome consultants dream-bag for living away from home for 3-5 days a week.

iPad Pro in the Enterprise: 9.7 observations after 9.7 weeks

I’ve owned the iPad Pro for around 9.7 weeks now (nearer to 12 weeks, but whatever 🙂 ), and one of my co-workers asked me if I still love it. It seemed like it would be a good time to write a mid-term review, so here’s ten observations.

1) It’s a scalpel, not a Swiss Army Knife

The iPad Pro has a very specific use case for me, and I don’t find it’s a general purpose device like my MacBook Pro. For instance, it excels on a day like today, where I have a 3.5h journey each way to a 2h meeting. I’ll be back home within 8h, and I want to travel light.

Out comes the iPad Pro, which fits in a tiny bag which my coworkers call a Murse and my other half calls a Purse. Still, it flies through security and the only other things in it are a few business cards, a spare battery for my iPhone, wallet, and keys.

2) It’s great for times you don’t want a laptop

Unlike previous iPads, the iPad Pro is fully functional enough to use for 90% of my tasks. I’m going on vacation at the end of July, and I definitely will not be taking a laptop with me, and I won’t miss it. The iPad Pro is just as good for browsing, email and chat, and much better for books and movies.

What’s more, when I’m at home on the sofa, or on vacation, it’s a much less intrusive device: I can get a few emails done without intruding on our personal time.

3) It’s not at all oversold

My memories of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 were marred by the fact that the sales literature was total BS, and it didn’t live up to the promises, especially on battery life. I don’t know if the iPad Pro meets the battery claims to the minute, but I can tell you that even with a very tough day, I have battery left at the end. There is absolutely no need to bring an additional charger for a day trip. The keyboard is better than I expected for a compact keyboard and I get 70-80% of my laptop typing speed.

The performance stats claim it’s as fast as a Mac or and iPad Pro, and I feel that might be stretching it, but I never really run out of steam.

4) It has the best screen, ever

I have to specifically call out the screen. I can go and lie in the sun and read a book, and it is plenty bright enough (and the battery will still last a day). The person next to me right now is using an iPad 3, and it’s like night and day. The iPad 3 is dull and hard to read.

5) Optimized apps are good…

I had a revelation the other day when using the eBay app to sell a few items: apps designed for the iPad Pro can be flawless. You use the keyboard to type the description, use the camera, which is as good as a compact camera, to snap photos of the items directly within the app, and post. You can post an item end-end in just a few minutes without transferring pictures a between devices or tapping on a screen.

6) … And can be even better

eBay is an example of an app that has it just right… But there aren’t enough of these yet. The WordPress app that I’m using right now has not been optimized for the iPad Pro, which is a shame, because WordPress is a perfect use case for the iPad Pro. Medium have done a slightly better job.

This gets better all the time, and Microsoft have done a great job with the Office suite, which also integrates with Dropbox on the iPad for an immersive user experience that allows access to all your business files on Dropbox. It also works with Two Factor Authentication (2FA), which is critical to me.

7) It’s not a laptop replacement

I’m very happy with the iPad Pro’s place in my life, but it’s not a laptop replacement. I do however find my laptop spends more of its time on my desk, where I do things like prepare forecasts, presentations, business plans, CRM and analytics. The iPad Pro doesn’t shine when you need to move quickly between multiple apps, copy and pasting data and doing complex functions.

8) Security appears excellent

With a mix of our primary bussiness cloud-based software like Office 365, Dropbox and Slack, all of which support two factor authentication (2FA), and the Touch ID on the iPad Pro, combined with a very complex passcode and Find My iPad, I feel very confident that the iPad provides great security on the move.

If someone steals it, I can find it, they won’t be able to get into it, and it is easily remote wiped, and the apps are easily disabled. Nothing is perfect, but Apple’s attitude towards security with the recent FBI hacks makes me feel very comfortable that customers trusting their confidential information with me are safe.

9) It’s the perfect device on the move

A few things add up to this. First, the on-board LTE and SIM mean that it’s always on. No need to teteher to an iPhone or WiFi hotspot, no messing around. Just pull it open, and it’s always ready for you within a few seconds.

Second, it’s very compact and… TSA compliant. You don’t have to take it out your bag at security checkpoints in the US, and you can use it on planes during take off and approach – both from an airline perspective, and from a space/usability perspective.

Final Words

I really love my iPad Pro. Do I use it every day? No. But that’s not really the point of it. It’s a scalpel, not a Swiss Army Knife, after all. And it’s one of the few devices you could use to write and finish a blog like this on a 45 minute flight.

Even a few months in, I still struggle with the cost, but since there’s nothing like it, I had better stop complaining about that!

Review: Gate8 Trifold Cabin Bag – Part 1

Everyone has to have a hobby, and one of mine is bags: I’ve got a cupboard-full of different bags for different travel occasions. So when the Chief Bag Carrier from GATE8, Alaister, got in touch and offered me up a bag in exchange for a review, I happily accepted.

Yes – for full disclosure, this bag was provided free of charge, and GATE8 didn’t pay me anything for my review, or indeed ask for editorial rights.

I’ve immediately got a soft spot for GATE8, because they are a small UK-based company, and their story on their website reads “Gate8 began when a British IT consultant got tired of wasting time in airport queues and spending money on excess baggage fees on business trips”. By the way, they seem to interchangeably use GATE8 and Gate8. They do have a distribution center in the USA, and they offer free 5-day Group Shipping.

Shipping and Unpacking

The bag got a tracking number and arrived 24h later from their distribution center in New Jersey. It was very well packed in a cardboard box, and I’m not much of an amateur photographer so here’s a photo of what it looks like from their website:

Gate8 Trifol

The thing you don’t get from the photos on the website: this is a big bag! You can easily pack a week’s worth of clothes in the bag, including an extra suit and dress shoes.

If you want lots of photos, and a great detailed review, head over to arjunrc’s review on FlyerTalk. It’s a great read.

Use Case

The use case for the Gate8 TriFold is quite straightforward: you travel for business, want/need to carry a suit or jacket, don’t much like a separate laptop bag (maybe you’re worried about losing it), and hate to check luggage.

What sets this bag aside is that it will fit in ANY plane. Not just the regular Boeing 737s and Airbus A321s, but all the less pleasant options. Even the hated Canadair CRJ-200, which we affectionately call Flying Sewage Barges or FSBs. You might need to unzip the laptop bag when you get in, if you overpacked the TriFold, but it will fit in.

What’s more, if you’re traveling in Europe/Asia, this bag not only fits the hand luggage requirements on size, but since the laptop bag is zipped on, fits the requirements of only having a single bag. Then you can get to your hotel, hang your suit, unzip the bag and go to your meetings.

This bag serves a very specific use case, and if you fit this, you will probably love it.

Build Quality

This is really only something you can figure as a factor of time, but the build looks pretty good. This is the second generation bag, and they have clearly taken into account the feedback from the first generation. The nylon is good quality and looks durable, and the telescopic pole looks nice and solid. I’m sure this bag will last well, and Gate8 are well known for having great customer service if you have any issues.

The laptop bag is pretty big, taking a 17″ laptop and swallowing my 15″ MacBook Pro whole. It’s a bigger bag than I’d choose, but then it spends much of its time zipped on, which is very convenient.

Accessories

This bag comes fully loaded, which is pretty convenient. It comes with a suit carrier including a hanging system which means you can pull the suit out, and hang it immediately. It’s not as elegant as Lat56’s Suit Protection System, but it’s nice enough.

It also includes some little bags, including a neat clear 3-1-1 bag that you can use for your toiletries. Since it comes with a laptop bag, this is really a neat bag for all your flying needs.

In use

On a Sunday night, I typically look at the week ahead, and decide what bag I’m going to carry. If I’m spending 3 days at one customer, I will need 2 suits and 3 shirts, whilst if I’m going to California, I might just need a spare pair of jeans and a few T-shirts. Different trips require different luggage.

That’s where I found out that the Gate8 TriFold isn’t for me. I tried packing it a few times on a Sunday, and I found it was just too much bag for my needs. Many of my trips are 1-2 nights, and this is a 3-4 night trip bag. I’ve had the bag for 4 weeks and haven’t found the right trip for it yet.

I’d strongly encourage you don’t take this as indicative, because I’m a super-light packer who takes the bare minimum and who is most often only away for 2 nights at a time.

Consultants

I work for a global consultancy, and I have a lot of consultants who travel with 22″ carry-ons and a big laptop bag. Quite often, I tease them as I slide through the airport with my much lighter luggage. They tease me for my bag habit. That’s just how it goes.

Truth be told, a full-size 22″ carry-on is too much luggage. I can pack for 2 weeks in my Tumi International Carry-On. I actually usually check it, since I’m traveling with family when I’m going for that long. Yet many consultants and road warriors continue to fill up planes with oversized carry-ons.

And so I spoke to one of my consulting leads, Brenton, last week when he was in Philly. We were out to dinner, and I said hey Brenton I’ve got a gift for you, the gift of a new bag. I’m not sure he was thrilled that he was now carrying a full-size carry-on, a laptop bag AND the Gate8 TriFold back to Boston at 6am the next morning, but I’m sure he’ll survive.

Gate8 Trifold

So this is where this review ends… for now. The Trifold has left my care and Brenton will be seeing how it suits his needs (no pun intended). I’m pretty certain he’s going to love it, because he predominately travels to a single customer for 3-4 nights, and this is the perfect bag for this use case.

One thing we both struggled with was how to fit both a spare pair of dress shoes, and gym shoes. If you’ve done this in the Trifold, do share how it’s possible!

In short, the Trifold isn’t the right bag for an ultra-light traveler, but if you leave home every Monday morning and land home on a Thursday night, and need an extra suit, jacket and laptop, I’m pretty certain you’ll find this bag is perfect for you. Just imagine if everyone did this, how much space there would be left in the planes, and how much faster we’d board!

Let’s give Brenton a few weeks… he has his own blog, but I’m planning to convince him to write a guest post here… Part 2.

Happy Traveling!