Travel Gear Review: Nomad, Bazaart, Tom Chalky Designs

For many of us travelholics, the past few months have been pure torture with dusty suitcases, unopened bottles of suntan lotion, and dog-eared passports waiting to see the light of day. In between binging The Blacklist and making enemies out of friends geeking out on Catan, I’ve managed to use some of that unexpected downtime to keep my wanderlust alive by editing a glut of travel photos from previous trips, researching possible destinations that will offer the best bang for my buck when post-pandemic travel opens up again, and trying out some new travel-related gear. Here are some of my favorite finds.

PowerPack and Universal Cable from Nomad

While staying at home means I don’t need to worry about running out of juice for my phone and camera, in preparation for going out into the wild, I’ve been testing out the PowerPack from Nomad (USD 120), a 9,000 mAh mobile battery (providing almost three full charges for the latest iPhone) that’s as minimalistically beautiful as it is ultimately functional. I’ve been a Nomad fan for years, drawn to their gorgeous, high-end mix of form and function, creating gadgets from power solutions and iPhone and AirPod cases to cables, straps, and other tech gear, all using the lightest, thinnest, and strongest materials around.

About the size of a portable hard drive, the ultra-rugged PowerPack feels really good to the touch, with a grippy, rubberized exterior giving it an almost military-esque look. The single-panel interface includes two fast-charging 3.0A USB-C ports (so you can passthrough charge the PowerPack while charging a separate device), a 2.4A USB-A port which accommodates the ubiquitous USB cables used for most smartphones and tablets (and providentially for my Sony A7 camera), and a button to light up the LED indicator which displays battery levels (complete with the very cool AmbientIQ feature which adjusts the brightness of the LEDs based on your surroundings). The PowerPack also includes another premium feature in Tile, an integrated iPhone-connected tracking technology to help find your PowerPack should it ever get lost. Tile uses both Bluetooth (within 100 feet) and its own community function, anonymously enlisting the help of over 8 million other Tile users in around 200 countries (including hundreds in Ho Chi Minh City), meaning if any of them happen to walk within 100 feet of your lost PowerPack, it’ll show up in the app’s map.

I’ve paired Nomad’s PowerPack with its Universal Cable (USD 40 for the 3-meter version, USD 35 for the 1.5-meter version), billed as the “one cable to rule them all”. Especially when traveling, every bit of space counts, so having a fast-charging, tangle-proof, nearly indestructible 3-in-1 cable (featuring a robust Kevlar braid and central core and alloy housings on both cable ends, the places that typically are the first to fail) that practically connects to anything, quickly transitioning between USB-A, USB-C, and Micro USB connectors (along with USB 2.0 data transfer) is a no-brainer. It also comes with a 5-year guarantee and an attached rubber tie to keep the cable neatly looped.

Bazaart Photo Collage App

I was in a group chat when a friend fired off a series of hilarious custom stickers with lightning speed. I found out he was using a photo collage app called Bazaart (available for iPhone and iPad for a free one-week trial, and after USD 48 per year). On closer inspection, the Bazaart app could do so much more, making it super easy to take individual elements from different photos to combine them into one epic image.

Co-founded by Gili Golander, daughter to a high-tech entrepreneur and a fashion and beauty professional, Bazaart combines Golander’s unique background into an extremely user-friendly app that practically rivals what Photoshop can do (beautiful edits, gorgeous photo manipulations, and stunning collages) but in a fraction of the time and conveniently using your mobile device. The beauty of Bazaart is its short learning curve. Understanding and using the wide range of tools is surprisingly simple considering how robust the app is (including erasing the background of an image with literally one touch). For creative minds, the bigger challenge (and a very fun one at that) will be envisioning what combination of tools to use and in what order to create dreamy collages. Thankfully, the app’s YouTube and Instagram accounts are full of inspiring projects with step-by-step instructions. Trust me when I say that thinking up ways to manipulate your already great travel photos into mind-blowing ones is seriously addictive and your Instagram game will never look the same.

Tom Chalky Designs

Another creative I came across during quarantine is Tom Chalky, a font designer from the UK “obsessed with the handwritten, handpainted, and imperfect”. While he’s probably best known for his gorgeous handcrafted fonts, his website is chock-full of textures (think vintage maps, papers, leathers and watercolors) as well as vintage illustrations. There are a ton of bundles to choose from, including botanicals, scientific and nautical equipment, florals, anatomy and animals. Many are drawn or sketched by hand, looking like they came from a medical book from the 1800s while some are actually meticulously edited, restored, and repurposed from vintage books and ephemera. The process of sourcing and editing these little gems straight out of history is a fascinating one and now creators can benefit from Tom’s wholesome obsession with all things vintage. You can buy bundles of fonts, illustrations, and textures from his online shop (sign up for his newsletter to receive hundreds of freemium resources) or splurge on an all-access pass for everything on the site (including future releases) starting at USD 99 per year.

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