Just home and jetlagging after my first completely work free vacation in some time to Tokyo! Arrived to this adorable orange wooden mini crate from Nomadix, a local Southern California based startup that has created the ultimate versatile, stylish pack towel that can be used for everything from camping to yoga to beach adventures and more! I’m used to the usual boring single color pack towels - lightweight, absorbent, quick drying towels for camping/backpacking… i even used to leave one in the car for beach and other spontaneous adventures. The dimensions however were never quite right to lay out on. So far, beyond the stylish designs (even the bottom has a lovely print!) these Nomadix towels are 100% recycled and rigorously tested to hold up for years. Love their motto - “Own less. Do More. Buy one towel that does it all, instead of three that don’t.” They had a successful Kickstarter funding, and now you can purchase Nomadix Towels on Indigogo! Take a peek at details of the unboxing on the next page, and you can be assured that this towel will be packed for our NOTFZJ80 adventures!
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Bucky is now 2! Here’s hoping that everyone’s right that 2 is the magic number where labs chill out a bit. Then again, the 2.5 week road trip all over the US and Canada seems to have helped him learn a lot and relax a bit too. Lucky dog just came home to some surprises, including the hardcore, super stealthy Otis Dog Collar from the nice folks at Defy Bags based and made in Chicago, IL. Throughout their bags and accessories, their signature is definitely the AustriAlpin Cobra Load Bearing Quick-Release Buckle, “which can support 2,000 lbs. These are the same solid steel & brass imported buckles used by U.S. Special Forces. There is no finer buckle on earth,” says the tag. Excessive for a dog collar? Most definitely. Awesome looking and feeling? Indeed. As they say, “Life’s too short for cheap buckles.” Ready to see the details? (I’m also a fan of their branding and tape!) To the next page…
This post is part of our special NOTCOT Alberta Great Escape series thanks to our friends at Travel Alberta. In Part I, Shawn, Bucky, and I are loaded up in the NOTFZJ80 spending a week in Alberta roadtripping, camping, and exploring all that we can fit in… follow the series here to see what inspires us along the way!
It’s been a while since i’ve popped into a store and found myself wanting things from almost every shelf! Well it happened! When in Calgary, you have to go see The Uncommons in Inglewood for awesome giftiness and designer goodies! While there were many of my friends and favorites on the shelves, what made me even more giddy was the amount i hadn’t seen! Amazing way to discover some local Alberta goodness. Sadly much of what is there isn’t on their website… yet! So it’s a store definitely worth popping into in real life. Take a peek on the next page for a look inside the store as well as the taste of Alberta they gifted us!
So it all began with the adorable Mexican Loteria espresso/shot enamelware set our friends gave us… combined with the NOTFZJ80 progress and camp gear shopping… which lead to Shawn admitting his nostalgic side wanted some old school enamelware… which lead me down an internet rabbit hole of all things enamelware… so since i fell all the way down there ~ what i found was everything from gaudy to adorable, hipster to classic, and even the Polish manufacturer that seems to be behind many of the recent ones popping up now! Is enamelware the new mason jar? Take a peek at some of the best ones i found on the next page… they come in all shapes and sizes, with printing around the exterior, interior, handle, and even base!
I’m a sucker for smart/fun uses of reflective materials… and often the are far more satisfying to play with in person than any picture. Such is the case with these JBL Audio Synchros Reflect Headphones that just showed up from the nice folks at JBL Audio! These work out headphones come in a Bluetooth and Wired version in iOS and Android versions - and while i loved the design, but was iffy about the sound quality of the JBL J46BTs - i’m curious whether the sound quality of the Synchros BTs will be better. As for the JBL Audio Synchros Reflect Headphones that are wired - i’m loving them! The design details - from the flat cables with double sided reflective coatings to magnetic earbuds, the way the remote buttons FEEL to the sound quality… to the thoughtfulness of a shorter cable for use with armbands, and an extension cable (also reflective!) for use in normal situations. And the nicest touch - even the packaging has a shimmering foil to denote the reflective nature of the cables. Oooh and i almost forgot, the earbuds! Surprisingly comfortable and they lock in nicely, so they aren’t going anywhere. Ready to see all the details? Head to the next page…
So the last few weeks has been quite the learning experience for me - decades of over computer usage seem to have caught up with me and my occasional eyeglasses for late night driving/etc are being used a bit more frequently. So when i got my new prescription and needed new lenses, an email from long time NOTCOT reader, Dave Barton of David Kind, seemed perfectly timed! Beyond the stunning cork packaging (swoon) and the high quality, luxury frames, what has been most exciting is learning about the advances in eyeglass lens technology! When i got new lenses in my old glasses updated to the new prescription, there was no question about what type of lens i wanted besides anti glare, transitions, etc… I didn’t even know what to ask about! Shawn on the other hand, has been in pretty thick glasses since he was 4, and is never without his glasses/contacts. While in Nashville we even found his stash of old glasses and how the lenses have been slowly evolving and getting thinner/lighter, from glass to polycarbonate and now on to High Definition and Trivex.
Luckily for us, David Kind is based right here in Venice, CA! With years in the eyewear industry, Dave Barton spent a lot of time at Spy+ and Oliver Peoples/Luxotica as well as starting another eyewear company before launching, David Kind - so it’s been great getting caught up on the options. From first touch - it’s easy to see and feel the quality of the frames and the attention to detail on designing and perfecting every little thing. But it wasn’t until i just got my glasses in my prescription that i understood the clarity i’d been missing with my old lenses. While the frames and process may feel like other online ‘try at home, then buy’ eyewear stores - what has surprised me the most is how much attention to detail and how knowledgable the team at David Kind has been along the whole process. They work with you to find the right pair, make sure to find the best lens for your prescription, get everything aligned and adjusted and customized as needed… and the packaging is just awesome too. Take a peek at what i’ve learned and all the details on the next page!
What happens when a professional chef (Jennifer Scism of Annisa and more) has to spend a lot of time in the backcountry? Good To-Go gourmet dehydrated meals! I’ll admit i was first drawn in by the bright, bold, playful packaging - especially that background pattern! But when it comes to dehydrated meals it’s all about the taste - and the ease of rehydration. Think of it as fancy cup o’noodles? They say “Each recipe was developed with one goal: to elevate your expectations of what trail food can taste like.” Currently there is Thai Curry (Spicy yellow coconut curry with vegetables and jasmine rice), Smoke Three Bean Chili (Traditional chili with corn and caramelized onions), and Herbed Mushroom Risotto (Classic risotto with sautĂ©ed mushrooms and basil pesto). We received one of each to try and had a little faux-backpacking dinner out in the yard last night to try it out. Basically just tear it open, add boiling water, zip it back up, let it sit for 20 minutes - then bon appetit! See all the close ups on the next page!
Design inspiration comes from all over the place - regardless of price - and this time i was inspired/intrigued while at CVS needing to grab a disposable razor. It’s been hard to miss the ridiculously annoying tongue in cheek (literally) Gillette Shave Face ad during the World Cup but on product design weirdness - have you seen the Gilette Venus Snap? I had to poke at it… and honestly, in a world of Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, etc - i get curious and poke at a bunch, but i’m finding all these strange product design innovations/solutions far more interesting (and functional). So take a peek at the design details of this little clamshell compact holding a tiny razor handle (that fits all their blades, thought not all blades on the handle will fit in the case) and a single blade. How this compact takes up less space than a traditional, simple disposable I don’t understand - but from an ID stand point it is intriguing. The center of the handle is even like a bouncy, rubbery trampoline of sorts. See more (and vids!) on the next page…
Justine reported back with so much gardening inspiration in her post about Grow London… and i have been fixatedly curious about those giant tea bags!
So it turns out the giant tea bags are Old Mucker Fertilizer Tea Bags - the hessian bags (most of which “are sourced from a coffee supplier and recycled”) are filled with various chemical free solutions to make magical muck to feed your plants. You steep the giant tea bags over night and feed your plants! There is Triple N: Nourishing Nettle Nectar - since Nettles are packed with naturally occurring nitrogen. Triple C: Classic Comfrey Cultivator - Comfrey is packed with potassium, the essential plant nutrient needed by flowers, seeds and fruit. Triple T: Trusty Tomato Tonic - Sheep muck is packed with potash, the very thing tomatoes, beans and root crops love. Triple M: Mighty Muck Marvel - Horse muck is packed with nitrogen and potassium, the very things that help roses to thrive. Yes. It’s basically manure in a bag… Manure Tea! Fun idea, lovely packaging concept, and great booth display - check out more pics on the next page!
p.s. I wish i had some to try for my avocado tree - it’s finally bearing fruit for the first time, they are nearly golf ball sized!
I don’t know why this is so amusing today. Apparently Kellogg’s has created “Limited Edition Packaging” for some of their cereals - having them go dark. They actually have the night sky filled with stars instead of their brighter usual boxes… I thought my mom was joking - so she scanned over a coupon as proof. My first thought was - are there glow in the dark marshmallow stars inside? Second thought - are there really people out there who didn’t know they can eat cereal at ANY hour? Third thought - what’s going on with the cereal industry to need to change ONLY the packaging to tell people they can eat cereal at night?!?!?!
But maybe it worked - when we noticed the box of twilight Mini Wheats - we bought it. And i had to take pics of how absurd the packaging is to share with you. And now i’m totally having some at night… See it all on the next page!
We recently posted Ursa Major’s Traveler’s Skincare Kit on NOTCOT.org, and they were kind enough to send one over for us to check out in person! The Traveler’s kit contains minis of their Face Wash, Shave Cream, Face Balm, and five tonic-infused bamboo Face Wipes in a fun canister that shows off some of their lovely branding. In addition to the kit, there are also some stickers and cards supporting the Live Major motto and my favorite, “Always Awesome. Never Lackluster.” The Burlington, VT based Ursa Major is all about natural, organic ingredients to bring out your best. They test every product until it is a yes to the following three questions: “Is it effective? Is it healthy? Is it sublime?” Take a peek at it all up close on the next page.
The Twelve24 ClockONE is a meter wide, 4mm thin, around 3lbs and will magnetically hang from your wall! Well, we had the chance to peek INSIDE these super thin wall clocks at NOTlabs, and the real magic being shown off in this monstrous clock is what’s possible with E Ink displays. As thick as a laminated piece of paper, the screens just need a mere 15V to power flipping each section between black and white ink. And the most interesting design detail is the magnetic wall mount system! Currently available for pre-order and slated to start shipping in September, the Twelve24 ClockONE’s are making the design week rounds and popping up this week all over Dwell on Design in LA. Take a peek on the next page at all the tiny details and inside - they even let us cut open some E Ink!
The NOTFZJ80 Project continues… one of the most important parts of roof top camping is having a roof rack that can handle the weight of the tent, the people inside the tent, and any other gear that’s going up there - and reading forums we quickly learned that quite a few people learned that the hard way using normal roof racks! Well when we visited Front Runner Outfitters (the one with those AMAZING ads!), I got caught up on all things off-road/overlanding, and learned that over the last 15 years, if you’re cruising around Africa (and South Africa especially) the majority of roof racks you see will be theirs! Their latest is the Slimline II Roof Rack. I love that their system is incredibly modular (versus those monstrous welded pieces that will come as freight.) Upsides to the modularity? Well it packs down to an impressively efficient fedex-drop-tested-box, you can customize and adjust as desired, in case of any accidents (low hanging overpasses, etc) you can replace just the parts that get damaged versus the whole thing… and best of all, tons of accessories you can add on or create! Downside to modularity? Too many options… and then we keep trying and shifting and reconfiguring to see what feels best. Definitely a luxury problem.
The nice folks at Front Runner Outfitters were kind enough to help our rig out with a roof rack… and then we couldn’t resist starting off with some accessories to try it all out! As you can see there’s the camp table (with mirror like underside) that slides right under the roof rack, the shower arm, tie down rings, and a ratcheting shovel mount (with snowboard boot binding-eque clasps), and more… There are so many options, this is what we’re starting with as i get to know the system, our NOTFZJ80 and figure out how we’ll be using it all. Take a peek at the unboxing, assembly, and details on the next page!
If there’s one cleaning tool i’ve recommended over and over again, it is the Dyson Cordless Vacuums. I’ve used these for everything - from tiny apartments to larger houses, cleaning up messes in the woodshop to keeping up with puppy shedding! While to some people, it’s annoying that the batteries don’t last that long (though on the new DC59 it can do 24 minutes full charge, and 6 minutes in MAX mode) - I secretly loved the timing, since it would limit the amount of time i’d be running around cleaning, then I could take a break and recharge it for a bit. I’m still using my original DC16 (from 2006!) in NOTlabs, and the DC35 Multifloor (unboxed in 2011) has been a regular fixture in my kitchen, but i think it’s about to be demoted by the new DC59 Motorhead that they were kind enough to send over!
I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical when the box read “Sucks up as much dust as a conventional vacuum.” As much as I try to keep up with the dust and puppy shed, when Dyson was kind enough to send over the DC41 Animal upright, ball vacuum with the arrival of Bucky - I quickly learned HOW MUCH DUST it magically finds compared to anything else (including the Dyson handhelds!) There’s something disgustingly satisfying about watching that clear canister fill up with the guck around your house as you vacuum… usually my handheld canister is filled with dog hair and chunkier items, this time the DC59 canister was filled with dog hair and super fine powdery dust! Just powering it up, you can feel how much stronger the suction is compared to the previous models… and this is all before i actually tried the Motorhead attachment. Honestly, I usually bust out the DC41 Animal for the carpeted rooms, because the handhelds just don’t pull enough out… well I just tried it out and i’m amazed how much the motorhead managed to get out of the carpet! I know how absurd it sounds to be gushing over a vacuum - but I have been using these Dyson handhelds daily for years, and i really didn’t expect to be this impressed with the latest iteration. Anyhow, take a peek at the unboxing and details on the next page - and don’t worry there’s no picture of my dusty mess!
“GO TO EXTREMES. BRING BACK PROOF.” This ad for Front Runner Outfitters sums up the potential and lifestyle of overlanding wonderfully! And this is just one of may stunning visuals they have. Honestly, one thing that has struck me when researching all things overlanding, both online and in person, is the lack of usability and branding/identity in communications. So many of the websites seem to be surprisingly difficult to navigate, and even when you figure out which products you are interested in, it isn’t the easiest to find exact dimensions/weights, vehicle compatibility, and i’ve run into lots of dead ends following links. This definitely feels like a very forum driven industry when it comes to trying to find reviews and detailed comparisons… So it has been a breath of fresh air to find Front Runner Outfitters.
According to the press page, “Front Runner is a 14 year old South African based company founded by a team of engineers, designers, outdoor enthusiasts and professional off-road drivers.” Their tiki themed booth definitely stood out amongst the Arizona landscape of our first Overland Expo adventure… and their ‘Go to extremes. Bring back proof.’ ads are just fantastic. Additionally, as a newcomer to overlanding, their one-sheet Vehicle Specific Brochures (including a Toyota Land Cruiser 80 one that looks a lot like our white NOTFZJ80) definitely helps me visualize the possibilities MUCH more easily! Take a peek at the next page to see some of the fun goods we found, the FJ80 one sheet, as well as more of their great ads!
I think i’m experiencing Overland Overload? Here at NOTCOT, we’re nothing if not thorough when we get into obsessive research mode! So it should be no surprise that once we watched tons of videos, acquired our NOTFZJ80, and even shared lots of fun design inspiration in overlanding gear (in a week!)… that when i realized Overland Expo was only a 7 hour drive away in Flasgstaff, we had to hop in the car and go see it all in person! And WOW, if you’re at all curious to not only see and touch all things overland in person, but also talk to both brand reps and overlanders who are camped out in their custom rigs… it is the place to go!
On the next page check out everything we found - from more Land Cruisers, Land Rovers, Unimogs, Jeeps, and more of every vintage/color… to every variations of rooftop tents, pop up and pop out kitchens, survival gear, hammock pods, and so many happy dogs…
I “needed” a new hydration/trail pack. And while i’d been curious about ACRE (a special division of Mission Workshop) since they launched back in Fall ‘13… the website has such stunning images! But it wasn’t until i ran into the packs in person in Portland that i couldn’t get them out of my head. So i finally gave in and ordered The Hauser Weatherproof Hydration Pack 10L and couldn’t be happier! This biggest seller for me on this bag in person was the material - photos just don’t do it justice. The Dimension-Polyant 210d nylon VX ripstop with waterproof laminate has such subtle diamonds that add another dimension to the simplicity of the Hauser’s design - which is packed with such thoughtful, useful details… from the perforated padding to the tool roll, the multiple anchor points to the watertight zippers, the flap down to the rolltop option, and more! Check out the details up close on the next page!
Here’s the latest from London-based editor and resident zoologist, Justine Aw!
Our highlight from Pulse this year was the “Made in Korea” stand showcasing a number of designers respresnted by NoTag that had lots of playful items including fold-your-own paper toys, a dog-shaped bookstand and more. Check it out on the next page!
Life is all about balance ~ and it should be no surprise that the more time we all spend glued to screens (yes, phones count), the more we need the great outdoors! As you may have heard, between our endless 3D printing/soldering/etc. recently, we impulse started the NOTFZJ80 Project. While Shawn has been sharing endless Overlanding videos, forum discussions, and most excitingly — the gear, i’ve been fascinated by creative design solutions we keep finding!
The world of Overlanding is all new to me. Wikipedia defines it as: Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished with mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping, often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries. I grew up with my first few cars being SUVs. When living in LA, SD, and SF, throwing everything in my car and spontaneously moving or roadtripping was never out of the question. I love the idea of your car being ready to handle anything and take you anywhere and back.
Overlanding fits nicely on the spectrum between luxury hotel jetsetting and backpacking around the world… in that spot that is more luxurious than camping, more self sufficient than glamping, as equipped as an RV, but everything is more efficiently packed, multifunctional, and far more capable to get you through just about anything… it’s the perfect combo of man/machine teaming up to explore the outdoors to reach amazing remote spots. What i didn’t expect was how many fascinating design solutions pop up around the basics of what you can fit in/on/around your 4x4 vehicle, and how much of a fun designer project the process can be! Take a peek on the next page at some of the fun gear/setup possibilities i’ve been learning about while we research it all…
An amazing surprise arrived today from Highland Park Whisky. Remember this Cynthia Rowley Flask Bangle that i posted on NOTCOT.org a while back? Well the awesome folks at Highland Park made a special version and sent one over! I can’t even begin to describe how curious i was when i started to open the box and saw the silver flask bangle with a subtle little H logo on it… and it’s a perfect fit. It even holds around 3 fluid ounces! Perhaps we WILL need to do a ladies’ Hero’s Chest Dinner yet… see all the details on the next page!
Growing up and living by the beach, my cars are never without a beach towel and flip flops. You never know when the mood might strike you! So i’ve been super intrigued by these Vertty Beach Towels since they surfaced on NOTCOT.org. Vertty just sent over a bright orange one today ~ and first impressions: awesome packaging, lightweight (1.5 lbs) , and love the unusual geometric shape with popping colors! They are “Dreamed in Australia, Born in Portugal” and handmade and eco friendly. It’s a thin 90% cotton with a terry cloth like feel that is quite nice to lay on and supposedly fast drying, and the waterproof zipper pocket is a nice detail! Take a peek at the full unboxing (and takeover by Bucky) on the next page… as well as a peek at their playful bus and business cards!
JBL was kind enough to surprise me with some JBL J46BT Bluetooth Headphones. I’ve been curious about Bluetooth earbuds for some time, but this is the first time test driving some in real life… perfect for workouts, running around the house/yard/after the dog untethered, and probably for airplanes so i don’t trip over the cord when getting in and out of the seat! First impressions ~ sound quality isn’t the greatest, it certainly lacks range. BUT i’m fascinated by some of their design details - especially the way it charges with a little clip to two contacts to the ear buds. See the full unboxing and details on the next page…
Packaging isn’t everything, but gorgeous, playful, happy graphics, branding, and simple inforgaphics never hurt… and with Skoop it definitely grabbed my attention ~ enough for a post on NOTCOT.org and a few inquisitive tweets. Well one thing lead to another, and next thing i know, a box of Skoop goodies arrived on the doorstep! And as far as supplements go, compared to what you find in a look at GNC or Whole Foods, these will definitely stand out and make you look twice!
Though the graphics were the first things to grab my attention, the proposition of the Skoop A-Game “Super Simple Superfoods” are intriguing in their own right. These powdered supplements you shake up mixed with anything from water and chocolate (almond) milk or oatmeal or yogurt are being positioned as a playful path to SUPER you! It’s less about diets or meal supplements but that extra something to help boost your potential… and nothing says that like comparisons to fueling up with premium… or a cape on a human icon. For those years when it felt like i was living on airplanes and in hotel rooms, i used to always have some Macro Greens on hand to help balance things out. They were the best tasting at the time… though that wasn’t saying much. So i was skeptical and curious about how Skoop would taste! First reaction, definitely sweeter and more palatable than expected, yummy even in the chocolate milk combination. So far we’ve only tried milk, chocolate milk, and almond milk - all not bad with both variations.
Also fun, they included some of our favorite Blender Bottles in the surprise package! The design of the BlenderBall, which is a springy, spherical wire whisk has always made me smile - and they work wonderfully when shaking things up. So this week we will be taking the Skoop 5-Day-Challenge to get SUPER and it couldn’t be better timed with the endless projects and sleepless nights, i can use all the boosts i can get! Take a peek on the next page for all the unboxing and details!
Whiskey Barrel Coffee! So many things i love in one thing i don’t even know where to start. I love beautiful packaging (and a good skull graphic! and a well designed glass bottle!) I love good whiskey… and i’ve been learning to appreciate and love good coffee. I love good dark chocolate. Artfully combine them all, and you have Espresso Smith’s Whiskey Barrel Coffee ~ and chocolate covered coffee beans ~ in wax sealed glass bottles… the idea alone makes me swoon… but the deliciousness and beautiful branding make me need to share the details with you!
Two and a half years in the making, Espresso Smith now ages green coffee beans in authentic bourbon barrels in Colorado prior to roasting to create a coffee “the goal was not to create a whiskey flavored coffee… the goal was to create an experience that starts with coffee and finishes with bourbon.” Mind you, there’s no alcohol (though you can add your own back in) in the final product but the aromas are definitely present and delicious. Take a peek at the unboxing and details on the next page!
UPDATE: Eep! Bad news ~ though a NOTCOT first? I’ve never had to do a REboxing! Just heard from MakerBot that we’ve got to box the machine up and send it back to get it sorted…and thank you so much to the super nice guys over at MakerBot support for being so patient with us while working on this!
SO excited to get our hands on the MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen Desktop 3D Printer ~ it’s amazing to see how far things have come since the Cupcake, Thing-O-Matic, and even the early replicators! (You can see our Replicator 1 unbox here.) We are definitely getting closer to having 3D printers feel closer to the inkjet (2D printers?) of today… unfortunately, it’s still a bit more complex than popping it out of the box and popping out objects! New features we’re excited about include the optimized setup for PLA printing, camera (to keep an eye on your progress via app/mobile), magnetic extruder head, spring loaded nozzles, easier build plate leveling and more! And luckily, the arrival of this new machine is perfect for one of our big NOTlabs project deadlines!!! Take a peek on the next page for a full unboxing and some of our first experiments with it…