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Nomad Modern Apple Watch Band and Pod Pro

nomad watch band and pod pro

Nomad Goods continues to produce a nice assortment of accessories for iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads. I had the chance to try out their Leather Charging Wallet (with built in Lightning cable) here recently.

Now I’ve got a few Apple Watch accessories to try out: their Modern Leather Strap and Pod Pro, a charger/backup battery in one.

nomad modern apple watch band

It’s become critical to me that the hardware on an Apple Watch band actually match my watch, meaning that bands would need to be available with black or silver hardware. As you can see in the image above, Nomad really nailed it with this hardware. Many low-end band manufacturers seem to pay no attention to the fact that lots of people have black Apple Watches, and I’ve very grateful that Nomad takes care of the little details like this.

For many, this may be a minor thing, but the strong, bulky, unique hardware is my favorite part of this band. And it is available in silver, too, to match all watch hardware. There’s one other thing they did right, too: the black hardware buckle will sometimes rub off on a leather band like this one (I have a cheap band like this and that’s happened), but Nomad’s hardware has been colored in a way that prevents this.

Speaking of the leather band, this is the same stuff from the wallet that I reviewed: high-quality, Horween leather. It’s outstanding as well, and together with the thoughtful hardware, this band is well worth its $60 price.

nomad pod pro open

The Pod Pro ($80) is Nomad’s solution to what seems to be an always-short battery life on our devices. Using your current Apple Watch charging cable, the Pro assembles as a 6000 mAh disc that will charge both your Watch and your iPhone. A Lightning cable is built in, so you only really need a USB micro cable to keep both devices charged. For a weekend trip, the Pod Pro is probably the only charger you’ll need.

nomad pod pro

There are only a few visible parts once the device is closed with its magnetic lid. Pictured from left above, you see the built in Lightning cable, the USB micro charging port, the battery level indicator, and the power button. The top is made from anodized aluminum and the bottom from plastic with a non-slip base.

Nomad has generously offered to give Simple Guy Stuff readers a Modern Leather Strap and a Pod Pro. Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dash Wallets

dash wallets

Dash Wallets is rooted in several successful Kickstarter campaigns, all with the goals of creating slim, sustainable, and affordable wallets in San Francisco.

Dash never really says if they intend their wallets for front- or back-pocket use, and because of this, I’m pretty sure it’s up to you how you carry them. I had the chance to try the Dash 3.0 Saffiano Slim ($40) and the Dash 4.0 ($25) wallets.

dash wallets

The Dash 3.0 is a leather (vegan option available) pouch with 2 vertical pockets (see photo immediately above) and 1 horizontal pocket (see top photo). It can easily carry up to about a dozen cards and cash. I’ve been using this model to carry my business cards in my front pocket when I go to business events.

dash wallets

The Dash 4.0 is a vertical wallet made from both leather and stretchy material with 2 pockets on one side and 1 on the other. There’s a cutout hole for pushing your cards out easily (see above). Because of the canvas, stretchy side, this wallet holds more cards than the more rigid leather-only models, up to about 20, and I found it very comfortable to carry in my front and back pocket.

dash wallets

I like the idea of the canvas stretch material as it keeps the size of the wallet itself to a bare minimum, and when you’re buying a wallet for minimalism, that’s important. This wallet is less rigid than the all-leather 3.0 version.

Dash Wallets are available from dashwallets.com and range in price from about $20 to the RFID-blocking versions at about $50.

Luminoodle Bias Lighting

luminoodle bias lighting

Several years ago, I heard about the benefits of backlighting your TV screen, in particular, that it’s easier on your eyes and increases the perceived contrast on the screen (Lifehacker link). At the time, I grabbed some cheap Ikea puck lights and wire-tied them to the back of my TV. That did the trick for a while, and until I upgraded the size of my TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

I began to investigate current options for TV backlighting (“bias” lighting as it’s called) and discovered that several brands now make self-sticking light strips that plug into the USB port on your TV (almost all modern TVs have USB), so they power on and off with your TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

The Luminoodle by Power Practical consistently showed up in my searches and is well-reviewed online, so I got the 3 meter model (the largest) in the pure white color. Once I tested the lights to make sure they worked, installation was really simple. I wiped down the installation area with alcohol, then peeled and stuck the Luminoodle around the back edge of my TV.

On a 55″ TV, the ‘Noodle had about 12″ of excess light tape, so I cut it off at the proper points (these are clearly marked – see the photo above). I didn’t install the noodle on the bottom of my TV because I didn’t have quite enough tape, but I only wanted the light to be on the top and sides of my screen.

luminoodle bias lighting

The size of the Luminoodle you get is based on your TV size – they’re available in 1, 2, and 3 meter options for $10, $15 and $20. Power Practical has a guide on their site and on Amazon for the size of noodle you should get for your TV.

luminoodle bias lighting

Now that it’s installed, the Luminoodle powers on with my TV, and even in the day time, it provides enough backlighting to improve the contrast of my screen. It’s pictured above in a pitch-black room. Since the lighting is installed on the tape, it’s a consistent, quality glow that really makes home-movie-watching a little more fun. Now I want to get a ‘Noodle for every TV in the house…

Just a note: the wall behind my TV is painted green, that’s why you see a green glow in the photo. Luminoodle does make their lights with color options and remote controls, too, and you can get them from Amazon here.

Allett Wallets for Men & Women

allett wallets

When it comes to wallets, I’m a bit of a minimalist – I usually only carry a few cards and just a little cash. I have found, though, that most “minimalist” wallets don’t have enough space for everything I want to carry, though: 3 credit cards, my driver’s license and a several business cards.

Regardless of how many times I’ve tried, though, I am not a front-pocket-wallet guy. I appreciate the size of them, but it drives me nuts to have my wallet up front all the time, even if it is small. So I’ve begun my quest for slim-but-roomy back pocket wallets, and Allett came up as an option.

allett wallets

Allett manufactures their wallets in San Diego from a combination of nylon and leather with the goal of slimness in mind. I got to try the Slim Original ($35) and asked my wife to try out the Slim Women’s ($45), both with leather exteriors and nylon interiors. Other options from Allett include RFID-blocking and coin-pouch wallets.

The slimness of these wallets is achieved through both smart design and slim materials. The wallets are designed as two-tier bi-folds, with 4 card pockets (pictured above) and 2 interior slots: one that matches the height of the wallet and one that’s half-height (the perfect size for bills, in fact). If you look at the top photo in this post, both wallets are completely full with cards and bills, and are still very thin. Both the men’s and women’s wallets will hold between 1 and 4-5 cards per pocket, so even if you tend to carry a lot of cards with you, these wallets will still serve you well because of the thinness of the materials themselves.

allett wallets

The Women’s Slim wallet, pictured above, adds two design elements and lots of color choices. The black leather wallet has teal interior vinyl and there are a total of 5 color combinations on the women’s wallets here.

As thickness of a women’s wallet is a little less critical than for men, assuming the women’s wallet will be in a purse and the men’s in a pocket. The women’s wallet adds a zippered coin pocket on the back and a magnetic closure.

I’ve had my Allett in my back pocket for about a month, and I have been really happy with it’s capacity and it’s comfort in my back pocket. Coming from a much thicker back-pocket wallet that I’d sometimes have to remove when I was in the car for long periods of time, it’s a refreshing and very well-designed product that fits the bill perfectly for us back-pocket wearers.

Twelve South Apple Watch Accessories

twelve south forte and time keeper

Based out of South Carolina, TwelveSouth makes high-quality accessories for Apple devices, including some for the Apple Watch. I got the chance to try their TimePorter and Forté accessories.

twelve south time keeper

When I travel, I rarely bring additional Apple Watch bands with me – I usually just pack my charger. The TimePorter is great for me, then, because it functions as a charger, charging stand and stores several watch bands, too. The charging cable is wrapped inside the case and pressed into the lid, with a little notch to run the USB cord out of the side of the case (see above). The cable storage, band storage, and charge-through functionality makes this a really handy choice for those who travel often with their Apple Watch.

twelve south time keeper

The size of an eyeglasses case, TimePorter easily fits in my carryon when I travel. Some may even consider getting a lipstick USB battery to actually charge their Watch in the case, no AC power required.

I’ll definitely be using the TimePorter for my Watch travel from now on – it’s available in white or black from Amazon here.

twelve south forte

There are a plethora of Apple Watch stands on the market and even the TimePorter above is technically a “stand” of sorts. Nearly all available Apple Watch stands require that you use your existing magnetic charger that came with the Watch, and the TwelveSouth Forté is no exception.

On the Forté, your watch can be displayed both vertically (see above) or horizontally (Nightstand Mode). There’s a curved arm that will allow you to charge your watch regardless of the type of watch band you use. Your charger magnet holds it very securely in place.

twelve south forte

The Forté is a solid stand, too, with a heavy weighted base and stainless trim with a black leather pad over the base. Your charging cable is pressed into the back of the stand (pictured above) and fits under a plastic ring to secure it into the top. There’s very little movement on your desk or table once you’ve set it down, because of the significant weight.

TwelveSouth’s Forté retails for $59, and once you hold it in your hand, you realize this is a weighty, quality stand, and worth the cost. Even the way the stand is packaged with a red ribbon to remove it from the box says “quality.” This is a good gift idea for the holidays.

Forté is available direct from TwelveSouth here.

Wood Mark Bands for Apple Watch

wood mark watch bands

I recently upgraded from an original Apple Watch to a newer Series 1, and I’ve begun to search for truly unique and useful accessories. The majority of bands for the Watch are duplicates of Apple’s assortment of bands, but my search did lead me to an awesome type of band that’s really attractive and unique: wooden Apple Watch bands!

wood mark watch bands

Wood Mark Watches out of Florida has a beautiful line of bands made from various woods, with a line of Apple Watch-specific wooden link bracelets. The materials, shown in the above image from left to right, are: black sandalwood/zebra wood, zebra wood, bamboo/black sandalwood, black sandalwood, and apple wood. The apple wood version (far right) is a limited edition that has just been released.

All bands are link-style with stainless steel mounting hardware and clasps. Bands are available from Wood Mark for both the 38mm and 42mm Watches for $79.99.

wood mark watch bands

I’m happy to say that the band clasps hold firmly all day, something I have not always experienced with 3rd party link bracelets. The variety of band colors and styles is great, too, as some are more casual/everyday like the apple wood or bamboo bands, while the all-black sandalwood is classy enough for formalwear (see photo below).

It would be nice to have the option to change the hardware color (that part attaches the band to the watch) to black so that the color fits seamlessly with the Watch hardware. As with other link bracelets on the market, the hardware to size your band is included, but be extra gentle during the initial resizing process. Wood is more delicate than steel, so you’ll want to take care to avoid scratching or cracking a link in the process.

wood mark watch bands

GIVEAWAY

We’ve teamed up with Wood Mark to give 5 readers of Simple Guy Stuff their own Wood Mark Apple Watch band (a $79.99 value), and it’s simple to enter. Just leave a comment on this blog post with your band style of choice and your watch size (38mm or 42mm), and you’ll be entered to win the giveaway! Note: comments have to be approved and may not show up immediately.

One entry per person. Open to U.S. residents only. We’ll draw 5 names at random from the comments on December 6, 2016, confirm your style choice, and Wood Mark will ship you your new Apple Watch band.

Good luck!

 

Leather iPhone Charging Wallet

nomad leather iphone wallet

I’ve had the opportunity to use a unique wallet for the last few weeks: the Nomad Leather Bi-Fold iPhone Charging Wallet. Designed by Nomad and stitched by Horween Leather in Chicago, this wallet addresses one of the modern annoyances in modern life: the lack of sufficient battery power in our devices.

nomad leather iphone wallet

Inside of the Nomad wallet, there’s a lipstick-sized battery pack and an built-in lightning cable to charge your iPhone. The battery itself is a Panasonic 2400mAh, enough for a full charge on smaller iPhones and a partial charge on Plus models. When not in use, the lightning cable tucks away into a small pouch in the wallet (see the picture above).

Battery charge is shown in a series of blinks: 4 blinks for full power, 3 for 75% and so on (see photo below). It’s charged with a standard micro USB charger, which is included with the wallet.

nomad leather iphone wallet

There is a minor issue I have with the Nomad, and that has to do with the physical battery. In general, wallets are soft: their build materials and contents will flex and often re-shape themselves to your body. The battery in the Nomad is rigid, though, and while it is enclosed in leather, can be a sore spot on your backside depending on how you carry it. I found that putting it into my back pocket battery-side-up was the most comfortable way to wear it. The battery does contribute to a size increase, too: it’s about 10-20% bigger than other bi-folds, though I found it fit into all of my pockets just fine.

Sold for $149, and with a $119 slim version available from Nomad or Amazon, this is a quality, well-made leather wallet that offers a nice option for forgetful chargers or emergency situations where your phone battery dies before you can get to a charger. It’s comforting to know that you always have a battery handy if you need it, and I noted the battery holds a 100% charge for several days. I used mine mostly as a battery for emergencies, and only needed it once or twice a week, occasionally offering it to a friend whose battery was almost dead while we were out and about.

The Nomad Wallet is a thoughtful device for our modern world. It’s built in a classic form by a trusted, talented leather company, yet it contains a very modern and handy addition that’s just as valuable as a credit card these days: a battery.

Bluetooth Workout Headphones

bluetooth headphones for iphone 7

I decided recently it was time to move to a bluetooth headset at the gym after several traumatic events like throwing my phone across the gym or dropping it directly on the big red “stop” button on my treadmill while I was feverishly running. Conclusion: the wires are getting in the way.

Suddenly, though, the iPhone 7 was released, had it’s headphone jack has been removed. A bunch of people are about to be in the market for bluetooth headphones, so this is perfectly timed.

All the headphones in this list are designed for workouts, and therefore sweat-resistant and relatively sturdy in their build. Every set also displays a digital readout of the battery life in the menu bar at the top of your phone’s screen, which has become a must for me on bluetooth devices. I tested my headphones using both and iPhone and Apple Watch (running Watch OS3). My wife helped me with all these tests, too, and paired her headsets with an iPhone. Here’s what we thought:

skullcandy xtfree

SkullCandy XTfree: MSRP $99, Amazon for $75. Battery life: 6 hours.

SkullCandy is traditionally edgy with their headset designs, and as small as they are, the XTfree are no exception. A multicolored “FitFin” highlights the set and allows you to position it solidly in your ear. We found we rarely pressed the Fin into our ears because the headphones stayed in place fine without it. These headphones were comfortable and sounded great, plus the controls are simple and familiar in their interface, though they’re located on the left of the wire instead of the more familiar right hand side, which meant I often reached for the controls on the wrong side. The XTfree includes different sized earpieces as well as “playthough” sets, which allow a little more sound through if you prefer. A mesh carry bag is included.

Pros: stylish, affordable, and lightweight. fun color combinations. Playthrough earpieces are a thoughtful touch.

Cons: controls are on the opposite side than I’m used to. In-ear headphones can be hard to adjust and set in your ear canal.

monster isport slim

Monster iSport SuperSlim: MSRP $149, Amazon for $90. Battery life: 6 hours.

iSport Superslim offer a very small overall profile for a bluetooth headset. Because they’re in-ear, they provide some noise canceling as a result. The SuperSlim comes with a mesh headphone bag and various replaceable rubber earpieces. The remote control offers 3 familiar buttons and they are located on the right side of the wire: the “normal” location if you’ve been using the wired Apple headset, for instance. The rubber “curl” on the set lays comfortable and naturally in your ear.

Pros: lightweight and comfortable. Familiar placement of controls.

Cons: in-ear headphones can be hard to adjust and set in your ear canal.

monster isport freedom

Monster iSport Freedom: MSRP $199, Amazon for $150. Battery life: 9+ hours. Pictured at the top of this post.

Though I found a few things I didn’t like about the iSport Freedoms, I personally prefer headphones like this (on-ear) vs the ear canal style (though my wife likes the in-ear). These headphones fit snugly and block outside sounds very well for non-noise cancelling headphones, and they fold for travel into their included canvas carry bag. As you’d expect from an active headphone, iSport Freedom stays put on your head, even while running and bending over. These headphones have a plethora of included controls and options, with a total of 6 buttons: volume up, volume down, track forward, track backward, power/pair and play/pause. They also include a stereo minijack, so you can use them as wired headphones if your battery dies, but battery life is quite a bit longer that of the smaller headphones above.

monster isport freedom

Though the assortment of buttons are a nice feature on the Freedom, I usually couldn’t find the ones I needed in the midst of a workout, other than the large play/pause button, which is basically the whole right side of the set (see the image above for the control layout). You can use all of these bluetooth headsets for phone calls, but because the Freedoms don’t have a “hanging” mic like the other sets, callers found it harder to hear me with the Freedoms than the other sets mentioned here. I plan to use them strictly for listening at the gym and rarely for phone calls, so this wasn’t a deal-breaker. Because of my preference of these sets to in-ear headphones, I’ll be using the iSport Freedom for my future workouts.

Pros: long battery life. Easy to take on and off. Sturdy and comfortable.

Cons: controls are hard to find when you’re working out. Microphone is a useful feature, but too highly-placed for phone calls.

Rocky Mountain Cigar Fest 2016

rocky mountain cigar fest 2016

My coverage of Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival in Denver is now live at Cigar and Spirits Magazine. Check out the summary of the event here, and here are some individual brand profiles:

As a bonus for Simple Guy Stuff readers, here’s an interview I did with Willy Herrera of Drew Estate about his upcoming cigar blend releases:

Old Henry Cigars

Old Henry Box Filtered Downsized

Holt’s Cigar Company, which is mostly a mailorder outfit unless you’re in the Pennsylvania area, has their own line of cigars: Old Henry, which are available exclusively from them. If Old Henry isn’t a familiar name to you, it wasn’t to me either. If, however, you pop the hood on these stogies (or simply look on the bottom of the box), you’ll notice a very familiar manufacturer behind them: the Garcia family.

If that’s not ringing a bell, the Garcia family blends cigars of their own brands, including My Father (Cigar Aficianado’s cigar of the year last year ) and Flor de Las Antillas (cigar of the year in 2012), then they also blend the Tatuaje family of cigars, and occasionally some others, too (like this one). Based out of Esteli, Nicaragua, the Garcia family has a good reputation for blending great cigars, and these Old Henry blends are no exception to the rule.

I got to try the “Best in Show Assortment” of Old Henrys, which includes 2 each of Pure Breed, Old Henry, Maduro, and Gold Label blends, all in Toro size (6×52), packed in a cedar box. These retail at $5.50 each for the last 3, and under $6.50 for the Pure Breed. The Best in Show Assortment will run you $29.99 from Holt’s.

Old Henry Closeup Filtered Downsized

Each of these blends are spicy (as Nicaraguan tobacco tends to be), a bit oily, and very well-built. Here are some distinguishing characteristic of each one:

Pure Breed. Medium-full bodied; medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco in a Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. Smokes sweet and spicy with quite a bit of earthy flavor in the wrapper. Flavor profile is the most complex of the bunch and varies between spice, earth and pepper throughout.

Old Henry. Full bodied; medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco in a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper. A spicier experience, plus cream and leather. Highly flavorful, yet the strength is very manageable.

Maduro. Full bodied; medium-full strength. Nicaraguan tobacco and Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper. Similar to the standard Old Henry in spice, but more chocolately and wet overall.

Gold Label. Medium bodied, medium strength. Nicaraguan tobacco and Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. The lightest blend of the bunch, but just barely lighter in its profile. Still plenty spicy though also creme brulee, vanilla and cinnamon notes.