Thursday, 30 April 2015

Real Girl Travels - All Inclusive Vacation with only a Carry-On

Last month I took a vacation to the sunny destination of Cayo Coco, Cuba. I was going on an all inclusive resort with a great group of people for my brother in law's 40th birthday. This was my sixth time going to Cuba, but my first time going to Cayo Coco. We stayed at a fantastic resort, Memories Flamenco Beach Resort. Having a pretty good idea of what to expect, I knew exactly how to pack. I am one of those weird people who really enjoys packing, so I decided to challenge myself with this trip and pack using only a carry-on. My friend Lindsay told me I was crazy, but I committed and did it anyways, and I've decided to share my packing secrets.

This is also a response to some of the comments on Ed's post: Packing for a Vacation: Carry-On Suitcase Only that pondered if a "real women" could complete the carry-on only feat. Well, here it is!
(My cat Pickler decided to help as well)

First, I planned out my outfits for the week. I needed daytime and nighttime outfits, but obviously with a carry-on I was limited on space. I chose pieces that could mix and match with each other easily. I then tried them all on and played around with them as any normal human would do when outfit planning.

10 outfits with the potential for 15 combinations.

Now that my outfits were planned, the packing part began. Here's a list of things to consider while packing with just a carry-on:
  1. Roll your clothes, don't fold. You can fit more that way.
  2. Use space wisely. I used zip lock bags with my underwear and bathing suit bottoms rolled up small and put them in my shoes. No wasted space allowed.
  3. Liquids restriction. This is the only place I ran into problems. Dollar stores have great travel packs that include 100ml bottles so that you can fill it with your own shampoo and conditioner. Problem solved.
  4. Weight. My next problem. After packing I weighed my carry-on. We flew with Sunwing, who have restrictions on size and weight for carry-on luggage. Total allowable weight is 5kg. I was at 7.5kgs at my first weighing. I re-evaluated what I was bringing and took out the heaviest items. After I eliminated two pairs of shoes and took out my gifts for the hotel maids, I was sitting right at 5kg. Mission accomplished.  
Here's my step-by-step guide to packing your carry-on:

When travel day arrived I was ready to go. I brought a large purse that I could also use as a beach bag, since you're allowed to bring a purse along with your carry-on. I took advantage of this rule and used my purse to pack a couple heavier items to ensure my carry-on was under weight. It came in at 4.6kg. Again, mission accomplished. 

This wasn't my first trip with taking just a carry-on, but it was my first week-long trip. it's a great way to save time, stress and potential head aches (like if the airline lost your luggage). This trip I was particularly lucky as my roommate, the aforementioned Lindsey, is a huge over packer and literally brought everything a girl could ever need. While I was packed with everything I could need, I definitely took advantage of her curling iron. I admit, I cheated a little. 
I would definitely travel with just a carry-on again, it's easy, just takes a little extra planning.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Real Man Tested: RAM EZ On-Off X Grip Bike Mount

Review by: Ed Arsenault

Every once in a while you come across a product that just makes sense, and you wonder why no one thought of it before? That's exactly the case with the RAM EZ On-Off X Grip Bike Mount.

The product promises to hold your phone or similarly shaped object as you cruise around on your bicycle with their patented X Grip system. We here at Real Man Travels like to bike so I purchased one for myself from the fine folks at RAM Mounting Systems and put it through the ringer.

1. What you get:

The package arrived with:
  • 1 X Grip phone mount
  • 1 Mount insert
  • 2 bar attachments (to suit your bar set up)
  • 1 piece of 3M rubber
  • 2 black cable ties
  • 1 set of instructions
Included Items
X-Grip Mount, cable ties and bar attachments
 2. Look and Feel:

The EZ On/Off mount initially feels solid and durable with its hard plastic casing, strong metal arms that have very little flex, and thick rubber tips that make contact to your device. If you squeeze the arms and then let them release on their own, you will see the strength in the spring that is meant to hold your device in place.

The pieces for mounting to your bike are also built from the same thick plastic but the method for attaching them to your frame are just generic cable/zip ties. If you plan to move this mount between a few bikes then you can purchase these zip ties from any hardware store for dirt cheap.

3. Set Up:

The set up process was very simple. You first attach the 3M rubber around the bar where you plan to have the mount (this prevents the mount from slipping or sliding). Then you attach the bar clip of your choice to the frame using the two provided cable ties which need to be pulled tight. I would recommend pulling the ends with a pair of pliers for that extra click or two your bare hands can't get.

Step One: Attach the 3M Rubber around the bar
Step 1: Attach the 3M rubber around the bar

Step Two: Set the bar attachments on top of the 3M rubber
Step 2: Set the bar attachments on top of the 3M rubber

Step Three: Pull the zip ties through the slots and tighten them up. Cut off excess.
Step 3: Pull the zip ties through the slot and tighten then up. Cut off excess zip tie straps.
Next you will insert the X grip mount by pushing it down and twisting it slightly. Once you hear the click the mount is in. At this point you can set the mount to be in portrait or landscape mode when you attach your phone.

Step Four: Attach the mount in either portrait or landscape
Step 4: Attach the mount in either portrait or landscape
To attach your phone you simply squeeze the spring loaded "x" arms and then place your phone down and let them open against your phone. The spring loaded gripping arms will hold your phone snug at this point. Adjust the phone as necessary, but try to make sure it is as close to the middle as possible to avoid balance issues.

4. Ease of Use:

After installation this product is a piece of cake to use. It is always as simple as squeezing the X grip arms and releasing. It is easy to remove the X grip mount by simply pushing down and twisting it off.

Unfortunately the remaining pieces stay on your bike with cable ties so moving from one bike to another with one system is not easy. If you do wish to move the entire mount then you will need to cut the cable ties and have more handy to reattach it. You may also want some extra 3M rubber as well.

5. Actual vs. Advertised

I feel confident that this product delivers on its promise. I have ridden over 200km with this mount and my phone attached to my handle bars. I have ridden on many different terrains and landscapes including busy paved city streets and gravel country roads and my phone has been snug and secure the entire time.

While the mount does hold your phone in place it does come with one minor flaw. After placing a phone into the mount there is a small swivel of about 15 degrees. This will make for a small annoyance to those who have light OCD as it will sit just off kilter. You can swivel it back those few degrees, but after a bump or two it will revert back.

The arms of the spring loaded mount can latch on to most phones with a 4-5” screen (if you are using a phablet then I’d recommend staying away from this model). I tried an iPhone 4s, BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry Q10 and a HTC One (M8). It can attach with or without your phone case on, just as advertised.

While the spring arms don’t obstruct the camera lens (which is great if you want to record your rides), the angle of the mount cannot be changed without cutting and reattaching cable ties. Therefore filming with this mount can be a pain. If you are looking for a mount to film with you may want to check out another one of their products intended for that purpose.

6. Value

I purchased this mount for $28 plus taxes and shipping and handling. When all was said and done, to have this in my hands, it cost me $45 (CAD). I believe that the mount is worth the $45 (CAD) price tag because you get a solid phone mount that is universal and doesn’t require any special cases or any tools to install it.

7. Practicality

The RAM EZ On/Off mount made sense on one of my long haul rides because I could have my navigation up and running in front of me at all times. As well as have a tracking app on that would show distance covered, average speed and more. There was no need to reach into my pocket and stop and check for these details. For use around town, or for quick bike errands, the mount has little to no purpose. Without needing navigation or statistics, my phone just sat on the mount with the screen off the entire time.

Phone attached and navigation on
Phone attached and navigation on
8. Overall Impressions and Final Scoring

Overall, if you intend to use your phone as your main tool for navigation, stat tracking or even just as a music player then this mount will be a great solution. It is sturdy, grips your phone tight and after 200km of riding it hasn’t once given any indication that the device wasn’t safe.The best part is you don't have to buy another mount when you upgrade your device!

My only complaint is that the mount does rotate just slightly during rides, but that is more of an OCD issue. Hopefully newer models of this mount will address this issue. 

I'd give this product a 4/5 and would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking to hold their gadgets on their bike. 

4 Real Man Beers our of 5
Score: 4 Real Man Beers out of 5

You can order this directly from the manufacturer here, oryou can try Amazon (that is where I got mine from).

Happy riding!