Just before CES began we received a package from Everki arrived bearing one of their Beacon backpacks and the new Camber sling tote. I immediately swooped in and claimed the backpack since I was looking for such an addition to my CES entourage. Considering all of the gear I had to carry, a good backpack was essential. Had I known how useful the Camber would turn out to be I would have grabbed that, too. My gear bag at CES consisted of an ASUS UL80Vt ultraportable, a Pentax K-x DSLR, the Motorola Droid, my Creative Zen PMP, a pouch full of SD cards and flash drives, my mobile broadband dongle, a bag of cords, and some other small items I needed. I forgot to weigh everything, but I was carrying a significant load on my back the whole week I was in Las Vegas. Luckily, Everki's promise of excellent weight distribution wasn't an empty one. My shoulders and back survived the ordeal thanks to the Beacon. I'm a fan of the bright orange lining because there's nothing more annoying than a drab bag. It also helps when you're looking for stuff. I also really like the (fake) fur-lined notebook and mobile device compartments. Smudges and scratched cases are not cool at all. Loading items into the bag was easy since the front compartment flap opened up completely, allowing me to put everything into the proper slot or pocket without having to plumb the depths searching for lost items. The notebook compartment can hold devices with screens up to 18". No need to leave your desktop replacement at home all of the time with the Beacon. Aside from keeping my shoulders happy, the mesh on the back kept me cool on the hot show floor.
Bags that do a good job of evenly distributing the weight while also having enough room to carry a lot of stuff are a bit of a Catch-22. If your load is heavy you're going to burn out if your bag doesn't help you. But the bag can also keep you from realizing just how much you're carrying around, which can have bad consequences in the long term. My advice? Periodically weigh your bag just so you get a reality check on how heavy it is. As much as I liked the amount of room available in the main compartment, I felt that it could use some better structure and organization. Instead of an overload of compartments there are dividers with two zippered compartments inside. However,t he dividers got in my way more than they helped me sort. More zippered compartments would have helped there and more actual division between sections instead of partial dividers. The two side zippers on the outside are labeled as "hip pockets" and designed for quick access to mobile devices. Good idea, but these compartments sat way too far back for me to access with the bag on. And I'd be worried about putting something as valuable as a phone or PMP there because I felt like it would be far too easy for someone to unzip and grab without my noticing. What I would have loved to have on the side was a holder for a water bottle, which I kept trying to do with the hip pockets (with little success). Aside from these minor drawbacks, I'm a fan of the Everki Beacon. It helped me survive CES and live to see another show. And when I returned to New York, the Camber was there waiting for me.
This little tote incorporates some awesome features that make it a great companion to a larger bag (like the Beacon). You can also carry it as a bag on its own, but only if you travel really light (more on that below). The Camber sling is a hard-shell bag with a flat side and an inclined side. This clever design allows it to pull double-duty as a bag and a lap desk. I tested the Camber while riding the subway and found that it kept my netbook at a good angle for typing and also tilted enough toward me that I didn't have to worry about the netbook slipping off my lap if the train stopped suddenly. When I'm ready to disembark I can just slip my computer inside and not have to worry about it there, either, as the hard case provides some protection from bumps.
Inside there are two slip pockets for small items, a stretchy sling that will hold a netbook or ultraportable up to 13" snuggly in place. On the bag is a clever velcro strap system that converts from a long shoulder strap to a short briefcase strap. Or, if you're just planning to slip it inside larger bags, you can take the strap off completely.
Though the Camber will give your notebook an ergonomic incline, it won't help your notebook keep cool. Thankfully, Everki has a solution for that, too. The Chill Pill Cooler is a two-part rubber notebook stand that stores as a small egg (which easily fits in the Camber). Take the halves apart and put them under the back of your notebook for a passive cooling solution that should work for any notebook that doesn't get ridiculously hot. While I'm a fan of the compact size of this sling, it's not the best for carrying on its own unless you have very little to carry. Aside from a phone, a few flash drives, and the power cord, I couldn't fit much else in here besides my netbook. I'd recommend using this if you have a favorite bag that doesn't have a protected notebook area or if you find it hard to keep your notebook balanced when using it in your lap. I suspect that the sling will become a permanent part of my commute. You can find the Beacon backpack ($129.99), Camber sling ($39.99), and Chill Pill ($9.99) in retail stores or on Amazon.