Review: ZAGG Rugged Messenger iPad Keyboard case

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been reconsidering my ecosystem. At the same time, I noticed a great sale on the basic iPad ($250) at most major retailers. I decided to make the plunge and pick up the basic iPad, along with a rugged keyboard case. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve tried to make this device my primary mobile computing device, and I’ll talk more about that transition, but this review is strictly about the keyboard case that I chose.

The requirements I had going in to selecting a case were that it needed to be Bluetooth so that it could work with the basic iPad I got (no keyboard connector), and it had to have some protection on it, since I was planning to use this device when camping. As luck would have it, I’m currently writing this review in my pop-up trailer, at a State Park in the middle of the woods. Needless to say, the case I selected is getting put through it’s paces, since in the weeks since I bought it I’ve taken it biking and camping, multiple times.

Because of the limited audience for the basic iPad, there’s not a ton of options out there for keyboards. I spent a bit of time reading reviews of various cases before selecting the ZAGG, and when I decided to pull the trigger I was mulling over 2 different cases. One was the ‘book’ style case where the iPad and keyboard form a laptop-style clamshell enclosure. The other one was the Messenger folio that is similar to the Apple Smart Keyboard style, with a folding kickstand back to it. After spending a lot of time reading reviews, I opt’d for the Messenger style case. Many of the reviews of the book style hinted that the hinge didn’t hold after a lot of use, and additionally, the folio style still allows for the iPad to be used independently, without a bulkier case than necessary.

I’ve been using the case for a few weeks now, and I have to say, this is a really nice keyboard. The key travel is smooth, and the spacing is just right for my size hands. Some people might find it cramped, but I don’t know that you can get a 9.7″ device with a keyboard that is any bigger than this. I haven’t had any issues typing on it, and many of my blog entries over the past couple of weeks have been typed on this device.

One of the features that sold me on this device was the backlit keyboard. If I’m out in the middle of the woods, or typing in a darkened room, having backlit keys is a must. As a bonus, you can select different colors of backlighting, which gives the case a sense of personal style. There are also multiple intensity settings that you can use to make the backlight dimmer and brighter, depending on your need.

Overall the device feels rugged and protective. I haven’t tested this yet, and hopefully never will, but the iPad has now been on multiple bike rides, bouncing around in my pannier bags, as well as general use around the house and campsite. There are two parts to the case, the keyboard folio part, and the case that goes around the iPad itself. The case around the iPad feels sturdy and I think it should protect it just fine. The folio is slightly bigger and so in a fall, I assume the folio portion will take a lot of the brunt.

There as a few different function keys that are specific to the iPad, and you can actually pair this keyboard with multiple devices, though I haven’t tried that, and I’m not sure I’d have a need for that. The case around the iPad does come with a spot for the Apple Pencil, with is a nice touch.

I’ve been very please with the ZAGG Rugged Messenger, and if you’re looking for a protective keyboard case for an iPad, I think this is a great way to go. I’m finding myself enjoying using it, and even reaching for my iPad instead of my computer. Of course, the iPad is a story for another time.

Shoe review: Saucony Peregrine ISO

Much of my trail running happens in one of two different shoe models, the Brooks Cascadia and the Saucony Peregrine. For years these have been my go-to shoes, racking up 1,147 miles in various Cascadia models, and 525 miles in Peregrines. Despite having a slight issue with one of my last pairs of Peregines (the insole slipped a bit after 300 miles), I still loved the shoe and racked up a ton of miles on it. I also gave the Peregrine ICE shoes a try this last winter, and I’ve still got enough life in them to use them again this season.

My daily road runner is the Saucony Guide ISO, and I LOVE the ISO platform in those shoes, so when I saw that Saucony was bringing the ISO platform to the Peregrine I had to give it a shot. I picked up a pair about 50 miles ago and have been putting them through my standard trails that I train on, including Afton State Park. If you’re looking for the TL;DR… I have never worn a more comfortable trail shoe than the Peregrine ISO. Period. Stop.

When I first slipped in to the Peregrines there was familiarity. It felt like a Guide ISO in many ways, but also like the old Peregrine. However, the Peregrine ISO felt more soft and supple, and my foot felt like it was sliding into a comfortable slipper. The gusseted tongue was soft and comfortable, and because of the way that the lacing overlays are separated, it still felt light and free. The overall fit was great for my foot and I’ve had zero issue with it on any of my runs.

The outsole is nice and aggressive, and after a misstep with removing the strike plate from the last (pre-ISO) model, they brought it back giving solid protection underfoot. There’s a lot of padding on the back of the heel, which might not appeal to some people, but for me it works well. I still feel like I get a solid lock, though perhaps in time it could break down more than I want.

The shoe is also very breathable, due in part to the way the overlays are separate, and not one big piece. The overlays on the toe box are sparse, and it reminds me of an Altra in this area. I do wonder if the sides of the toe box will eventually wear prematurely (similar to what I’ve heard about Altra), but so far they seem to be solid. As for laces, they are the standard Peregrine laces from years past, which work just fine.

Where this shoe really shines for me is in the comfort department. All of Saucony’s ISO shoes have “EVERUN” foam as the topsole, which provides an incredible amount of comfort. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with their Guide ISO road shoes a few years ago. In a trail shoe, with a soft protective outsole, this comfort shines. I noticed this on one of my first runs in the shoe. I was out for a 20 mile run around Elm Creek with a friend, and I never felt any discomfort in my feet until mile 16. I even remarked about it to my running partner, and how wild it was that it took that long to really feel the miles.

I find this even more impressive because all of this cushioning doesn’t come at the cost of extra weight. Here’s a comparison to a couple of other shoes in size 9.5.

  • 11.05oz Peregrine ISO
  • 12.3oz Books Cascadia 12
  • 10.6oz Saucony Guide ISO

The fact that the Peregrine is over a full ounce less than the Cascadia means a lot on really long runs. Two ounces (one for each foot) might not sound like much, but when you’re running 18+ miles, with 40,000+ footfalls, it adds up fast. One might suggest that the Brooks Caldera could be a better comparison to the Peregrine, so I might give that a shot once my Cascadias are done.

It’s this comfort over the long run that really makes me love this shoe. I’ve taken it out on multiple runs of 18-20 mile distance, and despite any other issues I might have with my body, my feet have never been one. Coming from a traditional shoe like the Cascadia, this was a refreshing change. Saucony really hit a home run, for me, with this shoe, and I highly recommend people give it a try.

Quick Review: Niterider Sabre 80

A few weeks ago I was on my usual Wednesday night Beer & Bikes ride, and as usual I had my rear tail light flashing on the way down. Even though it was daylight, I find it’s a good practice to be illuminated as much as possible when traveling on busy city streets. When we arrived at the brewery I discovered that my rear light was no longer functioning. I assumed the battery had died prematurely, and since I had a rear helmet light with me, I didn’t worry about it.

However, when I returned home I discovered that my light wouldn’t take a charge, and was basically dead. I’ve had this tail light for a long time, and it’s been used and abused, so I wasn’t very surprised. This led me to start looking at a replacement. I really like the Bontrager lights, but they are a bit more expensive than I want, and plus I had just bought a Niterider mount for my rear rack a week before. As I went through the Niterider catalog, I decided to give the Sabre 80 a shot.

This light is economically priced, and despite putting out only 80 lumens, it seemed plenty bright. I’ve had it for a couple of weeks now have found it to be a solid performer. When I first got the light I had to spend some time figuring out how to get to the correct flashing settings. There are two modes on the light, a solid mode, where you get different brightness levels of a solid light, and a blinking mode. In the blinking mode there are a variety of settings, including a quick flashing setting that is my go-to for visibility and attention getting.

To switch between modes you need to hold the single button down until the mode switches. It takes a good 5-7 seconds of holding the button to get anything to happen, which makes it somewhat un-intuitive. Once you’re in your desired mode you can switch between the different settings with a single button push. The single button operation makes it a breeze to operate, once you understand what the button does.

I came to discover that a fellow Beer & Bikes rider had the same light, and so after being behind him at night, I feel confident that the Sabre 80 is a perfectly acceptable tail light. It’s bright, and has multiple modes, and it’s simple to operate. The battery life is the one weak spot, with only an hour or so at it’s max solid brightness level. However, in the flashing mode that I use I’ve never come close to running out of power. As with any tail light you should plan to recharge it every night that you use it. It’s just a good habit to get in to, so that you’re never left stranded.

For $30 you can’t really go wrong for a nice, simple, bike tail light. The Sabre 80 is a solid performer, and at the price, if you drop it and break it, you won’t feel that bad.

Quick Review: VEGA Essentials Shake

I’m not one to jump on a diet or health-trend bandwagon. Despite having lost 40 lbs at one point in my life, I’ve basically tried to lose weight with a general policy of cutting calories and increasing activity. However, something that has always been a struggle, having a desk job, is reducing my hunger level throughout the day. It’s really easy to keep walking over to the vending machine and grabbing something new every couple of hours. Especially at my current job where we have an awesome self-serve market that filled with all kinds of goodies.

Something I know about myself is that if I can get a decent amount of calories in me, first thing in the morning, I can stave off my snacking till later in the day, or even until lunch time. For a while I was grabbing a breakfast sandwich at the gas station each morning, since it had protein in it that would help satiate me longer However, it was also loaded with cheese and other yummy stuff that probably was self-defeating. So, I decided to try a meal shake for breakfast.

One of the brands I had sampled in the past, and enjoyed is VEGA. In particular, their chocolate flavor is rich and smooth, and doesn’t taste cloyingly sweet. The price isn’t too bad, $36 for 18 servings, which with the addition of milk and a banana, I’m getting breakfast for around $3 each morning. I’m not a huge dairy milk fan (doesn’t always agree with me), so I’m using coconut milk, which gives the shake a bit of a tropical flavor. I could blend my banana into the shake, but I’m trying to be efficient with my time, so I just eat that on the side.

Apart from the solid flavor, I’ve found the texture to be quite pleasant as well. It’s not chalky, and when I shake it in a blender bottle, I’m able to get it pretty smooth. As with most shakes like this, it’s a thick substance, when made to recipe. There’s just no getting around that, but I’ve never felt like the texture is off-putting in any way. One of the reasons I chose their Essentials Shake is because it’s also loaded up with lots of vitamins and is more well rounded than just a simple protein shake. I’m not looking to bulk up, so having a more balanced mix works well for me.

It’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this routine, and yesterday I weighed in at my lowest weight since August of last year. I’m finding that I’m able to keep my hunger more in check in the mornings, and have been able to push my lunch later in the day. I still do some snacking at work, but in general I’m keeping it to just 1-2 per day instead of some times when I’ve been visiting the snacks every hour and a half.

I want to be clear though that I’m also needing to be smart with my other eating. This isn’t some magical diet drink, but a tool that I’m using to get my weight back down where I want it. I still need to keep up my exercising, and watch my calories the rest of the day, but having a solid start has helped a lot to keep me in a routine that works.

If you’re looking to use a shake to supplement your diet, I’d recommend giving VEGA a try. I think it’s a great mix, with good flavor and consistency. It’s reasonably priced, easy to make, and does the job I want it to to.

Quick Review: Chums Surfshorts Wallet

For many years I’ve used a standard trifold wallet as my main way of carrying my “stuff”. It’s served me well over the years, but something that’s always been a problem is the overall thickness of a trifold. Even with minimal items in the wallet, the amount of material alone, creates a package that is quite “bulgy”.

Additionally, as someone who is more active, having all that extra weight on me when running or biking isn’t ideal. Many times I would find myself grabbing a sandwich baggie and just putting a couple cards in there to bring with me when I work out. Plus, I want to keep my stuff from getting too wet and sweaty when working out. A couple weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and get something totally different. 

The Chums Surfshorts wallet is a small pouch style wallet with two zippered areas. One of them has a see-through window for your ID, and the other side is completely closed. Although it does not claim to be waterproof, the closed compartments do keep my stuff dry when sweating or in my pocket when it’s raining. The nylon material is durable, but not abrasive, and feels like it will live up to a bit of abuse.

The biggest change for me though is in the size department. I’m able to put a fair amount of items into this wallet, and it does not feel bulgy or thick at all. I can stuff it into my bike shorts, or my running vest, and I don’t even notice it’s there. I still can’t fit every last thing that I used to carry in my trifold, but it’s made me stop and consider what I actually NEED to be carrying around with me all the time. Most loyalty cards can be loaded into an Apple Wallet, or allow you to use your phone number, and many other cards are used so infrequently that leaving them at home isn’t a big deal.

I’m very happy with the change, and I’m happy I made it. I feel like I have a better handle on what I use my wallet for, and I feel more comfortable keeping my valuables close to me when exercising.