Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: ‘Bandee:’ from Curach Bhán Archaeology Design Collection

Review: ‘Bandee:’ from Curach Bhán Archaeology Design Collection (from €39.95 from their website)

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Some readers of this blog will be aware that there is an archaeological star rising in the east – in Berlin to be precise. Curach Bhán Publications are rapidly establishing themselves as a publishing house of note in the fields of archaeology, philology, linguistics, anthropology, and Celtic studies. Added to this, the proprietor, Daniel Büchner, also runs a, small but growing, online bookshop and art gallery. If this was not enough, Daniel and his team have now launched their Archaeology Design Collection. The first offering in this range is the ‘Bandee:’. When I first saw it on their website, I presumed that it was some form of long, curving sock for holding your mobile phone in. The website description calls it a “convenient cell phone pocket bandee: the convenient pouch pocket cellphone thing”. To be honest, I was less than enthused when Daniel Büchner contacted me and asked if I’d like to try one out.  I will also admit to a significant degree of confusion when it arrived to my house – I appeared to have been sent some form of fabric Möbius strip. After a little bit of experimentation (and laughter from my loved ones), I worked out that it goes over the right shoulder and under the left arm to be worn as a bandolier (hence: Bandee:!).

On the outside you get two pockets as standard. The one at the centre of the chest has a clear plastic face to hold a mobile phone. The second pocket is quite small and has a Velcro closing flap. This flap and the shoulder are both decorated with the Curach Bhán logo (a modified version of the 8th or 9th century Kilnaruane Pillar Stone, from near Bantry, Co. Cork) in reflective ink. Both of these pockets are detachable and are secured by both Velcro strips and rugged plastic clip-locks. The version I was sent had the Bandee: expansion case (€7.95 from the website). This is an excellent addition and I would recommend it to anyone contemplating buying the ‘basic’ Bandee:. It’s a decent size for carrying keys, a wallet, blackberry etc. On the inside face there are three zipped pockets for safe keeping – not quite large enough to hold a passport (despite what the website says), but more than enough space to keep money and small documents safe. Two large Velcro flaps make it adjustable to a variety of sizes, and there is a rubberised-plastic lining at the shoulder to stop it slipping. The stitching is secure and robust and constructed from good quality materials.

That is all well and good, but to get a real idea as to how useful it is there is nothing like an old-fashioned field test. That is why I’ve been taking my Bandee: along on field trips and family outings. At this stage it has suffered quite a bit of abuse, but it’s still working well and looking good. The front pocket is handy for a mobile phone and will just about take one in a heavy protective cover. The large expansion case is great for all those things that clog up my pockets – keys, inhalers, notebook, camera etc (or for cigarettes and matches for those who still need them). I particularly like how the adjustable Velcro patches allow it to be quite snug fitting so that it can be worn under a coat or rain jacket and not keep catching you or getting in the way. While I’ve not worn it on site for an excavation, I could easily see it being extremely handy for all the small drawing equipment, like pencils, string, and line-levels. I could also see myself taking this on holiday – it has all the advantages of the dreaded ‘bum bag’ (or ‘fanny pack’ for our North American friends) and none of the disadvantages - i.e. it is not a ‘bum bag’!

The product is not completely without flaws. I noted above that the inner zipped pockets are not large enough to conceal a passport – a little redesign in this area could add significantly to its potential for the tourist market. My only other quibble was that the zip on the expansion case is quite small and simply does not feel rugged enough for heavy use. As this zip travels around a corner to fully close the case, it is difficult to operate single-handed – though this may be a good security measure for those on holiday!

Not many archaeologists are tempted to enter the world of fashion in any guise – when we do it is generally on the wings of satire (such as the rather excellent Conor McHale blog). Curach Bhán have not just produced something that looks well – yes, I’d even call it stylish, they have also brought us a genuinely useful item. For this they are to be doubly praised! My final advice to anyone reading this: go and buy a Bandee: today – you don’t even know that you need it yet, but you will be glad you did!

Notes: In the interests of openness and fairness, I would point out that Daniel Büchner has been my good friend for over 20 years. When he approached me with the offer of a Bandee: in return for a review here, we agreed that no matter what I thought of the product - good or bad - I would give it a full and fair review.

Daniel has also asked me to point out that while the Curach Bhán Bandee: is exclusively available through his website, Bandee: is an independent company with many different styles and designs offered: here.

Find Currach Bhán on Facebook: here

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