Product review: Trabasack

Trabasack in use on a powerchairIf you watched my film “A short film about pavements” then you will have seen the tray that was on my lap during filming. That tray is called a Trabasack, and it is actually a lap-desk and a bag in one. I have been using an Original Trabasack Curve for a couple of weeks. It consists of a leather feel tray, with a cushioned rim running around it. On the other side there is a bean bag which allows it to sit comfortably on your lap. A zip allows access to the section between the two so that it can be used as a bag.

Since it has two functions, I will address them one at a time. First of all, as a bag. The zip goes nearly all the way around the Trabasack, allowing it to open all the way up if you like. There is one main compartment inside. There is a pocket with a zip on one side, but that contains the bean bag and is not usable for other storage.

Trabasack front showing zip

The actual compartment is smaller than I would like but probably as large as is practical. I was able to store a 10″ netbook computer inside, and had enough space for a few other bits and pieces. Since I am in the habit of carrying all sorts of gadgetry as well as pills and inhalers, my normal choice of bag – a messenger bag – has lots of pockets to keep everything tidy. Unfortunately the Trabasack doesn’t have that. A nice future improvement might be an elastic strap and / or a mesh pocket to keep my netbook charger cable tidy and secure my pills to the sides. Those complaints aside, the bag is perfectly adequate to carry what I need when out, such as wallet, medicines, phone, keys, and netbook.

For carrying, there are several choices. The bag has two handles and can easily carried by hand. It also comes with two long straps and two short straps, and six loops to allow the straps to be attached in various places. Using these straps it can be configured with a shoulder strap or worn as a rucksack. It can also be easily secured when using it in a wheelchair. The two short straps can be looped around the arms or frame of the chair and attached to the side rings of the bag, or a long strap can go all the way around the waist. Either way, it is very secure when used in this way, as demonstrated in my film.

A netbook on a Trabasack
A Trabasack in use holding a netbook

So what is it like as a tray? I would say pretty good. I have been using it indoors to hold my netbook (which otherwise can toast a lap inside 30 seconds) and it does a good job. The beanbag helps it mould to the shape of my lap and sit securely. I have used it both in bed and while sitting on the sofa. It’s also good for a mug of coffee or a plate. I had previously used a wooden tray for this but I always had problems with the sides of the tray digging into my arm because I don’t always have the strength to lift my arm up over the edge when picking up my mug. With the Trabasack this isn’t a problem since it doesn’t have a raised edge on the side facing the person using it. The only reservation I have in using the tray for hot drinks is that I don’t want to spill anything on it.

I actually used the Trabasack as a platform to rest my camera on while filming from my powerchair. It provided a steady surface and the raised edge helped prevent the camera from slipping off during the bumpy bits.

The Trabasack is also available as a smaller Trabasack Mini, and interestingly, both are available in the “Connect” version which has a soft velcro surface to which your possessions can be fixed by sticking velcro hook-tape to them. I didn’t go for this as I don’t really like the idea of sticking anything to my gadgets, but the option will definitely be useful to many.

Overall the Trabasack is pretty good. It’s even more handy if you are a powerchair user, and like me you end up carrying your bag on your lap. (Why don’t powerchairs have bag holders under the seat???) I initially thought that £40 was quite a steep price for it, but given that it serves two functions, and that my messenger bag cost thirty quid on it’s own, that’s actually not bad. If you need further convincing, an extra use that I have discovered for the Trabasack is that it can be used as a handy pillow if I need to take an unscheduled rest while out and only have a floor or a bench!

The Trabasack can be found on their website, www.trabasack.co.uk at a cost of £39.99. If you’re feeling generous you could purchase it via this Amazon link which will give me some commission.

Thank you to Trabasack who provided this product for review.

A Short Film About Pavements

Two weeks ago I went out to take some photos to illustrate a blog post on accessibility  that I was working on. I took my photos, but then I took some video as well. Quite a lot of video. When I got home, the photos were useless but the video was quite interesting and so I changed my plans. Instead of a blog post with photos, I was going to create a short film.

I needed a few more scenes to create my film, and so my wife and I went out a couple of days later and recorded the rest of what we thought we would need. That night I stayed up selecting scenes and stitching it all together in iMovie on an old iMac that I have.

By the morning I had created several minutes of video that I was quite pleased with. It illustrated my point nicely, and had a nice flow to it. It was great, apart from one thing. It was appallingly bad picture quality. That was because it was all shot using a cheap digital stills camera which could only record video at 320×240, a quarter of the resolution of even low definition TV. In addition, the picture was horribly shaky and blurry.

What could I do about it? I didn’t have a better camera. My phone could also record video, but at exactly the same low quality. All was not lost, however. I was ordering a new phone that very week. By a happy coincidence, the phone that I wanted happened to include a full high definition video camera which had received rave reviews. I ordered the phone and waited in high anticipation of its delivery.

New phone in hand, we set out again to spend an afternoon filming. I had cleverly attached a car windscreen mounting kit to my powerchair and arranged it so that the phone camera had a clear shot from in that holder. We shot hours of video. I recorded pieces to camera many times over until it was right. It was repetitious and tedious. However, we eventually finished and returned home. After a brief rest (I was so worn out I couldn’t stay upright) I reviewed the footage that we had shot. It was AWFUL. Mounted on the powerchair, it was so shaky that watching it made me feel like my head was in a blender. Nevertheless, I grabbed what I could out of it and I made it into a rough approximation of the film that I wanted.

Since then we have been out filming several more times, I have spent many many hours editing the results, and there have been several preview showings. I restarted the editing several times, learnt how to use Openshot in Linux and then Movie Maker in Windows, and eventually spent a mammoth 17 hour session producing the final edit and subsequently crippling myself for two days (and more to come) from the effort.

It has all been worth it though. I have finished. And I present to you:

A Short Film About Pavements