Saturday, April 4, 2015

Gear Review: Nomad!

Hey hey! I GOT MY NOMAD! It’s pretty rad! :D

I took it out for a test-drive on the two sunny days we had this week, and I can say IT WORKS! I put it through its paces in a variety of sketching situations in the park and Botanic Garden, and so far it’s made all of them significantly more enjoyable and convenient.

I tried it on some detailed flower sketches - these usually take some time, and in the past there’s always been a problem where I have to hold the sketchbook for long periods while standing (especially in the Botanic Garden where they don’t let you sit on the grass,) and my arm would be KILLING me after a while. This is where the self-supporting trick of the Nomad was a lifesaver! I could stand and sketch for hours with no discomfort - at some points I was even resting my arm ON the Nomad! No sketchbook-holding necessary! (It actually makes a pretty comfy arm-rest.)

I also whipped it out to draw a few doggies! This is where the ease-of-access came in handy, big-time! That, and the ability to anchor the sketchbook firmly in place with the inner strapboard. I could have the bag open with a fresh page and pencil ready to go within seconds, which is awesome for any kind of animal sketching, and I could move around as I sketched without dropping the sketchbook or supplies. I found myself wandering around wearing the thing in drawing-board position, following random doggies and sketching them on the run. Mobile sketching feels so damn natural and spontaneous with this thing! It got to the point where I was looking for extra things to sketch, because it was just so fun. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

Oh, and I sketched a turtle. Okay, two turtles. This involved both quick (and stealthy) sketchbook deployment plus standing for a longish stretch of time. Worked great.

I was also able to easily whip it out to jot down some quick incoherent landscape notes and thumbnails of a couple of rapidly passing ducks. Quick incoherent notes are a frequent necessity, so it’s nice to know I can do that conveniently.

It took a little while to figure out how to work the straps and where to put the sketchbook so I could make it easy to flip open and use as a self-supporting drawing board. Here’s the arrangement that finally worked for me (you may need to adjust the strap length to get it to work just right):

Things I love about the Nomad:

  • The strap trick that turns it into a self-supporting drawing board - SO super convenient, once you figure it out! Especially when combined with using the inner strapboard to anchor the sketchbook in place! And the more I use it this way, the more automatic and natural it feels.
  • The fact that I can use the inner strapboard to keep my sketchbook anchored and open to the next blank page, with a pencil tucked in right next to it. I’ve taken advantage of this several times now in situations where I needed to whip out a sketchbook and draw something really quickly - it’s ideal for sketching animals! (The one case where it wasn’t fast enough was this nervous squirrel on a stump, but nothing is fast enough for nervous squirrels, not even cameras. Blink, and they’re gone.)
  • The fact that when I have my sketchbook tucked in using the strapboard, it stays firmly anchored. I can even let the bag hang open while I flail around sharpening pencils or fooling with my camera or whatever and the sketchbook stays put (I did this a few times before I even realized I was doing it…) Same goes for supplies, they stay exactly where I put them.
  • IT’S SO LIGHT AND COMFORTABLE. Seriously, the first day I took it out I was wearing the Nomad, my purse, and a backpack… My purse and backpack started digging into my shoulders after a few hours, but I barely noticed the Nomad was there.
  • Oh, and it's black, so it goes with my entire wardrobe.

Things I wish it had:

  • Slightly more commodious outside pockets (I wanted to stuff a 9X12” watercolor pad in the outside pocket, but they’re a bit snug for larger pads. I did manage to stow a spare small sketchbook in there, though.)
  • Some small pockets for tiny things like pencil sharpeners and small erasers. I’ll probably hunt up a small slim pouch or something for fiddly little things like that and put it in one of the outside pockets.
  • I kind of wish the inside area for storing supplies had a double-zipper, so I could just unzip the top and reach in for things, instead of having to unzip all the way around the whole thing.
  • There is a slight weirdness that happens if one of the inside zips isn’t zipped all the way… Depending where it’s zipped to, it can sort of interfere with the outside zipper. (This is a pretty minor complaint, since it only happens when the inside zipper is left in very specific spots.)
  • Instructions might be nice!

Things I still want to try:

  • The tripod attachment!
  • I want to try this thing with watercolors! I still need to work out an appropriately compact watercolor kit, though (my current kit is seriously bulky, it barely fits in a BIG bag.)
  • I have not had a chance to test how water-resistant it is yet, but knowing me that’s bound to come up sooner or later. The outside zips do seem to be very well sealed.

Now, this is a very compact bag, so it’s not going to be the one-and-only bag for all my gear; especially not in the Summer when I typically head out for a few hours with half-a-dozen different sketchbooks, painting supplies, camera, water, snacks, and possibly the kitchen sink.

But what the Nomad IS perfect for is an everyday-take-it-everywhere sketch bag. I can totally see this becoming something I grab by default every time I go out of the apartment. I’ve been wanting something like this for ages - carrying sketching gear has always been slightly awkward and inconvenient, so I’d often leave it home and regret it when I stumbled on something sketch-worthy. I’ve been compromising with a tiny sketchbook in my purse, but that has its limitations. With the Nomad, I can be ready to sketch anywhere, anytime!

I got my Nomad through the initial Kickstarter, but if you want one and missed it, there are preorders for the next batch here:

Tell 'em I sent you! :D


  1. Hi Gwen. Followed the posting from Darren to your review and I note you have the same dilemma I had re a watercolour kit. You may want to take a look at this one which is nice and small, but flexible enough for my needs at least. Hope this is a help. Cheers. :)

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