Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we’re using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.
The groundhog may have screwed the pooch predicting an early spring for 2013, but the flowers are finally blooming and the songbirds have started chirping. With those warmer temperatures, it means our new night news writer, Darren Price, is waking up a little earlier–at noon–to go running. To liven up those long jogs, he’s being chased by the imaginary walking dead in Six to Start’s app Zombies, Run! If the dead ever actually rise from the ground, though, he should be able to carry enough gear to report the apocalypse with Lowepro’s Fastpack 250 backpack.
I just finished my first half marathon this month, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Zombies, Run! app for my Nokia Lumia 900. By now, you’ve probably read an article or two about the app, which storytelling company Six to Start launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2011 to fund. The app takes the normal tropes of GPS fitness apps–your route, distance and speed–and adds, you guessed it, zombies and some pretty great voice acting.
The game is set at Abel Township, a fortified farmhouse in England with about 60 residents and few supplies–think of it as a friendlier Woodbury or better-protected Hershel’s farm from The Walking Dead. As one of what the townsfolk call “runners,” you’re sent out to pick up food, weapons and fuel, to rescue some survivor in distress or any other number of tasks. Along the way, you’ll receive radio transmissions (apparently FM still works in the zombie apocalypse), get chased by the walking dead, and hear tunes from your smartphone’s library.
The setting, features and zombies are all great, but the thing that I really love about Zombies, Run! is the way it turns running into a videogame-like experience. You have to finish missions to unlock the next ones, and along the way you collect all sorts of items that you can use to level up different areas of Abel Township. I’m not entirely sure why I need to level up the town, but I enjoy doing it nonetheless.
Zombies, Run! just released 50 more missions and extra features for its Android and iOS offerings, both of which can be unlocked with in-app purchases. Sadly, those updates won’t be coming to my Windows Phone app, which the Six to Start stopped supporting almost a year ago. In any case, pick this app up if you are a runner and have even a passing interest in zombies–it’s worth more than twice its weight in brains.
Lowepro Fastpack 250
I’ve taken to carrying all my writing, video and photo gear with me wherever I go because the few times I’ve been without my trusty old Canon EOS 1D Mark II or Macbook Pro, I end up getting sent to a big news story where I need both. That’s where my Lowepro Fastpack 250 comes in. Though I look like an astronaut about to go on a spacewalk when I’m wearing it, it keeps every single piece of equipment I need neatly organized.
The Fastpack 250 is divided into 3 sections. There’s a zipper running along the rear of the pack, which accommodates my 15-inch Macbook Pro. In the camera compartment on the bottom portion of the bag, I manage to fit my my aforementioned 1D with a wide lens attached, a Canon 70-200 2.8L telephoto lens, a second standard or short telephoto lens and a lensless Canon Rebel T2i or flash. The third compartment is for the rest of your stuff–chargers, sync cables, batteries, notebooks and the like. I also cram a small Canon Vixia camcorder and shotgun mic in an internal zipper pouch in that compartment.
The entire bag is padded and structured, so I can sling it around without worrying about damaging the $8,000 or so worth of kit I’m carrying around. On the downside, this means that the bag never gets thinner than 10 inches, so if I’m in a crowded area or small press room, I invariably bump people behind me. At $130, it’s not the cheapest (or prettiest) camera/laptop bag you can get, but if you need to carry absolutely all your gear, it’s not a bad choice. Lowepro also makes a DSLR video model of the Fastpack 250 that has a couple straps capable of holding a tripod.