Minimally Convenient: The Trayvax Element
4 ½” Length
2 ¾” Width
Trayvax is a young company, founded in 2013 by Mark King. King’s initial intention was to create a product that would reduce plastic bag waste, a perfectly commendable endeavor. His first design was a plastic bag carrier, but after a number of iterations he found himself making wallets. Mark and his team created a tough offering that is built to withstand serious abuse, and to be as comfortable as possible to carry. His company has seen serious growth: they’re at 35 employees in just three years. He seems to have raised a solid amount of money using Kickstarter-style funding, indicating that some piece of the market was interested in his offering.
Trayvax wallets are “designed to withstand the toughest conditions – and offer the most utility of any wallet, metal or otherwise, on the market anywhere,” according to trayvax.com. We got ahold of the Element, which is their flagship product. It’s made of just leather, stainless steel, and 550 paracord. It’s a confusing mix of functional, inconvenient, rugged, and flimsy. The Trayvax Element is a good idea that’s poorly executed, which is a shame because it’s well made and definitely answers a pain point experienced by anybody who carries a wallet.
There’s no question that this product looks great. Mark and his team know what they’re about: quality. The box was a tight fit, and heavy. The contents include a note from the company, instructions on how to boil the wallet for a custom fit, and a stretcher card for the aforementioned boiling process. Fully loaded, the Element has a solid feeling in the hand. It’s just such a satisfying and neat little package that I immediately stuffed my essentials into it and gleefully chucked my “fat” wallet into my glove compartment. The stainless steel ridging on the edge grips the hand perfectly, the leather is beautifully treated and smooth, and everything holds together nicely with the clasp engaged (initially). There’s a loop at the top for paracord/keychains/wallet chains that I didn’t find much use for, since the neat little package fits comfortably in the front pocket. The only thing that we could tell would be an issue from the beginning was the weak clasp that our Element had. There is no “click” when the clasp is engaged, rather it seems to remain secured by a minimal amount of negative pressure. A fourteen-minute old kitten could undo this strap if it tried hard enough. That said, I happily used the Element as my wallet for a month. It wasn’t until I seriously thought about the wallet that the design flaws started to surface in my mind.
It’s Another Thing with a Bottle Opener
Hats, flip-flops, koozies, cell phone cases… these are all products that are being manufactured with a bottle opener. Now, you can have your bottle opener as part of you Trayvax Element. It’s important to note that Trayvax bills their wallets as items that “offer the most utility of any wallet, metal or otherwise, on the market anywhere.” The fact is that the Trayvax has exactly three functions: container, RFID blocker, and bottle opener. Most of the items on this list have more, and they’re each about the size of a credit card- designed to be carried in a wallet. Trayvax’s claim to be the most functional wallet on the market is patently ridiculous. I would argue that the upcoming Lever Gear Toolcard blows the Element out of the water, despite the fact that your cash and cards would be somewhat less secure, if more conveniently stored. If Trayvax had added a ruler instead of the ridging on the outside of the wallet, created their own toolcard to include with every wallet, or literally added any functionality other than a bottle opener, their claim might ring true.
Serious Design Flaws
How Do People Use Wallets?
Note: if you are going to design a wallet for minimalist EDC, consider how people use their wallets. Imagine that you have to remove your ID and credit card for any reason, be prepared for your cash to fall through the card window, as there is no longer anything behind the clip to bind your cash to. If the cash doesn’t fall out, imagine casually reinserting your cards, only to crumple up the bills and so fail at the task.
How Do People Use Bottle Openers?
This is a more minor pet peeve, but if you’re sitting around drinking beers with friends, you probably don’t want to have to unclip the strap on your Element, loop the leather thong through the bottle opener face, pull your cards halfway out of the wallet, and potentially remove your cash to open a single beer, much less four. The bottle opener takes up a good amount of space, and isn’t convenient.
Why are Clasps Important?
Because they keep your valuables secure. The Element has some serious trouble staying shut. There isn’t even anything keeping the clasp shut except for a grommet that fits over a similarly sized stud. It doesn’t make a sound when you “fasten” it- it’s really more of a hook.
What About Takedown?
It’s worth noting that should you need to do a full takedown and clean your Element, you should be prepared for a battle. While one corner of the cover flap fit through the slot easily, the leather became thick enough that we had to wet it, then use pliers to flatten it enough to even fit back through and render the wallet functional again.
Red Hatchet Says…
Trayvax’s heart is clearly in the right place, but easily avoidable flaws and other market offerings that outclass the Element in style and function make this product unappealing. For now. Should their design team apply their vigor to an offering that includes actual functionality and fastening hardware that works, we imagine we’ll be singing a very different song. Unfortunately, the Element just misses the mark. I do have to thank Trayvax for introducing me to the wonderfully comfortable world of minimalist wallets though. As I shop for a replacement, I’ll still be using the Element on days when I won’t need to actually use my wallet too much.