Pre-WORLD TRIP Wednesday #7

Nashville Tennessee

Nashville Tennessee

Which technology to bring on a trip has become one of the key questions of modern travel. Having grown up traveling in the era of film cameras, postcards and pay phones I know you don’t really need all the gadgets we carry now to enjoy a week in the woods, a bike ride across America or a road trip of a lifetime. In fact I often think about going back to those days when I wasn’t encumbered by gadgets, chargers and cables. Back to the days when camera batteries lasted a year instead of hours and people didn’t expect to talk to you until you returned. You were traveling, on an adventure, out of touch. Then when you returned it was exciting for everyone. You were all seeing the pictures and hearing the stories for the first time. By contrast today when you return from a trip its a little anticlimactic as your best pictures and most interesting tales have already been shared weeks earlier via blogs, email or smart phones. The stories and photos just aren’t that exciting the second time around not to mention you talked regularly during your trip so you never really seemed that far away to start with.

So what technology do you take along? Well as much as I lament about simpler times I also enjoy some of the advantages of modern times. I don’t like shooting with digital as much as I do with film but its great to have immediate feedback. But to really see what you captured it’s nice to have a tablet or laptop. I bicycled last summer with an iPad and found it incredibly handy for viewing photos, blogging, paying bills and occasionally for getting “unlost”. For only twenty dollars a month, with no contract, we had a Verizon hook up that gave us access to Google Maps at some critical times.

Texas at sunset

Texas at sunset

Nikon Coolpix, AA batteries,  iPad card reader, iPad

Nikon Coolpix, AA batteries, iPad card reader, iPad

Initially I missed writing and blogging on a real laptop but by the end of the trip I actually preferred the iPad over my old Macbook Pro. I found the app Blogspot very helpful for blogging and I used Notes as a writing program. The Apple camera kit worked fine for uploading photos from my SD chips. The downside of the iPad was its lack of a real keyboard and some of the apps don’t work as well as full-fledged programs. I have also run into some sites, videos, etc that don’t run well on the iPad. That concerns me a little as I would hate to be unable to purchase a train or bus ticket, etc. while on the road. But the size, versatility and battery life of the iPad is tough to beat and at least 95% of the time it works fine. The smaller iPad Mini looks especially well suited for traveling. Plus the cost of an iPad vs Mac Air is significantly less and therefore if lost I’d probably cry less.

I like using a “real” camera vs a camera phone and I have three options to choose from for my world trip. My simplest camera is the one I used last fall on our bike trip from Oregon to Arizona. It’s an old 8 megapixel Nikon Coolpix, runs on easy to find AA batteries and best of all has a view finder so no matter how sunny it is you can always see what you’re shooting. Not having to carry a charger and cables took me back a couple of decades.

Olympus Toughie 8010 with charger and iPad SD card reader sitting on iPad

Olympus Toughie 8010 with charger and iPad SD card reader sitting on iPad

The next level is my Olympus Stylus Tough 8010. It’s claim to fame is you can drop it 6.6 feet, use it in freezing temperatures, sweltering heat and 33 feet underwater. I carried this one on the Appalachian Trail and despite hanging on the outside of my pack for months on end it never complained. It’s strong, flat, rectangular shape makes it my easiest camera to pack. Toughie is known for being incredibly rugged but not for taking the sharpest or most vivid pictures. As for picture quality, I have no complaints and the panoramic and video features are very easy to use. So what’s the negatives of the Tough? It does not have a view finder and it takes proprietary batteries which means you have to carry a charger or cable. I carried two extra batteries and could stay in the woods a week at a time without running out of juice. One other feature I didn’t like was it’s excessively long shutter lag which could result in a fast-moving subject being out of view before the camera actually clicked off the shot. However, after I sent the camera to Olympus to repair a software problem I caused, the boot up time and shutter lag both appear to have improved markedly. I need to use the camera more to see if the shutter lag and boot up time is even an issue anymore.

Olympus e420 with cables and charger sitting on Mac Air

Olympus e420 with cables and charger sitting on Mac Air

My most sophisticated camera and the one I prefer to use when size, weight and shape doesn’t matter is an old Olympus e420 SLR. (The current model would be the e620.) I like the 420 because it’s relatively small, light, and doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the newer models. I love that it has a view finder and that I found a custom fitted, rubberized body cover for it that makes it more tolerant of bumps and gives it a less flashy appearance.  I just need to add some duct tape to give it that, “not worth stealing” look. When combined with a 25mm pancake lens it’s an incredibly small SLR but does require a charger and transfer cable.

So what technology do I take along? The light and simple Coolpix with the AA batteries and a view finder paired with an iPad or do I indulge my photography cravings and match the old 420 SLR with the Mac Air and a robust photo program? Or do I take the waterproof Tough so that I can spice up the typical travel photos with some interesting water shots?

Too many options, too many gadgets, it’s moments like this when I think about going back to just a camera and postcards. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. If you have suggestions send them my way.

Ivins Reservoir, Ivins Utah

Ivins Reservoir, Ivins Utah

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Peace and happy travels.
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Categories: Biking, Hiking, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. On my trips overseas I’ve taken a little mini-laptop (runs Lightroom and I put a 500 Gb hard drive in it) plus extra portable hard drive (for backing up photos/videos) and my full DSLR plus lenses, plus a little waterproof point and shoot (Lumix). Plus a travel cell phone. I also take a pocket printer (pogo). Is this too much? Probably. But while I blog frequently when traveling, I also deliberately avoid many photo posts on FB, don’t email unless I have to, and don’t call friends and family back home. They can wait for the slide show. The trick is to not have any friends and family back home following your blog. That’s hard but possible to do I think. Keep them interested with the occasional FB teaser.

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