April 15, 2012

Go-Go Gagdet

It's been awhile since I've taken a long-term backpacking trip. In 1995, I went to New Zealand and Australia for 6 months and, in 2000, I went through Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia for 4 months. On those trips, the only gadget I took with me was an older camera (film, obviously). Consumer technology has evolved a lot in the last 10 years, and we found ourselves with plenty of options when thinking about what gadgets to take and how we best wanted to document our trip. Since I'm generally as averse to new technology as your grandmother in New Mexico (I still have a BlackBerry because I don't want to learn a new system), deciding what to take was a bit overwhelming.  Lucky for me, Steph is a bit more tapped into the tech world and is a voracious researcher. She's figured out what other people are taking on the road these days and carefully read reviews of each choice in the many tech categories. Because we're taking quite a few gadgets, we'll likely be considered Flashpackers by the backpacking community. There are some travelers who frown on gadgets on the road, but we're not those travelers. We like gadgets...and convenience...and entertainment...and technology. We are, after all, San Franciscans, living and breathing the Silicon Valley craze for nearly a decade. 
Inspector Gadget, the Modern-Day-San-Franciscan's ancestor

You might think we're nuts for taking all this stuff, but I know we'll use all these things, and being able to watch a movie or listen to music will be a luxury while on an overnight train ride in India. Have you seen the trains in India? Steph and I could find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this kind of chaos. Other, non-flashpacking travelers will just be bored and sweaty, but we'll be entertained and sweaty. 

Here's what's making it into our fancy backpacks.


Canon G10
We already own a Canon G10 (14.7 megapixels), which is great for nicer pictures and for sight seeing. It's really good for novice photographers (like us) because it takes excellent photos just pointing and shooting on Auto mode, but you can also play around with the shutter speed, aperture and film speed, or ISO to have some more artistic and polished photos. We've had the camera for awhile, but haven't really taken advantage of it yet, so we're planning on watching a few YouTube tutorials on the camera (here) before we go.
Olympus FE-240

We also have an Olympus FE-240, (7.1 megapixels) which is a pretty straightforward point and shoot. It's compact and lighter, so you can stick it in a pocket and it will be easy to take out with us at night, or to casually and quickly take a photo if we randomly see something worth remembering. While getting our gadgets stolen wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, we would be really bummed to lose our photos from the trip, so Steph set up a Flickr account for all of our pics. We've also updated the Pics page of this blog (Check out the Flickr page here and the blog's Pics page here and continue to check back. We'll keep updating it on the trip so you all can see where we are and what we're doing.)

The Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom
We also got a Joby Gorillapod that will work with either camera. Do you know about these? They're really cool - packs up small for our pack and provides a steady hands-free option.


Last year, my company started a rewards program for the sales team. They told us we were earning points for making sales and that we could redeem the points for prizes. I didn't really expect much (because they notoriously over-promise and under-deliver), but I recently checked it out and was impressed by the huge selection of goods that I could purchase with my points (because I'm a rockstar sales guy). We both love to read and are looking forward to reading a lot on The Trip, so a Kindle seemed like a natural choice. It will save us from the extra weight of books, as well as having to scour the limited selection of books at hostels. We also thought a tablet would be a good idea, so that we can both read at the same time (with the Kindle app), access the internet (when there's WiFi, upload our photos, and write blog posts. We considered getting an iPad for The Trip but the cost was slowing us from pulling the trigger on it. When I saw how many points I had on my rewards program and what was available, we were psyched that I had earned enough points to get the new iPad with an OtterBox Defender Series Case and also a Kindle Fire with a Marware case. We already have the Kindle Fire and Steph is reading on it every night. (The Fire has a lot of other capabilities beyond being an eBook reader, and we plan to take advantage.) The iPad is next on our list and we'll order it soon. We're also taking a few accessories for our gadgets: a wireless keyboard for the iPad, a headphone splitter so we can watch/listen to a movie together, and an iPad/camera connection kit. We'll also take a 160GB iPod Classic so we can listen to music without pulling out the iPad. And we'll probably get a few good pairs of earbuds from Monster Beats by Dr. Dre.

Side note: Crosswords are a daily part of our lives (nerd alert), so we're definitely going to find some great crossword apps for the Fire and the iPad to keep us entertained. For your entertainment, Steph made a crossword puzzle with clues from the blog. Knock yourself out. http://bit.ly/IELg2n


For a trip like this, we know we want to be able to shoot not only photos, but video too. Both of our cameras have this capability, but the quality's not great and it eats up the memory. We already own a Flip Video, which is very easy to use and download video. The video quality isn't great, but it does the job. We used this on our honeymoon and have some great videos, including some time outside a temple ceremony we attended in Bali. The music was amazing and we wanted to have a recording of it, so the Flip was a great option that day and we have this video to remind us of that special experience. We haven't decided yet if we'lll take the Flip, because we just ordered our new GoPro HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition. This video camera is awesome! It takes 1080p video in HD and is small, lightweight, and super versatile. It was created for outdoor sports and activities - surfing, biking, etc. It came with a waterproof case (that we can take diving!!) and straps/mounts for my head and helmet (so I can put it on my melon for biking, camel rides, rickshaws, rafting, etc...). We're also going to get a wrist mount that will be good for SCUBA diving. While we won't be wingsuiting or rock climbing as in the video below, you can see the diverse capabilities of this video camera. We're excited to get it.

Financially, all of this can add up and mean we're carrying a pretty hefty retail value of gadgets, especially considering we'll be staying in hostels and might not have access to safes everywhere we stay. While we certainly aren't going into this trip planning on things being lost or stolen, ultimately it is just stuff, and we're going into this trip knowing that could happen, but with an optimistic outlook. It was also a lot easier since the priciest purchases (the iPad and Kindle Fire) didn't cost us anything. If we return healthy and happy from this trip I won't be concerned about what was lost/stolen. We both know we will have some rough patches on this trip, so if we can have have our favorite books/music/films to settle us, that will be worth it.

Update: We're not taking the Olympus. It sucks. We're thinking of getting a Panasonic Lumix instead...stay tuned.

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