Lensbaby, GPS upgrade, and a Mac: What’s New in Our Packs

Digital Nomad, Audrey on Laptop - Rio Dulce, Guatemala
A pleasant day at the office. Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

We physically feel the weight of our equipment day in and day out. After settling down for a few days in northern Nicaragua recently, we unpacked and were visually reminded of it all, too.

Although the contents of our gadget bags haven’t changed drastically since we first shared the nuts and bolts of our digital nomadism, a few items have.

Here’s what’s new in our packs these days and why.

DSLR Camera Gear

Nikon D300Nikon D300 DSLR Camera: The Nikon D70, our former rig, was a champ. We loved that camera. But after four years of harsh climates, difficult conditions, and tens of thousands of photos, it began to falter. During its life, we replaced the CCD/sensor and shutter motor. Fearing that something else might break in the middle of the Bolivian salt deserts, we decided to upgrade.

Our decision came down to: Nikon D300 vs. Nikon D90. Although the D300 is a bit heavier and more expensive, we chose it for its rugged metal frame toughness and features like its 51-point auto-focus.

Casio EX-V8Casio EX-V8 Digital Camera: For us, the beauty of the Casio EX-V8 is in the absence of an extending optical zoom lens. The death of our previous Casio EX-Z750 handheld was related to problems with the zoom lens after we dropped it over a dozen times. The EX-V8 built-in 7x optical zoom also works while shooting video. In our experience, this line of Casio cameras is difficult to beat when you consider all its features…and the fact that it can fit in your pocket. Full disclosure: Casio provided us this camera.

LensBaby MuseLensBaby Muse: An item for the ‘fun’ category. Lensbaby lenses are selective focus SLR lenses. While photos taken with traditional lenses feature a consistent depth of field (be it shallow or deep) throughout the image, a photo taken with a Lensbaby lens will likely have just one area in focus while the rest of the image remains soft, dreamlike or in motion. You can see some examples here and here.

The Lensbaby Muse also features an “optic swap” system whereby you can switch the element of the lens (for example, from glass to plastic). In addition to the Lensbaby Muse standard plastic optic, we also purchased the glass optic swap and macro extension kit to allow us greater artistic range.

GPS Data Logger

AMOD GPS Data LoggerAmod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger: The Sony GPS CS-1, our previous GPS data logger, kept up with us for the first two years of our trip, but then it began to hiccup. The deciding factor in our purchase of the Amod AGL3080: it could be read by a Mac without the aid of additional software or hacks. Mac users looking for an alternative to the Sony GPS CS-1KA should consider this device.

Note: The only problem we’ve found with the Amod AGL3080 is that you must ensure that the device is turned off completely before you remove the batteries to recharge them. If the batteries are removed while the device is still powered on, your data will be corrupted and you will likely have to reformat the device’s built-in flash drive.

Laptop, Storage and Accessories

MacBook 13-inch Aluminum LaptopMacBook 13.3-inch Aluminum Unibody Laptop: Dan finally made the switch. A failed hard drive on his Sony VAIO PC — likely caused by overheating due to running multiple virus scans — sent him packing to the Mac camp. That it comes out of hibernation almost instantaneously still makes him giddy. Pleased with the switch? That would be an understatement.

Western Digital Passport 500 GB StorageWestern Digital Passport 500 GB Portable External Hard Drive: The amount of data we generate from our travels is staggering. We always need more space and you can’t beat the size (tiny) and price ($120 for 500 GB). The day of 1TB pocket drives is not long off.

SanDisk Compact Flash and Card ReaderSanDisk 8 GB Compact Flash (CF) Extreme III and SanDisk Extreme Reader: A new Nikon D300 camera means increased photo file size. That also means more data to transfer. We not only needed a larger CF card, but also a faster CF card reader. This combination allows us to transfer heaps of photos much faster than your garden variety CF card/reader combination.

Belkin Power Strip and Surge ProtectorBelkin 3-plug & USB Travel Multi-Plug: We often find ourselves in hotel rooms with only one electrical outlet. When we need to charge camera batteries, laptops, an iPod and a mobile phone, we could be forced to shack up for days. This multiplug, equipped with 3 electrical outlets and 2 USB outlets, allows us to charge everything at once, all while protecting against not-so-infrequent power surges.

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  1. says

    Wow – Love the blog, just found you guys. Your list of equipment makes me feel good about my own laptop, camera and hard drive I’m packin’…is that horrible to say?! But your pictures are beautiful and consider another follower! Cheers, Shannon :-)

  2. Nick says

    Since you’ve switched to the D300… you might want to look into the Nikon GP-1… geotagging without the hassles

  3. says

    I’ve been eyeing that Macbook for a while. My current Dell is preparing for retirement and I’m seriously considering going Apple.

  4. says


    Your readers should know that your D70 is still being well-used. And you should know that I saw a portable 1TB advertised for $89 in Seattle last week but never made it to the store.


  5. says

    Lens Baby, Mac… I am tempted, I have to say. But the thing I’m most jealous of at the moment? Your extension cord! Pure genius.

  6. says

    @craig: Prototype from a vacuum hose…didn’t know that, but can easily imagine it. Gotta love ingenuity.

    @Shannon: It’s extra weight, but we use everything. I’m sure you will find the same.

    @Nick: Thanks for the tip. We looked into the Nikon GPS device. The price seemed a little steep. Also figured it might be a little cumbersome when pulling in and out of our shoulder bag/waistpack…which we do often.

    @Anil: If you do it, I can’t imagine you would be disappointed. I have found apps to replace everything I was running on the PC, with a few exceptions. For those, I reluctantly run Parallels and installed Windows XP inside of it.

    @Tony: Glad to hear that you are keeping our D70 in good use. About the 1TB drives…like I said. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing a Western Digital Passport 1TB portable external hard drive.

    @Kirsty: We are still laughing. You know, our extension cord was a recent purchase in Guatemala. What we were doing before that, I have no idea. Pulling our laptops and chairs to single, ill-placed plugs in the far corners of our guest house rooms, maybe?

  7. says

    When my camera gave up on me on the road last year, I ended up getting the Canon G9. It can be fully auto as well as fully manual, and lenses can be added at will. I like it because it is a small unassuming looking camera….it looks cheap and kind of old – like a blocky 80’s 35mm “auto” model.

    I haven’t yet embraced the GPS thing though. Do you really get lots of use out of it? Is it worth the money (to buy, and to download maps)?

    And I must say, although I considered jumping over to Mac, I couldn’t yet justify the higher price (especially for the smaller 12” or 13” models)…although I guard my laptop with my life, I also acknowledge that on the road, things come and go for a variety of reasons. I like to carry good gear, but at the same time not gear that would put me back significantly to lose and replace. But who knows…seeing how many people haven’t looked back since making the switch speaks for itself.

    Great post – lots to think about! I love comparing notes. (grin)

  8. says

    @Nora: Having a less conspicuous camera is nice – there are times when we use our Casio instead of the Nikon because it’s more appropriate for the situation. But, we do love the Nikon even with its bulk :)

    The GPS device we carry is a data logger, meaning that it only logs the location data of where we’ve been. Ironically, it’s absolutely useless for trying to navigate as it doesn’t have a screen or a place where we can input address information. We wouldn’t use a traditional GPS device much since we tend to discover as we get lost – it’s one of the joys of travel.

    But, we use the GPS data logger every day so that we can geotag all our photos. You can read an introduction to geotagging photos here or see a sample here (scroll down to the google map on the bottom of the page). It’s pretty geeky but we think it’s worth the effort.

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