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 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-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 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 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 13.3-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 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 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 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.