Why are you carrying a dead body with you around the world?
– A fellow traveler attempting to carry one of our backpacks.
If you’ve run into us on this trip, you may have noticed something of a contradiction: we appear heavily laden even though we exhibit a knack for wearing the same clothes almost every day.
“What’s with that?” you might ask.
If our bags aren’t stuffed with spiffy duds for nights out on the back beach, then what on earth are we carrying?
Our Equipment Landscape: A Snapshot
Check out the photo below and you’ll see that we literally carry an office-meets-production studio on our backs. This equipment enables us to capture our experiences and share them with our readers.
The following photo is infinitely more interesting and interactive if you click on it. This will open the individual photo page whereupon the photo will feature various clickable descriptive text notes corresponding to equipment that we carry – just mouse over different regions of the photo for the notes to pop up. Consider this a geeky peek into our geeky packs. This nifty photo display functionality is thanks to the Flickr photo sharing website.
The table below attempts to organize our equipment into functional areas: photography, audio/video, computing/storage/networking, and everything else. We’ve added links to Amazon in case you’re in the market for some new electronic toys.
Note: The links below may reflect a newer model than the one we own.
|Item||How We Use It|
|Photography||The camera we use for much of what you see in our photo gallery|
|Versatile pocket camera, particularly useful for quick shots of food and landscapes. Can also take video.|
|Nikon 18-200mm AF-S VR DX zoom lens||The primary lens in our bag.|
|Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S Lens||A back-up lens in case something happens to the 18-200 mm lens.|
|Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro Lens||Macro (close-up) and portrait shots.|
|Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye lens||Cylindrical and spherical panorama shots (a new project)|
|Hoya Circularizing Polarizing Filter (72 mm)||For glare reduction. Yields particularly interesting results with clouds and water.|
|Compact Flash Memory Cards||Storage media for the Nikon D70 camera|
|Velbon RUP-43 monopod||Think “tripod minus two legs.” For panorama and night photography.|
|Video and Audio||Captures all the video you see on this site.|
|For audio recordings. Also helps to preserve sanity on long bus trips.|
|Belkin Tune Talk||Microphone/recording device for the iPod.|
|Griffin Stereo Lavalier Microphone||Used in conjunction with the iPod to record interviews.|
|Griffin SmartShare Headphone Splitter||So we both can listen to music on the iPod and maintain our sanity on long bus trips.|
|iPod adapter to charge it from an electrical outlet.|
|Laptop and Storage||Audrey’s laptop, used primarily for photo editing, writing, and audio editing.|
|Dan’s laptop, used primarily for writing, website development and video production.|
|Western Digital (WD) Passport
||Backup storage for photos, videos, documents, website, etc.|
|Backup storage for photos.|
|Seagate Free Agent Go 1 TB Portable Storage Device||Backup storage for photos and videos.|
|Backup storage, used primarily for videos.|
|Temporary storage of files for use at internet cafes or between laptops. Also holds music collection (iTunes).|
|GPS, Network and Miscellaneous||To log location data as we travel to geotag our photos.|
|Smartphone used as a mobile phone on the road and for digital note-taking and writing on the road.|
|Apple Airport Express||Transforms a LAN connection into a WiFi (wireless) hotspot.|
|For Skype conversations with family, friends and the occasional tax collector.|
Updates: June 2009, January and June 2010
Do You Really Use It All?
Frighteningly enough, yes. While we use certain pieces of equipment (e.g., cameras and laptops) more than others, everything has its purpose.
“Laptops…as in plural??” Most people gasp when they find out we’re traveling with one. Our embarrassment runs so deep that we don’t often have the courage to share that we are actually carrying two.
We had hoped to travel with one, but we found it unworkable given the volume of content that we aimed to produce and the division of duties that we negotiated with one another. Additionally, working and traveling with your spouse day in and day out carries its own set of challenges – battling over the same laptop was not something we wished to add to the fire.
Does it make sense to travel this way?
For most people, the answer is obviously “No,” but it really depends on your travel objectives. Certainly there are people who travel with laptops, not only to connect with the office and friends back home but also to write and to manage their photos and/or videos on the road.
The obvious drawback to carrying so much stuff is physical strain. It’s no fun schlepping 50 pounds from bus to guest house (Though it does help keep us in shape and allows us guilt-free second helpings of things like Penang curry.)
Emotional stress is also a factor. Our equipment obviously has value. These are also the tools through which we attempt to make our travel financially sustainable. Finally, our laptops and external hard drives store our memories from this trip. [We do have an elaborate backup plan, including regular shipments of backup DVDs to the U.S.]
We continually consider potential theft and loss scenarios and we take steps to prevent them. For example, we must constantly make judgment calls regarding whether or not it’s safer to keep our bags locked up in a room or to take them with us. We haven’t had to turn down any experiences yet because of our equipment, but when we take shaky boats or head into the hills, our belongings (i.e., which pieces we take with us and which pieces we leave behind) are a major consideration.
Although we are making our equipment list public on this website, we don’t advertise our portable production studio when we’re on the road. Our Crumpler backpacks carry the majority of what you see above. Crumpler’s brightly colored designs resemble regular day-packs and manage to playfully conceal the complexity that lurks inside.
Why do it?
We’ve provided ample reasons why you should consider not traveling with a lot of equipment. So why do we do it?
In addition to subjecting ourselves to independent long-term travel for the sake of the experience, we had hoped to challenge ourselves creatively and professionally along the way.
We have chosen to do this by becoming proficient in producing stories, well-documented photo essays and semi-produced video and audio pieces as we travel. Despite the occasional aches and pains and the not-so-occasional desire to launch our laptops across the room in frustration, we do not regret our decision.
Article Series - Digital Nomad
- Our Office-less Office
- Lensbaby, GPS upgrade, and a Mac: What’s New in Our Packs
- Backing Up Is Hard to Do