Being the gear whores that we are, we have done massive amounts of thinking in regards to what to bring on our nine month adventure. This list is not a done deal at this point, I have already bought and returned three pairs of shoes! I am finding it very difficult to choose one pair of shoes to wear for nine months!! Adam is still researching and contemplating getting a different backpack/laptop bag combo. Anyways, this is the list so far.
Laptop: Apple MacBook– It was a hard choice to decide whether to bring a laptop. However, being gone for so long, it will be nice to be able to back up photos, edit videos, work on our blog, write our thoughts, research where we’re going next, do online banking, etc. with a laptop. We had a Dell e1505 before. It was a great computer, but it was 8.5 pounds with power supply, and felt a bit fragile to lug around. I was all set to get a Sony SZ, but had heard great things about the Apple MacBook. While the Apple, at 5 pounds, was a full pound heavier than the Sony, the power adapter was so small that it made up about half of the difference. The spec on the MacBook, however, was far superior for the money, which came as a surprise (Macs are known to be expensive). I’ve heard a lot of great things about Mac OS X as well, and was curious to try it out. So, we got a 1.1″ thick, sleek white MacBook. I must admit- the thing is fast, stable, and pretty. However, the Mac OS takes some getting used to when you’re a long time Windows user. The Apple Dock isn’t nearly as useful as the Windows Start button/task bar/system tray. It simply jumbles up all the programs you’re running and programs you might want to run, making multi-tasking a little more awkward than on Windows. When viewing photo slideshows in a folder, they’re displayed in random order rather than chronologically. WTF?! If you want to view them chronologically, you have to use another application, like iPhoto. Unfortunately, that program doesn’t let you organize your photos into folders the way you want. You have to be kidding yourself if you think we’ll all still be using iPhoto in 30 years, and I’d like to be able to find what I want in the future, so unfortunately iPhoto just won’t be practical (plus, it loads ALL of your thumbnails when you start it, which makes it slow and difficult to find anything.) iTunes is only slightly better. It seems OK, but it won’t let you merely ADD a song to your iPod- you have to “sync” it, and then it’ll mirror all the songs in your iTunes library onto the iPod. Since, for me anyway, the main reason for getting an 80 GB iPod was freeing harddrive space on the computer, iTunes is less than worthless- I’m considering deleting it so I don’t accidentally erase my music. I was so excited about the iLife suite, too. At least iMovie is a pretty good program (but be warned- the new version isn’t as good). The computer has also given me a hardware problem. Mysterious cracks formed where the bottom part of the casing meets the part of the computer with the keyboard and track pad. I went to the Apple Store to have it fixed, and now when you open and shut the monitor, everything feels loose and out of alignment. I asked for an exchange, and they said they wouldn’t do it since I got the computer at Apple.com instead of at the store, which gives it a different serial number. WTF…it’s the same computer. Some service. I’m hoping this system will be durable enough for the trip. Of course, one thing Apple did right is BootCamp. This is some software you download from Apple, and it allows you to boot your computer to Windows or OS X, so whenever the Apple OS is giving me problems, I merely boot to Windows. It runs Windows almost as well as any other PC, the main differences being that the keyboard is missing a few keys, and the trackpad driver isn’t so great. I guess that means it really isn’t too bad for~40% less than a comparably speced Sony or Dell. We’re also taking a detachable hard drive to backup our photos, which’ll live in a seperate bag than the laptop.
Canon Rebel XTi Digital SLR I was very close to getting a Canon S5, which is their “pro-sumer” model, and about the size of a small SLR. This was a nice camera. There are two main reasons I decided not to get it. The first is low-light photography. The S5 uses a tiny little sensor- probably about half the size of one of the keys you’re typing on. This means that in any sort of dim light, you get a very grainy, noisy image. I take a lot of no-flash, low light photos, and Canon beats the pants off of any other SLR in this realm thanks to their APS-C sized CMOS sensor (about 4x as big as the keys you’re typing on). The other thing that put me off from the S5 was that, at it’s widest, it goes out to the equivalent of a 36mm lens. This is far too long. I was able to get a lens that went out to the equivalent of 16mm for the XTi. This is the Canon 10-22 mm Lens. Simply amazing clarity- had it been weather-sealed, it would’ve been an L-lens. Of course, no L-lenses go this wide. For a daily walkaround lens, I got a Sigma 17-70 f2.8 lens. Reasonably fast, and solidly bulit with great optics and a nice wide focal range. Our original itinerary included a trip to Africa which, sadly, we later decided to put off to another time. I had already ordered my “Safari Lens” however, which is the Canon 70-300mm IS Lens. This lens also has amazing optical quality, and goes out to the 35mm equivalent of 480mm. Best of all, it is image stabilized. When you push the shutter button half way down, you can feel, hear, and if you look closely, even SEE lens elements moving to counteract the natural shaking of your hands. This is particularly important in such a long lens because, in decent light, you can shoot at the full 300mm without a tripod! Very cool! I also got a few other camera accessories, including a couple of polarizing filters, a cable release, a 4GB memory card, extra batteries and a GorillaPod tripod. The tripod is supposed to be their SLR version, but it won’t hold the 70-300mm lens, and barely holds the others. It is also very difficult to level. Still, I’ve already paid for it, so I guess I’ll give ‘er a try. All of this lives in a Crumpler 5 million dollar home camera bag. This is a pretty cool bag. It is smaller than you’d expect for holding all of this gear, and it looks like a messenger bag rather than a bag full of expensive camera gear. Now, all of this gear cost a lot more than the S5. However, SLRs tend to have a longer useful life than point and shoots, it should provide me with better quality photos, and best of all, the lenses will last for many cameras. As if that weren’t enough, these lenses really tend to hold their value. I found the best deals on all of them. I’ve seen used ones on ebay go for more than I paid, so at the end of the trip, if I want to I can sell them and break even. Cool! Word to the wise: I purchased the MacBook and all of the camera gear on an American Express card. Not only do I get 1% back, but American Express will extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year!
Canon SD800 IS with underwater housing: Of course, we don’t always want to be lugging around a big old photo canon, so we’re also taking a discreet little point and shoot. I got the SD800 about a year ago, and it has been an excellent camera. Unlike most point and shoots, the lens goes out to the equivalent of 28mm, which makes landscape and indoor photography SO much better and easier, although the pictures get a bit soft around the edges at this focal length. It also has the same sort of image stabilization technology as the 70-300 lens. This is an excellent little camera, and I’ve recommended it to several friends and family members. When we went to Thailand last year, we bought a little cheapie underwater 35mm, but were disappointed with the results. This time, since we’ll be spending a lot of time around or in the water, we decided to make the plunge and get an underwater houseing for the SD800. These aren’t cheap for a piece of plastic, but the image quality is great, and it gives you full functionality of all of your controls. It also provides a lot of protection from water or impact when on land. I was mountain biking a few weeks ago with this thing in my pack when I fell on it. My back hurt for a week where the housing hit me, but the housing itself was just fine.
Canon Optura 500 Camcorder: This was Canon’s mid-range camcorder a few years ago. It takes pretty good video, was VERY affordable on ebay, and takes the same battery as our Rebel XTi, saving us from bringing yet another charger. I also got a .5X wide angle screw-on lens for it, and the ebay seller was kind enough to throw in a wireless mic. We wished we’d have taken more video when we went to Thailand, so this time, hopefully we will. Still…I sort of think if we’re going to bother, maybe we should’ve gone high definition. I can still get one overnighted, so I have a few days to decide.
80 GB iPod Video:
This is my first MP3 player. It is nice, and holds all my music and a ton of video, but the software, again, isn’t quite what I had hoped for. I was hoping I could just drag my file structure over from my computer, and find my music the way I already had it organized. Unfortunately, the iPod will only organize music by it’s metadata. This means when I want to find a song, I have to scroll through all the artists- even the ones I only have a couple of songs for, or the ones I haven’t listened to in years. Watching video on the plane is a nice feature, but you have to use 3rd party software to rip your DVDs. I can’t use iTunes to buy video without wiping the iPods HD clean, so I’m forced to find “other” sources for video.
Trendnet USB WiFi adapter and Hotspot finder: This is a cool little device I found on Amazon the other day. It is about the size of a pack of gum. When you push a little button, it’ll tell you how many wireless networks are available, the network SSID name, the signal strength, and if they’re secure. It charges by plugging it into your USB port. This ‘ll be handy for finding free internet access, and much better than walking around with my laptop open looking for a network (I might as well wear a T-shirt that says “rob me”). Not bad for $34.
Steri-Pen water purifier. Nobody wants travelers diarrhea from drinking 3rd world water, but I’d prefer not having to go to the store and stock up on water every time I’m thirsty. The Steri Pen is a rather phallic-looking, battery powered UV light. You turn the light on, stir it around in a glass of clear water for minute, and it damages the DNA on bacteria, viruses, and protozoa to the extent that they’re unable to reproduce in your gut and make you sick. This should help keep us healthy, prevent us from leaving a trail of empty bottles around the globe, and encourage us to drink more since we don’t have to ration our water.
Victorinox E-Motion 360 Trek Pack Plus 3.0 Women’s 24″- This one I love! It is a roller, as well as a backpack! Which when I can, I will use the rolling feature, but the terrain becomes impassible for a roller we can use the backpack option. It has a very comfortable handle when rolling, a detachable daypack (which we have come to decide is somewhat overrated, but will be good for carrying toiletries in possibly), and seems to be very well built.
Crumpler Base Toucher- I like the way this one looks (kinda skate punk like in subdued colors) and it has a nice protected pouch for the laptop. My favorite part about it, is that it does not look like a laptop bag, but Adam feels that the shape is wrong and he wants even more protection for our expensive flashpacking equiptment. He is currently researching a PacSafe backpack. This company builds wires into their bags to further protect your belongings. We would be able to lock our bag and expensive equiptment to a solid object in our hotel rooms and have it be relatively safe.
Luggage- Adam Victorinox E-Motion 360 Trek Pack Plus 3.0 26″- This is the same bag that Shawn has, but is 2″ larger.
Vaude Bike Alpin Air 25+5- This is a cool bag. The back section is a plastic mesh that holds the bag about an inch off of your back. Since it doesn’t actually touch your back, you stay much cooler and don’t get a big sweat stain down your back. It also has the cleverest arrangement of pockets and features I’ve ever seen, and it is pretty light weight, too. This is a German brand and is a little hard to come by in the states, but I was able to find it at basegear.com (who I highly recommend)
Various mesh, ziplock, and compression bags- This is out attempt to try to keep things organized when we travel. We both really like to keep all of our clothes in a mesh bag to keep them separated from everything else.
Pearl Izumi SyncroSeek 2 Trail Runners- These shoes are insanely comfortable. I purchased them at a local running store here in Albuquerque called Heart and Sole and I fell in love. They have a seamless interior in them and are more than adequately cushioned. I had planned on bringing a pair of New Balance All-Terrains but after putting the Pearls on I just had to make the switch.
Chaco Zong Sandals- I have been wearing these all summer already and have been very impressed with their durability, and comfort. I can wear these on short hikes because they have a sticky Vibram sole that provides great traction. They also have very comfortable arch support so are particularly loved by people like me with somewhat high arches.
1 North Face Microfleece TRA 100 Pullover- It is a pretty sky blue color, lightweight, and quick drying.
1 White Sierra Stuffable Rain Jacket and Pants- This is lightweight, inexpensive, and functional. We will also throw in a dispossible poncho for torrential downpours, as well as a very tiny and cute umbrella.
2 Champion Poly-Spandex T-shirts- These are from Target and are great! They are lightweight, hold their color, and are quick drying.
2 Merona Seamless Tanktops- Also, from Target (maybe they should pay me)! These are great for layering, never wrinkle, hold their color, and roll up into nothing.
2 Prana Lola Sport Tops- Not from Target, and are more expensive, but worth it! They have won some awards in the sport top world:-) Anyways, these can take the place of bras during some occasions, are moisture wicking, are good for sleeping in, and are incredibly comfy.
1 Columbia GRT Travel Shirt- Not really that flattering, but very functional. It is easy to pull on when it is necessary to cover up while entering more conservative venues, and also when in mosquito ridden malaria areas. When we visited Thailand over a year ago we found a permethrin (insect repellent) treatment for a set of clothes and treated them, but this treatment only lasts six months. If anyone has access to permethrin or knows how to find it please let us know.
1 Columbia Titanium Long Sleeve- This is the most flattering long sleeve that I am taking. It is 3/4 sleeve, basic black, and has an asymetrical cut. I was really excited to find this flattering of a top that is also moisture-wicking and quick-drying. It is so great when functionality can meet up with good aesthetics!
1 Royal Robbins Moisture Wicking Sundress- This was a fun find as well, and is a great melon color. It is a good fabric for traveling, and is not at all dowdy. It will be great for beachy areas and possibly Europe (areas that do not require conservative dress). It is for times that I need to feel pretty!
1 Quick Dry Lole Travel Skirt- Again, great material but a little more functional than the dress above. Also, not too short so I will be able to wear it in many areas.
1 Columbia XCO Pants- I love the fit of these pants, I can not say that about most of the pants that I tried on for this trip. They fit like my favorite jeans and I love that! They also will roll into cropped pants, and are made of an incredibly soft material that resembles the look of linen without the wrinkling problem.
1 Prana Drawstring Cropped Pants- Wrinkle resistant, feel like yoga pants, and are very lightweight. I am looking forward to wearing these pants on those long flights where it is important to be in something comfortable and non-binding.
1 Adventura SPF Board Shorts– These are the longer variety, are super cute, and will be great to wear on beaches that don’t appreciate the bikini wearing westerner.
1 Champion Poly/Spandex Running Shorts- Also, from Target. We intend to preserve some of our physical fitness by running when we can, so a running short is an essential item to us. They again retain their color well, are not too short (again the conservative thing), and will be comfortable to sleep in.
Swimming suit(s)- I am bringing two tops, one of them a bikini (when that is appropriate, and I can also use it as a bra), and the other is a tankini that is more like a tank top and can be used as such. I will travel with only one bottom suit that matches both of my tops.
1 Sarong- I will usually wait until I get to a beachy destination to buy one of these, but I found one that I just loved at a little shop in Cannon Beach, Oregon so I got it. It is a beautiful batik print that will be a little different that most sarongs you will find in the touristy areas. I use sarongs for many different things while traveling, of course the obvious use is to cover up before and after the beach, but I also use it as a beach towel, and I can also use it in conservative venues to of course cover up. A sarong, for me as a woman traveler definitely earns its weight in my pack.
4 Ex Officio Travel Undies- These are coveted by travelers far and wide. They are quick drying, moisture wicking, don’t get smelly as fast, and last longer than traditional undies.
3 Bras- Sorry guys, but I had to do a lot of thinking on this one and there was not a lot of information out there, so I think that this info should be posted. At REI, it was easy for them to recommend undies but the bras were a different story. I have decided to bring one with convertible straps, one Patagonia bra that is super comfortable, has super stretchy moisture wicking fabric (of course, right?), and also has an attractive shape with underwires. I think that if you are in the same boat as me and wanting a nice bra that also performs well, that this is a winner. I am also bringing one traditional sports bra (moisture wicking, of course).
4 socks- The first pair is a new pair that I found from Smartwool. They are labeled a running sock, and are said to be blister free, and odor free (which could be really cool if it really works). They also say that they will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer (again, the jury is still out). I like the feel of them so I was willing to give them a try. The next two pairs are the socks I wore in Thailand and are called Wright Sock coolmesh, and are also labeled a running sock. I was happy with them there, so I decided to take them again. Last but not least, on my list of socks are my Fox River organic wool socks, ( I am really not sure what deems this wool organic, but maybe someone can enlighten me) they are a thinner wool that is still dense, but hugs my foot really well, so the comfort factor is definitely positive.
3 Hats- So far I am taking my favorite Bula Beanie that is wool and lined with fleece, and a visor. I am still on the look out for a sun hat that is not too dorky looking. I may have to settle with a dorky one though.
Pearl Izumi SyncroSeek 2 Trail Runners- These are the same shoes that Shawn has, but in a different color. We have the habit of liking the same shoes, so it’s good that they generally make different colors for men and women.
Sandals- He will most likely go with Chacos, but wishes they would make half sizes (he is between a 10 and 11).
The North Face Lightweight Softshell- This is a great jacket. It is lightweight, wind resistant, has a hood, and is a really nice green color. Shawn wishes they made this jacket in women’s sizes. It packs into nothing and doesn’t wrinkle.
REI Waterproof Rain Jacket- This is REI’s version of gor-tex and is beautiful as far as rain jackets go. Shawn also wishes that they would have made a women’s version of this jacket.
2 T-shirts- The first one is by Ex-Officio (the underwear people). It is thin, moisture wicking, and quick drying. Number two is a Buzz-off t-shirt (permethrin treated) and is also made by Ex-Officio. It also has a tighter neck that takes some getting used to, and is designed that way to keep the mozzies out!
1 Travel Shirt- Adam looks way better in these than Shawn does. Adam’s is by Ex-Officio is a nice orange shade (looks good with his blue eyes), and is the most breathable travel shirt he has ever had.
1 Long Sleeve T-shirt- This is also a Buzz-off t-shirt but the long sleeve variety in a nice steel blue.
2 Pants- The first ones are from Columbia and are polyester. They look really nice on him and he says he got them, “so I won’t always look like I am on safari or something”. They will be good for all day as well as out to a restaurant. The second pair are North Face convertible pants that he wore on our Thailand trip. They are pretty tough and look better than most convertibles do.
2 Shorts- The first ones are by Columbia. They are made of nylon and are of the longer variety with cargo pockets. Adam liked them because they will perform well for swimming and since they are a navy blue color he can wear them with a button down shirt as well. His other pair of shorts are a pair of In-Sport running shorts.
4 Ex-Officio Travel Undies- These are the male version of Shawn’s and are made of the same great material.
4 Socks- 2 Hats- One Columbia wide brimmed hat (again, it looks way better on Adam than it does on Shawn), and most likely a FOO (Friends of Otero) baseball cap (FOO is our mountain biking advocacy club here in Albuquerque).