Monday, December 05, 2011

An Excess of Gadgets

I tend to agree with minimalism and simplicity. And in some respects I manage it - I'm traveling for six weeks with a relatively small backpack. (Admittedly, only because Shelley hauled our dive gear.) But I fail miserably when it comes to gadgets. Here's what I'm traveling with:

- 13" MacBook Air
- external USB hard drive
- iPad
- iPhone
- Kindle
- Pentax K7 SLR camera
- Canon G12 camera

I need the MacBook to download and process my photographs. I guess I could wait to process the photos till I got home, but I enjoy posting them as I go. And I'd still want some way to back them up - I like to have two copies. On previous trips that was on the MacBook and on the external hard drive. But I have enough memory cards now that I don't need to reuse them, so I didn't end up using the external hard drive.

This is the first trip I've had the iPad. I debated bringing it since it definitely seemed like overkill to have MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. But partly I wanted to see how it worked out for traveling. I ended up using it a lot. It's lighter and easier to carry than the MacBook, but nicer for browsing and writing than the iPhone. In some ways I like it better than the MacBook because of all the apps I have - Go game, bird guide, offline Wikipedia, star gazing, and offline maps. It's easier to find apps that work offline for the iPhone/iPad than for the MacBook.

I could probably do without the iPhone, but in Canada it's great to have 3G Internet access so I can look up places and use maps while I'm out wandering around. I wish I could do this outside Canada, but roaming data charges are ridiculous. I do use the iPhone as a phone occasionally, but usually with Skype (if I have wifi). But I could probably use Skype on the iPad with earphones/mike.

Although I could read my Kindle books on the iPad, there are two main drawbacks - battery life and reading in bright light. If you're going to go somewhere warm, you want to sit outside, but it's hard to read on a regular LCD display in bright light. The Kindle's eInk display works great. (Although you have the opposite problem at night, where you need light to read the Kindle, whereas a backlit LCD provides its own light.) The battery life is a big factor - the Kindle will go a week or more without recharging. Power is usually available on most trips, but if you're not careful you end up running out somewhere where there's no power. (Or you don't have your charger with you.)

If I didn't need to process photos I would skip the MacBook and just bring the iPad. But I think I'd still bring the Kindle as well. If I had a data plan on my iPad I'd probably skip the iPhone.

Two cameras is mostly due to wanting the G12 for underwater, and the Pentax for the rest of the time. I have done trips with just the G12 which is much smaller and lighter to carry, and still good quality. But I miss the longer zoom on the Pentax (a Tamron 18 to 250, equivalent to 27 to 375) especially for wildlife like birds or lizards.

One concern when traveling with so much gadgetry is the risk of theft. I don't like to put expensive stuff in my checked baggage due to the risk of it getting lost, so my carry-on bag ends up pretty heavy. And then I have to keep a close watch on it, because of all the expensive stuff in it. One factor that helps is that I don't think I look particularly rich. Of course, it's hard not to look like a tourist when you're walking around with a camera and a backpack and your skin is nothing like the local color. Another drawback to so many gadgets is that I seldom carry them all at any one time, which means leaving some in the hotel room, not always the safest, depending where you are.

Maybe I should try a trip with no gadgets. Nah, that's too crazy :-)

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