I’ve had a few people ask what equipment I use for blogging so I thought this would be a good time to break down my setup. After 18 months of travel, I’ve ditched a few items that weren’t as useful as I’d hoped. I carry more gear than most travelers would need but with working from the road and doing so much photography, I can’t really get by with a lighter load.
My 2-year-old 13″ MacBook Pro is still holding up well, despite very heavy use and and a fair amount of all-out abuse. It’s starting to show its age a bit — Lightroom does bog down a hair while slinging around 18MB RAW files, but I think it should last me another year or two. The new Macbook Air laptops look tempting but I need the extra hard drive space to handle photos and video. (And I can’t afford one anyway).
The Booq Vyper Case has proved to be well worth the money, protecting my laptop from dings and scratches as well as saving it from spilled drinks on at least two occasions. It’s taken a real battering and looks nearly new (or it would, probably, if I bothered to wash it).
I carry 2 1 TB External Hard Drives with me. One has a bootable clone of my laptop OS and serves as my Time Capsule backup (I try to backup my system once a week). The second one is my external photo storage, where I backup my images when they start to overwhelm my laptop. As this fills up, I’ll probably have to add a third. Both are USB-powered so I don’t have to carry extra power adapters.
A Logitech Wireless Mouse is a must for me when working in Photoshop or Lightroom and a cheap USB charger keeps the batteries charged (I get about 2-3 weeks of use between charges).
I got this Belkin Mini Surge Protector for free at a trade show and it’s been extremely handy, allowing me to charge my laptop, camera batteries, video camera and iPhone all from one plug. The surge protection gives an added sense of protection, which is handy when you’re in a remote place that uses a generator to power the lights.
A new addition, the iPad 2 is proving to be incredibly useful. In the past I used my dying iPhone 3G mostly for email, note-taking, reading and checking my blog stats. The iPad does all of this and more and offers a solid 10 hours of battery time, which will come in handy on long bus rides. The larger keyboard size should allow me to actually write posts while in transit, rather than just making notes.
I love my Canon EOS Rebel T2i — shooting a pro-quality full-frame DSLR with high-end lenses would be great but this is the camera I can afford now and it’s treated me well. It’s fast, takes sharp 18 megapixel images and has surprisingly good low-light capabilities. After nine months of heavy use it’s still problem free and I hope to get much more work out of it before upgrading to a newer model.
I passed on purchasing the 18-55 kit lens, having started the trip with one and finding it too soft, and picked up a Canon 18-135mm Lens which has proved to be my everyday walk-around lens. It’s pretty sharp for a consumer lens and the range is ideal for everything from wide-angle landscapes to sneaking a candid shot from across the street. Again, a pro lens would certainly improve the quality of my shots but for the money it’s a solid lens.
I also carry a 55-250mm Telephoto Zoom Lens but I rarely break it out, despite the fact that it’s a good lens. I hope to give it more of a workout in the jungles and forests of Central America.
Although I own a quality Gitzo tripod with a great ballhead mount, I don’t travel with it due to the 6-pound weight. Instead I use a cheap Slik Mini II Tripod that I bought used for $25. Sure, it’s somewhat wobbly and slow to setup but it also weighs less than 2 pounds. Someday I hope to upgrade to a lightweight carbon tripod but for now, the Slik gets the job done.
The Flip MinoHD Video Camera has been fun to play with but I really haven’t got much real use out of it. Due to the odd shape, I find it hard to hold steady and the resulting footage tends to be shaky. I hope to shoot more video with the Canon DSLR but its slow auto-focus is taking some getting used to.
Gear that I’m Leaving Behind:
I thought that bringing an extra battery for my Macbook would be a great idea but in practice it rarely works out. The main problem is that since the battery has to be in the laptop to charge, you can only charge one at a time. This usually happens while I’m asleep, so unless I want to wake up in the middle of the night and swap batteries, battery #2 is almost always dead.
I’ve carried a small audio recorder for the last year and a half, thinking I’d make some high-quality recordings of local musicians and such but the opportunity rarely presents itself and since I haven’t been shooting as much video as I’d planned, I haven’t really needed it. Sure it only weighs a few ounces, but it is one more thing to worry about losing or breaking.
I packed a small USB hub but have rarely used it — apparently I’m not the power user that I thought I was.
I carry most of this with me every day and yes, it weighs a ton (over 10 pounds) — my shoulders get quite the workout. The tripod and dry bag stay in the room with the main pack, as does one of the hard drives but the rest I can’t afford to lose so I lug it from place to place. It’s not an ideal solution, but it beats worrying about theft.
So that’s my gear list. What would you add or leave at home?