The Art of Packing for the Long Journey

It has taken me a month and a half to write this post. That’s because packing is one of the most difficult aspects of traveling around the world. It’s takes a lot of research, a lot of trial and error, and a bit of luck to determine what goes with us on our journey and what stays at home. We have both traveled extensively and we have, early on, overpacked many times thinking we would need some item.  The last time I went to Asia, you’d have thought that I was going to climb the Himalayas with all the gear I had…oh, wait, I was.

Nowadays, we try to keep our luggage to just carry-on. A smaller bag is easier to carry and more maneuverable on crowded buses and trains. Besides, the less you have, the less you have to worry about. While this limitation makes it easier for us to move about quickly and saves on checked bag fees for some of our air travel, it’s nearly impossible to do without making some compromises. Continue reading

Minipresso Portable Espresso Machine

Travel forces you to shake things up and alter your routine in life. It’s a good way to challenge your thinking and makes each day something which you look forward to. However, some things are just part of your daily routine and necessary to keep some semblance of a normal life. For me, that something is coffee, which is not just part of my routine; it’s a necessity. Without it, I can’t fully function and my brain and body are still asleep. There are many ways to infuse my body with coffee while I’m on the road or camping or even at home. Instant is always there, but never really satisfies. I can always brew a cup in my drip filter, but that’s just so pedestrian. A French press pot is too bulky and fragile. It’s too bad I can’t bring an espresso machine with me. But wait, I can.

The Minipresso portable espresso machine makes some great espresso from a device about the size of a tall beer can, 7″ long and 2.25″ in diameter. It weighs about 12.8 oz. (362 g.) without the ground coffee and is so easy to use. The cup is included as part of the cover over the outlet end of the machine and just pops off. Unscrew the opposite end and you’ll find the water reservoir for the hot water, along with the measuring scoop for the ground coffee. Continue reading

Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod

After trying out the MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod, I decided to return it, spend a little more and get the Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod. I know that in my review of the MeFOTO I tried to justify not getting a carbon fiber tripod because of the extra expense over an equivalent aluminum tripod, but there was something I didn’t take into account. Carbon fiber is stiffer and doesn’t resonate like aluminum. Weighing in at 1 lb. 14.5 oz. (862 g.), it’s 11 oz. less than the MeFOTO and is helpful in reducing the total weight of my photo backpack. So here’s what I’ve discovered so far about this tripod. I’ll be making some comparisons to the MeFOTO, so bear with me.


The MeFOTO and the Sirui target a similar audience: travelers looking for a lightweight tripod solution. However, a tripod is more than just its own weight. It must be steady and support the weight placed on it. The Sirui T-025X uses carbon fiber tubing versus aluminum. The carbon fiber tubes are a slightly smaller diameter, but with nearly the same tubing wall thickness. The legs each have 5 sections and fold 180° for compact storage just like the MeFOTO. However, the carbon fiber legs are stiffer than the aluminum ones and they don’t exhibit the resonant vibrations I get with the aluminum legs. The smallest diameter leg sections are where the carbon fiber really shows its stiffness and dampening ability. Even with weight hanging from the center hook, there was hardly any bending or flexing in the legs.

The Sirui’s center column is removable. Even with the center column installed, if I move my camera slightly when mounted on the Sirui, it doesn’t transfer that movement down into the legs. Not something I could say about the MeFOTO. Wind induced vibrations are also reduced, and since the center column is removable, without it, vibrations are almost non-existent. Eliminating unwanted vibrations is one of the major reasons I went with carbon fiber over aluminum. The removable center column also means a minimum height of 10.2″ versus 16.75″ for the MeFOTO whose center column isn’t removable. Good news for those needing to shoot low angles or macro photography. Continue reading

Oregon to Patagonia, by Bicycle

This is what it’s like to be truly alive; to experience something new each day; to shake things up in your head; to make the short time we have on this earth seem like so much longer. This is why Sheri and I travel and why we are going to do more.

The Thousand Year Journey: Oregon To Patagonia from Kenny Laubbacher on Vimeo.

I hope that this film is a healthy nudge for people to shake up their lives a little bit. Jed’s radical choice to quit his job and ride his bike across the world is a perfect challenge to the rest of us to get out of the routine and make some scary decisions. If you’re afraid of a decision ahead of you, you’re probably on the right track. Choose it!

Follow Jed’s adventures @jedidiahjenkins
My Instaspam @kennyjamez

MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod

I did a lot of research before buying this tripod. I read all the negative reviews and asked questions. And I finally chose this tripod. What were my criteria? The tripod must allow me to take tack-sharp long-exposures. It has to be light. It has to be fairly sturdy. It has to pack down small. And it has to use my existing camera plates and L-brackets. Why not carbon fiber? Carbon fiber weighed 4 ounces less and cost $100 more.

A little background so you know I’m not just a casual user. I shoot professionally. I have quite a bit of equipment including 4 other tripods. So why would I need another one? I have a large tripod which is a Gitzo G1220 MkII with an Arca Swiss B-1 MonoBall Head and RRS flip-lock quick release. Another tripod was my “travel” tripod. It’s a Gitzo G026 with a Kirk BH-3 Ball Head. The photo of the three tripods compares the MeFOTO to my two Gitzo tripods. You can see how the MeFOTO is very small in comparison to my other ones. It met the criteria for packing down small, however, I have one little complaint that I’ll mention later. Continue reading

Pacsafe Camsafe Venture V16 Camera Slingpack

Pacsafe Camsafe Venture V16 Camera SlingpackSince there doesn’t seem to be an ideal backpack for our travels, I thought that maybe I should concentrate on the expensive things that should be protected. I still like the idea of anti-theft bags and decided that I should try another Pacsafe product after giving such a poor review of the Venturesafe™ 45L GII Travel Backpack. I’m glad to say that this bag is much better than the previous one I reviewed. I think this one will be the one to go with me around the world.

I looked at the comparably-sized Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Camera Backpack (Black) and the slightly larger Pacsafe Camsafe V25 Camera Backpack (Black). Both had very similar features, however, because I already will be using a backpack as my main bag, this sling bag is narrow enough that it could be awkwardly hung in front of me between my other backpack straps when I need to carry both bags for more than just a few minutes. To begin, let’s start with what I like about this bag.


This camera bag has a 16 liter capacity and can hold a full-size DSLR with a mounted lens along with a second lens. It could also easily accommodate a mirrorless system with room to spare. Since I’ll be bringing a Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 and a 12-24mm f/4 lenses, the size was perfect. This bag is geared for the more casual photographer and not a pro, so if you plan on bringing something larger and faster, such as 70-200mm f/2.8, you may have to reconfigure this bag, carry the big lens in a pouch in the main compartment of this bag, or simply find a different bag. The main compartment is divided mid-way by a drawstring closure, that can be opened up to make it one long compartment. The main compartment is big enough to also carry my large 100×150 filter bag with filter holder and adapter rings, as well as enough clothes and toiletries for a 2 -3 day excursion. Continue reading