Our Preparation Timeline

Getting ready for a long-term trip, whether it be around the world or just a month abroad, requires quite a lot of advanced planning. Most people don’t realize how much advance planning is required to bring everything together at the right time. Heck, I didn’t know until I started.

As I look back on the last month before our departure, I realize that things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some things took much longer than anticipated and other things just didn’t get done and will have to be dealt with on the road. I think it would have been wonderful to have had some sort of timeline to help with my time management, but until I actually started working on the tasks, I didn’t know how long things would take. And I couldn’t find that sort of information on the Internet since everyone’s situation is different.

Here’s the timeline based on our hindsight that I wish I would have had, outlining what we needed to do and when. It might be helpful in planning your own journey. Continue reading

RTW Camera Gear Finalized

d7200After several months of painstaking research and careful consideration of weight limitations and current equipment, I finally decided on my camera gear. If you’re not familiar with my criteria, you might want to read my other post on travel photo gear. My primary body will be the Nikon D7200. It’s bigger than I originally wanted, but is the best compromise between the functionality I needed, weight and image quality. The D7200 will work with all my existing Nikon equipment so I don’t have to go out and get all new gear specific to a new system. I’m also very familiar with the user interface so I won’t have much of a learning curve. It won’t perform as well in low light as a full-frame sensor camera, such as the Sony Alpha 7 series, but it’s a whole lot better than my previous D300 body. Plus, it has full 1080p video saving me from carrying a separate camcorder.

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Quick Tip: Don’t Advertise Valuables

You’re a good vigilant traveler. You’ve packed your bags and secured them with a TSA approved lock to protect its contents. It’s all good, right? Keep believing that if it makes you feel better, but everything I just described could actually make you more of a target for theft. To begin with, locking your bag only provides you with a false sense of security. Unless you’re one of the few remaining travelers who still have hard-sided luggage with uniquely keyed locks on the latches, you’re probably more vulnerable than you think. If you have a bag with a zipper, it doesn’t take much to get into your bag and not even leave any evidence that it happened, all it takes is a ballpoint pen. By placing a lock on your bag, you’re telling thieves and unscrupulous baggage handlers there’s something worth stealing in that bag, even if there isn’t. But you also don’t want to just leave it unlocked and risk a zipper becoming accidentally opened or someone putting something in your bag. So what can be done? Continue reading

Tortuga Travel Backpack V2

The problem with the travel backpacks that are available is that so few are actually designed for travel. Either you get a rolling suitcase with wheels and some flimsy shoulder straps, but sacrifice a hip belt and comfort, or you get a true backpack with a great hip belt and lots of adjustments for comfort, but sacrifice ease of use and having a carry-on size. My old Eagle Creek Continental Journey LC was nearly perfect, but sadly, after 15 years, it was wearing out. Unfortunately, when Eagle Creek was acquired by a large conglomerate, they stopped making it or anything even remotely like it. Finding the perfect travel bag has been a long, time-consuming process, sometimes involving buying and returning bags. I eliminated a lot of good bags, such as the Tom Bihn bags, because they lacked a hip belt. So far, I have looked at ten bags: Continue reading

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

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