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

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.

THE GOOD

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

Desperately Seeking My Dream Backpack

With all the travel we’ve done, our closet resembles a luggage store filled with past lovers. That rolling bag whose fancy wheels I fell for is now just a drag to take anywhere. That huge hiking backpack carried everything I could ever want, but was always such a gold digger when it came to airline travel. That incredible fling with that daypack was short-lived and bound to fail. We just didn’t have anything in common. I won’t even begin to talk about the waist pack that brought out my feminine side. I don’t discriminate and have just about every size, style, and shape of bag that you could imagine, yet nearly every trip is different and requires a new bag. It’s not that I’m fickle. Either my existing luggage has certain deficiencies that I discovered after spending a few weeks with it, or the bag I really like is beginning to fall apart and won’t survive a month on the road, much less a year. I’m very demanding and hard on my luggage and that’s probably why I haven’t found my perfect match.

So I’m back on the market and searching the usual places. There’s nothing like a big trip in the future to peak my excitement. With it comes an opportunity to fine tune all my travel gear. Shopping around for a new travel bag is almost like the excitement of a first date, with the renewed promise of finding another perfect travel companion. In addition to the perfect travel companion I married, my travel bag and I will be spending a great deal of time together so we need to be truly compatible. Sometimes everything clicks and it’s true love, but more often there’s something missing or you find a fault you just can’t overlook and you start over. Too bad there isn’t an eHarmony site for luggage. Continue reading

Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII Travel Backpack

venturesafe-45l-gii_60320606_1This review is also posted to the product page on Amazon for the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII, Navy Blue, One Size. I bought this bag wanting to have the security features. I tried hard to like it, but several things really stood out that made me have to return it. I loaded it up with mainly clothes (sans laptop) and carried it around for about an hour to get a feel for it. Here’s what I thought.

THE GOOD

The security features of this bag are a very compelling reason to get it. It’s the only reason I didn’t give it a one-star rating. The exomesh throughout allows you not to worry about your bag being slashed. The unique zippers prevent someone from using a ballpoint pen to pop it open and the zipper pulls combined with the locking mechanism would thwart the casual opportunistic thief. It also comes with a small wire cable to attach the bag to a fixed object. The security was well-intentioned.

The size is just about right for a carry-on bag and I was able to put nearly all my stuff into it for an RTW journey without it bursting at the seams. The bag’s main compartment completely unzips to allow easy packing and removal. The main compartment has a full-length mesh pocket on the lid and a 4-point stabilizing/compression strap inside. There are also outside compression straps to help squeeze it down to carry-on size. The outside also has two attachment points made of a rubberized fabric that appears to be sturdy enough to strap something to the outside.

The shoulder straps and hip belt stow behind a semi-rigid plastic back panel making it easier to put into an overhead compartment on a plane or when you want to check your bag. Continue reading

Travel photo gear

When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:

Quality is paramount

There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.

Resolution is important

Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Continue reading