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

J.R.R. Tolkien

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
1892-1973, author

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

Beware of discount Asian airlines

If you’ve searched for an airfare to or from a destination in Asia, I’m sure you’ve seen the low priced options from JetStar, AirAsia or one of those other discount airlines. If you’ve never actually booked a flight with one of these airlines, it sure looks like a great deal. However, if you’re used to all-inclusive fares (checked baggage exempted) like you get in the U.S., you’re in for a surprise. All the prices I mention are per person, and since there’s two of us, the costs double.

Compared to the next lowest fare at $150 with a competitor, the nearly half-priced $79 ticket to Jakarta from Bangkok on Jetstar looked like a great deal, so I went ahead and started the booking process. The first thing I noticed was that there are three tiers of service and the low priced fare was the bottom tier. This basic service included very little and had severe restrictions, such as non-refundable, change fees, and no baggage allowance. With a 7 kg. limit for carry-on, that didn’t allow us to carry much onboard. For $42 more, the next higher service tier still didn’t offer checked bags, but you do get to change your booking with no change fee. But for $289 more, you get the highest tier of service which has 20 kg. of checked luggage allowed, refundable tickets, no change fees and the ability to select a seat anywhere on the plane. Continue reading

Mark Twain

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

—Mark Twain
1835-1910, author and humorist

Around-the-world (RTW) award fares, and why they may not work for you.

This is a really long post, so if you just want the summary, jump directly to TL; DR.

I spent nearly two weeks planning our route, figuring out dates and determining how long we plan to stay abroad, but one call to United Airlines and everything changed. The call to United Airline deserves a post all to itself, but the short story is: we called three times, and by our third call, we finally knew the questions to ask and got someone on the line who knew what she was doing. After just a few minutes, it was obvious that we needed to do more planning after hearing the restrictions on the RTW fare. Restrictions that are not clearly posted on their website.

RTW Rules and Regs

There are a myriad of rules for the RTW airfare. One of the rules is that our direction of travel must remain in one general direction, east or west. The airline divides the world into three regions for the RTW fare: Americas, Europe/Africa/Middle East, and Asia/Oceania. We must start and end in the same country. We can cross into each region only once. The crossing between regions cannot be via a surface route, i.e., we must travel between regions by air. We can travel in any direction within the regions. We cannot go through our starting country on the way to another one. We are limited to 16 segments, 15 stopovers, and 39,000 total miles. Segments using surface transport count as one segment even though we’re not flying, which seems unfair. Separate legs of a flight—connecting flights—count as multiple segments. Stopovers are any place we stay more than 24 hours. We are limited to 5 legs that use surface transportation. All travel must be completed in one year.

This all sounds fairly straightforward until you get on the phone with someone from United. Then you find out the rules are a bit different for award travel and all your best laid plans turn to, well, you know what. With over 430,000 airline award miles saved in preparation for this trip, what we didn’t count on was that the RTW award fare was damn near impossible to use for a long trip. Continue reading

Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

—Mark Twain
1835-1910, author and humorist