Halong Bay Cruise

DSC_4971Halong Bay, on the Vietnam coast, is a popular tourist destination. Perhaps a bit too popular. The distinctive limestone island formations have made it a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. All this attention has made it more popular than ever. The bay has nearly 2,000 small islands, or more correctly, islets. Some are large enough to have inhabitants, but most are too small, too steep, and too overgrown to easily live on them. There are many islets with small beaches on them. Some have caverns formed over 20 million years of geological evolution, hot wet climate, and slow erosion and tectonic processes.  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

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

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

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 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