Travelling with technology part 2

IMG_6869 Now for the second and concluding part of a two part post on travelling with technology. The first part covered computers, software and backup, and can be found here. This part covers the remainder of the technology that you may want to consider when going on a prolonged trip, as well as thoughts on insurance and keeping everything charged. The experience is based on a year long trip around Australia that I recently undertook. First up today, cameras.

Being into photography, I decided to take along a digital SLR on my trip. Obviously this is heavier and generally more burdensome to carry around than a point and shoot digicam, but overall I decided it would be worth it. The benefits, in my case, outweighed the hassles. I also took a small digicam, and looking back, I probably took the wrong model. If I had the choice again, I would pick something that was fully shock and water proof. Still, it was handy to have as a backup, and for times when you don’t want to lug around the whole SLR shebang. Regularly backing up photos when possible, in my case to my netbook (see part 1), and backing your favourites up to an online site if you can, are highly recommended.

If you are into a lot of walking, then a GPS device could come in handy. I didn’t have one on the trip to Australia, but if you are considering doing anything more than a day hike, then it may be something you find to be useful. I’d recommend something that is weatherproof with a good long battery life as carrying additional batteries is just more weight that you probably want to avoid.

Music on the trip is another necessity in my opinion. I took an iPod Nano with me, but any kind of mp3 player would suffice. Some come with external speakers so you can share music whilst sitting on the beach. Load it up before you leave, as you may not have access to get more tunes on the road. It’s also worth taking spare headphones, as I found headphones just don’t seem to be designed to cope with the rigours of life on the road.

If you are into reading, and you will probably find yourself with time to spare to get through some books on your trip, you could save yourself some bag space with an eReader. I don’t have any personal experience with these, and as I was travelling by vehicle we had no problems carrying books, but they are certainly a lighter alternative to carrying a lot of novels if you are doing more backpacking than driving. Amazon’s Kindle is a good option for the worldwide traveller, as it has worldwide network coverage, allowing you to get more books on the go.

A mobile phone is likely to be on everyone’s list of things to take, but definitely do some research as to coverage. We bought a Vodafone sim in Sydney, and discovered to our dismay that it only really worked on the East coast and major urban areas, and oddly, on Uluru. Everywhere else we travelled without any real means to contact anyone. This was probably, in hindsight, slightly foolish. If you are going to Australia and travelling remotely, your best bet is the Telstra network, which has decent coverage across much of the outback. Alternatively, you can hire a satellite phone if you are really going deep into nowhere and want the peace of mind of being able to summon the cavalry at a moments notice.

As well as actual talking, a recent model smartphone such as an iPhone or Android could double up as a number of other devices, thus saving you weight. If may be that you find it suitable for use as a GPS device, or eBook reader, or for e-mail on the go, or for listening to music. Convergence is a great thing, so before buying anything specifically for a trip, check to see if there is one device out there that could cover multiple purposes, and save you both money and bag space. Over the next couple of years, I expect smartphones will become powerful enough to cover nearly all of your technology needs in one handy package.

Keeping everything charged can also be a challenge. You will want to check, before you leave, that you have the right adaptors for your kit, and that the electrical supply in the country you are visiting will work with your hardware. This is less of a problem these days as most adaptors auto-switch to the correct voltage, but it’s always worth checking, particularly when moving from 110v to 220v, or vice versa. If you are travelling by car, you can get an invertor, powered from the cigarette lighter, and charge all your kit when you are on the road. There are also solar charging options available, but often these can take a long time to get sufficient energy to keep your kit going. Still, it is free energy. Otherwise, grab power where and when you can.

Finally, you’ll want to consider insurance. Insurance policies that cover expensive equipment for prolonged periods of time are pricey, and often have a lot of small print that may actually mean your kit isn’t covered. After a lot of research, I concluded that insuring my kit for the full year was going to cost nearly as much as replacing it all, so I figured I would just do my best not to lose any of it. Sensible precautions such as not leaving it on display, and keeping items either on your body or locked away in the car, are pretty effective.

So that is the concluding part of travelling with technology. I would advise taking the bare minimum, consider what you really need, and more importantly, what you would not be devastated to lose / have stolen. Anything you take should complement your trip, and not become a burden to you that causes you hassle, because the whole point is to get out there and have fun. Let me know if you have any thoughts on travelling with technology in the comments below. More travel tips from the blog can be found under the Travel Tips label.

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