We’re still using (and loving) the travel gear we focused on in last year’s Travel Gear of the Year 2010 post, but a few new additions to our road trip proved to be indispensable in 2011.
Part slingback backpack, part full-service camera bag, the Lowepro SlingShot 202 AW Camera Bag holds Eric’s Canon D50 camera body, four Canon lenses, one Flip video camera, one Canon S95 (see below), extra batteries, memory cards, filters, and one GorillaPod tripod. When a zipper broke on Eric’s first SlingShot bag after years of use, Lowepro didn’t just fix it they replaced the bag with a brand new SlingShot 202 without asking any questions or requesting a receipt. Improvements in the latest version of this bag include an outside tripod hook, a slightly roomier design, a few more convenient small pockets and cushier, more durable strap padding. Plus that outstanding Lowepro customer service.
Eric’s Canon PowerShot S95 camera combines the convenience of a compact, lightweight camera with professional features like the ability to shoot in RAW format and full manual control. The result is pro quality pictures with less schlepping. We’ve come to rely on the S95 as a replacement for Eric’s large Canon D50 in circumstances when it’s smart to be low key and inconspicuous (like night shooting in cities) or during outdoor activities (like volcano trekking and white water rafting) when a smaller camera is easier to carry and use. The only weak point is the (short) battery life and the less-than-exact battery meter. Invest in a spare and keep it charged.
Note: The Canon PowerShot S95 has recently been updated and the current model is the Canon PowerShot S100.
For years now our website homepage and our monthly Where We’ve Been posts have featured a detailed map showing our exact driving route made using GPS data from our SPOT Satellite Messenger. A few months ago we added a video component to our monthly wrap-ups thanks to our GoPro Hero HD camera. Mounted on our windshield, it takes a picture every ten seconds which we then turn into a time-lapse video which shows you what we see as we drive through the Americas. We can now show you roughly two hours of real-time driving in one minute of GoPro video. In 2011 look for GoPro generated time-lapse videos of us zip lining, ATVing, and more. We do find that the battery doesn’t last as long as we’d like (something they’ve apparently addressed with the new model) and when the battery does run out during use it resets the date so your footage is un-dated.
First, we bought just one Targus Lap Chill Mat. When we started fighting over who got to use it we decided we needed two. The Chill Mat acts as a base for a laptop but it also cools it with two small fans. This provides a stable “desk” when we work in bed with our computers on our laps (like we’re doing right now) and keeps them from overheating in hot climes. Our only complaint is that the little rubber feet come out too easily. We’ve already lost two…
We’re often in circumstances where the internet signal is very, very weak. Our Alfa wireless USB Wi-Fi signal booster can usually boost an insufficiently strong signal into something that actually allows us to connect and get some online work and research done.
It wasn’t all about new tech tools in 2010. We finally ditched the full-size pillows we’d been carting around since embarking on the Trans-Americas Journey back in 2006 and replaced them with Hummingbird Travel Gear compressible travel pillows. Read more about why we love them (small! comfy! clean!) in our full product review.
Sadly, our truck was manufactured in 2007, a year before the radios came with a direct iPod input. Also sadly, the XM Satellite radio service we subscribed to petered out in southern Mexico and then the iPod connector we’d been using conked out. That means that for more than a year we’ve been a road trip without road trip music. Not anymore! We recently installed a PIE GM12-POD/S Digital iPod Interface Adapter which allows us to connect our iPods (we have two) and use our factory-installed stereo system to control the iPods and listen to everything on them.