Now that our tour is over, we’ve identified some things we would have changed regarding our packing strategy (see photo to right). We often felt like we were a rock band traveling the country during this tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any roadies to help carry our gear! So, because it’s just the two of us, we have to be extra vigilant and ruthless with regards to what we bring with us.
If you recall from our previous post, Rae carried our clothes and toiletries in her REI Traverse backpack, and I carried all the computers, mobile Internet, camera flash, and power adapters in a Rickshaw Bagworks Medium Commuter Messenger Bag. We took turns dragging around a single Pelican 1510 Carry-On Case that contained 300 DVDs, assorted cables, papers, and my 5D Mark II camera. So, what worked and what didn’t?
For starters, we would try to leave the Pelican at home next time. While ultra-durable and somewhat capacious, it’s also quite heavy and bulky to travel with. When fully loaded, the 1510 tired one’s arm after prolonged periods. Similarly, the Rickshaw bag held a surprising amount of gear, but it too became very heavy to wear over time, even with the critical cross strap (used to distribute the weight more evenly on my body). For the next trip, I think I would try to load everything into my LowePro CompuTrekker AW camera/laptop backpack. I would have to reduce the number of DVDs that we bring with us, but at least 120-140 would fit comfortably along with one computer, my camera, flash, cables, modem and accessories.
Having both MacBook Pros was a luxury yet critical in my mind. If there was a problem with one computer, we could always use the other to run the film. If both failed, we could have resorted to playing the film off DVD. I know several people who love their MacBook Airs, and I think one would be great for Rae, since she isn’t doing development or performing hard core image processing like I am. The Belkin travel surge protector worked well (though like many of our devices, a little bulky), but I was only able to use one of the USB ports to charge one of our iPhones; the device couldn’t charge both devices at the same time. Good thing I brought the tiny iPhone USB AC adapter with us; those things are small!
We made great use of my Verizon EVDO Modem + WiFi router + battery setup; it’s great, but the battery does not make it small and portable. I would consider replacing all three components with a Novatel MiFi 2200 Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Modem (Verizon Wireless). I would still need an external battery to power the MiFi for longer than 4 hours, but it wouldn’t be as big and heavy as the Tekkeon 3450i that I brought; the AC adapter for it is huge! The other option is to get a smaller battery for the Cradlepoint.
Camera-wise, I’m happy to have brought the 5D Mark II. I’m not so happy about my lens and flash selection. The 550 EX is simply too big of a flash to bring. Maybe getting something like the 7D with its built-in flash would have allowed me to leave the 550 EX at home. The 24-105 f/4L is a decent travel lens, but I really missed my fast primes. Too bad there doesn’t exist a 24-105 f/1.4 lens!
We brought along a stack of Autumn Gem postcards and flyers that we ended up not distributing. One sheet of paper isn’t that bad, but a hundred sheets starts to get bulky.
Onto clothing. I generally packed pretty well on this trip. Two changes, however. I made a mistake bringing two short, synthetic cycling socks instead of long, warmer socks. Though my ankles and feet were never that cold, they could have benefited from a different choice. I brought along a red short-sleeved travel shirt from REI, but I think I only used it twice during the trip. I would replace it next time with a shirt that didn’t wrinkle as easily. Rae tells me that she would have left two shirts at home. It ended up not being too cold, so she could also have left her thermal leggings as well. Rae needs to find a pair of more versatile shoes (comfortable yet stylish), so she would only need to bring one pair instead of two. I got by with a pair of Merrell Moab Gore-Tex XCR shoes.
Those travel bottles of saline solution for contact lenses really last a long time. She could have done with just one bottle instead of two. We stayed with friends and family for the majority of the time, so we also could have done without some of the toiletries we brought.
By making these small changes next time, we’ll be able to pack even more efficiently and travel lighter.