If there was one area where I feel we’re likely to be taking too much gear, it’s in the area of electronics and travel gadgets. I readily acknowledge this. But for two people travelling for upwards of two years, redundancy is a good idea. Not only in the case of items becoming lost, broken, or stolen, but to also make sure we both have the ability to still be our own person with our own toys, without the other wondering when they are going to get a turn. The table below is a long one, but many of the items on it were things we already had and used on a regular basis. Others, like the laptops and cameras, we upgraded for newer, lighter, more compact options specifically for the trip. As if we needed an excuse… So, without going into each and every item, here’s a brief summary of our reasoning behind each choice.
Laptops: As a writer and a photographer, it was important that I have a laptop that I can work on effectively, without compromise. Kristin’s requirements were somewhat less stringent — she simply wanted something with a keyboard that she can comfortably journal on. Anything else was a bonus. Each of these laptops, the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook and the Lenovo Yoga 11 (a Windows 8 RT device) weigh less than 3 pounds and boast a battery life of 7 to 9 hours. And both were cheap.
Kindles: Have you ever finished reading a book and bought a new one at midnight, while lying awake in your tent? I have. The Kindles both get 2-4 weeks of battery life with normal usage and are as essential to bike touring as raingear in our opinion.
Cameras: I’ve been a huge fan of the Canon G-series for years and have been waiting for the right time to finally upgrade my beloved G10. This was that time. We also wanted to provide Kristin with a simpler point-and-shoot that was waterproof and semi-rugged. We were leaning towards the Pentax Optio WG-3, but decided to go with the Canon Powershot D20 thanks to its impressive image stabilization and our familiarity with Canon’s control schemes. We’ll be backing up all photos to the external hard drive, uploading the keepers to Flickr, and also uploading additional copies of photos to Dropbox to minimize the damage should something go missing. We’ll be taking an additional one or two batteries for the G15.
GPS: After many, many conversations about GPS, we’ve decided to not bring a dedicated GPS device. For starters, I’ve made it this far in life without one and don’t feel the need to add another skill to learn now, nor an extra device to have to charge. Secondly, I really like maps. So we’ll be relying on good old fashioned maps with the occasional assistance from cached Google Maps on our smartphone (which we’ll be using for Wifi only). I’ve been using the Garmin Edge 305 for over six years and though it is really just a glorified non-mapping bike computer, the ability to download tracks to it will come in handy should we decide to pre-route a course through a maze of unmarked Jeep roads.
Power: Solar? Dyno hubs? Neither. Once the decision was made to forego a GPS device and to only use a smartphone sparingly, we realized that a small rechargeable battery like the Anker Astro 2
was all we really needed, especially given our plans to stay in a hotel or hostel at least once every five days or so. The 8400 mAh Astro2 will be more than enough for a week’s worth of charging the Garmin Edge and the Droid Razr and is far more compact and lighter than all but the tiniest of solar charging systems. To make charging things a bit easier at campgrounds, hostels, and the like, we’re bringing a mini triple wall plug with built-in surge protector and double USB inputs.
Safety: Getting a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) isn’t something I would have thought about when I was younger, and probably still wouldn’t if I was single. But we’ll probably turn 40 years young during the course of this trip and, well, shit happens. If there’s a little 5 ounce device I can have tucked deep inside the panniers that helps make it a little bit easier for Kristin should a crisis occur, then I want to have it. ‘Nuff said.