My last post dug into the camera bag slung over my shoulder. Cameras. Lenses. Filters. My creative tools.
As I mentioned in that post, my kit is tailored to the needs of long distance walking where weight and volume are as important as image quality.
But there is another collection of photographic ephemera, the less glamorous bag of technical bits and pieces required to keep my equipment working, to write blogs, to edit photos. It’s the stuff that gets tucked into my backpack, waiting for the day’s walk to be over and an evening of charging and editing and blogging to begin.
The criteria for these accessories is very similar to the criteria for my camera bag:
- They must add minimal additional and volume to my backpack, which is already near full of living necessities (clothing, etc.). Ideally, the total weight of the loaded backpack should be no more than 10% of my body weight. That’s 9 kilograms or 20 pounds in my case.
- They must be compact and fit comfortably in a carry-on sized backpack. I never check my backpack on a flight. I want all my carefully selected stuff to arrive at my destination with me. It also makes long days of walking with a pack on my back and a camera bag slung over my shoulder much more enjoyable.
- They must allow for the efficient completion of nightly tasks: charging, backing up files, editing photos, writing and assembling blog posts, uploading to WalkClickMake.
- They must be weather-protected while in my backpack.
Here’s a video overview of what I carry in my backpack, 2018 edition.
I carry a one metre long, two prong indoor extension cord. A wall adapter for the country I am visit gets plugged into the cord’s wall plug. At the other end are three power sockets. A small three-socket adapter gets plugged into one. That gives me four power sockets to work with. Total weight is 116 grams. The cord is very useful when staying in lodgings where the wall plugs are inconveniently tucked away behind furniture. It gets the power to a place that works for me.
I plug an Anker PowerPort 4 USB charger (40 watts, 2.4 amps) into the extension cord. That gives me 4 USB charging ports in one compact, lightweight charger. While in transit, I keep my cords plugged into the charger. That way, I know where they are, I don’t lose them and it is faster to set up at the end of the day. The PowerPort 4 with cords attached weighs 210 grams.
For camera battery charging, I attach an UpStart Travel Charger to my extension cord. The charger that Olympus supplies with its OM-D cameras is a clumsy, bulky affair with a separate power cord. And it’s heavy at 172 grams. The Upstart is much more compact (the built-in power plug folds into the charger) and weighs 74 grams. I have used the same Upstart charger since 2012 and it has been completely reliable.
I can’t say that I have ever lost an SD card full of images or had images lost due to a corrupted card. However, I regard that as a matter of luck. So I am always on the lookout for a compact, lightweight, reliable and (hopefully) affordable way of backing up my SD cards. I have done reviews of the Kingston MobileLite and the Verbatim MediaShare. For various reasons (the subject of a future blog post), I am now testing the RavPower FileHub RP-WD03. This small device weighs in at 160 grams and allows me to back up image files from my camera’s SD card to USB flash drives and to copy images from an SD Card to my iPad Mini for editing. That it also has a 6000 mAh battery, acts as a wifi range extender (in hotels with poor wifi) and connects to wired LAN networks (in old school hotels) is simply icing on the cake.
The FileHub and 3-4 USB flash drives are all I need for a complete back up solution. Total weight is about 190 grams with 4 USB sticks. Total cost is about $100, depending on the capacity of the flash drives (64 GB at present).
As a backup method for transferring images to my iPad, I carry an Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader. Transfers are slow, so I avoid using it if possible. At 11 grams, I might as well pack it.
Editing and Blogging
I carry an older iPad Mini 3 housed in a shockproof, waterproof LifeProof Nuud case. I can toss it into my backpack and not worry about it getting damaged or wet. Total weight is 454 grams. With it, I can transfer photos to my iPad with the FileHub Plus app, edit my photos in Lightroom CC, write my blog post in Pages, assemble my blog in the WordPress app and upload it (via wifi) to WalkClickMake. And finish off the evening with a Netflix show.
Which leads to an important accessory: the NiteIze QuickStand. This tiny credit card-sized gizmo weighs a mere 10 grams but unfolds into an iPad stand that makes watching those late night Netflix movies much more enjoyable.
I pack a spare eyecup for my Olympus OM-D camera body. Although they fit over the camera’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) fairly securely, I have managed to lose a couple on past trips. I assume that they get caught up in a camera strap or clothing. However it happens, what is left is an exposed metal ring on the EVF that scrapes against my eyeglasses. Carrying a tiny spare eyecup (4 grams) is cheap insurance.
I carry a bunch of disposable cleaning wipes, budgeting one per day to clean both my camera lens, the EVF and screen on my camera body and my glasses, before the walk starts. A week’s supply is about 12 grams.
My SD cards are carried in a Colghan’s All Weather Wallet. Made of PVC, it has two compartments with ziplock-style seals. One side holds fresh, unused cards and the other holds full cards. I put the waterproof wallet in a ziplock sandwich bag for added protection and this is put in the “secret pocket” of my Tilley pants (it may not be that secret but, believe me, it is as secure a money belt). It’s worth noting that the backup flash drives reside in my backpack. Unless both I, in my Tilley pants, and my backpack fall off a cliff and into the ocean, at least one copy of my images should survive the trip.
Everything above gets a plastic bag, either a medium or large ziplock freezer bag or a more durable, waterproof LokSak. They’re very light and take up no space so I carry a good supply of spare bags, should the ones I am using get torn or the seals fail.
Most of the above stuff gets thrown into one large ziplock. My FileHub and flash drives are stashed in a medium-sized LokSak. Lens wipes are put in a ziplock sandwich bag, just to keep them together in my pack. And my SD cards get the royal “secret pocket” treatment, as I described above.
The total weight of all these accessories—the large ziplock bag, the FileHub bag, my iPad Mini, the small bag of lens wipes and the SD wallet—comes in at 1,200 grams (2.7 pounds). That’s a significant portion of my backpack weight, which is why it is so important to evaluate what I really need to carry, find the lightest solution for each need, yet not unduly restrict my creativity in the field. It’s a work in progress.