Using USB Drives on the Road – Update

Travel TechIn my last Travel Tech post I waxed lyrical about taking my computer with me on a USB Drive. Although the technology is great, the problem I discovered on this trip is the security paranoia of internet cafes.

In four weeks, I only found two Internet cafes that loaded the software and then one of them denied my programs access to the network. For now, I recommend using web email and a simple home page with our most important bookmarks.


Carry your Computer in your Pocket

Travel TechEvery tech-enriched traveller is looking for a lighter computer to save a few ounces in their bag but I’ve been testing an option that will save you couple of pounds, the U3 Data Traveler.

The Kingston Technology 2Gb USB flash drive is loaded with portable versions of my favourite software including Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice, and there is a large variety of software options that should satisfy your travel needs. The drive comes loaded with Launchpad software with tools to secure your drive and download software. Once you have your programs loaded, simply select them from the Launchpad menu.

My main computer is taking a slow boat to Australia but I stored my bookmarks, email and essential documents on the U3 Data Traveler to make the computer I’m using feel like home (OK, minus my beloved 24inch flat panel). Just plug the Data Traveler into an available computer conduct your business with a familiar interface. You save time because there is no need to search for that website address again, and you can download documents and email to take to your next destination.

I found the interface intuitive and the software runs as well as any native program on the computer but it is only compatible with Windows machines. Most of the Internet cafes are running Windows machines so the lack of Mac compatibility is a minor drawback. If your world is Mac then try FreeSMUG’s applications to create a similar device. Data Traveler is a great option for the traveller who is tired of humping their laptop everywhere and needs to shed a few pounds from their travel kit.


Travel Tech – iPod Nano

My iPod Nano is an essential part of my travel equipment; it provides me entertainment and essential travel information without carrying a lot of extra weight.

The Nano has two distinct advantages over their bigger cousins:

1. Flash memory devices travel better than micro hard drive versions in my experience and you are less likely to experience a sad face moment.iPod Sad Face

2. Every gram (ounce) counts when you pack light and the Nano is a perfect combination of size and performance.

On the road, my 2Gb Nano stores my favourite music and a selection of podcasts related to my current locale including great walks, local history or museum guides. All the information that enhances your travel experience without fumbling through guidebooks (more saved weight) and reading when you should be enjoying the object or view.

The latest iPod Nano release includes an 8Gb version, enough memory to carry music and podcasts for a month long journey. Unless you take a laptop, you will also need the optional charger or plug in the Nano at the Internet cafe and recharge while you surf. Buy it a protective case and you are ready to travel.


Travel Tech – PGA Tour Performance Fabric Shirt

PGA Tour Dry ShirtPacking light turns many travellers into tourist hobos, wrinkled clothes worn once too often before wash day despite long sweaty days walking the streets of your vacation nirvana. I’ve always preferred natural fibres and my travel wardrobe is brimming with cotton shirts and pants that give me that slept in my clothes look in our travel photos.

We travelled with friends to New York last summer, sweaty days pounding the pavements of Manhattan but Phil maintained a cool refreshed look despite the heat. An avid golfer, Phil’s secret was the high tech shirts he uses on the golf course.

Finding similar shirts half price at JC Penny, I decided to give them a try and they now dominate my travel wardrobe. The soft polyester fabric wicks away the sweat leaving you cool and dry on even a demanding walking tour. My PGA Tour shirts are treated with an anti-bacterial formula that defeats the sweaty smell of your journey leaving them fresh enough for another day of duty.

The shirts performed well in Australia’s summer heat on my first test, and they came out of the wash or a couple of days packed in my bag without wrinkles and ready to wear. My cotton shirts become sweat soaked and stick to my body after a few hours in the heat but the PGA Tour Dry shirts wicked away the moisture very well. I chose a button down style that looks good for any occasion short of a formal event.

Have you tried this type of shirt? I’d like to hear what works in your travel wardrobe.


Travel Tech – Zoom Lens Choice

To travel light every item in your luggage must have multiple uses and for the dedicated DSLR camera users amongst us that means you need a good zoom lens. My Canon 20D arrived with the standard 18-50mm zoom lens, functional for general duty but requires the photographer to get close to the subject.

A popular choice for a longer focal length zoom is 70-210mm or 300mm, a great choice for amateur sports photographers or other activities where you cannot get close to your subject. In combination with the 18-55mm zoom lens, a photographer has most of the focal range required any situation.

The first time I travelled with this combination I became frustrated with a continual need to swap lenses as I moved from close up subjects to distant subjects. I also started to compromise my shots to avoid a lens change and lost opportunities to capture better memories. I resolved to find the perfect travel zoom lens.

Consider the following points before choosing your lens:

Focal Length. On a typical trip you will photograph buildings or scenic vistas, the people around you and subjects separated from you by a barrier. To capture a picture of Mt Rainer or St Peters you’ll need a short focal length of no more than 28mm. To bring the action a little closer you need at least 100mm.

Weight. Remember you’re travelling light but a quality lens is usual worth toting an extra few ounces and I would trade focal length for quality at the same weight.

f-stop (speed). A fast lens gives you more opportunities to capture that shot despite the failing light or stop the MotoGP action at Assen this summer.

Price. We all have a budget but money spent here could be the difference between fuzzy memories or the brilliant poster print of the Cinque Terre on your wall.

I finally settled on a Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, and over 80 percent of my travel photos are now taken with this lens. Cost prevented me buying a faster L Series lens but it stills has image stabilisation rarely lets me down when I can pry it off my daughter’s Canon Digital Rebel.

See the results for yourself here.