On a recent assignment to the islands, which happened to be a very welcomed escape from the slow and stalling Northeast winter, there were a dozen products that made the packing list. This wasn’t a ‘sit on the beach and sip rum punch all day’ vacation, it was an active break from the office that included hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing –all based from an eco-resort.
Here, listed in no particular order, are a few pieces of gear that made my entrance, experience and exit possible –and highly pleasant.
Convertible Carry-On: Big Agnes Stagecoach Duffle
The art of carrying-on your luggage has gotten slightly easier over the past few years, thanks in part to the wide array of techy carry-on luggage available from manufacturers. One specific category within this baggage group offers the most on- and off-road potential: the convertible wheelie pack. Big Agnes has been locked into this category for years now with the Stagecoach Duffle, a 54L truly weatherproof carry-on convertible. The features are lengthy: carry-on dimensions, wheelie /duffle/backpack, lightweight, weatherproof, expandable/collapsible, laptop and essentials friendly and –of course– a streamlined design. $149
Camera & Laptop Pack: Burton Focus
There’s a small population of our adventure world that believes your experience in the bush is meant purely for the soul, and only your mental recollection of these stories and visions should be brought home from the destination. For everyone else, who wish to capture the fullness of their experience and then share the story in its multimedia glory, a suitable large-volume camera and electronics pack should be in your arsenal. The Burton Focus Pack is 30L workhorse that was designed to perform both on the mountain and through the terminal. It boasts an array of secure internal and external pockets and stashes for all of the accessories; which recently included two laptops, two DSLRs, four lenses, two POV cameras, one P&S camera, water housings, tripod, three microphones, auto timer, portable speakers, field book, shades, SD cards, USB drives, a solar charger, batteries and all the plugs and whistles to connect the dots. The internal foam “box” is removable, which came in handy recently during an island-hopping assignment — easily transferring the equipment into a 40L dry bag. $175
Travel Laptop: Asus U36 with Microsoft Windows 7
In similar fashion as the rest of your travel kit, which should embody a sturdy, lightweight design, so should your laptop. It may be your only option for managing travel logistics, checking in on business, or uploading videos for your friends and followers stuck back home. The ASUS U36 is a savvy option for travelers who need full PC support away from the comforts of home or the office. The U36 runs on a 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 with 4GB of memory and a battery listed to 10 hours. It is also lighter (3.7lbs., 19mm thin) and built tougher (spill-proof keyboard) than similarly-stocked PCs –for hundreds of dollars less, too. $895
The ASUS U36 runs on the polished Windows 7 operating system which features two very utilitarian features: Windows Live and SkyDrive. Creating photo galleries and videos is a snap through Windows Live, which also offers email, social media, blogging and file syncing features. Making the most of cloud-based file storage and management, SkydDrive is a portal between your computer and the interwebs. It’s equally handy in the office and on the road, offering either a private or public external drive for files to be stored, organized and revised in real-time –without transferring the file back-and-forth via USB drive, email or FTP.
Full disclosure: It’s true that I’m pre-programmed with Apple technology across the board, and members of my extended family work at 1 Infinite Loop. My business/personal MacBook Pro operates like a dream and it’s packaged nicely into a sophisticated, sexy design –it travels almost everywhere I do. I used the ASUS U36 while in the field and at home, and although it’s not my current operating system, it made a very light, sturdy and productive travel companion. It’s comparable to the 13” MacBook Pro, and its slim, matted design helped this Mac-aficionado get past the stigma of bulky, retiree PCs of offices past.
DSLR Camera: Canon 60D & EF-S 15-85mm
Your photo needs are expanding, and the equipment you’re currently shooting with can’t live up to your ideal expectations. The point and shoot has its place in your routine, as does your POV camera, but it’s time you bite the bullet for a digital SLR –something to confidently capture both high-resolution imagery and high-definition video. Nestled comfortably between the pro-level Canon 7D and the beginner Rebel lineup is the semi-professional, very-intuitive Canon 60D. It’s constructed with a compact, non-magnesium alloy shell, which easily sheds some weight from its footprint. The 60D is also feature-rich: APS-C 18.0 megapixel sensor, 5.3fps, 100-6,400 ISO (expandable to 12,800), DIGIC 4 processor, 1080p HD video w/in-camera editing, SD / SDHC / SDXC storage, and in-camera RAW processing. The 60D comes at a price point that will certainly make the transition to DSLR as smooth as the photo and video it captures. $999.99
This particular travel kit was outfitted with the EF-S 15-85mm lens (f/3.5-5.6), a savvy, multi-purpose lens. The focal length is equal to 24-136mm in 35mm format, and the EF-S 15-85mm offers image stabilization and high-precision optics from wide-angle through telephoto. $799
Point & Shoot Camera: Nikon AW100
When your fanatical photographic eye picks-up an angle, as ours does, the first instinct is to reach for your trusty SLR and bring home the image in its full-sensor glory. But when you’re staring down the gauntlet of Mother Nature’s fury, regardless if it’s rain, snow, dust or saltwater, you’ll have second thoughts about exposing your SLR to these damaging conditions. Enter the Nikon AW100, an armored point-and-shoot with a 16-MP CMOS sensor capable of HD 1080p video. In the field, there was never a hesitation to toss this amphibian into the pack or pocket for hikes and paddles, it even snapped photos diving as-is to 50 feet — manufacturer lists the depth limit at 33 feet. $296
POV Camera: Contour ROAM
The POV camera category isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and the Contour ROAM is designed to not slow you down anytime soon either. Its waterproof and adventure-ready aluminum body can withstand serious use, and the 170-degree wide-angle rotating lens captures 720p, 960p and 1080p video or 5MP still images. Upwards of eight hours of full 1080p video is possible using a 32GB MicroSD card. The ROAM is highly intuitive and can take a licking, which should help you focus on the surroundings instead of the surveillance. $199
GPS Unit: Bushnell BackTrack D-TOUR
Bridging the tech gap between a simple digi compass and an over-loaded handheld GPS unit, the Bushnell BackTrack D-TOUR is a useful tool for tracking and logging your positioning. It offers simple direction and distance data in a weatherproof case, perfect for following the footsteps of pirate traders in the Caribbean. It’s features include a self-calibrating digital compass, clock and timing, temperature, altitude and latitude/longitude coordinates. When you’re back at the laptop, upload up to 48 hours worth of data to log and share with your envious friends. It weighs six ounces, making it almost invisible amongst the rest of your gear. $119
Solar Power: Brunton Sustain and Solaris 12
For anyone who relies on handheld electronic gadgetry, there’s an inherent risk associated with dead and dying batteries — especially those who have a penchant for off-grid exploration. Solar power is a popular trend whether you’re on Capitol Hill or your local hill, and the Brunton Sustain and Solaris 12 combo is fully capable of creating and storing all the juice you’ll need for extending the battery life of your mobile devices. The water-resistant, rubberized Sustain can absorb and store a charge from the wall, car adapter or solar unit — such as the Solaris 12, which can also feed power directly into your USB-compatible cell phone, MP3 player, or digital cameras. Together, their compact design allows for a light, easy pack alongside the rest of your outdoor-prone electronics. $280 + $430
Hydro Daypack: Platypus Origin 5
Multipurpose daypacks are a critical item in the gear quiver. They’re often the first thing you reach for before heading out the door, and typically they carry the most important items for the outing –hydration, tools, helmet, navigation, identification, currency, après elements, etc. Its clean, organized design features a lightweight, weatherproof construction, and where Platypus gets the extra nod is located deep within their Big-Zip reservoir. It’s easy to fill and dry, and the zipper keeps the seal locked. The pack also carries and breathes well, utilizing the BioCurve back panel that flanks two ergonomic –and comfy– foam strips down both sides of your spine. $89.95
Waterproof Bags: Hummingbird 40L Duffle & E-Case
Built like a Sherman tank, this seam-welded duffle/pack will protect your necessities beyond submersion. Its drybag construction is burly throughout and the 40L capacity will swallow whatever you throw at it –in my case it’s a large foam camera insert, two DSLR cameras, POV camera, laptop, GPS, shoes, hat, sunscreen and a hydro reservoir. From the overhead compartment to the beach break, the Hummingbird 40L Duffle is an exoskeleton for your goods. $139.95
For a smaller option fit for your smartphone, check out the E-Case from Hummingbird. It’s listed with 1-meter/30-minute protection, but Caribbean field tests proved upwards of 6-meter depth bobbing from surface to bottom. The casing is touchscreen-friendly and provides good clarity for photos and video. $19.95
Trail Shoes: Helly-Hansen Pace Trail HTXP
Accommodating for your trail shoes in the packing order can be a space-hog, especially if you’re heading to the beach where you plan to stay barefoot. But it’s a must in certain scenarios, unless you want to trudge your commuting kicks through the sand, saltwater, mud and bush. Your hiking feet will thank you, too. The Pace Trail HTXP from Helly-Hansen needed zero break-in time before stomping downhill and through extinct river rock beds. The sole is a sandwich of grippy rubber, EVA, silicone gel and zone cushioning, leaving no aches or pains at the end of the day(s). They’re light on the feet and in the daypack, thanks in part to the breathable mesh upper. $90
Active Layer: Arc’teryx Phasic Technology & Motus Crew SS
Comprised of a unique 3-dimensional poly weave that draws moisture away from the skin and encourages evaporation, the advanced Phasic fabric from Arc’teryx is also lightweight and tough against wear. Ranging from winter baselayers to summer aerobic layers, they’re ideal for the trail, in the boat and on the wall. Beach time required the Motus Crew, which lived up to expectations day after day. A quick rinse and dry at the end of each day gave the shirt extra life –and no stink– for the following day’s activities. A fitting garment cycle for the eco-resort basecamp. $59