The Ultimate Travel Checklist: Travel Tech for the Modern Backpacker 2013

Whether you’re about to start your first travel adventure or you’re already a seasoned travel pro, then look no further than our Ultimate Travel Checklist: Travel Tech for the Modern Backpacker 2013!

We’ve decided to leave off the standard generic travel items like underwear and socks from our travel checklist and concentrate on Travel Tech, gadgets and helpful software to help the modern backpacker on their travels.

We’ve listed Travel Tech we think can help the Modern Backpacker, from Laptops and Laptop Security to DSLR Camera Lenses and Camera Accessories. We travel with 99% of all of the stuff we’ve mentioned on the travel checklist below so can personally vouch for and recommend it as it’s equipment we travel with and use.

Don’t forget to check out 5 Last Minute Travel Tips for Savvy Travellers

Travel Checklist Tree!

Laptop

Undoubtedly our most important item on our travel checklist. I use a Lenovo Ideapad Z370, jacked up with 16GB RAM and a 750GB HDD. I chose it because it’s got a great 13″ screen, and it’s reasonably small, lightweight and thin. I’ve always trusted Lenovo, and I’m a bit of an ‘anti-Mac’ sort of guy (Sorry everyone). There are slimmer Lenovo’s available, like the Lenovo Ideapad U410 Ultrabook which has a slightly bigger screen, i7 processor, and addition 24BG solid state HD on top of its 750GB HDD twin. But it’s double the price – and a bit too thin for my liking (we’ve already snapped a laptop).

Eloise uses a smaller Samsung N145, a travel sized 10″ netbook (Intel Atom N455 1.66GHz, RAM 2GB, HDD 320GB, Windows 7 Starter). It’s perfect for watching a film on a long journey or when you don’t want to whip out a bigger laptop. It struggles a bit using Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4, but that’s what my laptop is for!

Laptop Accessories


Look after your laptop!

Look after your laptop!

Backup Hard Drive

We travel with two Toshiba 500GB USB 2.0 2.5″ external hard drives, one for photo and video footage back up, and one for movies and music. We’ve got alot of movies! They’re cased in solid aluminium, so hopefully a bit better at protecting my countless GB’s of irreplaceable Travel Photography albums. But just in case, we use a couple of Bipra Protective EVA hard cases for extra protection.

Larger 1TB external HDD’s might save space, but I don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket with one HDD that might develop a problem.

Cable Tidies

BlueLounge Cable Clips keep our mass of USB cables tidy. Smaller Bobino Cord Tidy are perfect for thinner earphone cables.

Laptop Protection

I keep my laptop inside a Duronic 13.3″ Water Resistant Neoprene Laptop Sleeve for a bit of extra protection. While it won’t save my laptop from a massive drop, it’ll protect it inside my day bag while i’m off exploring far flung destinations.

Eloise uses a Case Logic VNA-210 10.2-inch Netbook case, which also holds all of our laptop cables and tidies, external hard drives and spare USB sticks.

Laptop Security

Physical Security

You can securely anchor your laptop to something solid via your Kensington Security Slot on the side of your computer. I thought the slot was an vent hole until I bought the Kensington ClickSafe Laptop Lock. It’s perfect for quickly going to the toilet during those long coffee shop internet sessions. Any thief will have to literally smash your machine to run off with it!

Download Prey

Prey is an open-source piece of software that sits dormant on your laptop (or phone or tablet) until you report it missing. Through the online dashboard, you can run reports on your missing machine to find out its location. You can configure the missing laptop to report back its exact location when it connects to a wireless network. You can fully lock-down your machine so that no one can access it, make it emit a really loud alarm, or my favourite – use the devices’ camera to get a snap shot of the thief while they use it!

The pro pricing plan offers more functionality like the ability to track more devices and more detailed tracking, but the free version is more than adequate for most users.

Tablets

Tablets are perfect for those who don’t reply on a typical laptop. Apple’s 4th generation iPad (‘Retina display’, Cellular/3G, 32 GB) is an ever popular choice, if you can afford it.

But for those on a tighter budget, the Google Nexus 10 (32 GB) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (both 16GB) dominate the 10″ tablet market.

Those wanting to travel lighter should check out 7″ tablets available. The new iPad mini is storming the market, with the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7″ (all 32GB) closely behind. They’re all excellent choices. I’d go for the Google Nexus 7!

Unlocked Smartphone

An unlocked smartphone should be high the Modern Backpackers travel checklist! By ‘unlocked’ I mean not locked to a certain network, stopping you from using a sim-card on a different mobile network when you’re abroad.

Having the option to use a local sim-card could potentially save you hundreds in roaming charges in your own country. While some international roaming packages exist, having an unlocked phone is your best option, and will save you a lot of cash. A quick Google search of ‘unlock my phone for free’ will show you some options if it happens to be locked to a network.

Anil over at foXnoMad offers some solid tips on Everything You Need To Know About Unlocking Your Mobile Phone.

Moneysavingexpert.com lists some free overseas call options such as internet based VoIP services like Skype and JaJah.

The term ‘Phablet‘ has been coined for some of the larger smartphones that bridge the phone/tablet gap, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and the Lenovo IdeaPhone K900.

These hybrid-sized Phones/Tablets with their massive screens are perfect for travelling, providing an all in one device for web browsing, image capture and that old fashioned task of making phone calls.

The new iPhone 5 faces stiff competition from it’s Android enemy – especially in the HTC One (32GB), and the soon-to-be released Samsung Galaxy S4.

eBook Reader

Having previously resisted the eBook reader craze, we decided that travelling with four additional ‘we’re reading these next‘ books was stupid and have added eBook readers to our travel checklist and jumped on the bandwagon! We purchased Amazon’s entry level Kindle as we only need it as an eBook reader and have no use for its internet browser functionality. In hindsight, we should have bought the back-lit Kindle Paperwhite (back lit touch screen, Wireless and free 3G), as having the option to read without a separate flashlight would be good! Get a proper protective cover and you’re sorted. eBook readers make a great space saver in your bag.

Kobo E-Readers are an excellent alternative, (with huge market share popularity in Canada and France) if you want a Kindle alternative.

Camera Equipment Checklist

Depending on your photography requirements will depend on how much camera equipment you include in your travel checklist!

DSLR Camera

Many modern backpackers these days would include a Digital SLR (DSLR) on their travel checklist. Capable of capturing professional quality images of your travels, with full manual settings allowing for shutter speed and aperture control, plus loads of interchangeable lenses to choose from makes DSLR’s a popular choice over their compact counterparts.

Canon and Nikon dominate the DSLR market, and as you an imagine prices range massively. From the entry level and very affordable Canon EOS 1100D (inc. 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 DC III Lens Kit) and Nikon D3100 (inc. 18-55mm VR Lens Kit), the midrange Canon EOS 7D (Inc EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens Kit) and Nikon D7100 (inc.18-105mm VR Lens Kit) – To the pro level and extortionate Canon EOS 1D X and Nikon D3X.

I travel with a Canon 5D EOS Mark II body and a selection of lenses:

DSLR Camera Lenses

  • Canon EF 50mm – f/1.4 USM Lens, a great portrait lens with an extremely shallow depth of field – perfect for use in low light when you don’t want to use a flash, and for dreamy, blurry backgrounds while your subject remains in tight focus.
  • Canon 24-105mm – f/4 EF L IS USM Lens, is THE ultimate all-round lens in my eyes, and part of Canon’s ‘L’ range. At 24mm it’s great for those wider shots, and at the maximum focal length of 105mm is a great mid-range distance. Its f/4 aperture and IS (image stabilization) make it great in low light, and the IS helps freeze the action further.
  • Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens– The daddy. An incredible lens, it’s shamelessly big, heavy and bulky; but wait until you see the quality of image it captures. The f/2.8 aperture creates a jaw dropping Bokeh, or that amazing dreamy, blurry effect. Its amazing in low light, the IS helping even further to get that steady shot. The maximum focal length of 200mm alows you to get much closer to the subject and to capture it from a different perspective, more discretely. Until they see you, and the size of the lens you’re carrying!

I use Hoya 77mm Pro-1 Digital UV screw in filters on the 24-105mm and 70-200mm lenses, and Hoya 58mm Pro-1 Digital UV on the 50mm lens, protecting the sensitive lens optics from ultraviolet light, as well as acting as a shield between the lenses front element and dirt/rain/sand/crap. Well worth the investment.

This amount of pro SLR equipment is probably too much for most people finalising their travel checklist, but some might find it useful. I wouldn’t travel with anything less!

Compact Camera

The bulk and expense of a DSLR are major turn off’s for most, and compact cameras fill the void perfectly. From the rugged, water proof, shock proof, freeze resistant Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT25EB-K (16.1MP, 4x Optical Zoom), to the tank-like crush proof Olympus Tough TG-1 (12MP, 4x Wide Optical Zoom) – They boast excellent features while being strong enough to withstand the battering that travelling dishes out!

Super zoom ‘bridge’ cameras are great too, bridging the gap between DSLR and compact bodies, usually with a massive zoom, aperture control and better optic quality than smaller compact cameras. Like the Sony Cyber-shot HX200V (with huge 30x Optical Zoom, 18.2MP and 3″ LCD screen), or the epic Canon PowerShot SX50 with x50 optical zoom and 24-1200mm Lens (12.1 MP, 2.8″ LCD screen).

Wi-Fi enabled compact cameras are pretty cool, like the Samsung WB150F (14.1MP, 18x Optical Zoom) allowing instant uploading to the internet direct from the camera, speeding up the back-up process and making your friends jealous of your travels quicker than ever on Facebook.

The Canon Powershot G1 X is as close as you can get to a DSLR without the bulk. It can shoot in RAW format, has full manual control and loads of other amazing features.

If money is no object, the retro looking Fujifilm X-Pro1- Body Only (16MP, APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor) is a wallet buster, but still fits into the compact category!

Video Camera

The GoPro can do this! Even if you can't.

The GoPro can do this! Even if you can’t.

While your DSLR or compact camera may have video recording option, you may want dedicated camcorder functionality. Like superior zoom, better handling, high quality optics, image stabilization, plus exterior microphone support.

The Kodak PlaySport Zx5 Full HD 1080P and Samsung W200 Full HD fit into the ‘pocket camcorder’ category, and are both fully waterproof, dust proof and shockproof, affordable and great for splashing around or chucking in your backpack.

The Panasonic V520 Full HD Camcorder has a huge 80x zoom while remaining small and light, and the Sony CX220 Full HD Handycam has a smaller 27x zoom, but it’s half the price of the Panasonic. Depending on your needs, the Canon LEGRIA HF G25 High Definition camcorder with pro grade CMOS sensor and full manual control might be more up your street.

GoPro

The GoPro HD Hero3 is a small, waterproof, extremely rugged wearable HD camera. It’s durability make it perfect for travel adventurers, with various mount options for helmets, handlebars/seat poles on bikes and chest straps, as well as having Wi-Fi built in for transferring your files.

Set it to record and hit that bungee jump! You can configure it to take pictures at set intervals, and build a slideshow later from your adventures. Mount it to your motorbike, your helmet, take it white-water rafting or surfing. It’s an amazing bit of kit to add to your travel checklist!

Camera Accessories

Tripod

Want shots like this? You'll need a tripod.

Want shots like this? You’ll need a tripod.

A Tripod should be a must on your travel checklist if you plan on shooting in low-light, or doing any long exposure shots.

With flexible legs you can wrap around a fixed object, the Joby Gorillapod with ball head will support a DSLR or larger bridge camera up to 3 kg. The smaller Gorilla Pod Original will fit in your pocket and support a standard compact camera or camcorder.

For a more traditional tripod, the Manfrotto MKC3-H01 Compact is excellent for lighter DSLR setups. It’s made of aluminum so it’s lightweight, and packs down to 45cm, supporting up to 1.5 kg, weighing 1.3 kg.

For more stability, I’ve recently upgraded to the Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod – with Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head. It’s bigger and heavier that my previous tripod, but it’s rock solid and has more functionality. It’ll support up to 6 kg, closes down to 63.5 cm and weighs 2.2 kg. The Manfrotto 496RC2 head is pretty good, but I’m tempted to upgrade to the Manfrotto Junior Geared Head with tilt and pan gears. A pro-photographer we met during our Coffee Tour with ‘Koffie’ on the Bolaven Plateau used it and i’m hooked!

Camera Bags

My main bag for all the majority of my camera equipment is a Lowepro Fastpack 250 Backpack. It fits all my lenses, my camera, my laptop – plus chargers, filters. It plus extra pockets and flaps for memory, notebooks etc.

When I ‘m not travelling from X to Y, I use a Lowepro Toploader Pro 70AW when I’m out and about. It offers great protection, a water proof cover, and it fits my Canon 5D EOS Mark II with Canon 24-105mm – f/4 EF L IS USM Lens with lens hood attached – which is perfect! If you want to fit something like the Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens , the larger Lowepro Toploader Pro 75AW fits larger zooms and cameras with attached battery grips.

Quality SD Cards

I’ve had bad luck with cheap, unreputable memory brands before, so only use San Disk Extreme SD and Sandisk Extreme CompactFlash cards now. The ‘extreme’ allows for faster data transfer, meaning more shots when I’m shooting continuously. Sandisk offer the Sandisk 64GB Extreme Professional Compact Flash Card (90MBS), but it’s insanely priced!

File transfer speed is especially important when shooting RAW, as each shot has a huge file size. Don’t cut corners on your memory!

Other Camera Stuff

  • Cleaning equipment. Rocket Airblower for removing dust and particles from your gear and a microfibre cloth for removing grubby finger prints!
  • Get some Spare Batteries
  • Get a Card Reader. Most laptops come with an SD Card reader, but you’ll need a card reader if you use CompactFlash or mini/MircoSD. Luckily they’re very cheap!
  • Register with Flicker Pro account for unlimited storage photo back up. A must for dedicated travel snappers.
  • Set up a Dropbox account. They offer a free 2GB of storage, which is better than nothing. You can share your images/video/whatever with friends, acting like a shared folder.
  • Gmail has a 10GB upload limit, meaning it’s another great free online storage area for your images.

MP3 Player

Most tend to use their smartphones for music, but if you want to add a dedicated MP3 Player to your travel checklist, then a 7th generation Apple iPod nano 16GB, or a 4th generation Apple iPod touch 16GB with a larger screen, or perhaps the now ‘old school’ 6th generation Apple iPod classic 160GB might be more suitable. Or like us, you just want something cheap that plays music go for the Samsung YP-U6QB U6 2GB Mp3 player with radio and USB connectivity built in.

Grab some good noise isolating and comfortable Sony MDREX50LPB ear buds, and if money is no option, a set of Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic noise cancelling headphones!

A Belkin Headphone Splitter is perfect for sharing your music on those long journeys with someone else with their own headphones.

Things we don’t travel with but are worth a look

Pacsafe offer have a product called the PacSafe 120 Secure Backpack & Bag Protector, a steel, slashproof sort of ‘cage’ that protects your beloved bag.

We travel with a basic wire rope we bought from a hardware shop, similar to the Pacsafe WrapSafe Adjustable Cable Lock, and a few High Security 3-Dial TSA Combination Luggage Locks to secure our bags.

A dedicated thief could easily bypass the Pacsafe system or our wire rope methods. Plus it’s also a big indicator that you have something to steal if it’s protected by a shiny metal thing. With the wire rope we just anchor our bags together when we have to, preventing someone just picking them up and walking off with them, but not advertising to the world that we’ve got stuff to steal!

Pacsafe offer loads of other cool safety products, like the slash-proof Pacsafe CarrySafe 100 Anti Theft Camera Strap and the Pacsafe TravelSafe, a secure portable ‘safe’.


So there it is!

I hope you found our epic Ultimate Travel Checklist helpful and gained an insight into what sort of Travel Tech we tour the world with!

What would you take travelling that I’ve missed off the list?

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2 Responses to The Ultimate Travel Checklist: Travel Tech for the Modern Backpacker 2013

  1. Suzy March 25, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Wow! This is a very complete list. I really want to get a tablet for travel. I think I would use it all the time. Instead I lug around my giant MacBook Pro which can be quite cumbersome.

    • Stuart Edwards March 26, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      Yeah the Macbook Pro is a beast! I think tablets are the way forward, but I just love the mouse/keyboard combo too much!

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