Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
6 Essential items for flashpackers
The most common definition of a “flashpacker” is someone who has the spirit of a backpacker, but who also has the budget and technology preferences that go a bit further. Flashpackers travel with technology and they feel like they are past the stage in their lives when sharing a dorm or hostel with 19 other people is their idea of a perfect holiday.
Still, there are good ways and bad ways to stay plugged-in when travelling. Recent inventions mean that flashpackers can carry all the essential gear inside of a small daypack, and still have room to spare for a light jacket and umbrella.
Here are the items you need, including software, to stay modern and portable at the same time.
iPad (or Android tablet)
Unless you are working on the road then carrying your full laptop is heavier and more than you need. For a year or two the ‘netbook’ became the travel tech of choice, but Apple’s iPad and a slew of upcoming copycat devices based on the Android operating system have moved on in to take their place.
The iPad is light, thin, durable (if carried in a sleeve), and capable of everything the flashpacker needs, all at an attractive price. It replaces an e-book reader, portable gaming system, movie player, and much more, all with virtually no moving parts, with far better performance than a netbook.
Smart phone with GPS
Depending on your plan. carrier, and destination, you might be able to make cheap phone calls while traveling, but even with no calling plan a smart phone is like a Swiss Army knife of portable electronics. Whether it’s an iPhone, Blackberry or an Android-based phone, you can use the GPS to navigate, and hundreds of specialty apps to find hotels, restaurants, and landmarks.
Using the Skype software mentioned below you can also use the thing as a mobile phone for little or no cost. Once you’ve used handheld GPS and free or cheap mapping apps in a new city, you’ll never want to travel any other way.
Hopefully you are on to this one already, but if not it’s time to download the free Skype program and join up. On a tablet device or smart phone (or laptop or netbook), you can make free phone and even video calls to anyone else with the software, as well as phone calls to those who don’t, for rates around 2 cents a minute to most of the world.
You’ll need to have an internet connection, but with those being increasingly easy to find, the days of expensive per minute phone calls from overseas are over.
Point & shoot camera with video
It’s true that every modern smart phone also takes photos and videos, but it’s also true that the quality and option differences between those and modern point & shoot cameras justifies bringing both.
The larger sensor in even the smallest real cameras, plus the ability to have a real optical zoom, will make your digital memories far better, even if you can only afford the cheaper model.
Forget those telltale white iPod earbuds that we all used a few years back, you can now get excellent quality with an in-ear design, starting at around AU$30 per pair. Most also include several rubber attachment options that mean almost everyone can get the perfect fit.
Good earbuds can immerse you in quality audio for music, videos, or podcasts while in a noisy airport or flight, and even provide decent noise cancellation if you just want to sleep instead of listen. Best of all, they take up nearly no space, and aren’t at all fragile like most other headphones.
When you are on the road you don’t want to risk losing your new photos or other documents, and while USB sticks are good for some situations, they are also vulnerable. Dropbox is free software that will automatically sync selected folders on your iPad, phone, or laptop, without you having to do anything.
The basic free account gives you 2GB of storage, which is plenty for most travelers, but if you need more you can upgrade to a paid monthly or yearly plan.
Mozy is another great option if you are looking more for a backup-only and don’t care so much about having files in sync on multiple devices. It also allows you to choose when the backup takes place which may be handy if you don’t have plentiful and speedy internet where you’re headed. They also have a free 2GB account which will work for both Mac and Windows.