Gear For Travel – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

It is really remarkable how quickly technology has completely changed the face of travel.  Our RTW trip lasted nearly two years, 2009-2010.  As we embarked, we invested in some of the best technology to get the job done that was possible.  We thought of ourselves as flashpackers extraordinaire.  That included a brand new netbook, an unlocked cell phone, and a fancy DSLR camera.  Now, just a few short years later, when I look back on all of that still functioning gear, it just looks so old and antiquated.  That’s the nature of technology.

AsusEEEPC Gear For Travel – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
This old piece of hardware was our PC for two full years.

 

The Phone – Our mobile phone was nothing but an unlocked GSM flip phone.  We were excited when a SIM card we purchased allowed us to make calls home from the Sahara Desert in Sudan for Mother’s day.  Now with VOIP calling, a smart phone can make calls around the world for free…and from anywhere.  The best part is that there are finally some cutting edge phones (e.g. Galaxy S4 Active) that are water and drop resistant making it even easier to stay connected and travel adventurously.

The Tablet – These did not exist while we were our trip and are a tremendous game changer, at least if you are blogging or sharing pictures while you travel.  We shared one netbook as we traveled, weighing and taking up far more room than two tablets would have taken in our packs.  Any of these today – iPad, Android or even a Windows tablet – are both lighter and more powerful than our “state of the art” netbook was. Plus there is wifi virtually everywhere now making a tablet a really useful tool for travelers to check in.

The Camera – This area has changed a lot less, mostly these cameras now come with more features and more megapixels than before.  However, by and large, they still do the same job.  The big add-ons here are the ease by which photos can be geotagged and quickly uploaded.  Camera processing has also improved allowing for better low-light photography and much better videos.  That would have saved us quite a bit of time geotagging our photos.

This article is NOT about what gear to go out and buy, there are plenty of review sites on the Internet,   It is merely a comparison of what has changed in less than 3 years time.  In the next three years will Google Glass remove the need for a tour guide?  Streaming video and video conferencing might ultimately replace the written word when it comes to blog posts.  We might even be able to sterilize our meals on our plates with a UV light and completely make food poisoning a thing of the past!  Sounds good to me.

I just ran a triathlon

It may have been a short triathlon, taking place in North Miami Beach, but it was the maximum length allowed to be called a sprint and it was a good stepping stone for me in trying out this new sport. The race was the 25.75 North Miami Triathlon and it felt great to get out there and even better to finish!

First.  What is a Triathlon?

A triathlon is three sports; swimming, cycling and running.  The three sports are always in that order, it’s pretty logical when you think about it.  In this race, the swim was 750 (.46mi) beautiful meters of open water swimming in Miami’s Biscayne Bay followed by a 20k (12.4mi) bike ride and a 5k (3.1mi) run.  My job was very simply to do those three events, in that order, as quickly as possible.

 miamitriathlon I just ran a triathlon

But Wait, What about those Adventure Races you used to run?

So yes, the adventure races are far more involved, take a lot longer, and involve lots of alligators.  This was NOT that.  My best hope for wildlife was a manatee or two but we didn’t see any of those.  Last year Jill did an Xterra Triathlon in the same waters and other swimmers did report a manatee in the water, but I digress. In an adventure race, the racer uses a map and compass to navigate the wilderness, sometimes on bike and sometimes on foot or in a boat, in whatever direction he or she chooses.  I view adventure races as a more difficult undertaking than a triathlon, simply because of how long it lasts and the mental anguish of poor decision making.  But, the events are very different and require a different type of fitness and mental fortitude.  An adventure race can last for 6 hours to 6 days, this triathlon took me just over 90 minutes while the longest available – the Iron Man – will take the winner just over 8 hours.  Because it is shorter, the triathlon requires a different sort of athleticism and a lot more hustle and no real opportunity to sit down and breathe.  Added benefit of the triathlon: finishing in time for brunch!

As I mentioned, I finished in just over 90 minutes, which is fantastic considering my [much too easy] goal was 2 hours.  My swim time was tremendously quicker than I had expected, I’d been working on that, while my run, which I did in normal shoes, and bike were right about as good as I could have hoped.  Here are my stats:

times I just ran a triathlon

The setting for the race was absolutely beautiful.  Miami’s Biscayne Bay and cycling through Oleta River State Park was a treat as well.  What wasn’t a treat was being passed on the bike by more racers than I could count.  Basically, if do an image search for the word triathlete, you’ll see what one looks like and the kind of bicycle they have.  Sometimes those bikes cost as much as $5,000.  My bike, which I use to commute, cost a measly $300 and well, I don’t think I much look like a triathlete.  Still, I enjoyed a great morning and have something to build off of.  Besides, I had the best looking cheerleaders of the entire race!

miamitriathlonkids I just ran a triathlon

IF YOU want to do a triathlon as well the 2575 race series is a great way to start.  The races are short, yet still long enough to be a very meaningful distance.  Also, the locations are simply phenomenal.  Using these races to travel all around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean wouldn’t be such a bad plan.

Interview with OT Surf – New Bikini’s

Christy and Scott of Ordinary Traveler just launched a new women’s bikini line designed to actually STAY ON for any woman who is tired of always fixing her bikini. We’ve pre-ordered a suit and can’t wait to get it for the summer! The line, called OT Surf, is manufactured in the USA and is being crowd funded right now through Kickstarter.com.  Since we think highly of it we thought we’d share it with you as well.

Tell us what prompted you to go ahead and design a bikini that stays put? Was there one specific incident? I know I for one have flashed too many people as the result of an ill-fitting swimsuit purchased in Costa Rica.

It definitely wasn’t just one incident. I think most women get frustrated with their bikini from time to time. I’ve had incidents in pools or just laying on the beach, but mostly it came down to every time I ducked under a wave with my board, I would have to pull up my bottoms. That slows you down a lot, especially when the waves are big. There were also times when I was just playing in the waves and would come up for air only to realize I had to readjust my top and bottom before anybody noticed.

Christy Close up Fixed 1024x682 Interview with OT Surf   New Bikinis

How did you research fabrics and seamstresses? Do you have a background in clothing design or are you a project runway groupie?

Nope, I never got into Project Runway. Although, now I wish I had. I have always been creative and designing bikinis seems to come naturally to me. It could just be because I’m a perfectionist or that I feel so passionate about making this product.

Google is your friend. Well, sometimes. We did a lot of research online, but you would be surprised at how little information we could find. Even finding information regarding places that sell the materials we need. Almost everything pointed us to buying overseas, which we feel strongly against.

After a lot of trial and error, we finally found a company that is extremely knowledgeable and they have been a wealth of information. This information doesn’t come cheap though. icon smile Interview with OT Surf   New Bikinis We wasted quite a bit of money before we realized that you get what you pay for!

Did you test the product? Any funny stories you care to share?

Yes, we definitely tested it. Well, I tested it because I couldn’t get Scott to put one on. icon wink Interview with OT Surf   New Bikinis As luck would have it, most of the testing had to be done in winter. Now, you might be thinking that winter in San Diego is mild, but the water temperature is usually in the fifties. I was the only person out there without a wetsuit.

One day I had to test just the bikini top, so I had this bright idea that I would be slightly warmer if I went out with my wetsuit up to my stomach. It helped give me the courage to walk out into the water, but once I did my first duck dive, my suit filled up with so much water that it was weighing me down and I had to keep letting the water out the bottom. It must have been pretty hilarious to watch.

Today so much in our society is DIY, but even in today’s world DIY doesn’t mean easy. What were the challenges you didn’t expect when you set out to design and manufacture this line?

I can’t even begin to tell you how challenging it has been to perfect this product. From sourcing quality and eco-friendly materials to finding contractors that actually know what they are doing and then learning how to market all of it, I feel like the challenges never end. It’s been a learning experience to say the least.

Bikini Denisa OT Surf Web Interview with OT Surf   New Bikinis

Tell us about your philosophy behind the product. I understand that the line is environmentally friendly and manufactured locally.

One of our main goals is to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible. By sourcing materials in the USA and using local vendors, we are able to reduce our carbon footprint by limiting the energy consumed for shipping.

Another reason we chose to manufacture in the United States is because there are stricter standards for pollution controls and labor practices. Local production also allows us to closely monitor the consistency and quality of our products, which is great for us and for our customers considering we inspect every bikini to make sure there are no mistakes or defects.

We are working towards incorporating more recycled and eco-friendly materials into our bikinis. Sourcing recycled nylon/spandex has been quite a challenge, but we may have found someone in the United States who might be able to make the material for us out of recycled materials.

Right now we are focusing on what we CAN do and that is using eco-friendly hangtags and biodegradable mailers. Luckily, we have also found a great supplier for 100% recycled t-shirts.

How did you stumble upon Kickstarter.com? What are the advantages behind crowd funding? Tell us how it works.

I think Kickstarter is a great way to give people the opportunity to become a fundamental part of a new idea or start-up company. We love involving our community in decisions such as color choices for our bikini line and possibly even new designs. I like that we are also able to offer limited edition pieces that will only be made available to the people who pre-order on Kickstarter. It gives people more of a voice, rather than just buying a product.

Your funding video is amazing – I know you’re both photographers, tell us about shooting the video.

Thanks! Well, first of all, I had no idea how hard it would be to find willing friends to model a bikini. As we look back, we realize we should have just hired a model because we went through quite a few cancellations.

Scott shot some of the footage of me while we were in Baja in February and the rest of it was done on three different days in San Diego. The times when it was just Scott and I were comical because we set up a camera and tripod that was shooting video and one that was shooting photos, while I was modeling and Scott was holding the reflector. These are the times we really wish we had hired either an assistant or a model.

Pre-sales through Kickstarter run through April 2nd, I highly recommend you order one now – your tush will thank you this summer!

Christy and Scott run the popular travel blog, Ordinary Traveler and they just launched a new innovative sports bikini line called OT Surf. They are trying to raise $15,000 by April 2, 2012 by pre-selling bikinis and t-shirts. If they reach their goal of $15,000, then they will go into production and start shipping bikinis! Click here to pre-order now. And remember, what makes Kickstarter so cool is that it runs on the all-or-nothing funding approach, so if you pre-order a bikini now and they don’t reach their $15,000 goal, you will be refunded 100% of your money! (Check them out of Facebook too!)

Review: Vibram Five Fingers

If you missed our first post on barefoot running, you might want to check it out before you read this product review!

I actually have two different models of the Five Fingers, the Sprint and the Bikila. Both of which I love, but for slightly different reasons.vibram fivefingers Review: Vibram Five Fingers

My first pair of Five Fingers was the sprint. I originally purchased them as part of my leap into the barefoot running world and was a bit skeptical of the individual toe design. Right out of the box they were easy to get on, just slip in your feet and bam you are ready to go, no laces, no fighting with the fabric, just one quick Velcro strap.  The first thing I noticed was the lack of cushion or any sort of arch support. They really felt like a slightly heavier pair of socks than shoes.  It did take a bit of getting used to for the toe spaces and having fabric and a seam between each toe, but after a few minutes I was comfortable.[Ed note: Wearing toe socks, like the injinji seems to make a difference!]

Some of the great features of the Sprint are that the inside has few seams which means, less rubbing since I go without socks. The only rubbing I noticed was on the seam near my instep. I did get a bit of a rub on the first few outings but once the shoes were more molded to my feet I was fine. Since the shoe is essentially fabric and rubber, over time they take on the shape of your feet, and fit much more like a second skin than a device.

What about smell?  Fortunately, the Sprints hold up great in the washer! You just pop them in and hang dry, the fabric wears great, and dirt lifts almost fully out making them look brand new again.  The only lingering sign of use is the smell. These puppies really keep that sweaty foot smell. While this is of course not a pleasant thing, while on or even not near your nose the odor is not apparent.

I put about 800 miles on them before they really started to wear and needed replacement; there is actually a small hole in the bottom sole! The sad thing is the fabric still looks great.

Now for the Bikilas. I was super excited when I first heard about the Bikila since it is designed for running. Basically the changes from the Sprint, are the addition of a top layer of fabric (so the shoe covers the whole foot), treads were added to the sole for better grip while running, reflective tape was added, and the sole also  had a more rigid rubber piece added under the arch (not traditional arch support but something).m148 hero Review: Vibram Five Fingers

While in general the feeling is similar between the shoes,  I found the Bikilas are not as flexible and second skin feeling as the Sprints, especially fresh from the box. The fabric was quite stiff which made it actually difficult to get the shoes on initially which was a big deterrent for me. Over time the fabric stretched and this became less of a hassle, but they had a much longer break in period in comparison (about 10-15 wears Vs. 2-3 wears).  In addition I actually felt slightly less ‘barefoot’ in the Bikilas, they are heavier than the Sprints and more shoe like with the light arch support than ‘barefoot’ like. Don’t get me wrong they are far from a traditional shoe!

Where the Bikilas really have the Sprints beat is in the general warmth of the shoe and the grip. The extra fabric over the foot and the additional thickness makes a huge difference; no snow even crept in this year (not true with the open design of the Sprints). I also find myself slipping less and feeling more stable wet pavement in the Bikilas which turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought.

The Bikilas also appear to be lasting longer in term of sole wear (I am going on close to 1000 miles in them, and they aren’t quite at replacement time) ; this is likely simply because the sole is thicker with the treads vs. new materials.

So which to choose? Well, it depends. Overall both Five Fingers are fantastic and allow for flexible use for a variety of activities. For just running, I think I will stick to the Bikilas for the most part, but for other activities, I find the flexibility and fit of the Sprints are better, so if you are looking for a more all around travel, yoga, running, climbing shoe, I would go with the Sprints or their fraternal twin the KSOs and stay away from in specific use designs.

Happy Running!

We received no compensation for this review.  It is based on solely on the author’s experience.  Feel free to check out our other travel, adventure and outdoor gear reviews.

Gear: Start to Finish

After 21 months backpacking around the world, through the Sahara, overlanding the silk road and climbing mountains, what gear survived?

imgp1841 Gear: Start to Finish

These are the items that were with us when we walked across the border into Tiujana, Mexico and were still with us when our plane from Asia touched down in North America. All of these items were with us every step of the way….and survived. If you read any product review we write, make it this one!

Asus EEE PCasus eee pc 1000he 1 432x479 Gear: Start to FinishOur netbook computer (codename: Evelyn) has survived against all odds and I’m typing on it even now. It has survived sand and sun and even the occasional drop out of the back of a certain Land Rover onto the concrete below. The battery still gives us about 6 hours of use per charge and we have no problems with a single key and the screen is still perfect, albeit dusty. The version of windows that came pre-loaded eventually developed insomnia and the ensuing overheating forced us to switch to Linux and that has worked ever since. Now that we’re home, the power-cord is showing some wear, which I fixed, but we were able to order a replacement for $6. The computer shows its age but I have no reservations in recommending an Asus EEE PC to anyone. We picked ours up at Amazon.

Pentax DSLR K200Dpentax k200d autocrop Gear: Start to Finish Our big and heavy Pentax DSLR (codename Peter) is still shooting. We traded in our Canon before the trip because the Pentax is not only cheaper, but has a water-resistant and rugged body…which no doubt helped it to survive given that we only had it in a tiny Zing camera case. The full range zoom lens we purchased to go along with it isn’t ‘rugged’ rated and still works just fine. This camera still gives us better color saturation than any other DSLR we’ve come across and the only way it shows its age is that the sound it makes when you take a picture is different than it was at the start. This is a phenomenal camera (read our initial review) and I will not depart from Pentax DSLR cameras. Although our model is no longer being produced the value offered by Pentax over the more common Canon and Nikon brands is simply too good to pass up.

Pentax Optio W6041kRpJLVpaL. SL500 AA280  Gear: Start to FinishThis Pentax (codename Optio) point and shoot has never been quite as good as its big brother. When we purchased it, only one other water-proof camera was on the market. There are a few others out there now so I’m not entirely sure how the newer Optio models compare. This is a great camera for water sports, and that is the reason we purchased it, but if you’re looking for an every day point and shoot camera I’d recommend staying away from this water-proof variety. For our money though, this camera still works just as good as it did on day one and I bet that of the water-proof camera’s, the Pentax models are still top notch.

Eneloop Batteries511Y3HVP07L. AA300  Gear: Start to FinishThese are rechargeable batteries that hold their charge, unlike most rechargeables out there. When you buy them they are already charged which means they will work just find for your emergency kit as well as your travel kit. If you haven’t switched to these yet, you are about 2 years behind the curve. Batteries are expensive, just order some today, and you’ll never need any more batteries ever again. The full set of batteries we started this trip with is still with us and powering the same electronic devices two years later!

ExOfficio Give’N Go Undiesex 1241 0020 blk 09 Gear: Start to FinishAlthough I enjoy the fact that I can again wear cotton underwear (aren’t you glad you asked) I have several pairs of these that have actually survived the entire trip. I cannot say the same for any other article of clothing. We’ve taken our clothes through some serious torture on our bodies and against the washboard and the fact that my underwear is the only thing that lasted two years is pretty remarkable. A few pairs bit the bullet and had to be cycled out, but seriously…this is quality material. If you do any level of exercise you would do well to pick up some of these.

Swiss Army Knife – There is only one option. Used mostly for opening canned food and beer and wine bottles it also does a pretty nice job at spreading peanut butter and emergency maintenance on eyeglasses and whatever else might need help.

Chacos – There is only one sandal I will ever wear. My pair of Chacos were new at the start of the trip and lasted until the final month…but not through that month. In the end the straps were finally torn by grit and dirt that had worked their way between the straps and the sandals. I had given myself a few extra weeks with a creative application of super glue but I can think of no other footwear that could have survived volcanoes, mountains, beaches, showers, swamps, jungles and deserts better than those Chacos. I already have a new pair.

So, wondering what those code names are all about?  We named our electronics so that we wouldn’t stand in the middle of a busy market asking if the other person grabbed the computer or camera.  Remarkably, thieves understand those words no matter what language they speak…better to be looking for lost “children.”  Interested in more travel tips?  Click here.