In my never ending search for the smallest, lightest gear that will do the job, I’ve been helped by the folks at Think Tank Photo and their rolling carryons. Now, I don’t use these for my camera gear (I don’t have the time to repack my stuff into a shoulder bag once on location, so I just carry it in one!), but I find them enormously useful as computer bags. With my normal setup of a black 13″ Macbook (tricked out with a 500GB HD and 4GB of RAM from Otherworld Computing ) and two 320 GB, 7200 rpm firewire/USB harddrives from G-Tech or Weibetech and all the assorted chargers, adapters, connectors, sensor cleaners, etc. etc. (oh yeah, digital has “simplified” our lives as traveling photographers!), a photo vest, plus a spare D90 body and a couple of backup lenses, the Airport International V2.0 has been my roller of choice.
This bag is shallow enough to fit into a lot of regional aircraft’s overheads, but it’s still biggish for fussy European airline’s carryon rules, especially if you have a camera bag, however small and discreet, in addition to the roller. But how to make it smaller? Well it’s no good to carry a smaller bag if the gear inside is the same size….you can’t cram 6 gallons of water into a 4 gallon jug. So the secret is to make the stuff inside a bit smaller. But how?
Enter the so-called netbooks.
Yes, those tiny, PC (or Linux) driven, cheap, awful-looking 8″ screened, pieces of junk that no serious photographer (certainly not a Mac person) would touch with a 10 foot pole. I hate mine, and yet strangely (cue up the violins and dial in more diffusion filter), I think I love it too…
For $350 I took a flyer on an Asus Aspire with 1GB of RAM and a 160GB harddrive. I got it with Windows instead of Linux so I could use my cellular modem with it. It has three USB ports, a VGA output, Ethernet port, a built-in SD card reader that’s fast as blazes, excellent wireless capability, and an earphone jack. Are you listening Apple; maker of the one USB-port-only Macbook Air, (the “world’s best $3000 second laptop” as one waggish photo magazine editor dubbed it in a conversation over lunch recently), and taker away of Firewire 400 ports on the new Macbooks. Guess what, the net book weighs 2lbs. too…and while it may not be as pretty as the Macbook Air, it sure is more useful and has a smaller footprint to boot. Oh, um, and did I mention that it’s about 1/6th the price?
Working with this netbook has allowed me to go one size smaller in the Think Tank line, to the Airport AirStream . Check out the difference in size between the two bags, computers, and peripheral drives (which I’ll discuss in Part Two of this post). It makes a huge difference when you’re trying to sneak two carryons onto, say, Air Berzerkistan, where the flight attendants are all ex-KGB hospitality experts, and they take their carryon rules real seriously…
To be continued…..