Welcome back to a closer look at the incredible shrinking computer bag, in this case, the estimable Think Tank Airport Airstream. Below I’m showing you most of the stuff I’ve got inside of it (minus my spare glasses, paperback book, copies of my passport/visas and other small necessities that fit in the clear plastic pouches on the inside of the top flap).
You can see the Acer Aspire, a CVS Pharmacy polyvinyl cosmetics bag filled with two extra harddrives, connector cords, card reader, cell phone charger, GPS, USB modem and all the peripheral chachkas we need to digitally survive. Plus there’s room for a spare body and two spare lenses.
What may stick out a bit is that photo vest. Now that’s not just any photo vest, it’s the late lamented Bob Krist travel photo vest that was carried in LL Bean Traveler catalog for a few years. Yes, my 15 minutes of retail fame included this vest and a very cool, and to this day, unique camera bag design (subject of another entry on another day).
Now the vest design is pretty close to the Domke design…lots of huge pockets. But it is street wearable (alas, lots of the vests out there today are monstrosities that you can only wear at sporting events because on the street, they look like C4-packed suicide vests. This one, at least, looks like normal clothing). And this is key: it’s made of ultra lightweight, breathable, fast-drying and packable Supplex nylon. That’s why you can jam it into no space at all. And should you get accosted at the gate about a second carryon, everything in this bag can fit into that vest, and you can wear your second carryon onto the plane….
Now this doesn’t happen too often, and certainly not in the US, but the further afield you go, the stricter they can be about carryon rules. Of course the smaller netbook is a godsend for saving weight (if you can put up with the smaller keyboard, lousy screen, and dare I say it, Windows). I don’t even have Photoshop Elements installed on this thing. I just want to caption, rename and backup the images on the road (using Photo Mechanic, which adapts to the 800 x 600 display pretty well.)
Another key to this mini system is the backup harddrives….they’re not the usual 2.5″ USB or Firewire jobs. No, the Acer will deal with the USB drives just fine, but it, like the Epson P6000/P7000, doesn’t have enough juice to bus drive them and so you’ve got to carry the auxiliary AC adapters. What the Acer will bus drive are the even smaller 1.8″ portable drives, like the one on the right below.
It’s half the size of the usual drive, and the Acer provides enough juice to bus drive it. The largest capacity I’ve been able to find is the 120 GB size from Apricorn . I’ve taken these on a couple of trips and they are holding up, although they feel plasticky and cheap (that’s okay, so does the Acer!). But now we are talking a really lightweight setup.
Here’s a little closer look at the lightweight vest. Hopefully, another manufacturer will again realize that while cotton duck–heavy, moisture retaining, and slow drying–might have been the field fabric of choice back in the Boer War at the end of the 19th century, it is really not what you want to make your photo vests out of in the early 21st century (c’mon Domke, get with the program!). Maybe someone could reissue something similar to this vest, which even in the XXL size weighs mere ounces!