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Digital Light: The Ultimate Lightweight Travel Kit

By Preb Stritter

For generations people stricken (or blessed?) with an itchy foot have taken to the road, the water, or the air to seek out new places and new peoples. Most of them are storytellers--or at least story collectors. They like to keep detailed journals and often to take numerous photos. But, the dilemma is always how do you balance the need for cameras and computers on the road, with need for traveling light

Twelve years ago I set out for a 3-month contract in Switzerland — an assignment that would call for considerable writing. To expedite the chore, I armed myself with a laptop computer. It was an early model and was bulky and heavy.

I acquired a large transformer/surge protector to deal with the European current, and a compact printer (the Diconix was the best part of my kit). Then I packed my camera case with SLR body and a variety of lenses, some spare batteries, and a good supply of film. Surveying the collection, I realized I would have to invest in a wheeled trolley to handle the whole kit. On succeeding journeys I began to get down to size.

The sophisticated but heavy laptop gave way to a Sinclair Z88 computer that was about the size of a husky magazine, and I compromised on a pocket-sized camera with a quite decent built-in zoom. Since universal email and Internet access did not yet exist, the Diconix came along too, allowing manuscripts to be produced in the field. It was a bit lighter to carry than the previous expedition’s equipment, but I still lugged an extra backpack full of stuff.

Tonight I am getting ready for a ten-week wander that will begin with Morocco and proceed on to Turkey, Slovenia, and wherever the mood dictates before eventual arrival in London. This time I am going "digitally light" and my whole kit fits in the back pocket of my daypack.

  • Computer
    No, not a Palm–the British Psion series 5mx, the neatest little handful of computing power in the world. Measuring only 6.5" x 3.5" x 1" it fits nicely in a jacket pocket, packs 16MB of computing power including a full-scale word processor, database manager, Excel spread sheet program, and personal scheduler (all downloadable or uploadable to the home PC), and runs for several months on 2 AA batteries.

    The Psion comes with a number of secondary programs; world clock, calculator, sketch pad, voice recorder, etc. A cigarette lighter sized infra-red modem can be purchased for email and web surfing, but I don’t have one as I find it easier to access a cybercafe than a reliable telephone connection when traveling into the world of adventures.

    And at under $500, these Psions are worth every penny for the digital traveler.

  • Camera
    No more lead bags full of film to worry about in Third World x-ray machines--the digital camera has grown in sophistication while dropping in price and can now qualify as a real photographic tool. Mine is a last year’s Nikon Coolpix 950, among the first of the 2 megapixel models to hit the market. If you are shopping now, for around $900 you can get 3+ megapixel models from a number of top-name suppliers, including Nikon’s new Coolpix 990. Last year’s 2 megapixel ones like mine are correspondingly reduced in price, and still produce excellent quality images.

    Like the Psion, the Nikon also runs on AA batteries. I carry 2 sets of rechargables, a small charger, and a 220V adapter. For backup I carry several sets of batteries preferably either Energizer red top lithiums or their new blue and silver e-squared titaniums.

    The storage media in the Coolpix is the quite universal Compact Flashcard (1.5" x 1.5"). With a simple 3" adapter this fits into the PCMCIA card slot on many desktops and laptops for downloading images. I invested in a 128 MB flashcard that will store up to 3200 shots at low resolution (fine for website or email use) or over 100 images at photo print quality, hi resolution.
  • Carrying Bags
    For water trips, I take a sturdy, waterproof Otter Box (8" x 4" x 4.5"). The Psion and the Nikon fit in perfectly and a carabiner attaches the box safely to the thwart of the canoe or the deck strap of the kayak, ready at hand to catch the whales breaching and the glaciers calving.
  • Downloading
    Back at my home computer, I have access to a growing variety of software programs for enhancing my images and managing my collections. The Psion’s programs all work with standard Microsoft software, and for digital imaging, the creme de la creme include Adobe Photoshop, but there are many less expensive offerings (including excellent shareware) available at lower levels of sophistication which are fine for non-professionals.

So shoulder your daypack and swing off into the world of discovery. It is digitally ready and harbors endless stories to be caught on your handy cyber equipment.

- Psion Inc.
Psion's US web site includes on-line secure shopping for the entire Psion product range including Revo, netBook, modem and accessories. - Psion Store
Buy direct from Psion Inc. is an easy to use secure shopping site for Psion's most popular mobile computing products. - Sparco
SPARCO.COM is an online computer store with over 130,000 products at great prices
New World Technologies —another great secure site where you can purchase a Psion on-line.


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