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Storing data (film or digital) during long travels

I will spend some months on the road backpacking with my girlfriend.

Right now it is possible that I will be travelling a couple of months in India and 4 in South America.

I am starting to think about what kind of equipment to bring with me. I usually travel with one camera body and two prime lenses.

The difference is that I’m usually traveling 2-3 weeks and film or card storage is never an issue.

This time it might be different.

I would like to have any first-hand experience about how to deal with these kind of things.

Carrying a laptop with me is not a solution I can imagine. Too much weight.

Has anyone ever mailed film home from India or South America? Does it arrive?

Are portable HD storage devices good/rugged enough?

Right now the choice might be between carrying a D200 or an F3. A rangefinder might also come in discussion (Zeiss Ikon).

Any tip appreciated!

by Bruno Trematore at 2008-09-23 11:26:28 UTC (ed. Sep 23 2008 ) Duesseldorf , Germany | Bookmark | | Report spam→

About 1,5 year ago I bought the Storvision Xs-drive 2, which are now available with a capacity up to 250 gigabyte. In this device all the important types of cards can be read out and the good thing is that it has no screen. This saved from a lot of troubles when I was checked by the Israeli customs, because I took a lot of pictures in the westbank.

by Jeroen de Kluiver | 23 Sep 2008 11:09 | Apeldoorn, Netherlands | | Report spam→
My trips are usually 2-3 months at a stretch. Personally, I would never keep all the photos on only 1 drive, whether it’s a portable storage device or laptop. Especially if you are considering mailing that drive home. I know one photographer who recently did that and had to spend thousands at a data recovery center when the drive died. I always keep one copy on my laptop, dupes on an external drive which I have whoever I’m traveling with carry. People seem to have good luck with the portable storage devices and chances are everything will go fine, but personally, the anguish of worrying about losing my photos is worse than the discomfort of an additional 7lbs in my pack.

by Tommy Huynh | 23 Sep 2008 16:09 | San Antonio, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Bruno

Allmost everywhere there are internet-cafes that burn DVD’s…burn two (test them in the shop before leaving with a corrupt dvd) let your girl carry one and you one.

When you have a few dvd’s then sent one batch home and keep the doubles. The weight is close to nothing.

What I do? I carry laptop everywhere…and a 60 GB ipod as ext-harddrive for the back up.

Have fun travels

by Tom Van Cakenberghe | 23 Sep 2008 16:09 | Kathmandu, Nepal | | Report spam→
Sandisk 1 gig CF cards are in the $10-$15 range (in the US anyway) — that’s cheaper per-frame storage than film.

You could also buy a Hyperdrive:


by [former member] | 23 Sep 2008 16:09 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
I just bought a freecom drive that has shock absorption from a drop of 2 meters, it is a Firewire (bonus no power cable) 320GB drive and I got it for £100 from Amazon. It has rubber skin to protect it. That might help?

by Jonathan JK Morris | 23 Sep 2008 18:09 | Swansea, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
re hyperdrive:


by [former member] | 23 Sep 2008 19:09 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→

I was once in Japan, assuming that there were internet cafes everywhere, where I could burn DVDs. Actually: there were internet cafes everywhere, but they required membership. After convincing an employee to let me in anyhow, they had only CD burners! At that was a super modern venue! So I had to buy some CDs and spent the whole afternoon fiddling with I don’t know how many CDs!

I would not consider to mail a drive home. I could think about uploading data so that I have to spend less time searching for internet cafes. Then burn a pack of DVDs (double copy) and go on further.

I see that CF cards are about 10Euros per GB (SanDisk Extreme III) in Europe. That makes 2000Euros for 200GB, what makes the drive still a cheaper solution :)

Don’t freecom drives need a computer to transfer data? Actually another solution would be to get such a drive and enough CF cards to live between an internet cafe and the other.

by Bruno Trematore | 23 Sep 2008 21:09 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
Bruno, ever tried to upload many gigabytes of photos online? Just 50 GBs can take over a week on a fast cable modem in the US running 24/7, longer if the connection drops which they often do considering the amount of time required. From an internet cafe in India or SA? Forget about it. A DVD will typically take about 45 mins to burn all things considered. Each typically holds less than 5GB. If you shoot 200GB of photos, that’s 30 hrs of burn time, assuming you can find an internet cafe everywhere you need one. Mydigitaldiscount has Transcend cards at $3/GB. Extreme III at $10/GB if you want to go the CF route.

by Tommy Huynh | 23 Sep 2008 22:09 (ed. Sep 23 2008) | San Antonio, United States | | Report spam→
cf cards are so cheap now, so a solution can be to just have a massive amount of them, dump them to a portable drive like hyperdrive, and still keep the photos in the cf’s. so you always have two copies this way…

have a nice trip!

by marius sortland myklebust | 23 Sep 2008 22:09 | Wellington, New Zealand | | Report spam→
hey Bruno

im heading off for 3 months to India soon as well so i totally understand your dilemna! What im doing is taking a Vosonic 120 GB drive, im going to take another 120GB external hard drive, heap of DVD’s and about 30G in Compact Flash. .

The external hard drive im taking in hope of running into someone with a laptop, and be like so ahh do u mind if i borrow your laptop for half a day :-P. Hehe well i have a few friends around the place, so im just gonna wait til i see em and transfer stuff from vosonic to the external. . Good luck aye and let me know when ur in India, its an amazing place as im sure many here will confirm!!!

by Conor Ashleigh | 24 Sep 2008 01:09 | newcastle, Australia | | Report spam→

“I was once in Japan, assuming that there were internet cafes everywhere, where I could burn DVDs. Actually: there were internet cafes everywhere, but they required membership.”

Hmmm I am probably always thinking too positive. So harddrives and all that make sense then.

Depending what you will do on your trip, weight is for most travelers not a main issue in the end. I traveled for years non-stop and I never carried my stuff longer than half an hour. Its all buses, trains, flights, boats, taxis and porters!
Thats why I didnt care much about having a laptop with me.

by Tom Van Cakenberghe | 24 Sep 2008 03:09 | Kathmandu, Nepal | | Report spam→

I’ve been already twice in India: yes it’s a magical place, so I’m heading for the 3rd time :)

by Bruno Trematore | 24 Sep 2008 06:09 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
Tommy, the internet cafes are not to upload pictures, but to have access to a PC in order to transfer data from cards to an hard drive. I also think that the average PC in India might have quite a few problems with viruses (or virii, as some like to say) → connecting an HD to them might not be the best idea of the world :)

I’m really considering the option of packing a lots of TriX film and shipping it home :)

by Bruno Trematore | 24 Sep 2008 06:09 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
Hi Bruno,
I bought before summer a Jobo 120Gb, you can upload direct from CF and other cards without computer. However if you shoot in RAW you won’t be able to visualize them (which could be a good thing according to Jeroen :p), the only problem is it’s not so fast (i think it’s still USB1 transfert), but there’s a new generation coming, should be faster.
It’s safe transfert because it copy one file at time, so even if your battery goes down, you don’t loose anything but the transfering file.
And yes, the dvd double could be good too.

Good luck with your trip!

by Heimana | 24 Sep 2008 06:09 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
OK, when you said upload, I thought upload online:) I still say bring your own technology though, depending on cafes to have what you need is setting yourself up for problems, as you already found out in Japan. If cost is a factor, get one of the portable storage devices that let you swap out drives. Buy a few 2.5" bare drives, copy contents to one drive, move to the 2nd. Mail the duplicate drive back for added security. Easy way to dupe for cheap and much faster than DVDs and no need for a computer.

by Tommy Huynh | 24 Sep 2008 07:09 | San Antonio, United States | | Report spam→
Hyperdrive Colorspace 160 GB




HyperDrive COLORSPACE is a color LCD equipped hard drive that allows you to backup, store, view photos/data from memory cards on the go without the need for computers or external power. Winner of more awards than any other photo storage device, it possess many world class features unseen in any products:

- High Res 2.2" color LCD screen displays JPEG & RAW
- Backup directly from 15 different memory card types
- Blazing fast card backup speed. Backup 1GB in 1min
- Extremely fast USB transfer speed (28MB/s)
- Unlimited capacity (40~320GB & beyond)
- Ultra powerful battery (backup 120GB per battery)
- 32-bit copy verification system
- Card scan, repair & image recovery tools
- Ultra compact (only 25mm thick)

by Daniel Legendre | 24 Sep 2008 09:09 (ed. Sep 24 2008) | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Hmm, I think that someone else in this post had some bad experiences with the hyperdrive…

by Bruno Trematore | 24 Sep 2008 09:09 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
I do have good experience since May. Stored 15GB in Andalousia, 12GB in Lourdes for Benedict XVI without having to recharged it.

I do have the 120 GB Colorspace.

Keys do have to be pressed lightly.

by Daniel Legendre | 24 Sep 2008 11:09 (ed. Sep 24 2008) | Paris, France | | Report spam→
By the way, I saw on the net somewhere a solar multi-use charger but cannot remember the name, once opened it looks like a 3 petals flower…
any tips ?

Because it also could be good to have your own energy supplier if you go out in the wild :p

by Heimana | 24 Sep 2008 12:09 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
What about a portable card reader-DVD burner like this: http://shop.cd-writer.com/acatalog/ALL_PRODUCTS_DVD_BurnAway_Portable_DVD_CD_Burner_for_Media_Card_1620.html

My 2 c

by Sandro Pisani | 24 Sep 2008 12:09 | Turin, Italy | | Report spam→
The 3 petal solar chargers are by Solio, made more for charging phones, not much capacity for more than that. Brunton panels would give you more power, but if you’ve ever used solar panels for power on the move, you probably found they aren’t very practical unless there’s absolutely no other alternative.

by Tommy Huynh | 24 Sep 2008 15:09 | San Antonio, United States | | Report spam→
I don’t think I will need solar power. But thanks for the hints.

by Bruno Trematore | 24 Sep 2008 16:09 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
Hmmm okay Tommy… never needed by myself, but who knows… I’ll check for the Brunton thing.

by Heimana | 24 Sep 2008 21:09 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
Interesting post by Nevada Weir on the link in the post by by Tewfic. My (then-current model) Hyperdrive also had some problems with the batteries in Mongolia in 2006. But when I plugged in the power supply it worked fine. And when I got back to the US thebatteries works fine too.

Maybe it’s the leftover negative Soviet kharma that is affecting batteries (though all the Mongolians I met had MP3 players that worked fine.

by [former member] | 25 Sep 2008 00:09 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Yes sure, Neal! Only could be old karma to flush away…

by Heimana | 25 Sep 2008 05:09 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→

Do you use any special mailing/packing materials to protect the harddrives you send back home from being wiped by security scanners/x-ray machines/etc?

by [former member] | 25 Sep 2008 15:09 | San Francisco, California, United States | | Report spam→
Hey David, if I mail them home, which I rarely do, they are just wrapped in the same material I use to protect them in the luggage. I carry one enclosure, and several bare drives. The bare drives are kept in the anti-static bag they come in, thin packing foam sheets are rubber banded around it, then put in a cheap plastic box (ie tupperware). Waterproof, static-proof, shockproof, costs next to nothing. x-rays don’t harm hard drives. Unless you are mailing it to congress where the mail is irradiated, you should be fine.

by Tommy Huynh | 25 Sep 2008 17:09 (ed. Sep 25 2008) | San Antonio, United States | | Report spam→
I travelled for 12 months last year and took a Vosonic Hard Drive with memory card reader (120GB), along with 2 USB External Hard Drives (100GB each). About once a week or fortnight I would go into an internet cafe and copy from the Vosonic to the 2 USB Hard Drives (ensuring 3 copies, all stored in different places). After I uploaded my memory cards to the Vosonic I kept my memory cards seperate until I had made back-ups of the Vosonic (helps if you have several spare memory cards).
In my experience, the majority of Internet Cafes in India (late 2006) did not have DVD burners (more likely to just have CD burners).

by Murray Cox | 15 Oct 2008 18:10 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Interesting to see all the problems experienced by techno-digi heads. Makes film look so cool and easy in comparison. Just don’t expect to find much of it in places like India – or Mongolia.

by Nigel Amies | 16 Oct 2008 09:10 | Vientiane, Laos | | Report spam→
Fuck taking photos, enjoy the trip and as it is often stated in the Boneyard……….. blink and remember.

by Imants | 16 Oct 2008 10:10 (ed. Oct 16 2008) | The Boneyard, Australia | | Report spam→
Imants ;-)

by Bruno Trematore | 16 Oct 2008 11:10 | Duesseldorf, Germany | | Report spam→
If you’re thinking about the Hyperdrive route, which I HIGHLY recommend as someone who lived in the most remote parts of Patagonia for 2 years, I would go with the normal Hyperdrive SPACE. The Colorspace came out shortly after I bought my normal SPACE drive, but it didn’t tempt me at all because having a color screen and those other features wears much harder on battery life. At the time I bought it, the SPACE was the fastest portable backup drive on the market, from CF-to-disk transfers as well as authentic USB2 drive-to-computer transfers.
I don’t know what kind of travel you do, but if you’re a backpacker, weight is obviously an issue. I would go with the muliple CF cards backed up to Hyperdrive SPACE method… and once the cards are full, pack’em up and don’t touch them. Heck, you could even have two Hyperdrives, since they’re so small and lightweight. In Latin America, mailing things can get pretty expensive, especially if you use the more reliable mailing services (FedEX, DHL, etc).
Another thing to consider, especially if you’re backpacking in adverse climates, is the little Pelican cases:

On long trips, I keep a Hyperdrive SPACE and CF cards inside one of those puppies.
Good luck!

by G. Morty Ortega | 23 Oct 2008 01:10 | Mexico DF, Mexico | | Report spam→
For me the simplest solution is to take a device that you can plug external hard drives into. I carry a couple of 320GB drives (I just bought a Western Digital one for £60). One drive is used for the originals, the other for back-up ( and keep them in different locations (eg. one with your girlfriend).

Some storage devices allow you to plug in an external drive for back up purposes, some don’t. Get one of the ones that do. If 640GB isn’t enough, you can easily get more along the way…

As for the device, I use a Samsung Q1 which is a full laptop, but it’s about the same size as a typical storage device. If I’m travelling light, then I leave the keyboard at home. It easily fits into a side pocket of my (small) camera shoulder bag if I want to take it with me during the day.

The big advantage of this is that you not only have a very adaptable storage device, but you have a full laptop with you, with built in Skype/microphone, pick up email at wifi spots, the ability to index images, convert from RAW as you go along, ftp etc etc. It has a built-in CF slot so no reader is needed. I load some movies on one of the external discs to pass the time on planes trains etc. Though typing via the screen if you leave the keyboard behind is a bit slow, but better than nothing.

The latest Q1’s are relatively expensive, about £600 or so, but I use an old one with just 512MB RAM and 60 GB hard drive – you could probably pick them up on ebay for maybe £200 quid.


by Simon Crofts | 23 Oct 2008 12:10 (ed. Oct 23 2008) | Edinburgh, Scotland | | Report spam→

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Bruno Trematore, Bruno Trematore
Duesseldorf , Germany ( DUS )
Jeroen de Kluiver, Student Photographer Jeroen de Kluiver
Student Photographer
Mallaig , Scotland
Tommy Huynh, Travel & Corporate Photog Tommy Huynh
Travel & Corporate Photog
Houston , United States
Tom Van Cakenberghe, Tom Van Cakenberghe
Kathmandu , Nepal
Jonathan JK Morris, Photojournalist Jonathan JK Morris
Swansea , United Kingdom
marius sortland myklebust, design/photo-aficionado marius sortland myklebust
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Conor Ashleigh, photographer|storyteller Conor Ashleigh
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Heimana, Moment catcher Heimana
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(Freelance Photographer)
Leh Ladakh , India ( IXL )
Daniel Legendre, Photographer Daniel Legendre
Paris , France
Sandro Pisani, Photographer, Documaker Sandro Pisani
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Murray Cox, Photojournalist Murray Cox
New York City , United States
Nigel Amies, Photographer/writer Nigel Amies
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Imants, gecko hunter Imants
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G. Morty Ortega, Visual Journalist G. Morty Ortega
Visual Journalist
Tenancingo , Mexico ( MEX )
Simon Crofts, Photographer Simon Crofts
Edinburgh , Scotland


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