Our family went on a great 10,000 mile road trip this summer. We really tried to keep a lid on the number of bring-along gadgets, but ended up hauling over a dozen of them around the country:
Plus the camera I used to take the above picture:
After joking about our gadget collection to Om, it dawned on me that we had just conducted an extended, heavy duty test on a bunch of devices. The good news is that we didn’t lose any, only one of them broke completely, and only a couple had a little trouble along the way:
– The Canon PowerShot SD300 gave up the ghost about 1 week into the trip. The lens refuses to retract, and the device flashes error 18.
– My iPhone stopped delivering email for about a week, then started working again. I think this was related to the iPhone 3G launch.
– The home button on one of the iPod Touches started doing strange things, then kind of started working again after several reboots.
Here’s a list of the devices, why we brought them and how they fared:
– My ThinkPad X300 laptop: I used it for several hours a day, mostly doing email and trip research. Worked like a charm. The built-in Verizon EVDO service worked almost everywhere (except national parks), plus most motels seem to have free wifi these days (some of it even worked). At one point we managed a full screen Skype video “road chat” with my sister who was traveling around Europe – pretty cool. Great, solid device.
– My wife’s MacBook: Also worked well, though without EVDO it lay dormant quite a bit.
– The Dash GPS: I already talked about it here. Good device.
– A clarion car stereo with USB slot: I put a bunch of music on USB memory sticks, which worked out well. The rest of the time we listened to podcasts and music from the iPhone and some good old CDs (the music from Spamalot became the official trip soundtrack – don’t ask!).
– A Kodak EasyShare CX6200: This thing takes terrible pictures, but is indestructible. The kids used it.
– Three Nintendo DSs: Wow, these devices can take hours of playing/abuse every day from kids (including the touch screen) and keep ticking along. The kids enjoyed lots of networked games like PictoChat, Mario Party, and Mario Kart – a lifesaver during long car rides. Great devices.
– A Flip point and click video camera: Diane and Sophie used it mostly and took several dozen short videos. Works as advertised, I’d definitely much rather have this along than a big, expensive video camera.
– Diane’s cell phone and my iPhone: I think Diane hardly used hers, but I used my iPhone pretty heavily. I made several conference calls, checked lots of email, and browsed TripAdvisor and Yelp a bunch. I tried using AOL Radio and Pandora, but they dropped out too much while driving.
– Two iPod Touches: The kids used these to watch movies and listen to their music. They worked well, though downloading movies takes a brutally long time (and a good wifi connection which is not easy to come by).
– My Canon Rebel XT with a Sigma 18-200mm lens: I took over 3000 photos and really like the results. The lens is a little heavy, but has an ideal range and good image stabilizer. The camera has good battery life, and the camera/lens combo takes great photos while being small enough to not require a bag.
So overall, I’m slightly embarrassed about how much gear we brought along, but we used all of it pretty heavily. One laptop should probably be enough. If I could type on an iPhone without slowly going insane, I might even be able to leave the laptop behind altogether (and with an iPhone 3G the GPS could maybe be retired as well). Actually, we liked uploading and looking at photos along the way, so the laptop probably remains a requirement. BTW, some of these devices were gifts or hand-me-downs, and some are several years old already (i.e. we didn’t go out and buy all this gear for the trip!). Oh, another “gadget” I forgot to mention is the cigarette lighter splitter I installed in the van to keep all this stuff charged 🙂