02, 2001 |
geek's essential gear for wandering the hills of San Francisco
or travelling across the country.
My book-bag is my utility belt. Its my "never leave home without
it". My yellow, trusty, North Face Atlantis day-hiking pack
encloses everything I could probably need for a day of wandering
the hills of San Francisco, for an hour-long commute on CalTrain,
or for my more recent jaunt across the country.
of My Body Does Not Taste Like Plastic
Water should not taste like plastic -- this is a simple tenant
I live my life by. Strapped to the outside of my Atlantis is a reminder
of my camping days: a one liter large Nalgene bottle. Perfect for
a couple hours of walking around, and guaranteed not to give my
water that funny taste that anybody using regular petroleum derived
bottles is familiar with. Granted, I need to find a kindly restaurateur
to refill it every so often.
That Takes a Bashing, and Comes Back Kicking
Not being a fan of packing food into my bag for fear of it being
ruined, I still rant about the honey peanut yogurt GeniSoy bars.
Yummy bars, and bars with one more mportant trait -- resiliance.
Even with all my gear bouncing up and down, these bars take a bashing
pretty well. The worst damage I've ever seen in them is a cracked
and impacted yogurt shell; the bar still tasted and felt exactly
the same as before.
I don't have it, I carry something that does -- my Canon ELPH 370Z.
Its not digital, but its small (fits in my palm) and cute (irresistible).
I'm not a photographer, as all I really understand is the difference
in film speeds, so what I was looking for in a camera was something
for the standard usage of "point-and-click". Exactly what
this camera lets me do. Plus, the Advantix film format gives me
the choice of three different aspect ratios, so I can spend all
day trying to frame my pictures perfectly. And for people like me,
who pretend to understand that you need 400 speed film for action
shots, the 370Z supports mid-reel loading so you can swap out that
200 speed film whenever you feel like it.
on the Go
No field trip is quite right without the appropriate soundtrack,
so mine gets around in my Sony MZ-R55 MiniDisc Recorder. The small
silver package is perfect -- the player fits nicely in my inner
jacket pocket. I can plug my pair of Sony Street-Style headphones
into it, turn up the bass, and drown out the low frequency noise
of traveling. Scattered throughout my Atlantis pack are a bunch
of MDs that I have dumped from CD into the recorder via the digital
input jack, and also a bunch of blank MDs. Now if I could only find
that digital microphone that I bought, I could use a few more street
sounds in my sound clip collection.
Get Rid of Those Bits
are slaves to bits. Tucked away in its leatherish case and buried
at the bottom of the pack is my Palm Pilot Vx mated with an OmniSky
wireless modem. With the majority of the day spent in front of my
laptop with my calendar program running in the background, its only
quick sync to get that data to go with me (this way I know I'm supposed
to be meeting a friend for dinner tonight); while on the go, I can
scribble quick notes into it too. Unfortunately, my StarTac only
has phone numbers (you can only ask so much from your cell phone)
-- sometimes I need to know the address of that restaurant with
great wine down in the Mission. But of course, knowing the address
is only half the battle... Fire up MapQuest on OmniSky, pop in the
current address, and voila! Instant directions. Bummer. 45 minute
wait for a table? Vindigo it, and I'm leaning back with my friend
at an Irish pub struggling to finish off a Guinness and an order
of fish and chips.
a Street Address is Just Not Precise Enough
Have a need for precision? How does 37 degrees 45' 26.88"
North by 122 degrees 27' 59.64" West sound (if you can stand
an error of about 15 feet)? And look, that's just south of Lincoln
Avenue. Occupying the space next to the Palm Pilot is a Garmin 12
Map GPS Unit. Another device that packs a punch for its size, this
GPS does not simply read off a string of meaningless numbers --
instead it has a 2.2 by 1.5 inch LCD screen that shows those meaningless
numbers, but also updates a small arrow once a second with its location
on a map. Right now I have an optional map loaded into it that gives
me detailed information of the US highway system, so I can know
how far ahead of me the next rest stop is. Too bad this thing doesn't
give me directions -- I may get lost, but I'll know exactly where
Probably the smallest occupant of my bag is a Zippo lighter. Small,
sleek, familiar to everybody and a frustration to those who cannot
do tricks with it. You never quite know when having a portable frame
is useful -- to me, it comes handy when I need to barter a light
for something from that guy on the corner of the street.
What else can I want in a travelling bag? Well -- I can be absurd:
a GlobalStar telephone and a satellite radio. But, being more realistic,
there are not many other things that I may want to throw in there
(except maybe an umbrella). The thing about packing a utility belt
is that you try to plan for all situations and at the same time
carry a light load; you probably want to make the load do more for
you. Maybe I could use a DV camera so I can preview those pictures
that I spend so long framing and take moving pictures at the same
time, or maybe I should invest in a Visor or a Handera so I can
get more out of my PDA and i can stop carrying a separate music
and GPS package...
is an independant writer and software consultant. Originally of
San Francisco, he is currently residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.