the beat of digital culture
home | about us | feedback

the net


search mindjack

Mindjack Release
join to receive announcements of new issues


July 02, 2001 | One 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.

2/3s 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.

Food 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.

Photographic Memory

Because 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.

Beats 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.

Can't Get Rid of Those Bits

Tech-heads 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.

When 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 I am.

Gift of Fire

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...

Raffi Krikorian is an independant writer and software consultant. Originally of San Francisco, he is currently residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

advertise here
email for info


home | about us | feedback