Off To Mongolia Tomorrow! Plus 2015 Trip Equipment And Art Supplies

Paaport HD

I  have a 6am flight tomorrow to San Francisco, where I’ll catch a United flight to Incheon International Airport in South Korea and, after a bit of a layover, fly on to Ulaanbaatar on a Korean Air/MIAT codeshare flight (since United doesn’t have a Star Alliance partner who flies into UB).

For some years now I’ve been doing pre-departure posts on new equipment I’ve acquired. You can read last year’s, which also has links to the previous posts here.

Also last year I decided to try to have gadget charging available in the field and wrote about a Power Monkey Extreme. I ended up returning it before I left since the little solar panel was useless and pain to set up. But I’d still like to have some kind of alternative available and that’s kind of the theme for this year.

But first, at the top, is my new external hard drive…a 2TB Western Digital My Passport. WD seems to be the consistently reliable choice. It will replace a 250GB Toshiba, which I’ve used for years. My procedure in the field is to download my camera’s memory card into, as of this year, Photos, on my MacBook Air. I create folders on the HD and export image copies to those. So all my images and video are in two places. Three if at the end of the trip I don’t wipe the card. Since I now have two Nikon D750 camera bodies that shoot 27MB files, plus HD video and my total images shot for last year was 9,255, which could easily go up this year, 250GB wasn’t going to cut it. 2TB should be enough for the next few years, I hope. :0)

Belkin inverter

On to re-charging….I had a Kensington inverter that finally stopped working and wouldn’t seat firmly into the car lighter. I still have the Belkin inverter shown above, but as you can see, it only has USB ports. What to do? I’m going to take two options, both from Energizer. If you read the reviews on Amazon you find that there are quite a few options, but most of them are cheaply made and don’t last. Hoping the brand name choice will do better.  So here’s the inverter that plugs directly into the lighter. It has two USB ports and one for a regular plug. My plan, based on past experience, is that I’ll be able to plug in my laptop and charge it while we roll and also my camera batteries. The drivers are willing to do that, but want it unplugged when stopped. They want no drain on the battery whatsoever, just in case. That’s what the margin for error can be out in the countryside. So travelers to Mongolia (probably true elsewhere also) with gear need to think this all through ahead of time. Pulling rank (I paid for this trip!) because you didn’t is not appreciated. I’m hoping the adjustable neck is a feature and not a bug. It only moves between two positions and seems to lock in firmly. A couple of weeks, possibly, in a Russian van on the earth roads will tell the story.

Energizer inverter

Energizer inverter 2

The charger below is one of those “I’m not sure I’ll use it, but it could be the PERFECT solution and only one, depending on the situation” purchases. It’s an Energizer 180 watt inverter with a base that rests in a cup holder. Clever. So less bulk hanging off the lighter, which the drivers will like. I also think anyone I’m with who’s driving a Land Cruiser will get a kick out of it. The Russian vans don’t bother with effete stuff like cup holders. I like that the charge base is stable and only a cord has to go into the lighter. I could plug almost everything into this one at once….the laptop or camera battery charger, iPad iPhone and will probably try it if I can.

Energizer cup charger

Finally, after searching and researching and reading the reviews on Amazon, I’ve settled on two sizes of Jackery portable batteries. I picked the lovely gold to match my iPhone 5, but they also come in black, silver and orange. This is a Three Bears deal: there’s a mini, a medium and a Giant+.  My plan is to use the mini for the iPhone and the big one for the iPad and in a pinch. I’m hoping, the laptop just to get enough juice to finish a download.

Jockery batteries

jackery case

This is how I’ll carry them. It’s one of a set of three nifty, well-made zip cases I found at K-Mart for $15.

I also want to give an update on the little Altec Lansing speaker I bought some years ago. It’s the bomb. I reliably get 13 hours or so of music from the three AA batteries. The sound quality is still good.


Other equipment that is still with me and doing well is the KATA camera pack which I believe has unfortunately been discontinued, the hiking boots, sleeping bag, gear ties, tripod, Smartwool socks and earbuds. My faithful Domke photo vest, which I’ve had since my first trip to Kenya in 1999 finally has failed. Tears at the corners of the pockets that can’t really be fixed and places where the fabric is finally wearing out. I got online and, of course they’re not being made anymore either, but eBay to the rescue!. I scored a new vest in like-new condition for 20 bucks, including shipping!

I’m planning to do as much art in the field as I can this trip, both drawing and watercolors. While we were London there was an art supply shop near where we were staying. They had some things that are not available here, like the small cloth Derwent pen and pencil holders. The larger one that rolls up is available from Jerry’s Artarama last I looked.

art1Watercolor supplies

art2Drawing supplies

As I have for some years now, I’ll use a Moleskine Sketch Journal to record the trip. One for the WildArt Mongolia Expedition and one for everything else.

Watercolor supplies:

1 Winsor Newton Cotman Travel Set

1 Yarka watercolor set (I have the color chart because I got some new colors and re-arranged the order of the pans)

A variety of brushes. The rounds are ProArte, Cass (the house brand of London art shop) and Robert Simmons Sapphires. I don’t use real sables anymore. The synthetics work just as well for my purposes, cost less and don’t require killing small mammals.

Saunders Waterford cold press 140lb. paper; in a block and also cut from a large pad into approx. 8×8″, a format which I’ve found I like a lot.

Pentalic Nature Sketch multi-media pads in two sizes; can also be used for drawing; indispensible now that they’ve upgraded the cover from thin paper to sturdy board

Plastic water bucket

Water flask

Homemade matboard support covered with clear tape for holding watercolor paper

Drafting tape

Small green pouch to carry the Cotman set, a small water container, paper towels, a brush; slips into the pocket of my Domke photo vest.

Drawing supplies:

Sakura Micron pens in a variety of sizes in black and brown

Cretacolor Monolith graphite pencil sticks in a variety of “B” softness; really, really liking these a lot

Derwent Graphitone water soluble graphite pencils in 2B, 4B, 6B

 Derwent regular and Inktense water soluble colored pencils

Koi Waterbrushes in three sizes; for getting a tone with Graphitones or blending the water soluble colored pencils

Derwent Drawing pencils in Chocolate and Venetian Red

Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils

Prismacolor brush and hard tip pens in shades of grey

A couple of other Strathmore sketchbooks; one white paper, one toned paper

Pencil sharpener

Kneaded rubber erasers

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