It’s time to cover the new stuff I’m taking with me to Mongolia this year, some of it pretty significant. As in years past, I’ll report back once I’m back home. Onward!
Panasonic HDC-HS 80 video recorder- I finally decided to get my feet wet with video a couple of years ago and bought a FlipHD. I found that I liked having the option, but it’s now defunct and the image quality wasn’t all that good. However, I did get footage of takhi at a waterhole at Hustai that sold me on video. My problem is that I already carry two camera bodies and the video cameras that looked like good enough quality to bother with were 1) over $600 and 2) at least the size of my Nikon D80 bodies, so that was a non-starter. But then I found these smaller HD units. I went with this little Panasonic (4 1/4″ x 2 3/8″) from B&H Photo and Video because it got really good reviews, I can carry it in my pocket and it only cost $299 (price seems to have gone up). It seamlessly downloads into iMovie, too. The zoom isn’t very good at the maxiumum, but short of that, image quality is very good. So now we’ll see how it does in the field conditions of Mongolia…
Moleskin Sketchbook Journals– This will be the third year I’ve used them and I’m sold on them for their sturdiness and the quality of the paper that will take ink, colored pencil and watercolor equally well. The pocket in the back cover is really handy for those scraps of paper that seem to accumulate on a long trip. I’m taking three this time because I plan to do at least one drawing a day if I possibly can. They will also constitute the official journals of the WildArt Mongolia Expedition in September and I don’t want to run out of pages for what I think will be one of those trips of a lifetime.
iPhone 3G- Apple’s phones are “locked” which means you can’t swap the sim cards if you are in another country or, well, you’re not supposed to. I’ll have my 4GS for everything but phone calls. For the past three trips I took my old Motorola Razr, getting sim card for it and using it for my mobile phone in Mongolia. It was the latest thing when I got it, but now it drives me nuts. Lots of Mongols text and texting on the Razr was a colossal pain. So now I will take my old iPhone, have it unlocked, pop in a new sim card and finally have a smartphone for when I’m over there.
GearTie reuseable rubber twist ties– bought these on a whim at REI. Two for $6.75. The only thing I have in mind at the moment is to use one of them for my rolled up Thermarest pad and when I tried it I found that it’s great for that. My suspicion is that these will be more useful than the cloth straps with quick release clasps because they are flexible, but not soft. I’ll try suspending one between a couple of ger roof poles to see if it’s useful for drying something like a pair of socks or forming a hanging hook.
Smartwool socks–I’ve been using Thorlos for years for my go-to hiking socks. They’ve gotten pretty expensive and REI had these on sale for $9.48 a pair, so I bought four pairs. Wool has been rediscovered in the outdoor activity world for its sustainability, warmth and comfort. And these are certainly comfy.
Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 28-300 lens– It was nip and tuck whether or not I’d get this in time. For a couple of months there were none to be had in the country, probably due to the great reviews it’s gotten. But B&H came through and I’ve had it long enough to see what it can do. Wow. This is a major upgrade from the Promaster that I let my local camera guy talk me into, which was a big mistake and a story for another day. Before that I’d had a Tamron, which is really the only other option. But you can’t beat Nikon optics. This lens is bigger and heavier than either of the others, but it has Vibration Reduction and the motor is essentially silent. It focuses fast and accurately. So now both D80 bodies have Nikon lenses (an 80-400mm on the other) and life is good.
GoToobs and GoTubbs- another REI find from a company called humangear. Ok, I’m an artist and am attracted by color and bright shiny objects. But these looked really practical for my needs. The tubes carry 3 oz. and have a nifty ring around the neck with a variety of contents listed that one can choose by moving a outer ring. I’ve chosen “shampoo” and “conditioner”. There’s even a blank one. So no more labels coming off or fading out. The “tubs” are a new solution. Instead of twist tops, the lid comes all the way down the sides. You pinch it on either side to release it. The idea is that you can open them one-handed, which might be handy at night. Both are food safe and recyclable (No. 5).
Petzl Tikka 2 headlamp– there wasn’t actually anything broken with the last one, except that it was a pain to get open when I wanted to open it and had a talent for falling open and dumping one or more batteries at really inconvenient times, like in a tent at night on the slopes of Bogd Khan. That one really did it, because I had to use the light from my iPhone to find the batteries and get them back where they belonged in the right orientation. Once again at REI, I searched the headlamp rack for something under $50 that didn’t have the same stupid closure method. And would you believe that not a one of them did, of what they had in stock, except this one, which has a simple sensible plastic tab that snaps open and closed. What is so hard about that?
And finally, the piece de resistance, in a way….
New iPad with Retina display– my first gen iPad has more than proved its worth in a variety of ways. We decided that my husband would “adopt” that one and we would get me the new one, which has the stunning new display and enough more power that it will run apps like iMovie. It’s much faster for web browsing, too. I’m waiting for the case and shield to arrive and will do a short post about them before I leave.
So, there you have it, this year’s gear. If you like to see the previous posts, they are in reverse chronological order here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I’m still using the jacket, down bag, messenger bag and some other items that have stood the test of the Mongolian countryside, including the Gobi.