A newly-married couple from Los Angeles quit their jobs to work on farms and wineries across Europe. Read it from the beginning...

New camera: Canon Rebel T2i/550D

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Gear, Preparations | 5 Comments »

It struck me a few weeks ago that the two pocket cameras we’re bringing are not that great. I love my little Nikon, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. It’s never been great at low-light (blurry, noisy blogs), it’s slow to focus, if it finds the focus at all. I wanted something better to help us remember this unique time.

And so I began to do one of my favorite things: researching gadgets. A few days later I ended up at Samy’s Camera on Fairfax, holding several grand worth of Canon 7D. I didn’t want to sell my vehicle to purchase a camera (especially one being carted around Europe in a backpack), I asked if they had something cheaper. He introduced me to the Canon Rebel T2i (EOS 550D to the rest of the world). Brand new, just released last month. Similar sensor and processor as the 7D, and the same video abilities (1080p, with control over exposure, gamma curves, etc) and for less than half the price. Some more research confirmed the hype. I was feeling good about it, but the clincher for me were the stunning videos I’d seen online, shot with the camera. One titled “February” sticks out in my mind.

I purchased it with the kit lens, a Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 — decent, not amazing, but it fit the budget. With it, I shot the short test below during my lunch break last Wednesday.

Since shooting this, my (now former) boss gave me a gorgeous new lens as a going away present. It’s a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. Fast, sharp — just beautiful, and an excellent walking around lens. It’s what I will take with me on the trip.

Backpack Selection

Posted: April 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Gear, Preparations | Tags: , , | No Comments »

While a Boy Scout I used an REI external frame backpack. I had a great time in Boy Scouts, but the pack, well, could have been better. It was heavy, and not particularly large. The shoulder straps were thick, sweaty, and connected too low on the frame, causing the entire pack to fall away, like a drunkard swinging from a lamp post. The hip straps were meaningless.

I listed it for 30 bucks on Craigslist. No one called.

But, it carried my gear for years, so I can’t speak too poorly of it. However, for this trip, we knew we needed something better. On the advice of a friend, we visited Adventure 16 on Pico. It’s similar in size to an REI, but friendlier, and the prices a bit lower. A kind clerk named Doug walked us through latest backpacks available.

Did you know backpack manufacturers release new models of their lines every year? I didn’t. Doug expressed disdain for the 2010 version of a backpack that caught our eye. “It just doesn’t feel right,” he explained. “And look at that zipper. What were they thinking? 2009 is where it’s at.” I asked him what he thought of REI backpacks. “Their internal frames aren’t so great, but the external frames are good.”

Doug and I agreed to disagree on that one, but the packs he suggested for us felt good in the store. They were on sale, too (2009 model — they’re trying to get rid of them to make room for the 2010’s). That’s how we ended up with a Gregory Z65 for me, and a Gregory Jade 60 for Halbe. They were about $160 each.

But! Someone had offered to loan Halbe a Kelty backpack for the trip. And, after years of childhood pain, I wanted to be sure I’d made the right choice. We filled our packs with clothes and cans of soup to simulate a full load (35 pounds for me, 29 for Halbe) then took them for a hike by the Rancho Park Golf Course.

The Kelty was not nearly as comfortable for Halbe. Though the shoulder pads were thicker than the Gregory, they cut deeper. The Gregory packs have an air pass-through area in the mid-back, to help keep cool. Though it was not warm out, Halbe’s back became uncomfortably hot after only 15 minutes of Kelty. Plus, the Gregory packs have zipper access to the entire length of the storage area (others only had top access). The shoulder pads were comfortable. Despite carrying the equivalent of a toddler on my back, I didn’t feel overly encumbered. The hip straps were actually holding weight, and the bag (after a few adjustments) felt secure on my back. We walked a few miles (and garnered a few quizzical looks from the golfers), then decided the Gregory packs were the way to go.

Backpacks, done. Good. Now we need to decide what to put in them. Fitting our lives into 65 liters of space will be a challenge.

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