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  1. #1
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    Bike Touring With Which Laptop (or Tablet)? Weight/Battery/Storage Concerns.

    A month ago, I went bike touring for a week through treacherous mountains from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. I brought with me my mother's Lenovo laptop which weighs in a hefty 8 pounds plus the charger which was another pound. The laptop contributed to my bike's punishing weight but it was a godsend because I was able to get around with my laptop very well.

    Now, I will be going on my second tour, only this time in Spain and Morocco. I'll bring my Canon 7D camera and take photos and videos in RAW. This means that I'll need substantial space to store my collection while I am on the tour. I've been debating on what laptop to bring. I can't bring the Lenovo laptop because it isn't mine. What I do have are two laptops and a dreamy tablet:

    Dell Mini 9 - It's light at 2.28 pounds along with the charger which is something like .75 pounds, works just fine albeit slow, completely dead battery so I'd have to replace it for $25 and will last me 4 to 5 hours, and has absolutely no storage space at 8 GB. So I'd have to consider getting a hard drive enclosure for $16 and couple it with a 640GB hard drive which will all weigh 1.5 pounds. Combine everything and I'd pay $41 and carry 4.53 pounds.

    Dell Inspiron 640M - It's somewhat heavy at 5.3 pounds along with the charger which is another pound, works fine but screen brightness has weaked due to age and it wobbles around like it's raving, performs better than the Dell Mini 9, completely dead battery so I'd have to replace it for $31 and it will only last me 3 hours at most, has decent storage space that I would not complain at 80 GB. It would only be a $31 upgrade with a total of 6.3 pounds.

    HP TouchPad - I would take this... but I don't have it. Obviously, a tablet would trounce everything else but I don't have the money to pay those greedy sellers at eBay for a HP TouchPad 16GB. I can't justify a $235 tablet when it was just being sold at $99. It does at least 7 to 8 hours of battery life though and I'd also bring a hard drive and enclosure. Together, it would be $251 at 3.13 pounds which is simply pure win.

    What are all of your opinions about this? Should I suck it up and buy the tablet and enclosure? Or should I be smart about it and go with the cheapest path for my Dell Inspiron 640M? Or should I be willing to invest in an extra $10 for the Dell Mini 9? What would you do? Keep in mind that when bike touring, even an extra pound means an extra pound to pedal up that hill.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by yiffzer; 09-22-11 at 08:06 AM.

  2. #2
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    iPhone = 5.4 ounces.
    Charging adapter & cable = 1.6 ounces.
    HyperJuice Mini external battery = 8.4 ounces, 54 hours battery life on the Internet.

    TOTAL = 1 pound

    It's a computer, internet browser, emailer, camera, music player, AND A PHONE.
    Last edited by BigAura; 09-22-11 at 10:18 AM. Reason: added link

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    It's a computer, internet browser, emailer, camera, music player, AND A PHONE.
    And that helps you deal with thousands of RAW photos from an 18-megapixel Canon EOS 7D interchangeable-lens digital SLR.... how, exactly?

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  5. #5
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    You could go with the dell mini and get a 32gb flash drive. I just got a neoprene case logic case for my dell mini and it has a build it spot to store your flash/thumb drive. I didn't go with a tablet because I like a regular keyboard. Well that and I am already spending a LOT to get ready for my first tour.

    Jay..
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by yiffzer View Post
    HP TouchPad - I would take this... but I don't have it. Obviously, a tablet would trounce everything else but I don't have the money to pay those greedy sellers at eBay for a HP TouchPad 16GB. I can't justify a $235 tablet when it was just being sold at $99. It does at least 7 to 8 hours of battery life though and I'd also bring a hard drive and enclosure. Together, it would be $251 at 3.13 pounds which is simply pure win.
    Don't forget: if you carry an electronic device, you also need to carry the necessary adapters and convertors so you can power it in a foreign country...

    If you can live with only 16GB of storage space, you'd be better served by just buying a bunch of extra CompactFlash cards. If your trip is going to be a month or less, you can often get by with a bunch of cards and doing some editing/deleting in the camera each evening. On longer trips, it might make sense to bring a USB card reader and periodically stop at Internet cafes to upload your pictures to an online storage service (ex: Dropbox or similar).

    The important thing is to figure out just how much space you expect to need. Back when I was shooting film, I could take 3000-3500 pictures/month in a really exciting location (ex: Africa) but not all of them would be keepers. With digital I probably shoot more, since I don't have to pay for developing, but I don't know that my ratio of good images has gone up appreciably. I still discard tons of stuff and most of it could be done in-camera, if necessary.

  7. #7
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    And that helps you deal with thousands of RAW photos from an 18-megapixel Canon EOS 7D interchangeable-lens digital SLR.... how, exactly?
    Three or four 16GB flash cards should work. Less that 2 ounces.

  8. #8
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    I'd go with a cheap/light netbook (Asus EEE PC comes to mind, about 3 lbs total). I'm a bit paranoid, maybe, but I like to have backups of everything. I'd call the PC primary storage, and back it all up onto USB thumb drives. Mail the thumb drives home periodically, in case the camera and laptop get stolen.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I take my iPad on all my overnight tours. Battery life is great, plus I have an external battery for multi-day trips. The tablet is light, the battery isn't too bad either, but I did find that between a phone, backup battery, camera, tablet, iPod, and associated cables I had dedicated a significant amount of space to electronics. Still worth it, though.
    But I don't know if a tablet is an answer to your problem. How much storage do you need? I have no problem loading my photos into my tablet, but I also do not capture RAW images, so I don't know the space requirements. I don't know about HP, but with my tablet, moving the photos was a one-way trip until I got to a real computer, meaning that if my tablet didn't have enough storage, there would be no way to move those photos to an external drive while on the road. HP may not take Apple's my-way-or-the-highway approach to data management, so maybe the tablet + enclosure would work for you.
    If the tablet is in your budget and you have more use for it then just storage, I love mine. But $200 just to drop a pound of gear wouldn't be worth it to me if that's the primary goal. I'm assuming you actually want some kind of computer with you for information, maps, communication, etc., but if not maybe you can just load up on storage cards. Depending on how many you need, that may not be cost effective, but the weight savings would be substantial compared to any computer you'd carry.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    We just finished a 2900 mile, 3 month long trip through Europe with our little Toshiba netbook. It was also used on a shorter trip (600 miles) last summer. It weighs a little over 2.5 pounds and has good battery life. It also has 280 Gb hard drive, and 3 USB ports (this was important to us). It is speedy and durable, surviving over 400 miles of unpaved roads and over 500 mles of cobblestone and paver surfaced roads and trails. We hade an Acer Aspire One with 16 Gb solid state hard drive, but it was too slow, and had no storage capacity. We backed up all our pictures on flashdrives. It allowed us to do some photoshop work as well as keep up our blog, do online banking, check on campgrounds and hotels, check weather, and email. I also had Garmin Europe Maps loaded on it which allowed me to load it to my GPS. I was not a proponent of using a GPS unit until this trip (but that is another story). It saved us countless hours navigating through the larger towns as well as supplementing the Michelin Maps for route selection. I was not concerned about the weight because my wife carried the netbook It was housed in a neoprene sleeve and carried in one of her rear panniers.

    I took over 5500 pictures at about 3 to 4 mb each, and my wife took about the same. We also carried about 8 GB worth of SD cards for the cameras.

  11. #11
    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    ... with our little Toshiba netbook. It was also used on a shorter trip (600 miles) last summer. It weighs a little over 2.5 pounds and has good battery life. It also has 280 Gb hard drive, and 3 USB ports (this was important to us). It is speedy and durable...
    +1

    Toshiba is probably one of the ruggedest minis out there. Great for the price too.

    Not as good, but still kicking it on my tours is my Dell Inspiron mini. It's about 2.5 pounds, I too keep it in a neoprene sleeve, and that in a plastic bag, then into my right rear pannier. With it I keep up on my online journals, store pictures, charge my Ipod, and cell phone, and of course keep up with all the internet chores such as email, and chat/video chat with family while I am out.

    I would look into a smart phone of one sort or another, but I don't know if they are inclusive in the areas that a laptop is capable of...mostly downloading daily pictures and keeping up with an online journal (crazyguyonabike etc.)
    2012 TransAm Tour journal link: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Threeisacharm

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  12. #12
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    I'll probably take my MacBook Air with me. I don't have any experience with road electronics other than my previous EVO 4G getting so hot it died (I'm in south FL) so, I'm hoping the same won't happen to the MBA.

  13. #13
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    Three or four 16GB flash cards should work. Less that 2 ounces.
    this plus a usb plugged flash card reader shouldn't be more than 4 more ounces and you can take whatever computer you want. Just upload the pics you like often to your cloud of choice. if you want to take photoshop to modify them that might change your processor needs.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  14. #14
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Just upload the pics you like often to your cloud of choice.
    Safety wise this is the way to go. Laptops and cameras are high value items that are subject to theft and breakage. The only downside may be the upload time.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by yiffzer View Post
    Keep in mind that when bike touring, even an extra pound means an extra pound to pedal up that hill.
    Even more then the pound for me is the weight of "stuff". More stuff, more margin for error, more to keep track of. I'd try to go as occam as possible with the fewest pieces and procedures.

    At the risk of being a complete heretic, shoot jpeg instead of raw , shoot SD instead of HD , heck, take a P&S and enjoy the ride.

  16. #16
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    My wife has a Dell mini 9", I'd second using it with a handful of 32GB thumb drives or flash cards. Much lighter than a laptop HD. It's not fast, but you can run a few tools on it for photo editing, and it's big enough (barely) for surfing.

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    I'm in a similar situation
    If all go's well my tour will be quite long, 1 year or more, I'm thinking about taking my usual laptop because of the storage space, processing power and full size keyboard (I'd like to do some web programming along the way)
    to reduce the weight I'll probably remove the DVD drive and replace the HD with a SD disk (no moving parts)

    I think the iPhone (or any other smart phone) is absolutely amazing for shorter tours, but it just doesn't allow the image storage/processing i want
    tablets seem the way of the future, but i don't think we're there just yet (they are still designed to be used in combination with a regular computer)

    today, ideally i think one would travel with a Macbook Air; that's a full size powerful laptop right there (except they are ridiculously expensive)
    Last edited by wiiiim; 09-23-11 at 04:46 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    iPhone = 5.4 ounces.
    Charging adapter & cable = 1.6 ounces.
    HyperJuice Mini external battery = 8.4 ounces, 54 hours battery life on the Internet.

    TOTAL = 1 pound

    It's a computer, internet browser, emailer, camera, music player, AND A PHONE.
    In the OP's case, an iPod Touch would be a better choice. Buy a cheap prepaid cell once he arrives in Europe, and use the Touch as his internet device when he scarfs wi-fi.
    "When I'm on a bike, it's like I'm 14 again, racing off to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters."

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by dewaday View Post

    At the risk of being a complete heretic, shoot jpeg instead of raw , shoot SD instead of HD , heck, take a P&S and enjoy the ride.
    This doesn't sound like the advice from a heretic. It sounds like good advice. Enjoy the ride!

  20. #20
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnrider View Post
    In the OP's case, an iPod Touch would be a better choice. Buy a cheap prepaid cell once he arrives in Europe, and use the Touch as his internet device when he scarfs wi-fi.
    true.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinnrider View Post
    In the OP's case, an iPod Touch would be a better choice. Buy a cheap prepaid cell once he arrives in Europe, and use the Touch as his internet device when he scarfs wi-fi.
    Or download Skype to your iPhone/iPod and make calls for free when you have access to wifi.

  22. #22
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    Have you considered something like a Samsung Galaxy tablet? Nice little gizmo, might be worth looking into over an ipad. I have the 7" one, I like it very much. Has a nice camera, wifi, bluetooth, and GPS, plus a MicroSD slot for uploading external camera pics.

  23. #23
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    don't get me wrong I like Apple products too, but if you go the smartphone way there are Android phones as cheap or cheaper than the iPod touch..

  24. #24
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiiiim View Post
    don't get me wrong I like Apple products too, but if you go the smartphone way there are Android phones as cheap or cheaper than the iPod touch..
    Yes, considering that the OP's stated goal was image storage and the most expensive option under consideration is right around the cheapest price of an iPod Touch, it doesn't really make any sense, especially when I don't think you can use an ipod touch to store your images (without an extra computer) even if it did have enough space.

    For my part, I love my tablet. If the OP were in the market for one, I would say that it's a good way to go, especially if you could find one with the capacity to hold your image files. But failing that, any other option seems to involve putting money into old tech, which basically means you're probably spending that money just for the benefit of this one trip. Sounds like the Inspiration, with it's display issues, might be closer to retirement, so I'd probably go with the Mini 9 + Hard Drive because it seems like it might continue to have use beyond this trip, it's lighter, and a spare hard drive will most likely find a way to make itself useful beyond the trip.

    Cloud backup is nice, too, but may not be a dependable solution given the file size, upload times, and unknowns in terms of wifi availability.

  25. #25
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    If storage is all you need, bring a few 16Gb or 32Gb cards in a film capsule. That's what I do. I have one fast card for video and the rest are a little slower and cheaper. I shoot raw+jpeg, try to delete anything bad and upload the best of the jpeg to Smugmug using a SD to USB adapter (looks like a USB drive).

    If I had to bring some sort of computer, I'd bring the 13.3" netbook-ish with SD reader and HDMI output that I own. If this was trictly for bike touring, I'd choose a slighty smaller screen (11.6" or 12") and larger battery, but still with a hdmi output so it can be used at home.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

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