Computer or no computer?

Travel Forums Travel Photography Computer or no computer?

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1. Posted by AndySN (Budding Member 27 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


So this is a truly agonizing thing for me, mainly because I love technology. However, I am traveling for over 1 year in South America and looking to have only a good compact camera with me because I want to travel light. I have many laptops, 11-15" but do not want to take any of them because I will just spend my time worrying about them and they will get stolen at some point, very sure about that.

Will be spending many weeks in remote and non-technological areas

So what do I do as far as saving my photos? Just buy 20 SD cards and take with me? (sounds extreme and cannot be backed up).
Bite the bullet and take a computer knowing at some point it will be stolen and take space?
Another magic cheap piece of equipment that will help with backing up and storing my photos?

Any tips, ideas around this would be great.

Thanks so much

2. Posted by Cassandra goh (Budding Member 39 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Just shoot in JPEG, that way, i don't think you need so many SD cards :)

3. Posted by Niels1303 (Full Member 131 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Andy,

there are some special portable HD Drives with SD Card slots meant to be used for backups on the go. But the problem is that if the drive gets stollen, all your pictures will be gone. But on the other side, a portable HD would less likely be stollen than a laptop. You could also upload your pictures on a cloud storage site like "Dropbox" whenever you can find a pc connected to the internet, but dependind on the picture resolution, it can take ages to upload.

4. Posted by Martin27 (Budding Member 6 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Like you said you can just bite the bullet and take a laptop with you, but if you really think it is going to get stolen, then I wouldn't. I traveled around south america with a laptop though and never had any problems. As long as you keep it close, and just use common sense you should be ok. If you are really worried about it though, I agree with Neils, try a site like dropbox, you can probably find computers along the way to use, either at a cafe or if you make a friend who would let you use theirs. That is probably your safest bet, you can back up your pictures every now and then, and you wouldn't have to worry about getting a laptop stolen. Have fun in SA for a year, and definitely, I recommend looking into a storage site, it will be the easiest I believe!

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5588 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I think you vastly overestimate the likelihood of your laptop being stolen; use common sense, don't flaunt it, and you'll more than likely be fine - but even if it is stolen, why do you care so much? Have travel insurance which will cover its value, and use it for as long as it'll last you (encrypting your harddisk to keep your data safe). A laptop is just a tool; what use owning it if you're not going to use it for its fullest benefit?

Then for backup, put everything on the laptop, but also buy a dozen 16 of 32 GB USB-sticks (I was recently clued in that prices of those have fallen drastically, and are now more economical than DVDs, and vastly cheaper than memory cards for your camera), and mail those home whenever you have enough photos to fill one. Have someone at home check that they can be read okay.

Having a portable harddisk is also good for redundancy (keep it in a separate location from your laptop), but it's just as much at risk as your laptop, and so the cheap and disposable data-carriers (whether USB-stick or DVD) to be sent "off-site" (with someone at home to check their integrity) really should be the key component in your backup procedure.

6. Posted by CheersTerry (Inactive 9 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Believing emphatically that your laptop will be stolen is nuts. Countless people travel with countless laptops to countless destinations all over the world - including South America - and with minimal effort and a little common sense somehow manage to not get their stuff stolen. Unbelievable, but true.

1.) If you're only shooting jpeg and you shoot very few photos then uploading a few shots to an Internet site will work. It'll still be a total pain in the ass in many locations though.

2.) If you're shooting high res and taking lots of photos and not trusting your camera's screen for editing (which you should never do, all editing should be done on a real screen) then uploading to the Internet isn't possible. It's simply too ungainly, expensive, time consuming, etc.

3.) If you really care about your photos then travelling with only camera memory cards is really dumb; you need to back-up your data in at least two places. Buy a cheap netbook with the largest hard drive for the money and bring an external drive. Download your camera memory cards to the netbook and the external hard drive and you're covered. You can now also do a very rough edit of the photos on the netbook so you can save space on the hard drives.

4.) If you're really serious about your shots then every couple of months download the photos to another external hard drive and mail it home.

As for keeping your stuff safe from crimes of opportunity there are lots of products on the market to help you with this. I use a Pacsafe Daypack with a removable Inner Safe that's large enough to secure my 13" ultrabook and my video/stills package.

Bottom line, stop being so emphatic that you're doomed to be robbed when you're on the road. Common sense, street smarts and a little preparation go a long way towards making your trip hassle free.


7. Posted by Cyberia (Travel Guru 1876 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I always take my laptop with me. In the case of photography it saves having lots of cards or flash drives. Or getting your camera infected and losing the lot by using a public computer.

You can write photos to DVD's, 2 of each since they are so cheap, and send one home and keep the other so you are covered whatever happens.

I have thousands of books on my laptop as well as games, playing DVD's and downloaded files, etc.

If you can get wifi, you have internet.

If you have many laptops, take one and if you lose it, so what? But as said, many do take laptops on holiday without losing them. You might as well ask what happens if I lose my passport?

8. Posted by CheersTerry (Inactive 9 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Lastly, Sander's suggestion of using USB Flash Drives makes more sense than my comment about mailing a hard drive. You only have a compact camera, the new USB Drives will be more than adequate and way more practical than DVDs. (Does anyone even use DVDs for data back-up anymore?...)


9. Posted by AndySN (Budding Member 27 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Everyone

Thanks for the suggestions. It is good to get feedback and points of view from others to be able to assess what actually suits yourself the best. I have a healthy level of paranoia about most everything.

I do not care about the computer, just that I want to have an easy and reliable system for keeping my priceless memories and pictures. If the computer was to get stolen after a couple of months it means I would have to re-think and waste time trying to figure out a new way of keeping all my photos, and that will be harder than here in Europe in what is now my planning phase.

I think the key is actually how to get the photos off the camera in the easiest way and to be able to back them up and I think the only real way to do that reliably is with a computer. Mailing USB memory sticks home at regular intervals is also a very good option for backing up. Once upon a time I had a USB card reader that could be put into the old iPods and store pictures that way, but that is no longer possible anymore with the newer iPods. Shame.

Thanks again

10. Posted by CheersTerry (Inactive 9 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

"... If the computer was to get stolen after a couple of months..."


Honestly, why do you keep saying that?