SEE NEWEST GEAR REVIEWS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST:
I will be posting gear that I have purchased and then giving it a grade once I return:
- The camera. I chose a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3. This is supposed to be shock proof, water proof and wind proof. I figured the shock proof portion would serve me well as I bumped along on my 36+ year old bike. I am also bringing a tripod so I can take pictures of myself without extending my right arm.
- The GPS. I am going to take along my older than the hills Tom Tom GPS because I know from history if I get lost I cry. It doesn’t matter if there are 1000 people around I react like I am in a desert alone and hopelessly lost. So the GPS is coming along for the ride. I have a RAM mount on the handlebars which should make it inconspicuous while the fairing will protect it from glare.
- My iPad with the Griffin Survivor. I purchased the Griffin Survivor because it is supposed to survive sand, wind, bumps, and rain (just like my Lumix camera). I hope it lives up to its name.
- My most wonderful SPOT. Nothing more to say about this other than I LOVE IT!
- Something to keep it all in, my Roadgear tank bag. I have traveled with this to from Santa Cruz and it didn’t budge an inch for the entire ride AND I got to lay on it when I was tired AND it was a handy way to get things quickly without going into the saddle bags.
- My EZ Touring Traveler cover. Hope it doesn’t blow away.
- My Camera Connection Kit 5 into 1 for iPad. I will be using this to post images onto this blog…it has worked well so far.
1. The camera: A+ the only thing I would do differently is not bring the camera case…too bulky
2. The GPS: A+ I would still be circling Carson City if not for this little gadget.
3. iPad with Griffin Survivor: B+ The iPad survived all the bumps and shock without any problem. Only issue with the Griffin Survivor is to download images I had to keep taking the case off (downgraded from an A due to that). Otherwise excellent product.
4. SPOT: A+++++ love it. Only issue is with all the bumping around the battery jostled loose so it showed that the battery was losing power. Took off the back and jammed it in no more issues. Battery life is amazing. Well worth the cost of the unit and the annual subscription.
5. Road gear Tank bag: A+ didn’t move once from wherever I put it and never ran out of space no matter how much I jammed into it.
6. EZ Touring Cover: A+ Kept the bike dry when it rained and stayed put.
7. Camera Connection Kit: B+ Had to remove the Griffin Survivor cover to use this so that was a hassle (downgraded from A+++ due to that-but really it was only $10). Otherwise no issues. Great purchase for $10.00
NEW GEAR FOR 2013
Since the Streetmasters Reunion Ride I think it is time to get a helmet camera. I wanted to stop so many times but what a hassle (partly because when you ride with a group you hold everyone up) to stop, take off your gloves, get out the camera, put it all back and then go. It seems very convenient to just push a button and take a picture (or video) of wherever you are. I also figure that since I most likely will not be back through BC after this trip in 2013 I would rather have more images than too few.
I have all but decided upon the GoPro Hero3 Black edition. I will give my impressions once I actually purchase it (ha ha) and of course use it:
Go Pro purchased (black edition) now I just need to get it hooked up and play around with it before British Columbia
To do this review justice I need to breakdown the components of the GoPro:
Picture quality: A– I did not take any video (which I hear is spectacular) only still pics. But the quality was good. It was simple to download to my iPad or my computer and I was able to get shots I otherwise would have missed (like my pictures of bridges and tunnels). Taking still pictures of scenes to my left and right took some doing however. Having to turn my head, hold it while the camera is taking the image and try and not have the entire picture titled took some doing. But pictures looking forward I was very pleased with them.
Battery Life: D–Just dismal. I ordered 2 aftermarket batteries which were far better than the one that came with the camera. All told I could get about 1 to 1.5 hours on each battery. This was not a problem for me (though many of my rides lasted 8 hours so I had to be judicious). Charging the batteries was easy and did not take long at all. I just had to make certain I started early so I could get all 3 done.
Housing: A–I can’t really mark this down because it is waterproof but on my helmet it got clobbered with bugs and this showed up on the camera lens as small flares. If I remembered to clean it while cleaning my visor I was golden…but until I remembered to do that my pictures had little blobs on them…
Helmet mount: A+– that thing is never coming off. Rock solid and once I get past looking like an alien with the camera plopped on top of my helmet all will be well.
Remote control: B–I had to make a velcro mount for my handle bars (which is an A+++++++) however you need to push the shutter button just so in order for it to work (not always an easy task with motorcycle gloves on). I also had a learning curve to figure out surrounding how long it took for the wi-fi to set off the camera until that learning curve was established I inadvertently changed the mode (so I get a D for navigating the simple remote device). But not long into the trip I had it down and was glad I made my home device for mounting as Rocky used his phone and said it kept overheating and shutting down. He had all sorts of problems with it. The battery life of the remote is pretty good for stills. It lasted about 3+ hours so the 3 batteries matched the life of the remote battery fairly well
Ease of Use: B–It was simple to update the firmware. The navigation menu is a pain but it can be done without too much issue (especially since I have an iPad with me so I can download instructions easily from the internet. Once I figured out the button symbols (on camera and remote) I was good to go. The camera and remote picked each other up very easily. Sometimes I would loose the remote wi-fi in heavily forest covered areas but was able to get it back once out of the forest.
Overall: B minus–I got a great price for the black and if I had not I would have purchased the silver and the remote separately (I do not really need super fancy video or stills for my purposes) but I am happy I got the GoPro as I had many photos that I would not have captured without this camera (or at least my ride would have been far longer without it). My wish is that the battery would last longer.
NEW GEAR FOR 2014
After riding alone and out of cell phone range it was time to look at another emergency contact “device.” I can only assume that I was choosing to look the other way regarding how dangerous my rides can be; but after riding alone in Colorado and terrified I was going to run out of gas my eyes are wide open.
I looked at Satellite phones but they just didnt seem right for me. Then I stumbled upon the Delorme inReach. So after a great holiday deal AND$50 back AND a free months of service I leapt.
The inReach is alot like the SPOT (downgraded to a B after this review– ha ha) but with more functionality. The reason I went with this model is that you can text back and forth. On the SPOT you can only send. On the inReach I have it synchronized with my phone so even when the phone has no service I can still text and email (no calls though) that is very cool. Also, on the inReach you can suspend service and since I really only need it 4-5 months out of the year the cost was either comparable or less.
On Christmas Day I decided to test the 2 out side by side (even though the inReach would have to fail miserably to not beat out the SPOT –here are the results):
1) Set up is a cinch on both.
2) Tracking points: The inReach wins hands down. It sent about 20% more though they are both set to send at 10 minute intervals
3) Messages: The inReach wins again. Though both got all of the messages through the inReach sent it quicker in all instances especially the last message of the day which the SPOT never even sent.
So it appears that the inReach (final grade A+) will be here to stay. It is a great little device and in an emergency the ability to text a live person, or friend, and explain the situation makes me feel a lot more comfortable. And that is priceless.