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Old December 11th, 2010, 09:40 AM   #1
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Travel storage idea - using portable HD and local computers?

I've been trying to think of the most efficient way to deal with photos and video on an upcoming trip to the Andes for a couple of weeks. I'm new to the DSLR world (Canon 60D) so dealing with large amounts of files is new to me. (Tapes have served me well in the past.) I know there are a variety of relatively expensive photo/video storage systems that are self-contained, but I thought of another idea that, frankly, seems to be too simple, but I've never seen it anywhere else. Can anyone see a hole in my idea?

I have a 1 TB portable drive that's not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. I won't be more than a day or two away from a computer at a local internet shop -- even when I'm deep in the mountains. Reportedly even the village where I'll be staying for awhile has available internet access now.

As long as there are two accessable USB ports, why can't I simply hook up my camera or a card reader to one and the drive to the other and copy files across? That way I only need 2-3 32gb SD cards to hold files -- mostly the video files since I have tons of cards capable of handling photos.

I'd love to be able to take a laptop, but I think it may be a little impractical for this trip. (My two laptops are 17" and 18" models and pretty heavy for this kind of trip. Keeping them secure from theft is a big concern.)

I'd love to hear what you guys think about this method of storage during an "off the beaten track" kind of trip. Thank for any ideas or suggestions that you can share.
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Old December 11th, 2010, 08:09 PM   #2
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Yes, using a local computers to transfer your files is a good idea. The trick is to find a local computer you trust. A more sound idea is to get a portable storage unit for the field and then backup your files to another portable hard disk when you get access to a local computer.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
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Old December 11th, 2010, 09:47 PM   #3
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Five strikes against one big portable HDD.

If that 1TB portable drive is still spinning when you unplug it and move it, the spindle bearing might seize because of gyroscopic overloading. The data becomes irrecoverable for mechanical reasons. Some are more vulnerable than others.

Better not lose that easily lost USB cable, although if computers live where you visit, a spare cable might be findable.

All your eggs in the one basket if you are re-using a few cards. - Not good. I would favour taking enough cards and the drive as a backup against cards getting lost or broken.

The Andes may mean altitude and decreased air density?

Hard drives rely on surface airflow to maintain separation between the disk platter surfaces and the heads. Reduced air density at about 8000ft altitude, introduces a breakdown of that air-cushion, a known risk of head clash and disk failure in an operating HDD. Add hot weather and the density altitude could be considerably lower. Transport of a non-operating HDD through low air densities is okay.

Maybe do your own research on this one as it has been some time since that bogey was raised here at dvinfo and some drives may now be hermetically sealed against this problem.

The small blackbox USB portable drives are not necessarily ruggedised to a backpacker's standard but toted inside a rolled up jacket in a pack, I think it would be fine.

Last edited by Bob Hart; December 11th, 2010 at 09:53 PM. Reason: error
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Old December 12th, 2010, 07:02 PM   #4
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Thanks for the help and advice, guys. You've talked me into going with all the SD cards I can afford and the hard drive as a backup. (I might take my wife's smaller laptop as a second backup.)

Fortunately, this not a once in a lifetime trip that I want to capture. I go to Peru at least once a year, but it's the first time I've been this remote -- I'm told we'll be two hours from the nearest anything in a little village far from anywhere where my mother-in-law lives. It'll my first experience living with the local folks in an adobe home so I'd like to capture a good bit of it, but it won't be my last trip there. (In the past we've met them in larger towns.)

I'm going to be going off during the day trekking in the surrounding mountains where there's all kinds of wildlife including some interesting animals like spectacled bears.Supposedly foreigners never go there so I'll be a bit of a novelty, but Peruvian people are great and I expect them to be very friendly as usual -- especially since my wife spent part of her youth there. No altitude, though. We'll be on the east side of the Andes at about 4000' in the valley.

Should be interesting, to say the least...
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Old December 13th, 2010, 10:01 AM   #5
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portable HD

Phil, you might want to check out the Nexto products. I use these for both video and stills storage. The model I use will accept SD and CF cards, and comes in different sizes. Does error checking. Here is a link to purchase NESEND270500G Nexto DI eXtreme ND-2700, Pocket Size 500GB Memory Card Backup Digital Storage with eSATA & USB Interface, for Mac & Windows..

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Old December 13th, 2010, 02:59 PM   #6
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I did check out the Nexto drives, but the cost puts it a little farther out than I want to spend. (I've put out about $1700 on camera, lenses, batteries, etc.) I think getting plenty of SD cards and utilizing my existing portable drive will be better in the long run. Those I will use again after this trip.

Since I've already got the tiny hard drive (with 1TB of space), there's not much need to go to something else. If I didn't have access to a computer, then I'd definitely look at a Nexto. They appear to be very solid products for certain situations. ($333 at BH is not an outrageous price, either -- just more than I want to spend now for something that I don't need.)

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Old December 15th, 2010, 03:57 PM   #7
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I use a Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA (640GB) now and I've also used the previous HD80 for a few years and I've travelled with both.

Both are very fast at downloading files. WIth CF cards, I typically average 30MB/s, SDHC's about 20MB/s. That's 30gigs in under 20min's, whereas downloading that via a laptop to a USB drive will take _1hr_ (I've tried it).

If getting the Hyperdrive, I would suggest getting the bare (no HD) version and adding your own. It's _very_ easy and much cheaper.

The Nexto's are great, but as you've found, more expensive.
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Old December 16th, 2010, 09:46 AM   #8
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+1 for getting numerous SD cards.

STAY ORGANIZED. You don't want to accidently over-write or reformat a card that you've already recorded to. Keep one pouch for unwritten cards and one pouch for "do not touch" cards. I have two of these for carrying 20 cards each (, and Pelican has a nice heavy duty case for up to 8 cards (

HD transfer isn't really ideal on a long exotic trip because of issues regarding stability, accessability, power, back-up, etc. I would still bring it, however. If you get the chance (even in the a hotel the night before you return from your trip), I would back-up all the SD cards. SD cards are pretty stable, but having the info in two places is much better than one. Keep the SD cards in a different place than the HD. For instance, back the HD in your luggage, but take the SD cards in your carry on.

You mention you will probably need the SD cards for other trips. Great! But if you decide to sell some 32 or 16GB SD (Class 6 or 10) cards after the trip, just shoot me an email. Do not buy PNY cards. Stick with Trascend or SanDisk.

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