Alaska Equipment

Electronics and Optics for the Trip

Backup camera...

old Kodak Easyshare backup camera and Pentax binoculars

Kodak Easyshare Z740 Digital Camera was our family camera before the trip and was our first digital camera (they discontinued our Konica Advantix... sigh...). old Kodak Easyshare backup camera and Pentax binoculars

We picked this for it's 10x optical zoom, great sample pictures and pc printer / dock. We used the EasyShare printer for a while, but the paper packets were expensive and the printer starting misfeeding, so we just used the dock for it's battery charging and camera-to-pc transfer abilities. Camera gear, binoculars, phones, IPods and games - this was huge! Joe spent much of the previous year researching and selecting cameras and binoculars for the trip. Now we needed to buy it, at the best price, and try it out before we left. The cameras (a new digital extravaganza, an old digital backup and a Fuji disposable waterproof camera for the raft trip) should allow us to capture enough of Alaska to bore our friends for years to come! Gabi equipped us with the latest in cellphone technology and JJ gathered a small but capable IPod and videogame arsenal.
We planned our battery and a/c power needs and made sure we knew where the power would be coming from and how we were going to tap into it. We assumed we could always use normal electrical (110v a/c) outlets, though JJ needed a USB-to-A/C adapter for some of his games. We didn't take 'cigarette lighter' chargers because we figured we would either be in hotels or the motorhome, which had an a/c inverter with normal outlets.
Lithium ion camera batteries were supposed to last the longest and, since we had often run out of battery life, we wanted the longest battery life and more than one battery for those long Alaskan days and oh, so many opportunities for fabulous, once in a lifetime shots. Fujifilm Disposable Waterproof 35mm Camera

We took along a Fujifilm throwaway waterproof camera for the river rafting trip. If we lost it, it wouldn't be an expensive loss and, if it got wet, and it did, we would still get pictures out of it. Just a note... we didn't find a digital throwaway waterproof camera, so we just got prints. Now I'm seeing that Costco will digitize the prints and give you image files on a DVD. You might want to remember this if you're going to take pictures with a film camera.

Brand new camera...

new Sony Cybershot front

Sony CyberShot DSC T100 Digital Camera was the winner in our early 2007 'most for the least' camera search. It was a delight (and we didn't even use half the features). new Sony Cybershot back

Our new main camera - I don't stay up-to-the-minute on technology I use. When there's a problem, or I want to start using something new, I try to get up to speed. Going to Alaska, I started searching for 'digital camera compare' and related search phrases to get the latest reviews. It appeared that what I wanted was a compact with the most memory per shot and the highest optical zoom, face recognition, stabilization, movie mode (in a pocket camera?... what a shock!), and a continuing list in descending orger of importance. One camera kept appearing in comparisons and reviews and eventually the Sony CyberShot DSC T100 became my target. In my area, we look at Fry's Ad to see if the discount electronics giant has this camera on special or at a good price. For once, I wasn't in a hurry, so when Fry's Ad didn't have it, and their store didn't have it in black, I went to the web and ordered it online. My first seller didn't work out. They waited 2 weeks and called and tried to sell me a bunch of accessories. Now I was in a hurry, so I ordered from Adorama Camera in New York City (an Amazon supplier) and got the camera, memory stick, battery and charger in a couple of days to my great relief. Because of my research, I didn't try it out much before the trip, which is not a good idea, but, in this case, worked out ok. It seemed impossible to have all those features in the tiny black object in my hand. Everything was there, including a battery charger that plugged right into the wall... but no camera case. I then went to Fry's for an extra memory stick and found the camera case bundled with a spare battery (???). We now had the camera, case, two lithium-ion batteries and a 2 gig Pro Duo memory stick. I also picked up a Kodak EasyShare camera case and wall outlet battery charger, which I could never find before. Adding a little blue Case Logic case to hold both the Sony camera and a pair of Pentax binoculars (see below), I felt photographically prepared. In Alaska, the two batteries were charged each night and, together, got us through the longest days. The new camera had 31mb memory, which we saved for emergency, and the 2.0 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo, held everything until we got through Anchorage and back from Denali. It didn't look like it would last through the Kenai leg of the trip, so we bought another 1 GB stick (from WalMart) before heading south with the motorhome. We brought home a whole bunch of pictures and felt well satisfied with ourselves! Most shots were not used but all of them brought back memories of what we were doing when we took them. With digital pictures, you're not eating up film so you can take experimental, duplicate or optional shots and just delete what you don't want.
new Sony camera and Pentax binoculars What are we talking about when we say 'compact'? Here's our Pentax binoculars and Sony camera with a deck of cards. Both binoculars and camera fit easily in jacket pockets. This small size takes some getting used to. There were times on the train, buses, boats and plane where I thought I forgot one or the other and they were right in my pocket! You don't give up durability because they are really rugged and you don't give up performance for small size. The little Pentax could be quickly focused and the 'target acquired' before it disappeared. The Sony camera was easily turned on with the big lens 'door' the big screen showed pretty much what would appear on the picture (jpg file). Some people think it's too easy to turn on accidently, but I didn't notice that. The big display draws quite a bit on the battery, though, and you have to be careful to turn it off if there's time before the next shot. The many features resulted in some great shots without me even knowing about them. My biggest problem was leaving the closeup setting on when taking distant and/or low light shots.

Olympus 10mp Waterproof
Helmet-mount Camcorder
Camcorder Camera MP3 Web Cam
Fujifilm 7.1 mp 3x-optical zoom
Sanyo Xacti Camcorder
VistaQuest DV-8 Camcorder/Camera
Panasonic SDR-S7K 10x-opt Camcorder
JVC GZ-MG330 Camcorder
JVC 34x Optical Zoom Camcorder
Fujifilm 10MP 18x Opt Zoom Camera
DXG 5.1mp MP3, Camcorder, Camera
Casio YouTube Capture Camera
Canon 10x OZoom 3.1MP Camcorder

This is the latest version of our Cybershot (same body but more features)
Sony Cybershot DSCT300 Pocket Camera
Fujifilm Finepix S700 Camera
Vivitar DVR-710 6-in-1 Camera

Camera Accessories allow you to take full advantage of some of the most spectacular photo opportunities on Earth! We traveled without most of these 'helpers' but I now see situations where each of these, and others, could have 'earned their oats' in convenience and improved photos and videos.

These Wal-Mart items include LCD lens shades, which are really needed in bright sunlight.

Camera LCD Pop-up Shade
Absolutely needed to see LCD in the bright sun
Camera LCD Pop-up Shade
Tripod Ball & Socket Lock
Studio in a Box
Tripod for Cameras & Camcorders
Nikon Camera "Armor"
Norazza Monopod
Kodak HDTV Camera Dock
X-Shot Self-Portrait Rod
Canon Accessory Kit
Kata Digital Camera Laptop Backpack
Canon Powershot Accessory Kit
Photo Studio in a Box
Bogen Monfrotto 680B Monopod
Bogen Monfrotto Tripod Tilt Head
Lowepro Offtrail Camera Bag
Nikon Lens Cleaner Kit
Nikon Lens Cleaning Pen
OpTech Neoprene Camera Pouch
Phoenix .45x Wide Angle Lens
Sony LCS-CST Soft Camera Case
Sony Compact Tripod Pan/Tilt Head
Sunpak 15 Watt Video Light
Tamrac 5290 T90 Camera Bag
Tamrac 5522 Camcorder Bag

putting in camera memory stick

Camera Memory - 'memory' is where your photos and movies are written. This used to be the film spools, cartridges, reels and cassettes for analog, i.e., non-digital cameras. Then video cameras started using movable digital media like Beta, VHS and Super-8 videocassettes. Later was added movable digital disk media like DVD and even internal 'hard' drives. Always, movement of the magnetic or optical media past a read/write 'head' was involved... until finally memory cards allowed NO MOVING PARTS! The problems of a moving device are gone along with the weight. I can barely feel my 2 gig memory stick in my hand! And the 8-gig, and new 16-gig sticks, weigh about the same, so my camera weighs just under 5 ounces (4.97362 oz or 141 g) and takes both still shots and video with enough options for a really good photographer to get fantastic results. Oh, yeah... 2 'gig' is 2,000,000,000 'addressable dots'... 1-3 dots make a color pixel... in short, 2,500 pictures like the one here fit on this little card! By doing a little homework (see this great ephotozine article) in the beginning you can get enough space to never have to think about it again... maybe. Memory cards are not standardized for all brands of cameras (yet) but there are not as many variations as batteries, chargers and pc connectors. Most of the new memory cards are faster and larger capacity versions of existing cards. You can invest in a high capacity card and probably use it in your future cameras... maybe.

Crucial 8Gb Compact Flash Card
SanDisk 1Gb SD Card & Adapters
SanDisk 4Gb Ultra II Stick Pro Duo
SanDisk 4Gb Stick Pro Duo
XDigital 4 Gb Compact Flash
SanDisk 2Gb Stick Pro Duo
SanDisk 2GB Secure Digital Card
Sony 2Gb Stick Pro Duo
Olympus 1Gb Type Mxd Picture Card
Olympus 1Gb Type Mxd Picture Card
Memory Stick PRO Duo 2-Pack
2gb Secure Digital Card 2-Pack

Batteries and Chargers - Welcome to the jungle!!! We don't need no stinkin' standardization here!!! Every camera, cellphone, iPod, MP3 player, DVD player or other electronic device will probably have it's own unique battery and charger... and probably a unique cord and connector just to keep everything 'special'.

I found this 'Universal External battery' kit, which apparently uses a 'universal' battery with any of 8 connectors. It's just crazy enough to work... in many cases!
For those who do not want to leave their battery power to chance, here's some examples of batteries, chargers and connectors you'll be needing.
Sony NP-BG1 Lithium Ion Battery
Sony NPFD1 Battery Pack
Powermonkey eXplorer Travel Charger
Powertraveller Powerchimp Charger
Powertraveller Powerchimp Charger
D C 1-Hour AA/AAA Battery Charger

denali caribou on far hillside denali caribou thru binoculars

Binoculars - Alaska is big and you need to see long distances. We couldn't hope to get close to these caribou on the far side of the valley, but we got a good look with our binoculars. We wanted binoculars with the best combination of small size and best performance. I got up to speed on features, like magnifying power, BAK4 quality prisms, image stabilization, water resistance, ease of focus, eye relief, etc., by viewing astronomy, birdwatching, and hunting websites. I then priced the combinations that looked the best to see what was realistic. The result was go with our lightweight We found a few birdwatching websites for binocular recommendations and selected Pentax 8x25 UCF-X II reverse porroprism compact binoculars which were great. We took two - made sure we had enough for everyone because we used them all of the time!

Barska Blueline 25x30 Spy Scope
Barska Lucid 10x25 Monocular
Brunton Echo 7x18 Pocket Scope
Bushnell Night Vision Monocular
Bushnell Binocular Cleaning Kit
Bushnell Water / Fogproof Binocular
Canon Image Stabilization Binoculars
Celestron 24X25 Compact Binoculars
Galileo EGS-1 Electronic Rangefinder
Nikon Binocular Tripod Adapter
Nikon Lens Cleaner Kit
Nikon Lens Cleaning "Pen"
Nikon ProStaff Binocular Harness
Nikon Travelite V 8x25 Binocular
Olympus Bak-4 PorroPrism Compact
Op/Tech Elastic Harness
Adjustable Neoprene Neck Strap

jj calling from kenai campground

Cell Phones - on vacation, you may be trying to get away from phone calls but, for a teenager, talking and texting your buddies can be a real luxury. Here's our high school freshman getting caught up after being out of contact. You may also want or need to know what's going on back home. Check with your carrier and find out if you will have coverage where you are going and if it's included in your plan. Ours worked and was included at no additional charge. You can eliminate the chance of unintended charges with a prepaid phone from cellphone carriers or even Wal-mart. You can set the amount you're willing to pay and just call the company to increase it, or buy an airtime card off a rack at Wal-Mart. ACS (Alaska Communications System) is the local wireless provider and appears to have the best coverage. We didn't use it, but it could be a good option. Just remember, any cellphone needs electricity, so you still need batteries and (maybe) a charger compatible with the phone and your electrical source (AC, carcharger, disposable, etc.).

Buy the TracFone at Wal-Mart
TracFone Accessory Bundle
TracFone 120 minute Air Card
T-Mobile Samsung Prepaid Cell
AT&T's Samsung Prepaid Cell

Walkie-Talkie 2-Way Radios There's many places in Alaska where your cellphone doesn't work and lots of outdoors to explore and a set of 2-way radios might be the perfect way to stay in touch. Walkie-Talkies have been getting better, more compact and cheaper along with other technologies. You might want to take a pair along...
Uniden 18-mile range GMRS Radios
Cobra PR260 2WXVP 2-Way Radio
TriSquare EXRS 2-Way Radio
Kenwood 2-channel 2-Way Radio
Kenwood 15-Channel 2-Way UHF Radio
Cobra GMRS 2-Way Radio
Cobra GMRS 2-Way Radio

GPS or Global Positioning (Satellite) System GPS is spreading everywhere from finding a market to finding a Pacific island. You can now have a personal GPS receiver and use the time you're normally lost to enjoy the vacation. What's really fun is 'geocaching'. One person hides something and notes the GPS location coordinates. He gives the coordinates to the players who then use their own GPS's to find the 'treasure'.

TomTom ONE text-to-speech GPS
Magellan GPS Triton Vehicle Mount
Garmin GPS Rail Mount
Garmin Handlebar Mount Bracket
Garmin eTrex GPS Carrying Case
Garmin nuvi Text-to-Speech GPS
GARMIN Portable GPS Friction Mount

Music/Movie Players IPods are enormously popular but they are not the only music/movie players out there. Not only are there a variety of non-Apple players, even cellphones are getting into the market.

iPod classic 160GB
Samsung Ultra-slim MP3 Player
Sennheiser Wireless Stereo Headphones
Singing Machine Karaoke System
Goldlantern Bluetooth Headphones
iPod Shuffle 14-in-1 Accessory Kit
iPod Time Travel Clock Radio
Video MP3 Player w/ Camera
Zune 80GB MP3 Video Player
Zune Premium Headphones
Zune Holster Case
Panasonic Neck Strap Headphones
Philips Surround Sound Headphone
RCA TH1101 Pearl MP3 Player
JWin Personal AM/FM CD Player
iTrip FM Transmitter LCD/Dock
FM Transmitter for iPod
iPod Portable Stereo Speakers
Archos Wi-Fi MP3 Video Player
BlueAnt micro Bluetooth Headset
Water-Resistant MP3 Speaker Pouch
Behind the Neck Headphones

Movie Players Hotels, motels, motorhomes and most laptop computers all have DVD players for watching movies, but they also have very compact and affordable DVD players for the plane, train, car, beach or campsite. There's a lot of traveling time and 19 hours of daylight to consider when you can catch up on your movies. Note that your own headphones can be used for the on-plane movies, so make sure you pack them 'carry-on'.

Slim Line Portable DVD Player
Optoma Projector w/ DVD Player
Nextar 2gb MP3 Video Player
Bravo Overhead DVD Player
Widescreen Portable DVD Player

3 ages playing Pokemon

Video Games may be what you want to get away from on vacation, but they have served us well on long trips with kids. Here's our son and grandsons all playing Pokemon on a recent trip. Three age levels all happily occupied while we drove between attractions. We all took turns using the charger outlet, so you need to allow for this but it can really be worth the trouble. Note - many hand held electronic devices need their own adapter to connect to the inverter especially those that normally connect to your computer for recharging.

Computer Accessories can actually make taking your laptop to Alaska realistic. The towns have broadband and dial-up service in both wired and wireless connection. We didn't try it, but a pc wouldn't be a problem from what we saw. You have to protect it from normal handling and allow for charging, electrical and internet connection but the computer age has definitely arrived in Alaska.

I-KEY Notebook PC Accessory Kit
Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printer
Blackberry Travel Charger
Canon Printer/Copier/ Scanner/Fax
AllCards Memory Card Reader
Philips Laptop PC Traveling Kit
Mini/Full-Size SD Adapters
Micro USB 2GB Flash Drive
Scosche Retractable 3.5mm Cable
Portable USB HDTV Tuner

Portable Power allows you to run your gadgets without the approved battery and charger.

DC to AC 3-Outlet Inverter
Xantrex Mobile Mini Power Source
Zune DLO Power Pack
DLO AC Charger with USB Port

Clocks and Watches The 'Midnight Sun' gets your timing off and you may not be in a position to leave a wakeup call, so you can't forget about time just because you're on vacation.

Weather Motion Sensor Alarm Clock
Elgin Clip Lamp Alarm Clock

AM, FM and XM Radio Remember radio? Well, it's still around and you can pick up local news, notices and warnings if you have an AM/FM receiver and you can pick up the world if you have XM or Sirius.

XM SureConnect FM Adapter
XM XpressRC Satellite Radio
Crank 12-LED, AM/FM, Weather Alert
Sirius InV2 radio kit
Scosche Wireless FM Transmitter
Sentry PR100 Dual Power Radio

Sound Recorders You have sound recording on your camcorder, but you may want to make some mental notes or just record the surf or bird calls to fall asleep to. Sound recorders today don't need cassette tapes or memory cards or any other removable media. They can have built-in memory that holds hours of sounds. They can also be voice-activated so you don't take waste memory space.

Sony M-570V Voice-Operated Recorder

Personal Digital Assistants These microcomputers can hold schedules, reminders, notes and other information and can sync with other PDA's or your home computer to stay up-to-date. They are merging with smart phones, more and more, but many people find them a necessity and you might be one of them.
Palm 3208WW PDA Starter Kit
Asus Bluetooth 2.0 PDA
Palm 3177WW Screen Protectors

Cleaning Supplies You don't want to scratch that camera or binocular lens cleaning them with napkins or your t-shirt, so think about some specialty cleaning supplies to protect your investments. You can get supplies in Alaska, but why add another 'thing to do' to your vacation?

Endust Pop-Up Anti-Static Wipes

Gadget Organizers So many 'accidental tourists' have forgotten, lost or reconsidered what they needed to store, carry and access their gadgets on vacation, so you are the beneficiary of thousands of organizers. These are some we think could be of interest depending on where you're going and what you're doing. You might even come up with a better idea and make millions... but, if not, give some thought to what these products are trying to do.

Vaultz Camcorder & Comb Lock Case
Toshiba Mobile Back Pack
Case Logic Console Organizer
Aaron Chang Camera Bag

Connectors and Cables Nothing is more frustrating than having the perfect place to use something and not have the right connector or cable. Think about what you're taking and what you might find where you are going. A six-pin Firewire cable or iPod Y-adapter might save the day.

4Pin IEEE 1394 Firewire Cable
6Pin IEEE 1394 Firewire Cable
USB Over Cat5e Extender
USB to IRDA Adapter
Mini Y-Adapter for iPod
iPod Cable Kit

kindle electronic book Related Gadgets Many travel-related or Alaska-related gadgets abound that we haven't covered yet.
Cobra Radar & Laser Detector


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