Top 8 Tech Tools to Stay Light, Fast & Connected

Photo Courtesy of Tectonic Media Group

Photo Courtesy of Tectonic Media Group

When I was living out of my car early in my career as a climber, I didn’t have much use for anything beyond the most simple gadgets. A can opener for tuna and beer was about as fancy as it got. But as my career evolved from athlete (aka dirtbag climber/skier) to photographer/filmmaker, so did my need for some gadgets in the field that help me do my job. Keeping data, power, cameras and communications up and running in the field and on expeditions requires a new gambit of tech “toys.” Here’s a handful that will help you stay light, fast and connected to get the job done. Enjoy!

HERO3: Black Edition
The Wi-Fi enabled jimmychin_gopro1HERO3: Black Edition is the most recent and advanced GoPro. This thing is 30% smaller, 25% lighter and 2x more powerful than previous models. What we’ve been able to capture in the field with these cameras is nothing short of spectacular. Versatile and rugged the Hero 3 is waterproof to 197′ (60m), capable of capturing ultra-wide 1440p 48fps, 1080p 60 fps and 720p 120 fps video and 12MP photos at a rate of 30 photos per second. It has built-in Wi-Fi, and a GoPro App which I’ve played with for hard to get shots - but it sucks battery power bigtime. I’ve used this on everything from big budget commercial shoots to the sual fun POV scenarios. It’s small enough that I don’t have an excuse to leave it at home, so it stays with me on all my travels and mini adventures as a super handy minimalist back up pocket video camera. There are some cool adapted lenses for it now too.

Satellite Communicator: inReach SE
jimmychin_inreach-se190% of the Earth is not covered by cell service. But with this little baby you can send and receive messages at the ends of the earth and everywhere in between. Using DeLorme’s Earthmate App inReach SE pairs wirelessly with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to access topographic maps and NOAA charts and to make text messaging even more convenient. I must admit, just like the impending universal wireless capability on airplanes, the fact that it is harder and harder to get disconnected is something that I have mixed emotions on. But either way, this thing is pretty damn cool.

Olympus OM-D E-M5
Part jimmychin_olympusomd1 of the ubiquitous and burgeoning category of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, this 16-megapixel model is about a third smaller than the average digital SLR, but packs the same punch. This camera has received stellar reviews from many of my peers who like the weather sealed body and compact size.

iPhone 5
I think rumors of Apple’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The iPhone still rocks compared to all other options. The 5 has a bigger screen, better camera and is all-around faster than the 4S. And lighter. It might not always be the king of the smart phones - but it retains the crown for now.

MacBook Air 11-inchjimmychin_macbookair
On an expedition or at the airport, a laptop that weighs just 2.38 pounds, is a bonus. The laptop is a necessary evil in the field for me - data management and editing on the fly are part of the job. The lighter the better. And it fits in the airplane seat pocket. Bonus. Sporting two USB 3.0 ports is a must these days for backup and copying those batches of huge RAW files from the card to the computer. That being said, this works for basic photo editing, but you might want to bump to the new MacBook Pro 15 inch for video and more RAM/Memory and real muscle.

Solaris Foldable Solar
The Solaris 62 is great for the remote film crew or high-alpine expeditions. Harnessing the sun’s energy is super-tech - and some sort of solar set up is key to any remote work.

A renewable-battery system that charges nearly any electronic device through built-in USB, 12v, 16v and 19v outputs. This can be used for essentials like phone, computer or GPS or non essentials like music players or a portable video game.
Specs: Power storage capacity: 13,000 mAh Outputs: USB, 12v, 16v, 19v

Leatherman Wave

Photo: / / CC BY

Photo: / / CC BY

The Leatherman Wave is not a new fangled piece of technology, although they have made some great improvements over the years. It is still a piece of technology I couldn’t live without. Last I checked it had about 16 different tools packed into the lightweight body, many of which can be accessed with only one hand. Used day in and day out - it’s no wonder so many photographers and explorers choose this tool to carry on their utility belt.

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12 Responses to “Top 8 Tech Tools to Stay Light, Fast & Connected”

  1. Casey Clark Says:

    Love your new tools and tips. I have shot for years, sport, culture from Colorado & around.

    Something you could share as other’s, I have and upgrade is a travel list.

    Tech, batteries, chargers, chips, clothes, 1st aid, names and numbers to call.
    Allergies, meds, probiotics if traveling besides every day.

    What to take that is most unusual.
    Hidden ID, Ccard, Adolf’s Meat tenderizer or Liquid Benadryl, shoes, flip flops, visor, etc, sunglasses, extra.

    Travelng light, safe is essential. I saw your office of ropes and amazing shelves.

    If people knew every trip was sometimes not planned but in the rural areas of sea, mountain, you need to get the shot, or be safe.

    What ever you can continually share I am eternally grateful.
    Also, how to treat staff, clean your water, handle your trash.

    We have lost people to simple navigating mistakes in weather.
    We have lost film or chips to circumstance. Your shots are great. I did not know you shot “raw”, impressive to carry such a large file. Do you send it from your laptop and offload it.

    Hope your health is great, no need ot publish. A response would be divine.

    Ms. Casey Clark

  2. Jason Sanqui Says:

    Hi Jimmy,

    Is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 your main go to camera now? Or is this a back up camera?



  3. Jeff Ginnis Says:

    Thanks Jimmy! Its great getting your opinion on the tech.

  4. Marc Richardson Says:

    I gotta say im down with this list.. pretty much my list to the letter, definitly use the Inreach and the wave leatherman as well as the iphone 5 and the Hero 3.. Gotta check out the IMPEL2 though

  5. anon Says:

    cool…what lenses do you take for the OMD-EM5? and what do you think of it’s video?

  6. Jamie Fulbrook Says:

    That’s a really cool summary Jimmy - thanks for taking the time. The new GoPro Hero3 Black is truly a big step forward in comparison the previous models!! I can’t agree with you more.

    One of the things we’ve occasionally been let down by is satellite uplink hardware and in general a decent portable satellite internet system. Have you ever used something similar like this? And if so, any positive/negative feedback you could offer up? Good ones seem hard to come by…

    Cheers for the insights!!! Jamie

  7. Alex Gauthier Says:

    You aren’t kidding about the GoPro3 chewing through battery with wifi enabled. It goes so fast I thought mine was broken at first!

    What’s your favorite way to carry your camera in the mountains for say a day climb? So far I’m playing with chest harnesses etc but have high hopes for Peak Design’s Capture setup with their improved baseplate which seems much more solid than previous models. Not sure it will work with my D4 but the D700 seems like it’s better on this setup…

  8. Charles Ingusan Says:

    Hi Jimmy! I’m a great fan of your works. I just want to ask what lenses do you usually pack for your dSLR in your expedition shoots? Thanks!

  9. Hernan Zenteno Says:

    Hi Jimmy. I arrived here by your post about 8 adventure travel tips. You said pack only what can be carried on the airplane but the leatherman could be retained by customs.

  10. Flora Says:

    Hi Jimmy,
    Not sure if you’d be able to answer this, but I have a few questions to ask:
    (1) Do you bring use your laptop in subzero conditions?
    (2) If so, how do you make sure they work perfectly under such menacing weather?
    (3) If I chose to get inReach SE, what kind of so called ‘plans’ or ‘phone options’ do you get? If you can, I’d appreciate an example. What if you travel overseas and no longer in your own country? Do you stay on the same plan?

  11. jimmy Says:

    Thanks for the questions! Hope these answers help:

    (1) Yes, but only at base camp. If it is extremely cold out, I usually warm it up in my sleeping bag for a while in the morning before using it.
    (2) I’ve been using MacBook’s my entire career. It’s more an issue of getting the batteries warm enough to power the laptop. If you can warm up the batteries you should be fine.
    (3) There are only a couple of plans to choose from online. Read up on which ones will work best for you. It’s always good to look at the fine print and bring any question you have directly to their support dept. I don’t know the specifics of the plans and would hate to point you in the wrong direction.

  12. Amy Says:

    Hi Jimmy,
    For the Olympus OM-D E-M5, how many batteries do you take on an expedition? I’ll be doing Denali for three weeks in May and I’m not sure if I need 3 or 6 or something different. Also, when you aren’t using your camera and you’re moving through technical gear but want your camera at the ready, where do you keep it? Do you have a holster that attaches to your pack?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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