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Help! How should I store photos while traveling?

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland is going on vacation for a month, and he's lugging an SLR. What's the best way to keep pictures safe on the road?

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read

I'm going to Latin America for the month of March, and I don't know what to do with my photos. Does anyone out there have any advice they'd like to share?

For the gearheads out there, here are my constraints.

First of all, I'm trying to travel reasonably light--I'll only be backpacking a little, but I will be schlepping luggage a lot, and I don't want to lug a laptop. Second, I probably won't have to go more than two or three days without a wall socket for charging.

Wolverine Data's $370 ESP 5000 has a 120GB drive and can show raw image files. Wolverine Data

I'm guessing I'll need about 100GB of capacity. I'll be shooting raw images with an SLR (single-lens reflex), and there should be some mighty scenic spots. On two weeks in Ireland last year, I shot about 30GB of files, winnowing lightly as I went. So here are my options as I see it.

• Option 1 is a portable hard drive with a flash card reader and display.

I've been trying Wolverine Data's ESP 5000, a 40GB model with a screen. I like its ability to review raw images as well as JPEGs, and its battery power seems sufficient for my needs. And I like these for giving impromptu slideshows.

But I found the user interface clunky, and its raw image quality isn't always enough to check focus quality, even with the latest firmware. A 100GB model costs $370.

Anybody have any experience with the Epson P-5000 or similar products? They're even more expensive--an 80GB version costs nearly $700!

One advantage of these devices is that I could also use them to play video and music files and collect photos from others' digital cameras while I'm traveling.

• Option 2 is a hard drive without the fancy display. Wolverine's 120GB FlashPac costs $140. I'd have to rely on the camera for weeding out the dud shots, which probably is OK, but this is definitely the minimum-thrill approach.

And how reliable are hard drives anyway? My photos are precious, but I can say right now I'm not going to carry a second drive for backup.

• Option 3 is a bunch of CompactFlash cards. I have 16GB so far, but getting up to 100GB would cost something like $400 more even if I didn't pay for premium brands like SanDisk or Lexar. Watching the ever-dropping prices on flash memory cards would be depressing, though.

Flash cards have a lot to recommend them, though: are pretty durable, reliable, lightweight, and don't require batteries.

• Option 4 is whatever options readers are about to tell me about. I welcome your thoughts in the TalkBack section below or by e-mail to stephen.shankland@cnet.com.