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What is a Flashpacker?

Aracely and I must full-heartedly admit we are flashpackers.  Wikipedia loosely defines flashpackers as tech-savvy adventurers who often prefer to travel with a cell phone, digital camera, iPod and a laptop, although none of these is required in order to be a flashpacker. As with other forms of travel, the term flashpacker is mainly one of self-identification. The origin of the term itself is obscure. There are many factors that probably contributed to the development of the term.

Flashpacker

All the technology and gadgets a Flashpacker might carry

Flashpacker History

Some believe the term was born out of animosity from minimalist backpackers; those that truly want to escape the world and get off the grid.  I don’t think this theory has much weight considering the backpacking community in general promotes living life to your own personal desires.  But, there is clearly a visible change in the appearance of many backpackers.  White ear buds dangling from one’s travelers neck, a camera hanging off a shoulder or even a laptop opened at a local café is now often seen accompanying the large backpack. Some of these items have become affordable to the masses from industrialized countries and provide an easy means of communicating with others when traveling around the world.

Connected Hostels

The hostel industry has had to adjust by investing in WiFi and other international travel gadget friendly technologies.  I attribute these changes to the normal evolution of technology and its impact on humans.  A flashpacker is also believed to have more disposable income for adventure tours and desires more upscale accommodations.  With Couchsurfing exploding around the world as the most cultural enriching and affordable accommodation, all are able to travel more frugally.  Universally, the backpacker’s goal remains the same; experience foreign cultures and lands.

Travel Gadgets

Technology advancements has spurred a great increase in the number of travel gadgets and you have many choices based on your needs and financial capabilities.

Travel Cameras

As a photographer you can start simple with a point and click digital camera that fits in your pocket.  The images can be uploaded via Internet café computers to photo sharing sites such as Flicker, Picasa or Smugmug.  A more serious travel photographer can be seen with a larger SLR digital camera.  These cameras can be easily identified by their large lenses and over the shoulder straps.  An SLR camera produces image files that are much larger in memory size when compared to a basic point and shoot camera.  In order to transfer large numbers of images the photographer may invest in a high speed SD card reader, which will speed up the process of transferring images to a laptop.

Laptops & Computers

A laptop provides the photographer with photo editing software that can’t be found in Internet cafés.  Once you decide to carry around a laptop you need to consider security and operation.  A laptop will require constant battery charging, protection from the elements and a watchful eye at all times.  To keep the size small consider an iPad, but realize an iPad won’t have the processing power or functions you may require in your photo editing software.  The next size up is a netbook or Macbook Air, but very small and now offering increased processing power.  For max processing power and high data transfer speeds you end up with a full size laptop.  This might be necessary if you plan on doing heavy video editing.

Music (MP3) Players & iPods

MP3 players and iPods are much easier to carry and store due to their compact size.  Music players can offer you some comfort during long transportation.  If you desire more interactive entertainment consider an iTouch or Smart Phone, both of which will play video or interactive games.  These high tech gadgets can keep you sane traveling on a 12-hour bus ride on partial roads and in blistering hot environments.

GPS Devices

GPS devices enable a constant mapping of your travels.  With cellular support, your GPS coordinates can be shared with your friends and family on-line.  It can also be helpful when plotting your photos on a map or attempting long distant hikes.

Travel Power Converters

Power converters are important for all your travel devices to stay charged and usable.  Expect limiting outlets while lodging and consider devices that enable multiple electronic gadgets to be plugged into a single outlet.  Another creative device is a solar charger that rests on top of you backpack and charges simple gadgets like an iPod or cellular phone while hiking.

Video Cameras

WiFi Zone The Internet has become video friendly through the use of video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo.  Both websites now offer HD video uploads.  If you are interested in capturing your travel adventures on video there are many camcorder choices now available across a broad range of price points.  The video camera will add more weight and require as much security as your SLR camera.  These high-end gadgets should never leave your side.  Consider an individual camera bag or daypack that you would feel comfortable carrying at all times.  If you are investing in either device you will want to have access to them quickly to ensure capturing those priceless moments or images.  Many cameras now come with video capability, so first decide how functional your video camera needs are before deciding if you need both or just one consolidated device.

Storage

Describing all the individual components that exist for transferring, managing and storing your photos and video is a much more complex discussion.  Take the safe route and store your memories on both portable storage devices and in the Cloud.  The Cloud is online storage, which everyone should be using these days.

You might also enjoy… Choosing the Right Backpack

Smart Phone

Since the launch of the iPhone, which includes full internet capability, a music player, email, GPS mapping and an unlimited number of add-on applications, flashpackers find themselves doling out monthly subscription fees for constant connectivity.  Whether you want to Tweet, Post on Facebook or connect with a local Couchsufer, a Smart Phone has it all for the backpacking traveler.  Consider a phone  where you can access the mobile chip.  When visiting foreign countries, you may only have to buy a local mobile chip for a few bucks in order to use the phone locally.  These can be considerably cheaper than a mobile worldwide plan.  If you need to call home often, use Skype on the computer instead.  You will save a lot of money.

Gadgets and their technology exist for almost anything you can think of, from water purification to WiFi searching key chains.  You have to decide what is right for you.  Weather you carry a tent and portable stove or a laptop and iPhone, it shouldn’t matter.  What matters is that you are brave enough to throw yourself in unfamiliar settings and go experience what the world has to offer.  Good luck!

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Gyorgy says:

It’s funny how much gear we carry nowadays. My photo gear is around 7kg+tripad. I always try to minimise the weight but never know which lens will be needed.
During the years selected my favourite travel kit: DSLR + 10-20mm + 24-105mm + 70-200mm + 2x converter. These lens cover the range I need and fit in a mid size photo bag. I used to travel with a heavy Manfrotto tripod but later changed it to a (much) lighter Gitzo basalt.

Prabal says:

Any ideas about a solar battery charger\s?
Can i charge my lithium ion battery( of a DSLR) and IPhone?
Please provide with links of some good reliable chargers.

Jason says:

Prabal, we have never used a solar charger. I would recommend instead, having 2 batteries for your DSLR. With 2 batteries full charged, we trekked 9 days without running out of power on our SLR. Unless you plan to trek several weeks in the wilderness without power, you should be fine.

For those of you who want HD video capabilities without having to carry a camcorder in addition to an SLR, the new Canon T2i has it all. I’ve just upgraded from my rebel and I’ll be doing a review on my blog soon.

MrDillon says:

You could also consider the “new” Nikon CoolPix P7000 and Canon Powershot G12. They are really nice cameras if you want full settings and adjustments without carrying a full, bigger SLR camera.

Jeremy says:

I dont necessarily agree that file size on a SLR is any larger than most new point and shoot cameras unless you are shooting in RAW format. My SLR does a nice job at producing amazing images in file sizes very similar to most point and shoots, and I don’t have a high speed SD card or reader to convert to my under powered netbook.

You’re not a REAL backpacker unless you travel without a backpack… A stick and a bandana is all you need. 😉

Jason says:

We avoid using the term “real.” I think we are all real in whatever style we each decide to travel. I consider myself a real backpacker, yet I carry a backpack. The term backpacker is rooted in the fact that one carries a backpack, right? And I don’t think one style of travel is any better than the other. I think we all must choose what style is best for us individually.

Hostelio says:

Flashpacking is a newly born trend appeared along with the budget flights. They seem wealthier than backpackers but they use more budget option than regular holiday travellers.

In the positive perspective, it is a new, expanding market for hostels (or at least it was before the financial crisis, will see in the near future), on the other hand it could be quicksand if this is just a passing fashion.

kathleen says:

Etymology trivia fun: Travelfish founder Stuart McDonald coined the term “flashpacker” (he meant a backpacker with a little more flash in the money belt, who naturally were then [a few years ago] also the ones riding chicken buses with a laptop in the backpack). He’s mucho modest about having come up with this, but ’tis true… It’s interesting to dwell upon the etymology evolution of terms for us backpackers (especially when with bucks and toys)…

Robbin says:

I would live to see a review of packs that flashpackers use. Organization etc. I’m about to spend a year in Italy ‘flashpacking’ and need to test out gear!

Babel says:

@Nomadic Matt
nice article 😉
i think iam some kind of flashpacker because i want to write a blog and stay in contact with familie and friends through that. but iam also some kind of “Better Traveler” and “Hippie” 😀 i dont know – time will show…

Nomadic Matt says:

From thinking of my list your the couple/flashpacker type of backpacker!

Jason says:

I agree. I am a little to old for the flashpacker demographic, but the fact that I also fall into the couple category enables me to be a flashpacking couple according to your post. That’s funny. Nice article Matt.

Gadi Glogowski says:

Hey Jason
we have been using the iPod Touch on our one year trip. It has been a life saviour. It is great for emailing and skyping with the family. We found that almost every place we go we find an open wifi connection so it saves us on Internet cafes.

I will shortly write a post with some of our favourite iPod touch travelling applications.

Jason says:

Hmmm, you have me tempted. I don’t own an iPhone or iTouch.

Liz @ ExtremeTelecommute says:

Lack of outlets is my biggest issue; sometimes, I feel like I have more electronics than anything else. One note–never try to force a plug into an outlet, even if it looks like it will fit. 🙂 My first hour in Buenos Aires, I managed to short out all of the power in the apartment.

I’ll also be looking forward to your laptop safety tips–last year in Thailand, I got so tired of carrying around my laptop that I started slipping it into the large inside back pocket of my backpack, stuffing the bag full of dirty clothes (making sure to let them overflow over the the top) and just leaving the bag under the bed. A risk, but nothing ever happened.

Jason says:

Hey Liz, do you also find yourself using voltage converters at all? The laptops have converters built in, but other devices may not. Unfortunately, converters are heavy, the smallest weighing 2lbs. I have a USB Hub which allows me to plug in multiple devices into the USB Hub for charging and then plug the HUB into an outlet via a voltage converter. I am thinking of scratching this idea and using the multi-outlet mini power strip you have, but won’t I still need a voltage converter for the power strip?

Gadi Glogowski says:

It seems that all the travelling devices are coming out with dual voltage and enough frequency range that you shouldn’t need a converter. Just make sure that whatever you take is design for everywhere.

Jason says:

This is what we have to plug in: Canon Point & Click battery charger, Canon SLR batter charger and Canon Camcorder battery charger. I will have to read up on the battery chargers and their voltage. Do you think we will need a converter for these?

Gadi Glogowski says:

I really doubt you will need a converter but it is easy to check. Grab the charger and if it days something like 110-220V 50-60Hz it will be fine. You will need a plug adapter but those are cheap and very light. If you are taking that many devices I would recommend but it is up to you to take more than one plug adapter so that you don’t have to wait for the battery to charge to start charging the next one.

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