User:Elbie/Gear

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[edit] Bike

I ride a Bridgestone CB-2, a hand-me-down from my mother. It has a 43cm (17 inch) frame; it's small and wonderfully manoeverable. I love this bike. It has been able to carry any load I've given it, from my weekly groceries, to full camping and kayaking gear, without any problems. Most bikes will start to degrade at the chain and derailleurs under the conditions I've put it through -- mine won't show those sign of wear and tear.

When I got the bike, I had no idea that the Bridgestones have a cult following among bike mechanics (first time I brought in to the UBC Bike Co-op I was greeted with an "Oh my god, is that CB-1?!! No, a CB-2? AMAZING!!!") And indeed, I initially had no idea why it had a following: I was fixated on how heavy its steel frame is, which gave me quite the hard time on the hills. The frame has the best qualities of a steel one: very strong, and durable.

The bike is amazingly low-maintenance for the way I use it, and its wheels are robust and can take me on most surfaces (beach is the only limitation I've found). I use this bike a lot, for going around town, or weekend tours around the Island. It's a very versatile bike, great for touring and daytripping.

The bike was 250$ when Mom got it new; you can find CB-1 and CB-2 models on Craigslist for under 100$ now. These are wonderful deals -- you're not gonna find any other bike as rugged, as robust, or as great for touring at such a low price.

[edit] Camera

After my parents' old Sony Cybershot DSC-S650 began viewing the world with a tint of purple, and without focus, I decided it was time for a new camera.

[edit] Ordinary point-and-shoot

I wound up buying a Nikon Coolpix S220, a slim, elegant-looking point-and-shoot for nearly 200$ at London Drugs (including tax). It's a fine camera, the picture quality is sound, and it's a light and transportable camera. However, it's also a fragile one -- thus rather unsuitable for Vancouver geohashing. It's mildly weather-proof (read: survived being in a raincoat pocket that filled with rainwater), but certainly not water-proof (read: did not survive brief immersion in the Pacific Ocean), heat-proof, freeze-proof, shock-proof, or geohasher-proof in any way.

[edit] Waterproof point-and-shoots

So, with my Nikon having become a casualty of geohashing, I set off to find a camera that wouldn't. There's a fairly large amount of waterproof cameras out there; Olympus is the major producer of them. However, I found the Olympus cameras were also the crappiest. After days of comparing cameras at the electronics stores in town, and on the internet, two options emerged:

Both cameras are waterproof, shock-proof, and freeze-proof. However, the Pentax is known to survive deeper waters, and colder temperatures. The Pentax also seems to get leaks less often the Canon. I'm guessing this is largely since the Pentax was built from the bottom-up to be waterproof; the Canon, however, is a Canon PowerShot that got a waterproofing make-over.

The Canon has a normal optical zoom lens, and to accommodate it, it has a really bulky bulge at the lens area. It makes the Canon really hard to fit into a normal pocket, let alone a PFD or pelican case. By contrast, the Pentax has a folding lens, so no bulge is needed -- the camera has a nice, compact rectangular box shape.

The Canon has a better picture quality than the Pentax overall -- however, the Pentax has a wider-angle and better close-ups, as well as better landscape and panorama options. The Pentax's picture quality indoors is pretty crappy (not quite as bad as a cameraphone, but not by much), but it does a lovely job outside. Fact is, waterproof cameras are not built for picture quality -- the Canon is noticeably better here, but it's still not as good as my old Nikon Coolpix.

Another problem about waterproof cameras is battery life -- they suck it pretty fast. You will need a spare battery. The Canon's battery is 20$ more expensive than the Pentax's, so be sure to factor that into any price comparisons. While both cameras often go on sale, the batteries don't. When I was shopping for the cameras, the Canon was going for 349$ at Future Shop and Best Buy (on sale, not including tax), and the Pentax for 359$ at London Drugs (also on sale, not including tax.)

One major complaint I had with the Canon was its UI. I had a really hard time figuring out how to change settings, use the menus, and figure out the buttons. I tend to have an easy time with this; this UI was exceptionally badly designed. I had no problems with the Pentax.

I opted for the Pentax and have been pretty happy with it. If you're looking for a camera to survive anything a Vancouver geohash would throw at it, this is your best bet under 500$.

[edit] GPS

Cheapest GPS I could find when I was looking was the Garmin eTrex Legend for 120$ at MEC. Looks like the price has gone up, though.

I've had no real complaints about the GPS -- it gets bad reception in forests, but I doubt any others in that price range would do better.

[edit] Kayak and gear

Terrified of the idea of me on open water in a Canadian Tire boat, my parents got me an Innova Safari inflatable kayak from MEC's gear-swap leftovers (600$). It comes in a giant dry-bag backpack, which is extremely convenient for transporting it, and useful for cargo-carrying while out on the kayak. Indeed, I can set out on foot with the kayak, and pack all my gear into the bag, and set off without leaving anything ashore.

The kayak is heavier (19 kg when totally dry) than the Sevylors that are favoured by my fellow Vancouverites (14 kg). For a lightweight person like myself, it does make a difference, even if it is a more convenient kayak to carry.

It's an open kayak, which as somebody who prefers canoes to kayaks, suits me fine. I've had no problems with punctures or leaks.

Gear-wise, I got an MEC Explore Paddle. It's a four-piece paddle that is easily packed into a bike trailer.

As a note on gear -- unlike at Canadian Tire, at MEC I got a lecture on Transport Canada regulations for kayaking and safety. Some gear items you need for kayaking are: PFD, a way to bail the kayak, tow rope, a whistle, and a light. Geohashers interested in waterhashes should keep this in mind!

[edit] Snowshoes

I have a pair of MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes that I can't wait to take geohashing. They're wonderfully light and transportable.