How can I back up photos while travelling?
November 22, 2008 2:49 PM   Subscribe

How can I back up my digital photos while travelling without a laptop?

I'm going on a three-week vacation to Mexico and not planning to take along my laptop. I only have a couple of Compact Flash cards for my camera (older Canon Powershot A95), and I'm leery about getting mugged and losing all of my photos.

Is there a gadget that would download my photos from the Compact Flash cards to a small, portable drive, without having the laptop as a go-between? I'm thinking of something similar to a keychain flash drive that I could leave in a hotel safe while I'm out on day trips, so that in the event of robbery, I have back-ups of my pictures.

I'm leaving fairly soon, so something that can be bought at FutureShop/Staples/Best Buy/etc would be preferable.

posted by lindsey.nicole to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Flash cards are pretty much dirt cheap now -- why can't you just buy some more and leave THOSE in the hotel safe?
posted by proj at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2008

I believe this does what you're looking for.
posted by sharkfu at 3:15 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have an ipod, one of these connectors will back you camera up to your ipod directly if the camera is compatible.
posted by merocet at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2008

If you get mugged they are going to go for the camera so as long as you keep the flash cards separate they should be fine. Put a new one each day and you'll only be risking one day of photos along with your life.

And totally off topic, but if you are worried enough about getting mugged that you posed this question do you really want to spend your vacation there?
posted by COD at 3:30 PM on November 22, 2008

You could simply buy several CompactFlash cards and leave all but one in your hotel room. My camera can fit several hundred photos on a 1GB CompactFlash card I payed about $10 for.

There's a standard called 'USB On The Go' (USB OTG) which allows for usb devices that can connect to one another - such as a usb hard drive downloading photos from a usb camera. Perhaps the best known example of this was the iPod Photo*; other products also exist.

Buying several CompactFlash cards is probably the easiest option, if you want to buy over the counter. You'd be lucky to find a high street retailer stocking a hard drive with USB OTG.

*I don't know if the Apple iPod Camera Connector works iPods other than the iPod Photo.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:31 PM on November 22, 2008

And totally off topic, but if you are worried enough about getting mugged that you posed this question do you really want to spend your vacation there?

People who do extreme sports spend their vacations exposing themselves to avoidable risk. Maybe lindsey.nicole is into Extreme Tourism.

Seriously, though, I think areas popular with tourists are usually pretty well policed for obvious economic reasons.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:37 PM on November 22, 2008

Good fast cards are really cheap now.

If I were in your shoes I wouldn't even consider doing anything but buying enough cards to get me through the trip.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:24 PM on November 22, 2008

And totally off topic, but if you are worried enough about getting mugged that you posed this question do you really want to spend your vacation there?

This is a bit of a silly question - I've done a fair bit of travel in places where I knew robbery was a risk (and I did indeed get robbed a few times) but I still really wanted to travel there and had a great time. There's a big difference between spending a vacation in fear and taking sensible measures to reduce risk.

FWIW, in heavily-touristed places like much of Mexico, pickpocketing is a lot more of a risk than mugging.
posted by lunasol at 4:44 PM on November 22, 2008

I have a Wolverine portable hard drive with a built-in card reader and I love it.
posted by DandyRandy at 5:10 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Check out Flickr. You can e-mail or upload your pics. They offer a limited number of free uploads per month but pro accounts are unlimited and very reasonably priced when you consider the security of having a backup that can't be stolen or lost.
posted by If You Ain't Dutch, You Ain't Much at 5:44 PM on November 22, 2008

You can get something like an Epson p2000, p4000 or something along those lines. It's a little expensive, but not heavy and does exactly what you need.
posted by EastCoastBias at 8:24 PM on November 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the answers. The Compact Flash cards I saw advertised online at a couple of local stores started at $40 and up, but I'll see if I can find some cheaper ones and probably go that route. Otherwise I'll try for the iPod reader or the Wolverine or Epson, though I might be too late to find any of these in time for the trip.

To clarify, I'll be spending a week in a tourist-heavy area (no worries there), and a couple of weeks backpacking around slightly less touristy regions, relying on public buses and staying in budget hotels. Not extreme tourism by any means, but mugging (or pickpocketing, since I'm probably being melodramatic) is a possibility, though not nearly possible enough to make me cancel what I expect will be a great trip. I'm not afraid for my safety - I just want to hang onto those photos.

Also - Dutch, I do have a Flickr account, and have used it on previous trips. My concern is not being able to find public computers that will be able to read photos from my camera, since the laptop is staying at home.
posted by lindsey.nicole at 10:23 PM on November 22, 2008

I also have a wolverine portable hard drive and used it for this exact purpose while traveling in Peru. It worked great and I minimized space by putting some music files onto the wolverine drive and leaving my ipod at home. The interface isn't nearly as good as an ipod for music listening purposes, but it backed up my compact flash cards flawlessly and made me feel a lot safer.
posted by nerdcore at 12:40 AM on November 23, 2008

This has been great! I am planning on going to Africa and had only considered the iPod option. So this discussion created some more options for me to explore.

Re: the Flickr suggestion, I have two thoughts on this suggestion. As I am concerned about the integrity of the photo, I would not use Flickr because they modify the photo and want to retain the full RAW/JPG file format, not a derivative. In my case, the Internet won't be an option.
posted by fluffycreature at 6:55 AM on November 23, 2008

As someone who has had his backup hard drive stolen from a room (with no hotel safe), I highly recommend burning photos to dvd and mailing them home. I was certainly quite happy I had the extra backup when the hard drive vanished.

If you can write-protect your memory card before putting it in a computer, I'll recommend that too.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:24 AM on November 23, 2008

FLICKR IS NOT BACKUP. They will shrink your photo down substantially. This is not a solution to your problems at all.

I hitchhiked through Canada for 3 weeks with my 5d and a bunch of cards. I just was really careful to keep it on my person at all times. Sort of how it worked was, car pulls up, I threw my pack in the back, removed my violin (yes, 5d and violin). Camera bag was on my shoulder at all times. Get in the car, make sure i have the bag in my hand, pull the door closed. Always had my hand on the bag but also tried to make it non-challant.

Don't tell people you have a camera. If you have a small point and shoot and keep it on you, I'm guessing you are going to have no problem. But think about whether you really want to make this a travelling headache. I'm a photographer and was there to take pictures, so it would be a sort of catastrophe if I lost my camera, but it definitely added to my stress.
posted by sully75 at 11:30 AM on November 23, 2008

Microcenter is a great place to get memory cards. I haven't bought from newwgg but people at work have been able to find good deals there on memory. Have fun. I was in Mexico this spring and had a great time.
posted by Climber at 11:35 AM on November 23, 2008

FLICKR IS NOT BACKUP. They will shrink your photo down substantially. This is not a solution to your problems at all.

I'm feeling pedantic. If you have a pro account, you can upload originals. In fact, you might be able to upload originals no matter what, I think you just need a pro account to see photos at the original size if it's huge. Of course, if you're shooting RAW (which the OP is certainly not) then it's no solution, but it's fine for JPEGs.
posted by Magnakai at 5:17 PM on November 23, 2008

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