Hello Board colleagues,

Welcome to our newest Message Board Forum. Perhaps a few words explaining how it came to be are in order:

As many of you know, I’m a very weight-conscious backpacker. For years our Maggie ( who describes herself as our “web-wrangler”) has been after me to take photos whilst on my testing Rambles. While it’s true that cameras have been coming down in weight, they still weigh several ounces—more than I’ve been willing to carry. There’s always an extra doo-dad I can test for that same weight. 

I do, however, tote a cell phone. In most of the locations where I conduct regular testing rambles ( I tend to habituate many of the same places on tests—so that I can evaluate at given intervals the suspension system of brand X pack, say, or one of my own under development, with a memory of what other packs have felt like at the same point along the way) I’ve found sweet spots for cell phone use somewhere in the vicinity…usually involving a climb to the sweet spot. I can phone the Shop and have Janice make changes in the design, having them ready for me upon my return…so that I can head out again quickly. Very efficient; I have come to thoroughly appreciate the usefulness of these tools in my line of work. So. A cell phone earns its carry weight. Cameras, still or video (even worse for weight!), just haven’t made the packlist. 

Those nutty cell phone designers at Nokia have come to the rescue. The brand new N-95 unit is a marvel of multifunction (always guaranteed to get my attention!). Let me see if I can list what this little instrument will do: cell phone, 5 megapixal still camera, using a Carl Zeiss lens (!!); unlimited video recording with the same lens, to include sound; wi-fi connectivity (there’s also a little four ounce keypad available); MP3 player; movie play capability (of course you can download books and other audio stuff into it too); hmmm…oh yes, GPS too (although so far this feature has proved inadequate compared to my beloved Foretrex 101). I’ll stop there. You get the idea. Weight: 4 ounces (!!!!!). I bought one when it came out, pronto. Took delivery in June. And promptly headed off for the first in a series of travels that comprised five trips in about six weeks. What a flurry of gearing up, down and sideways between these outings! Average back-at-home interval between launches was about two days. I figured out how to use my N-95 on the fly…and confess haltingly, by trial and error; no time to really study the manual—which I didn’t even take on the backpack outings…too heavy! 

So. I’m back in the Shop. I have images—both still and video—from all these jaunts. There was no time to get them up here on the Board between journeys. Maggie and I discussed what to do with these images. They amount to the first ever ‘brought back alive” from your’s truly. Maggie thinks y’all might be interested in viewing ‘em. But, where to put them on the Board? All of them at once? Etc. 

Hence the idea of this Blog format. Now that I have no excuse about weight I reckon Maggie will start to get her images from my rambles. Not just pretty pictures, but also some “how to” stuff, like feeding one of our stoves most efficiently, for example. Not only can I do that now, I can do it in video! I’ve even made a little tripod for such purposes. The upshot is that you can anticipate such information, “Tips” if you will, here on the Blog. And so forth. I can’t say where this will lead. Perhaps I’ll do a little old-fashioned “ruminating”. Who knows? This is a try-out format for us. I suppose I may even be induced someday to send communiqués “from the field”. 

On the heels of that Introduction, let’s see what we can do with presenting The Five Trips. We’ll split them up into five Threads, for the benefit of you fellows on dial-up connections.

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