Camping with your Mac - 2010

August is here and that means that it's time for the inevitable - the summer vacation. Here are a few items that can make traveling with your Mac a little more convenient.

August is here and that means that it's time for the inevitable - the summer vacation. If you're like me, you can't go anywhere without your computer and tend to bring it everywhere. In order to do so, you need some accessories to both protect your gear and to help you get where you're going at the same time. Last year I posted a piece about camping with your Mac and this year, I give you the 2010 edition.

People define "camping" many different ways, from driving to a state park with the family and sleeping in a tent (my version) to parking a luxe RV at a posh beachside escape. In my case, bring two small children and my tech requires a certain level of protection.

Normally, I simply slide my MacBook Pro into the sleevecase in my Spire Torq backpack (read my May 2007 review) and I'm done. Camping is different though, especially when you throw children and a small vehicle into the mix. My backpack usually lives behind the passenger seat a) for accessibility and b) because our car is usually packed to the headliner. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that my backpack sits directly under my daughter's car seat. A sleevecase simply doesn't provide enough protection for my MBP when it's a mere few inches away from little feet.

Enter the Pelican HardBack 1090CC ($95) a 15-inch, hard shell notebook case that's watertight, crushproof, and dust proof. Pelican has a pedigree of creating extremely rugged cases for industrial applications and this one is like Fort Knox for you MBP.  The anodized aluminum latch and o-ring seal keep everything dry and an ingenious Gore-Tex membrane vent automatically balances pressure if you change altitude. It also features a molded foam liner and memory foam inserts that prevent my MBP from sliding around. The HardBack is so tough that I'm comfortable with my three-year-old standing on it -- with my notebook inside.

Because I'm a gadget junkie I also bring my iPad just about everywhere -- and I need to protect it from the elements when traveling. For it, I like the Otterbox Commuter case ($65) which provides just enough protect without adding too much heft. It's strong enough to protect my iPad from minor trauma without impinging on any of its ports and buttons. Like other Otterbox cases it consists of a silicone skin overlaid with a hard plastic shell, it even comes with a screen film -- but I never got around to installing it. If you need even more protection or use your iPad in industrial applications, check out their more protective Defender case ($90).

Boy Scouts taught me to be prepared and traveling is no exception. In fact, it's a test. Forgetting a key cable or adapter while traveling can leave you up a river without a proverbial paddle. The issue here is that more tech usually means more cables, adapters, dongles and accessories -- it's inevitable. I used to just toss my various adapters into my bag but this makes it impossible to ensure I've got the right adapter (mini DisplayPort anyone?) when I need it. If this sounds like you, get the Cable Stable DLX from Skooba Design ($40). It's a handy zippered binder with a combination of mesh pockets and an elastic hold-down grid to hold all your gear, it's super-convenient and eliminates the "snake pit" of cables that end up cluttering your gear bag.

CampWhere ($5.99, App Store) is a handy little iPhone app that provides information about every type of public campground imaginable, including national parks, national forests, state parks, state forests, state recreation areas and county and city campgrounds. The CampWhere app allows you to search campsites by automatic geo-location or campsite name. Each campground listing contains contact information, geo coordinates, number of sites, current weather and facility and hook-up information. If you're spontaneous and prefer not to reserve campgrounds in advance CampWhere is an indispensable app.

So there you have it. While it's definitely better to go completely "off the grid" when on vacation and/or camping, it can be hard for many people to do. Hopefully a couple of these items can help make your next camping/travel adventure (with your Mac) a little more convenient.