Review: Gregory Z55 Backpack

I picked up this backpack in preparation for a month-long trip backpacking through Europe, since my current backpacks were all some combination of too small, too big, too heavy, or too bulky for my needs. I had been wanting a multi-day, lightweight backpack for some time, and this gave me the perfect excuse to start shopping around. While browsing through REI’s selection, I came across the Z55, and immediately liked it.

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The Art Of Being Lost

If there was one thing I learned going on family excursions growing up, it was how to be lost. Hiking in the woods, driving in an unfamiliar town, you name it, we could get properly lost in it. But this was not because we had a poor sense of direction or poor map reading skills, quite the opposite; we simply took a “big picture” approach to directions, which at times would roughly encompass half a national forest into simply, “over there”. And we always found our way, because really, we knew where we were headed. We just couldn’t tell you with reliable accuracy where we were at the moment.

As I’ve expanded my travels on my own, this foundation has served me very, very well, particularly in places where there was very little chance anyone spoke English. Some of my best experiences traveling have actually been in the process of trying to figure out where I was and what to do about it. The real key is all in not just preparing to be, but expecting to be lost.

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The Tangle

The Tangle

I love gadgets as much as anyone. So much so that I can honestly say I love cell phones these days for everything but the actual phone feature. And the fact that electronic devices are getting smaller and smaller means it’s getting increasingly easy to take all my gadgets with me wherever I go and never have to go through withdrawl from my music, email, photo taking, movies, etc.

Only problem: while the devices have shrunk, the cables stay the same size, and it’s coming to the point that the mass of cables can easily be larger than the portable electronics themselves. Because of this, and my obsession with pushing the envelope of packing light, I’ve had to re-think my approach to powering and connecting all my gadgets.

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Right Is Wrong: Driving on the other side of the road

As international destinations go, England or Australia aren’t a huge stretch for those of us from the US. We speak the language, the food contains about the same percentage of deep fried things, and you can still find The Simpsons on TV at least once a week. The one big stumbling block that doesn’t really come up until it’s staring you in the face is that in these countries, among many others, driving for an American is the equivalent of a psychological experiment.

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Being A Computer Hobo

Being A Computer Hobo

Despite being a tech geek with a daily internet habit, I actually hate traveling with a laptop. While not the backpack-dominating bricks they used to be, they’re still a significant size and weight in your bag killing your posture. Additionally, laptops are a single point of failure: if it dies or gets stolen, you’re dead in the water, not to mention when your laptop walks away, who knows who now has your data.

So even if I’m still lugging my laptop around with me, I have focused as much as possible on “off-shoring” my computing, giving me the same access to my usual tools and data from pretty much any computer with an internet connection. By using install-free web tools, I’m left free to ditch the laptop if I so choose and become a computer hobo, living on the move off borrowed resources; all the freedom, none of the smell.

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The Local: Oregon, US

Beer, it loves you too

Traditionally, the neighborhood pub has been a place to gather to socialize, have a pint after work, and maybe get some dinner. The nearest pub therefore is simply referred to as “The Local”. In this series, I’ll be giving a review of my favorite “locals” by region and my favorite brews to have there.

The US Pacific Northwest is generally known these days for three things: trees, rain, and microbrews. And in Oregon, you can pretty much drink a different microbrew each day and go for over a month before you start having to drink commercial labels.

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I’ve Always Wanted To Try That: Scuba Diving

I've Always Wanted To Try That: Scuba Diving

Whether you’ve been snorkeling in tropical waters or just watch a lot of “Shark Week” on Discovery, odds are you’ve pondered getting SCUBA certified at some point. The ability to immerse yourself, literally and figuratively, in such an alien environment right at your doorstep is very enticing. Rarely do you get a chance above water to be so intimately surrounded by such a brilliant variety of active plant and animal life that you can examine up close and personal. And these days, with most every holiday destination near water offering trial dives and certification courses, it’s remarkably easy to start diving.

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