Wednesday, May 16, 2012

BAF: Vacations Part I - Orlando

Even though Bad Ass Dad works in a third world tropical country with lots of sun (and lots of rain), he still needs a vacation from time to time. Vacations fall under two categories: those that BAD has to draw up Warning Orders / Operation Orders for, and those that are Fire and Forget. For you non-military BADs, lets put these two types into terms we all can understand: À la carte vs. All-You-Can-Eat. Self-planned (or agency-assisted) vs. All-Inclusives. Both types  have their pros/cons, its just a function of energy, time, funds appropriation, and flexibility.

When throwing BAK(s) into the mix, costs and planning consideration seems to rise exponentially. Gone are the days when BAD and BAM can just fly away to Rome for a few days, or drive from San Francisco down the Big Sur to Los Angeles spending hours upon hours at all the different sites. BAFs must consider all the needs of the BAK(s) during the planning phases for such endeavours now. This is why, for BAD's sanity, he prefers All-Inclusive Vacations (cruises and wholly agency-planned trips, would also fall into this category).

However, this coming travelling season (2012), BAD has planned three small getaways, WDW, T-dot, and Mayan Riviera. Of the three, only the Mayan is AIV - the rest are  À la carte. The first and immediate is the WDW. Added to the complexities of the logistics when within the Orlando area for a week with an infant and a 3.5 year old, is that we are flying domestic US airline meaning checked luggages are now $25 (and no, I'm not a super elite top dog status with United), and a secondary objective to attend a first you might be thinking "Fuck, this is a logistical nightmare." And in fact, you're right, sort of.

After all the major bookings were completed (hotel, flights, vehicle rental, airport parking, WDW tix, travel insurance...), the next biggest task was to pack. Given that we are flying into Orlando with 1.5 hr layovers on either side for 7 nights, 2 x adults, 1 x 2 mnth old infant, 1 x 3.5yr old female, attending a wedding on day 4, we needed to make some considerations...
  • n suitcases
  • x suitcase size
  • boolean stroller
  • n outfits for BAF
  • n diapers
  • boolean backpack
  • boolean camera
  • types of sunscreen and other sundries such as snacks for the layover and games.
  • boolean carseats
Now, when trying to do a cost-benefit-analyses with your sig fig, it is a good idea to have a pot of coffee and know how to make tables and lists in Excel (it's also a good idea to ship your BAKs to the bad ass grandparents for a few hours). We weighted the cost-benefit of the above items, and at the end of it we decided that we would pay for one checked in massive suitcase and then use two carry ons. We would also bring our jogger (BOB revolution), diaper bag, and BAK will be using her Little Life backpack. I also will probably take the 5.11 Tactical Camera Bag which would be dual purpose of holding travel docs and ident as well as tactical camera. Because we have two little kiddies, one that still gets tired from walking intermediate distances, and one that is still an infant, we wanted a little people carrying system that produced a small footprint (not a double stroller), so we opted for taking the BOB with infant carrier attachment, as well as the Ergo (a baby carrier). This would allow us to rotate the kiddies in and out of the BOB when required.

We have decided not to do laundry at our hotel, so we packed about 7.5 outfits, plus a metric tonne of diapers for the wee one. I am of school where "buy what you need when you get there," but BAM takes the advice of other BAM's who say "pack everything you think you need, and then some." She prefers to travel as a self-contained unit with little to no reliance on others. We compromised and packed exactly what we would need, leaving no room for error, and then just supplement by going to the local bodega. Come-on, we're going to Florida, not some 3rd world shit-hole. Even in the Mayan, there's an F'n Costco. For the mother of all packing lists, check out Corinne McDermott has on her blog. It's true, gone are the days of travelling lite.

BAD called United to find out whether the BOB can be sky-checked. They have no policy in place for weight, but they do have one for length/width, and the BOB just scrapes through by an armpit hair (with the wheels off - I'll have to tether them together with bungee or something - or they might be nice and 'say yeah yeah go').

My rule of thumb for packing has always been pack everything in one suitcase, then spread it between carry-ons...this way, you end up with carry-ons that can sustain you for a day or two if your main one did not arrive at the same time you did. In fact, I like what Claire Newells have to say about it carry-ons...

I am in the process of writing up an OPORD to show the level of logistics required. Although, not everybody goes through the same level for formalizing their plans, the same thought processes are involved.

Stay tuned for more....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

BAD: DS Tactical Day

For all you tactical gear whores, DS Tactical is having a tactical day, TODAY.
Go for the food, go for the kit, go for the glory!!! haha.
The sale is also good for online purchases...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

BAD Gear: 5.11 Tactical PUSH Pack as Camera Bag

So, personally I think travelling with a tactical bag screams POPO or ARMY to everybody around you. Not the best thing to do in less than ideal nation states. Unless I am on ops and trg I don't generally use my tactical backpacks... OK, maybe camping, or at certain airports where I know that I will get preferential treatment. But other than that, tactical backpacks are a way to get noticed, no matter how discreet you want to be. Also given the fact that I'm asian, I don't want to be grouped or associated with honger airsofters. Enter the Caveat Emptor.

I have been diggin this 5.11 Tactical PUSH pack for 5 or 6 years now. Sure its brown, sure it has some velcro on it, sure it has some MOLLE, but hell, it is my most used pack. That is because I use it as my camera bag. Although it was purpose-built to be some sort of tactical messenger murse with the ability to conceal a gun, the same benefits cross over as a camera bag. I've seen people pay over 100 bucks for a Lowe pro camera bag. Sure, if you have 15k worth of camera equipment. I don't. I have maybe 2k, maybe 3k of camera equipment at any given time. I picked up this pack from DS Tactical for about $50 cdn leveraging my pro-discount. I like this pack because it strays so far from the ubiquitous notion of the conventional camera bag.

You've all seen it when you're travelling, the douchebag tourists with the big honking camera pack that screams, rape and pillage me for my $15k camera equipment that I set to AUTO. It's black, it's bulky, it's F*CKING ugly. That's why I promote the use of something like what I have. I did look at the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack for my needs, but it was too big for what I intended it to be. I'm not a pro photog, I'm just a Bad Ass Dad with a bottom shelf model camera that uses and abuses things.

The 5.11 official description is this:
  • 1050D Nylon 
  • Large main compartment 
  • Two side expanding pockets 
  • Zippered Back-up-Belt™ System Pocket 
  • Adjustable shoulder strap with removable pad 
  • Aero-foam padding on back 
  • Nametape and flag holders
PUSH, short for Practical Utility Shoulder Hold, is built from rugged 1050D nylon and features a large main compartment with two side-expanding pockets. The side pockets are sized to hold one-liter water bottles. A zippered pocket behind the main compartment has loop-sided Velcro to hold Back-Up-Belt™ System pouches or any other hook sided pouch. An adjustable shoulder strap with removable pad is designed to slip comfortable over your shoulder and is easily adjusted to suit your body type.

The bag also features aero-foam padding on the reverse of the PUSH to ensure comfortable carry. Keep this bag on the front seat of your squad with all of your emergency gear so that you can exit the vehicle during a critical incident with everything you need.
5.11 Tactical Series is continually innovating and improving its products with input from field officers from around the world. The PUSH Pack is another example of our efforts to adjust to your needs by bringing you a new idea gear bags.
 Ok, I'm not using it that way, but it seems OK enough and secure enough to handle my Nikon SLR. I consider the construction to be very durable with 1000+ denier nylon. In the textile world it equates to heavy duty abrasion resistant material.  Its the same density as what armour carrier vests use. It has a main adjustment point for the shoulder strap that enables the pack to sit comfortably anywhere you'd like. I like to hang it off my ass sometimes. It makes me feel like Jack Bauer.

Because it features two side pockets able to hold at least 1 liter bottles, I am able to put a 70-300mm telephoto lens, and in the other, I just put the charger, extra batteries, and a cleaning kit. The main compartment holds the armoured camera body along with a general purpose lens like a 18-200mm. Sometimes I'll just put a 50mm in there. The interior is really smoothly lined, so I'm not worried about scratching. The bottom of the bag also has grommets to allow for spillage to drain.

This bag has pockets and compartments up the ying yang, so I store whatever I think is generally useful on outings. The pocket closest to me, usually holds my passport wallet and travelling documents. While the ancillary pockets hold various bits and pieces like extra SD cards, mem card reader, instruction manual on the camera, optics cheat sheets, bipod etc. Even then, I can still stuff it full of power bars and other such goodies.

A really neat feature is found on the back end or the side that touches you. It has a Velcro cuff that can be used to loop around your belt. This would give added stability while on the move, so it doesn't flop around.

For a multi-day trip where I only anticipate the use of 2 or 3 lenses, and need to be highly mobile and still be slim profile, I really dig this and would recommend it for anybody looking for a "tactical camera bag".


Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.