The Vanguard Havana 48 Photo Backpack Review


"Time for a New Bag and Triple Cam Trippin'" - TDS Photo Podcast

Daily Post

5 Roadside Motel Hacks for Photographers

Backroad explorers often find themselves in quaint, but aging motels. My motto is, "If it's clean, comfortable, and affordable, I'm fine." That being said, adding a little photographer ingenuity can help make your stay more pleasurable. Here are five of my favorites.

Fresh Water Meltdown

Tepid motel tap water can discourage even the thirstiest traveler from staying hydrated. Sooth that parched throat by hitting the ice machine right away and filling up your bucket.


Those clear ice cubes will meltdown into delicious purified drinking water that you can fill your water bottle with and enjoy. I typically go through a bucket a day when I'm on the road.

Tripod Window Stop

Generally speaking, the doors are secure at just about every establishment. But I can't always say the same about flimsy aluminum-framed windows with wobbly locks.


Use your tripod (or better yet monopod) as a window stop to help secure your room. Adjust the leg to the proper length then tighten the locks for added window security. If you like fresh air while you sleep, readjust the leg to allow for a 6" opening in the window.

If someone were foolish enough to attempt to further open your window from the outside, they would be met with the resistance of your tripod leg. It ain't gonna happen, and if they persisted, it would awaken the deepest of sleepers.

Ironing Board Workbench

I don't iron many shirts when I'm exploring the backroads, but that folding ironing board makes a great workbench in my room. It's a nice height for working while standing, it's padded to protect your camera gear, and it folds away neatly when you're not using it.

Some ironing boards even have adjustable heights so you can use it as a deluxe TV tray for enjoying a meal while watching the evening news. Just remember to put a towel over the top first to serve as a makeshift placemat.

Sipping in Style

I'm not a huge fan of sipping my favorite whiskey from a motel paper cup. So I pack two inexpensive glasses in a cardboard cylinder (I think mine once contained Almond Roca) and add a bit of civilization to the evening cocktail hour.


The cardboard cylinder is padded with paper towels (which also seem to come in handy) and both glasses fit snugly inside. They also bring a bit of elegance to sipping chilled fresh water from the ice cube bucket.

I also pack my own durable coffee cup. Drinking coffee from a paper cup isn't nearly as bad as whiskey, but my morning brew somehow tastes just a bit better from my travel mug.

Encrypted Room Number

When you first get your room keycard, it's handy to have that paper sleeve with the number on it. But once you're set up in the room, leave the sleeve behind.

I recommend taking a picture with your smartphone camera of the room number (just in case you have a rocking wild night). That way, your motel and room number remain private.

Plus, if you do accidentally lose your keycard, whoever finds it won't have a map leading back to your hotel and room.

Final Thoughts

With a little bit of preparation, we can make ourselves comfortable just about anywhere. I hope these motel hacks enhance your next overnight adventure.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This is The Digital Story Podcast #705, Sept. 17, 2019. Today's theme is "Time for a New Bag and Triple Cam Trippin'." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

Sometimes you open up the closet, peruse your options, and mumble to yourself, "I just don't have anything to wear." In this case, I'm talking about camera bags. I have all of these great adventures lined up, and none of my existing carrying solutions feel right. So I did something about it. Also this week, I take a peek at the new triple camera trend in smartphones. Maybe we don't need a bag after all? Today, on the TDS Photography Podcast.

Time for a New Bag

Nobody wants to explore the magnificent Redwoods with a suitcase in hand. Now, I wasn't planning on doing that, but my existing urban gear just didn't feel appropriate, and my current backpacks look like they have thousands of dollars of gear inside.

I wanted something that was more like the Big Lebowski and less like Wall Street goes to the forest. So I made a checklist of features that I wanted, starting with "casual vibe," and began nosing around on the Internet. When I found the Vanguard Havana 48 ($103), my first impression was that I had hit pay dirt.

But how would the pack hold up during testing? Was it all looks and no brains? Here are the features that are important to me:

  • Lots of room to serve as my Point-A to Point-B gear bag. (This is the bag that goes from the house to the hotel, with everything in it. I can then switch to a smaller bag for the field once I'm there.)
  • Looks more like a regular backpack than a photo bag. (I have a couple nice backpacks already, but they scream: "Lots of expensive equipment in here!")
  • Removable inserts allow me to convert it to a regular backpack. (Versatility is important. Maybe needs a change-up for a particular outing, and lunch and clothing are required instead of gear.)
  • Comfortable harness system so I can wear it for extended periods of time if necessary. (You never know when suddenly you have to hoof it for a distance.)
  • Plus it has to have:

  • Rain cover
  • Trolly sleeve
  • Fast laptop access
  • Easy iPad access
  • Dual water bottle pockets
  • Affordable

The bottom line. I like the Vanguard Havana 48. I really do feel like the dude with just a regular backpack. It does a good job of helping me organize my gear. And the extra room is really handy. I have a feeling that I will be using the Havana 48 for some time to come.

If you want to learn more about it, and see my pictures of the backpack, check out my review on The Digital Story.

Thoughts on the New Triple Camera iPhone


Last week Apple announced the iPhone 11 Pro with a triple camera setup. This is part of a trend that we are seeing by other manufacturers as well. What exactly is the triple camera?

It is exactly what it sounds like - 3 separate cameras integrated into one device. The cameras themselves are interesting.

  • The Ultra Wide - 13mm focal length with an f/2.4 aperture. It features a 5-element lens with a 120 degree field of view and a 12MP sensor.
  • The Wide Camera - Most of us are already familiar with this 26mm focal length with a f/1.8 aperture. This is the workhorse camera on top tier smartphones. Apple's has a 6-element lens with optical stabilization and a 12MP sensor.
  • The Telephoto Camera - This is a bit of a misnomer in that it's a 52mm lens at f/2.0. (My iPhone X is f/2.4.) It also has optical stabilization and a 12MP sensor.

The iPhone 11 Pro provides a 4X optical zoom range. This is different, and better, than digital zoom which is based on electronics and not actual lenses.

You start adding other features, such as Night Mode, Portrait Mode, Smart HDR, and you can see why many people consider Apple a camera company as well as computers and tablets. They've also brightened the flash by 36 percent, which is think is very important. And the display is improved as well.

Humboldt Redwoods Workshop This Week

I'm thrilled that our Humboldt Redwoods Workshop is finally here. There's a little rain in Northern CA right now, which is going to make the redwoods this wonderful, mystical, fragrant environment for our photography.

I'm working on next year's workshop schedule, and I'll be announcing the line up in October. Stay tuned for more information.

Updates and Such

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts!

Podcasting Skills Course - The first two course dates are scheduled for October 12 and November 9, 2019. Registration is open now at www.thenimblephotographer.com. Click on the Workshops tab.

B&H and Amazon tiles on www.thedigitalstory. If you click on them first, you're helping to support this podcast. And speaking of supporting this show, and big thanks to our Patreon Inner Circle members:

And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper - Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

The Nimbleosity Report

Do you want to keep up with the best content from The Digital Story and The Nimble Photographer? Sign up for The Nimbleosity Report, and receive highlights twice-a-month in a single page newsletter. Be a part of our community!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.