I love my Mares fins!

I won the Mares Summer Selfie contest for July! While it’s not my first time to win an online contest (I’ve won a few of them by blogging), this was my first time to win one via Facebook Likes. Winning this contest was particularly fantastic because the prize was a pair of Mares fins of my choice <3

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And this is the photo that won me the contest:

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I don’t look particularly nice in this photo – in fact, I look pretty ridiculous with my chipmunk cheeks – but hey, I was willing to sacrifice a bit of my dignity for the chance to win a new pair of fins πŸ˜› After consulting with friends and gear reviews, I settled on the Mares Avanti Quattro+ in white. They go very nicely with my blue Avanti Tre fins πŸ˜€

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So how do they handle? I got to test them out during my most recent fieldwork in Tawi-tawi. Power-wise, the Avanti Quattro+ give a good kick. I used them while going against strong currents and managed to cover over 100 meters in relatively good time while carrying a huge tetrapod. Extra force was needed but the fins got the job done so I’m counting it as a win.

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Maneuverability is also pretty good. I had no problems with the tight turns I needed to make while doing fish visual census. For aesthetics, the fins come in black, white, blue, green, and red. I got the white ones because 1) they look so clean and pretty, and 2) they’re easy to spot underwater. Mares says that the red fins stay red even at depth so you can get that too.

Thanks again to Mares for holding the contest! (Underwater photos were taken by Denmark Recamara)

What’s in my summer bag

It’s summer! Summer! My favorite time of the year! A time to dream of the beach, get to the beach, swim in the ocean, and everything else that comes after πŸ˜€ As a proud veteran of 6+ years of island living, I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the art of packing for the beach πŸ™‚ So here goes: what’s in my (waterproof) gear bag for Summer 2014!

Clockwise from top left:

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Dry Pak waterproof pouch – essential for all electronics. The pouch is padded so it floats when dropped in the water (awesome!). The yellow sealing clip makes it easy to spot too. Comes with a lanyard and a carabiner. You can still use your phone through the pouch (only a very slight muffling of the sound) though using a touchscreen takes some practice. Good thing I use a Blackberry Q10 then πŸ˜›

Aquazorb travel towel – superior water-absorbing capabilities at the fraction of the weight of a regular terrycloth towel

Panasonic Lumix TS4 camera – 12 megapixels, waterproof up to 12 meters, shockproof up to 5 feet, and dustproof. Easy to use too. The default “Underwater” white balance setting is excellent in shallow water though it does lose something as you go deeper. But since I use this mainly for beach and snorkeling photos versus a Canon S95 with Ikelite underwater housing for diving photos, it’s all good. This camera has seen action in Orlando, El Nido, Leyte, and La Union. And remember the #1 rule of traveling: take only pictures! πŸ˜€

VMV Hypoallergenics Armada Sport 70 sunblock – the best sunscreen you’ll ever use. Excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays, easy to apply, absorbs easily into the skin, no greasy feeling afterwards, and no smell so you can also apply it to your face. I’ve used this for the past 5 years and have no regrets.

VMV Hypoallergenics Essence Skin-Saving Milk Conditioner – something for after the beach. I have sensitive skin so I can’t use just any shampoo or conditioner since whatever I apply to my hair will eventually end up on my face as it washes off when I shower. I love this conditioner because it makes my hair all smooth and shiny and doesn’t cause my face to break out.

O’Neill Superkini – my favorite bikini ever. I have this one plus another Superkini in teal. It’s made of Nanofront fabric that develops 200% more grip between the suit and your skin when wet. Read my full review.

Rusty boardshorts – top tip: shop for boardshorts in SM’s Surplus Shop. They stock brands like Roxy, Volcom, O’Neill, and Rusty but selling at much lower prices compared to other retailers.

Not included in the photo are my Fluidsurf rashguards (Filipino brand, great quality, good price compared to rashguards from Billabong and Roxy) and Flopeds filpflops (the best flipflops ever IMHO).

I brought all the gear described to San Juan, La Union last April and they worked perfectly. I’ll also be bringing the same gear to El Nido and Sagay, Negros Oriental in June when I help MSI in the training of DENR personnel. Yay for thorough field testing πŸ˜€

Review: the OverBoard waterproof carbon messenger bag

It’s funny: after six years on the island, it only occurred to me a few months ago that I needed a waterproof laptop bag. Sure, I already had a dry tube bag for my wallet, phone, and other small stuff, but I lugged my precious laptop around in a regular nylon messenger bag. When it rained or the waves got rough, I either put a towel over the bag or stored it inside our huge dry bags meant for luggage. I finally got my precious waterproof laptop bag last September and promptly loved it. Meet the OverBoard Waterproof Carbon Messenger Bag!

Β 01 overboard messenger bag exterior

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What’s in your bag?

The airline only allows you one purse in addition to one piece of handcarried luggage. This purse has to contain everything that will help you survive the next hours in transit to your destination. The ultimate question: what do you pack? My handbag breaks down like so:

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1 – Denman classic hairbrush with a rubber head (so no static electricity) and compact handle

2 – notepad for the writing ideas that suddenly come to you while in transit. I also used this to take notes from the inflight magazine.

3 – digital camera (only the case is shown because I used it to take this photo. LOL)

4 – mobile phone

5 – iPod nano (still in the case) for all my music needs

6 – ballpoint pen

7 – hoodie (we were flying Cebu Pacific so no comfy extras like blankets and such)

8 – tissues

9 – Kindle (gawd I love it so much. I finished a book while I was in Singapore.)

10 – face towel

11 – Pacsafe Toursafe handbag (on its 2nd trip overseas!)

Not shown are the travel wallet and passport that are in the outside pocket of my handbag.

What’s in your bag?

The summer essentials: Amazon Kindle

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I got my Kindle 3 (Wi-Fi only) last December as a Christmas gift from my parents and it hasn’t left my side since. I love it. I LOVE it. I LOVE IT! πŸ˜€

Holding the Kindle

The Kindle 3 fits comfortably in my hand, with my right hand’s thumb resting exactly on the “next page” button. Yes, it is possible to curl up and read with a Kindle! πŸ˜›

The reading experience

The reading experience is just superb. With the E-Ink screen, it really feels like you’re reading off of a paper book. No eyestrain here! The “page refresh” feature (what happens when you load the next page) was almost seamless, though repeated use – when I was viewing a website, for example – made my head hurt.

Organizing your books

This is probably the most time-consuming and annoying part of owning a Kindle. To organize your books into “collections” (basically subfolders), you have to manually choose each book that you want to include in the collection. Since you have to use the 4-way button and the Kindle’s refresh rate is good but not blazing fast, the process gets really tedious, really fast. Here’s hoping that Amazon comes up with program that will let you organize books while the Kindle is connected to your computer.

Reading PDFs

If you’re getting a Kindle primarily to use as a PDF reader, consider getting the larger Kindle DX instead. Since you’re going to see the PDF’s pages exactly how they’re formatted, you either 1) have to fit the entire page onto the 6 ” reading area (tolerable if the PDF’s type is large to begin with), or 2) refresh the page every so often.

Web browsing

I wasn’t expecting a lot so I was pleasantly surprised to find the Kindle’s web browsing feature to be halfway decent. I managed to check my email and browse Facebook without getting annoyed at the wait time. This feature is best-used for text-heavy sites. I can browse for and read fanfic on my Kindle! *happy dance*

Product review: a camera bag that doesn’t scream “CAMERA BAG!”

When I bought my first (and so far, only) digital SLR, the bundle offered included a fully-padded and compartmentalized backpack that could carry the body with a 70-200mm lens attached, at least four other lenses, a flash unit, and all the other accessories you could think of. Besides being too huge for someone who’s just starting out, it none-too-subtly had the camera’s brand emblazoned all over the bag. Not really something you’d want to use if you want to keep a low profile. The solution? A Crumpler “5 Million Dollar Home” camera bag.

crumpler 5 million dollar home exterior

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