Like many travel photographers, I often accrue so much data while on location I need to back it up in the event I lose a camera or card. On longer trips, I also like to share my image assets in real-time, requiring modest editing capabilities. In the last few years, I’ve patched together a few tools to help manage those complex logistics all while keeping my devices as small and portable as possible. It’s not a perfect system, but I did my best to use what was available.
Of the tools I consider most useful, my phone tops the list. My little pocket computer packs a bevy of word making and data sharing capabilities with a sharp and vibrant display ideally suited for viewing and editing image files. What it lacks is a card reader and enough storage capacity to backup and manage the thousands of images and large chunks of video files I gather as a trip unfolds. The new Gnarbox fills those gaps and adds an even higher level of utility.
Newly released this year, the Gnarbox has made my portable office more powerful by solving many of the common workflow problems I face in the field. The best way to describe it is to liken it to the parts of a laptop I need—and nothing more. It has a bank of card and cord slots to permit the importing of files directly from cameras and cards with data stored on a 128GB solid-state drive. Everything within, including a 4000mAh lithium battery, is protected by a durable water and shock-resistant case. The Gnarbox is no studio queen, and is made to endure the hard knocks of adventure photography.
At first blush, the Gnarbox appears to be little more than an advanced and durable backup device, but it is just one half of a clever two-part system. When wirelessly paired to a mobile device via WiFi, the Gnarbox app allows users to quickly access images and video clips on the hard drive. From the app, stills and videos can be edited with a comprehensive tool chest of functions for full resolution coloring and clip stitching. I was impressed with the system’s ability to edit 4K and RAW files with near laptop proficiency.
The advanced compression system allows the Gnarbox to quickly process data with no annoying lags or delays in loading images. For the sake of full disclosure, there have been a few times when the data processing has seemed a touch slow, but I have to remind myself how much data is being accessed by a device scarcely larger than a TV remote. I have other portable drives only tasked with storing data and they can be abysmally slow sometimes, requiring an hour or more just to import a full image card. By comparison, the Gnarbox, powered by a quad-core CPU, 8-core GPU, with 4GB of RAM, and 300Mb/s WiFi speed is pretty swift.
Because most adventure photographers have little time to fuss with file management, the Gnarbox employs a quick and simple system of filing imported images by date and time. Other backup devices often store imported files in folders (if you’re lucky) with unrecognizable file names. With the Gnarbox, I can see at a glance where my files have landed so I can access them quickly.
In the field, I’ve been able to assemble a workflow process to backup my assets on the go, and share them with no need for a laptop or the other tools and accessories it requires. I can land my drone, pop the card in the Gnarbox, clear it, and be back up and flying in minutes. The app even permits the ability to grab stills from video frames, which I find particularly useful. After a day of shooting, I often spend my tent-bound evenings reviewing the day’s shots on my high-resolution phone screen to ensure the day was not a bust. Knowing my images are stored safely on a durable and water-resistant, portable drive helps me fall asleep with sound piece of mind.
The Gnarbox is an impressive addition to the digital landscape. If you find yourself far from home shooting images and video you can’t afford to lose and want to share in real time, there’s no better solution. In my quest to find the best products to feature here on Expedition Portal, this easily cracks my top five.