Cover Story: On the Road Again

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We like our labs. They are comfy, routine and predictable. Therein lies Its greatest strength, in that we give them everyday scenarios, and its greatness weakness. Since the gadgets don’t get pushed to their limits. Once a year, however, we break out of the deep, dark dungeon that is the Gadgets Magazine lab, and venture out into the open road, in order to give you, our dear readers, the kind of use these devices would face in the hands of a serious road warrior. This year, we took a whole arsenal of devices on onto the asphalt, and into the sun, sand and surf to really get our hands and toys dirty.

Our destination for this Installment of the Roadtrip were the sunny shores of Camayan Beach Resort in Subic. The venue was about150 KM away, which, while not a particularly long drive. Is still quite a trip compared to our daily commutes to and from home. This allowed us to test devices in the car, along with their battery life under constant use, a small camp site, for portability, the beach, for all you looking for quick bask, and for all you water babies in the very ocean. Along the way, we made a few important stops and got to try a bunch of activities, In case there are still some of you there looking for something to do for the next long weekend. We even managed to squeeze in a little fun time in between taking shots, writing and trying out all the activities the venue had to offer. We came back victorious, a little sunburnt, but no worse for the wear, and with a nice story to tell. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Gadgets Magazine Roadtrip.

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The trip started with a quick familiarization with our rides. We had two vehicles: the 2×4 and 4×4 variants of the 2012-2013 Car Awards Group Philippines’ Best Midsize-Crossover, the Hyundai Santa Fe, for the duration of the adventure. It had been decided early on that the boys would be taking the 2×4, with our Associate Editor Ren at the helm, and the girls would be taking the 4×4 with our COO Mika acting as Pilot. We also had a lot of luggage ranging from our personal things to what we determined to be more gadgets than any of us could pay for with a year’s pay. Once everything and everyone was loaded in, we plotted the best way to our destination, and set off.

The city drive was a rather short one, but took us through some of the tighter parts of Northern Metro Manila. We had just started to settle in, queuing our playlists, catching up on sleep and striking up conversation, when we found ourselves out of the tight roads of QC and on the vast expanse of the NLEX. This signaled the start of the long-ish drive, so we let our Santa Fes stretch their legs a little.

The girls wasted no time taking selfies, making the most of the roomy passenger compartments to pose as creatively as possible. Our Junior
Editor, Racine, was tasked to document the whole trip (When she wasn’t sleeping) and she managed to capture some rather interesting footage of the first part of the trip. After about half an hour, we made it to the first  few stops before arriving at our destination, Petron Marilao. We parked the SUVs, gave a little-stretch and made our way to breakfast.

While having our meal we went over the plans for the rest of the trip, and after a few quick photos, and one or two bottles of energy drinks, and several bags of chips from Petron’s convenience store, we were again on our merry way.

Everyone was enjoying the time away from office by catching up on some reading, listening to tunes on one of the many music devices we had, or just napping. All the cameras we brought along received more than an adequate amount of testing, thanks to the beautiful wide, open spaces we were driving through. Since we were driving two vehicles, we were even able to manage a few rolling beauty shots along the long stretches of highway through which we were driving.

Part way through the drive, Ren was having a little trouble staying alert on account of his co-pilot. Artist JP, taking the opportunity to catch a few stray Zs. Fortunately, the Santa Fe’s excellent audio system, coupled a loud, upbeat playlist from the Cherry Mobile Flair made up for the lapse, and both vehicles just kept knocking back the kilometers.

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Road safety begins with the car you are driving. Before going on a road trip, it is best to bring your car to your favorite casa or trusted mechanic just to check if everything is in good running order. Here’s a quick list of things you need to check before setting off on, our adventure.

Tires

  • Tire pressure
  • Tire wear
  • Spare tire

Engine

  • Air filter element
  • Fan belt
  • Power steering belt
  • Alternator belt
  • Air conditioner belt
  • Upper radiator hose
  • Lower radiator hose

Engine Fluids

  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Clutch fluid
  • Gear oil
  • Power steering fluid
  • Radiator coolant
  • Window washer

Battery

  • Battery fluid
  • Battery terminals

Lights

  • Headlights
  • Signal lights
  • Brake lights
  • Hazard lights
  • Fog lights
  • Third brake light
  • Light gauges

Under Chassis

  • Tire rod ends
  • Upper ball joints’
  • Lower ball joints
  • Cross joints
  • Shock absorbers
  • Axle boots

Accessories

  • Wiper blades
  • Hom
  • Basic tools
  • Tire jack
  • Early warning device

Driving is fun, but if you have to get up before the crack of dawn and then get plopped behind the wheel for a four-hour trip, the odds are stacked against you. Lucky for us, we had two Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs, the 2013-2013 Car Awards Group lnc’s Best Midsize crossover as our ride for the trip that made the drive more enjoyable.

The Santa Fe’s powerplant is a highly-efficient 2.2L that had heaps of power on-tap. It’s six-speed automatic transmission had no trouble getting us up to speed, with more to spare as we were overtaking vehicles that were clearly in no hurry to get where they were going. Electronic Stabilization kept the Santa Fe rock-steady even during the tightest turns. It even gave us three steering feedback options for just the right amount of feel while we re on our way out of the Metro, and once we had hit the high speeds of the NLEX. This made the SUV drive like a much smaller car than it actually was.

Among the many conveniences the Santa Fe had to offer (and possibly the one we enjoyed most) was cruise control. Dead-easy to set, accurate and quick to override, the cruise control on the SUV made the seemingly endless stretch of the SCTEX much more bearable. You don’t realize how tiring a gas pedal is until you have had to step on it at about constant pressure for a couple of hours at a time.

The comforts don’t stop there. The Santa Fe had separate rear climate controls to make sure everyone in the car was a happy camper, no matter how hot the summer sun got. This made the trip seem a lot shorter, and kept anyone from feeling a little hot under the collar.

We had the pleasure of using two variants of the Santa Fe. The 2×4 variant came in Titanium Silver, while the 4×4 variant came in Vanilla White .

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While we had it great in the 2×4 variant of the Santa Fe, the girls had an even better time in the 4×4. Mika, while driving, didn’t have to worry about any cumbersome keys. All she needed was the key fob to unlock the car, and once inside, the engine started with the push of a button. Backing up and getting into parking spaces was a breeze with the integrated sensors and rear-view camera and the electric parking brake. The Santa Fe even makes getting into and out of the driver’s seat so much easier by moving the seat backwards once the ignition is killed, giving the driver more room to get settled.

The 4×4 variant also gave the girls a huge, panoramic sunroof to enjoy the sun, even before we hit the beach, and they could blast out tunes with the handy touch screen audio system. Once in the seat, power seats for both driver and front passenger make even the longest drives comfortable.

Although both variants of the Santa Fe are fitted with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability program (ESP) as well as dual front airbags, the girls were equipped with tad more security as the 4×4 variant comes with additional side and curtain airbags. Another interesting nugget featured in the 4×4 variant is how the driver’s seat automatically adjusts when you turn off the engine and open the door. This made it way easier for Mika to step out of the car when we had to stop over.

The drive to Subic and back was a lot more leisurely than we expected. For that, we have our gentle, but mighty road machine, the Hyundai Santa Fe, to thank.

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The rest of the drive went uneventfully. We made another quick stop to top up on diesel, and grab a snack from the convenience store. We then sat patiently as the kilometers ticked by. We were driving at a very leisurely pa~nd just under three hours after our departure, we found ourselves In Sublc.We had a quick bite at Lighthouse, took a few shots of the scenery, and the rest of the way to Camayan Beach Resort.

There, we wasted little time. We grabbed a quick lunch, and immediately started our first activity: a quick afternoon camp. We off-loaded the necessary camping gear and hoofed it to a nice, shady, secluded, part of the beach, just by the forest line. There, we pitched a tent, and populated It with what we at the office thought to be appropriate camping equipment (mobile Wi-Fi, a laptop, music; that sort of thing) and proceeded to rough it as smoothly as possible.

Some of us got a little extra work, others were able to test photo gear, and others took an early nap in the cool shade of the tent. While this wasn’t hardcore camping at the very least, It was a lot of fun, particularly for those of us whose idea of camping is using their laptops unplugged.

Camping. It’s one of the few things one can do to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors, feel small and reconnect with your monkey roots. This is a tech magazine, though, so while all that is a great way be all nature-y, our own experience outdoors was less “Man, Woman, Wild” and a little more “Troop Beverly Hills:’ We didn’t really have much time to pitch camp, we condensed the adventure into the sun-lit hours of the time we were at the venue. One of the things to bare in mind even as you prepare for an adventure that involves camping, is to know your hardware. Unpack it, deploy, repack and redo. You don’t want to be out in the wilderness, possibly in the driving rain, trying to get a tent up before you freeze. All the things we had, from the tent to earth mats and sleeping bags, had all been tested in the past. Even the five minutes it took to raise the tent was already far too long for some members
of the team .

One of the most important things to consider when traveling in general, and camping in particular is the importance of cutting down weight. If you can bring a tool or device that can accomplish more than one task, that’s one device less you have to carry along. This keeps weight and bulk at a minimum, while still making sure you have the important things covered. It is worth noting, however, that important things should have redundancies; the extra weight is worth it. If your important”doubled up” tool or device fails, you’ll still have a working one on which to fall back. Take for example flashlights. A phone will serve as an adequate flashlight for most circumstances, but if your phones gives up the ghost while on the trip, you’ll be down a communication device and a light. Just use your discretion to figure out what things are important enough to keep redundant.

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When camping, climbing or generally challenging yourself in the great outdoors, don’t scrimp on equipment. Sure, there are some great deals out
there, but don’t stake your well-being on less if you can afford more. Sure, a 25 Peso  ox cutter will cut rope, make tinder and slice more or less anything
you need it to, but if you were in a dire situation (which tend to happen when we don’t expect them, otherwise we would have just stayed home), would you rather have a box cutter, or an actual, field-proven knife?

Our camp was to serve as a hub for the shots to be taken in the “beach” a section of the trip, so apart from making sure our devices were charged before
leaving outlets behind, I made sure we had several power packs to charge our hardware. Power packs can be a lifesaver when you’re out. Your phone is more likely to run out of juice than get busted up beyond use. Both dedicated GPS devices and phones with GPS require a lot of power to run, so it’s not a bad idea to have a few hours of extra power handy (though it wouldn’t hurt to bring a map).

There is so much more to cover for even a quick camping trip, so don’t take this as a comprehensive guide, but rather a start to getting things organized. This general strategy has worked well for me over the years, and should prove a short but effective set of guidelines for your own trips.

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THE THREE Ps ON THE BEACH

PACK
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to drag your whole vacation luggage along with you to the shore. While you’re in your car, cottage, or hotel room, plan what you want to take along with you to the beach. Pack your towel, extra clothes, swimming gear, and other belongings in a plastic or straw bag to
keep them in one place, all clean and dry.

Remember to pack some sandals and flip-flops. Nothing beats the feel of the smooth sand on your bare feet, but you never know when you might need
em. We, for instance, pulled out our favorite Crocs footwear to shield our feet from the hot afternoon sand as we walked along the shores of the beach.

If you’re a geek like us, we know you’re definitely going to bring at least two or three gadgets with you to the beach. May they be cameras, smartphones,
or tablets, they are definitely going to run out of battery at some point, especially if you forgot to charge them in the car (like me, unfortunately). It’s a great idea to pack a power bank in your beach bag in case you need that extra juice for your devices. Being the ever-ready gadgeteers that we are, we took the Mili Power Rover with us to the shore, and we were able to extend the life of any device we had that was in danger of battery drainage.

PROTECT
Before you run around the beach in your trunks, watershorts or swimsuits, be sure your skin is protected. Use some sunblock to keep your skin safe from the rays of the scorching summer sun. Whether you’re male or female, it is vital to protect your skin from the harmful effects of too much sun. Ren even put on some skin protection cream from Lab Series to seal his skin from possible
damage.

After making sure that your body is protected, you need to check if the gadgets that you’re taking with you to the shore are safeguarded from the
elements of the beach. When you know you’re going to the shore or near a body of water, it’s best to bring along splash- and sand-proof devices. In our trip, we took the splash-proof Sony Xperia Tablet S so we could take pictures and videos of the horizon and share them instantly via lnstagram
or the Facebook app even when we’re near the water. If you don’t have any weather-sealed gadgets, though, it’d best if you seal your precious devices in
a waterproof case that’ll keep them nice and dry (and functional, too).

PARTY!
Remember why you’re there in the first place: To have a blast! When preparing for a trip to the beach, always remember to bring whatever
you need to have a fun beach party with your friends, colleagues and family. Frisbees, beach balls, plastic shovels and pails: these are all great things to
bring along to have a great time in the sun with your best buds.

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Watersports are the main reason we go to the beach. They are a lot of fun but carry a little bit of risk. Keep the following in mind so you have a worry-free time splashing around with the waves.

Don’t swim alone
You may have the urge to go soul-searching by yourself in the company of marine life. But we’re telling you now that it’s better to have somebody
around. Have a buddy with you so that you have someone watching your back and call help for emergency in case anything bad happens.

Wear proper gear
Make sure that your gear is a proper fit. Check your masks and life vest to see if it’s a snug fit. You wouldn’t want salt water to seep into a poorly fitted mask. Not only would salt water hurt your eyes, but you also wouldn’t be able to see
the fishes!

If you’re a beginner in snorkeling, it’s also best to try out your snorkeling gear in shallow water first. Practice breathing through the snorkel, and make sure that you are comfortable breathing through it.

Don’t touch marine life
Remember that not all sea creatures are as friendly as SpongeBob and Patrick. Some sea creatures might sting, or bite if they sense you are a threat.

Be aware of your surroundings
It is not safe to snorkel in areas with strong current. You risk getting pulled into the sea, or get washed on the shore. Check your surroundings and make
sure you are comfortable with the current. If you decide to swim in shallow water, you should also lookout for harsh rocks, corals, and rough surfaces. It is common for snorkelers to end up with cuts when they don’t survey the area properly, so tread the water carefully .

 

Any adventure at a great location, with wonderful people always ends far too soon. Such was the case for this trip. Even as morning came, and we were all packed for the trip home, none of us wanted to leave. It was a wonderful time out of the office, and even though there was a lot of work, everyone had a really fun time. The work part of the Gadgets Roadtrip was a success, and that was great. The fact that we all had a wonderful experience was just the icing on top. Everyone was tired, but it wets all worth it. As we made our way back to tile office, thoughts already drifted to the next installment of the Roadtrip and the new adventures we had yet to have.