By Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro, editor of Adventure Journal. See more of Casimiro's gear recommendations in our Ultimate Hiking and Camping Gear Guide >>
This is going to have to be quick: I’m writing this story and saving it to a file located on the ioSafe Rugged Portable 500GB external hard drive ($212.50 for 500GB), which at the moment is parked beneath the right front tire of my 1990 Volkswagen Vanagan Westfalia. When I say beneath, I mean entirely beneath: The right side of the van is currently an inch higher off the ground, thanks to lift from this seemingly bombproof hard drive. But it’s not worrying about the drive that's got me rushed—it’s rated to 2,500 pounds of pressure and the van maybe runs two tons, with only a fraction of that resting on the aluminum case. No, it’s that it’s getting uncomfortable sitting here on the sidewalk trying to type.
Technology is such an integral part of modern life, so little probably needs to be said about the importance of protecting your data. But as a professional photographer traveling to remote locations exposed to the fullness of weather and climate, my need to secure my files and images becomes even more critical. Thus, paranoia rules. On any given shoot, I keep at least three copies of every photo—one on my internal hard drive and one each on external drives. The externals are kept separate from each other during the shoot and usually travel separately coming home.
Over the last several weeks, I have subjected the ioSafe to extensive abuse testing. It’s been dropped from eight feet on the carpet, thrown across the room (again, on carpet), dropped from five feet onto concrete, and run over repeatedly with the van. It has been flushed multiple times in a (clean) toilet and spent the night in the freezer.
All good. My files are still opening and closing serenely. The drive boots instantly when I plug it into my Macbook. And not only are the internals operating according to plan, there’s hardly a scratch on it, just some scrapes where the van ground it into some grit in the gutter.
Most photographers and filmmakers I know use LaCie’s Rugged Hard Disk as their bread-and-butter drive, but in my testing the ioSafe blows away the LaCie in both specs and performance. It’s submersible for three days in ten feet of fresh- or saltwater, can be dropped from up to ten feet, and will survive 24 hours in a dust storm. The rubberized LaCie is built to withstand a 2.2-meter drop...and that’s it. The ioSafe also transfers data via USB 3.0, which is faster than the LaCie’s Firewire 800. At the moment, most computers will only have USB 2.0, so on paper the LaCie gets the edge in transfer speed. But new machines will have the faster protocol, and the ioSafe also never heats up during operation, not even during intensive data transfer, while the LaCie becomes hot to the touch and frequently slows down, likely because of the high temps.
The only negatives? The ioSafe weighs about twice as much (1 pound vs 8.8 ounces) as the LaCie (but of course you don’t have to worry about stashing it in a waterproof case, which would add weight). And the 500GB costs about one-third more ($212 vs. $140). But those are pretty small tariffs compared to how much it would run you to reshoot/recreate whatever photos/footage/files you lost, if you even could do so. To me, the ioSafe is a much safer bet.