We’re off to Sochi in a couple of days to soak in the sights, sounds and pageantry of the Winter Olympics. While the Russian visa process was an Olympian challenge in itself and everyone has been telling us to keep our heads down, we’re looking forward to getting on the ground and watching the world’s best athletes ski, skate, sled and shoot for a few days.
Yet packing for a trip to Russia is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.
Nikon D600 and 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Lens
It’s not every day that we go to the Olympics, so we’re not leaving our photos to chance. That means eschewing the trendy mirrorless and bringing the heavy artillery. Nikon’s D600 is the company’s “entry level” full-frame sensor camera, but there’s nothing entry level about its features. A 24MP FX-format CMOS sensor tied to an EXPEED 3 processor makes capturing tack-sharp corkscrews at the half pipe a cinch, even at 5.5 frames per second. Should we want to make moving pictures, the D600 is capable of shooting 1080p full HD video.
Sports photography means a long lens; we’re pairing the D600 with Nikon’s 70-200-millimeter Nikkor lens, which can pull in Bode rounding gates up on the slope, while the vibration-reducing image stabilization gives us up to four stops help to mitigate blur from our shivering hands.
Mobi Eye-Fi Card
Instagram and Facebook are all about bragging rights (We’re at the Olympics! #thanksputin). But iPhone photos have their limitations. The Eye-Fi card acts like a standard SD card in our SLR but has a built-in transmitter for transferring photos right to our smartphone, where we can post to social media until our followers are more numerous than that corpulent Olympic budget.
Victorinox Swiss Army Glarus Vest
It’s the Winter Games, but, as you may have heard, Sochi actually has a subtropical climate. For most events a bulky jacket won’t be necessary. The Glarus vest combines classic mountain chic with utility. Its quilted construction is pure old-school style; stretch side panels and a contrasting orange lining provides a splash of color and modernity. The zip chest pocket is big enough for our passport or event tickets and hand warmer pockets are perfect for, well, warming our hands.
Bremont U-2 Blue
The last time a U-2 entered Russian airspace things didn’t go so well. We’re hoping for better luck this time. The Bremont U-2 lives up to its lofty name as a watch built for the rigors of high altitude and low temperatures, which also make it ideal for watching the alpine skiing events at Rosa Khutor. The chronometer-certified, shock-protected movement should stand up to anything we throw at it and the rotating internal bezel will let us time the inevitable long lines and traffic jams.
Randolph Engineering Aviators
Sun and snow can mean lots of squinting or even snow blindness. Randolph’s been making shades for pilots for decades, and the Aviators will work just as well on the slopes. They also provide a rakish look while we’re strolling through the Olympic village.
Smythson of Bond Street Passport Holder
Stop stuffing your wrinkled and creased passport in your pants pocket and add a little style to your international travels. Smythson of Bond Street, a legendary purveyor of leather goods, makes a passport holder that screams “invite me to your oligarch-laden party, please”: we’re talking soft deerskin lined with lambskin and two pockets to hold passport and boarding passes.
Smartwool Merino Neck Gaiter
Even if Sochi is subtropical, the mountain venues and even the skating rinks will bring a chill. A soft merino neck gaiter is a fine substitute for a scarf and is more versatile; pull it up high to cover your nose when the wind picks up. Be warned though — you’ll look a bit like a terrorist, so keep it around the neck at check points.