Ultra-Lightweight SD Card Backups on the Road

When I travel, I bring my DSLR. When I have a DSLR, I shoot a lot of photos, usually hundreds a day. I wanted to find a way to back up my photos while I was travelling, with minimal equipment. I think I’ve found the smallest, cheapest, best way to do this. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Kingston MobileLite G3 – $25
  • An iPhone or android phone that is supported by the MobileLite G3 (you probably have this already)
  • A USB drive (you probably have this already)
  • A DSLR that saves images to SD cards (you probably have this already)
  • SD cards that need to be backed up (you probably have this already)

Here’s what the workflow looks like:

  1. Take photos on DSLR, saving RAW images (JPEG works, too) to SD card
  2. After a day of shooting, turn Kingston MobileLite on, connect to its WiFi on your phone, launch their MobileLite Wireless app
  3. Insert SD card and USB drive into MobileLite, refresh File Explorer in the app to show both USB and SD media
  4. Tap on SD card in file explorer, go to the folder (or image) you want to copy, tap on “…” then tap the copy icon (looks like a page with a dotted page behind it), then tap USB Drive
  5. I like to make a new folder by tapping the folder + icon, name it that date and card (like 20181220 Card1 for December 20, 2018), then tap on the new folder and tap OK at the bottom to choose that folder as the copy destination
  6. Optional: Repeat steps 3-5 if you have more than one SD card to backup
  7. Wait until everything has copied over, then eject your SD card and unplug your USB drive

Is it perfect? No, but it is the cheapest way I can backup my SD cards on the road without bringing my laptop and without spending too much money. I’ve tried backing up CF cards and the MobileLite won’t recognize more than one USB device at a time, so this method only works if you’re backing up SD cards to a USB drive. I tried using a USB hub, and it can recognize a CF card reader, but as soon as I plugged in the USB backup drive, the CF card was replaced in the app’s list by the USB backup drive. Maybe someone could fix this, though, because the source code is available! You could also backup the files to your phone, then copy to a USB drive.

For my specific gear, I’m using:

  • Kingston MobileLite G3 (duh)
  • iPhone X
  • OWC 1TB SSD Mercury On-The-Go USB 3.0
    • formatted to exFAT
    • Master Boot Record scheme on macOS
    • You’ll need the power adapter to use this with the Kingston MobileLite (I think the MobileLite is slightly under powered in Amps). USB thumb drives work perfectly, but I wanted more capacity.
  • Nikon D7100
  • Lexar Professional 1000x 64GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 Card

If you have an android phone that supports USB On The Go (OTG), you could save even more money by buying this USB Hub for $10, which would replace the Kinston MobileLite.

I’ve also found really small SSDs recently like the Samsung T5 and the Teyadi SSD, but I don’t own them and haven’t tested them in this setup. They should work fine as long as they don’t draw too much power.

Lastly, if you have an iPhone or iPad and you don’t already have the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader, you should get one. It’s super handy to be able to pull an image from any SD card in a few seconds.

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