I’ve taken a lot of pictures during this trip. In fact, Scott and I are swimming in pictures — some good, some bad and some we won’t show. I take them with my fancy digital camera, my not-so-fancy Holga, my underwater point-and-shoot and, of course, my iPhone.

A camera is an essential for any traveler. But I have to admit that the versatility of my iPhone sometimes makes carrying three cameras seem, well, excessive. The iPhone is pretty amazing. Its camera rivals point-and-shoot cameras I’ve shot with, and it allows us to share pictures with friends and family with ridiculous ease and immediacy. As if it couldn’t get any better, the iPhone offers dozens of cool photography applications that turn mediocre pictures into something more.

Take for example, one of my favorite photo apps — the Hipstamatic.

This popular app adds vignettes, discoloration and rough edges to your digital image. The artful distortion varies depending on the lens and “film” style you choose. The basic Hipstamatic download, which costs $1.99, features three lenses (John S., Jimmy and Kaimal), three film options (Blanko, Ina’s 1969 and Kodot Verichrome), and two vintage flashes (Standard and Dreampop). Additional lenses and film are available via 99 cent bundled downloads.

As with other iPhone apps, a swipe of the fingertip lets you change settings on the Hipstamatic, and artificial sounds — a clacking shutter, a gently buzzing flash — heighten the sense of reality and nostalgia.

The Hipstamatic is effortless and groovy, and you don’t have to be a pro to make interesting pictures with it. This messes with my instincts and work ethic as a photographer. For me, making a good photo has always been hard; it’s about quality of light, quality of subject and the quality of my eye. The Hipstamatic is a cheat. In mere seconds it makes images that would take hours to create in Photoshop.

Still, after learning more about the Hipstamatic, I feel less like a schmuck for falling in love with it. The makers of the app are paying homage to the original Hipstamatic, which was an actual film camera. The back of the camera’s body as it appears on the iPhone’s screen looks just like the back of the original plastic camera, which sold for $8 in the early ’80s.

The Hipstamatic was born out of a passion for photography and conceptualized by two art students in a Wisconsin cabin. Brothers Bruce and Winston Dorbowski loved the Kodak Instamatic and set out to build a camera “even a child could afford on a small allowance.”  They designed and built such a camera, and sold it through a local electronic store.

There’s no telling how big the Hipstamatic could have been. The Dorbowski brothers produced only 157 before they died in a car accident in 1984. The were killed by a drunk driver. Three years ago, however, their older brother Richard created a simple blog about the creation of the Hipstamatic. The website is a celebration of his two brothers, who were dubbed by neighbors as the “crazy hippies on the lake.” On a post dated July, 29, 2009, Richard wrote, “Today I met with two young gentleman that want to bring back the Hipstamatic … well, sort of.”

Those gentleman were software designers, of course, and their visit with Richard Dorbowski lead to the creation of an iPhone app that has been downloaded more than a million times.

I doubt the Dorbowski brothers could have imagined the Hipstamatic’s phenomenal success, let alone its reincarnation as an app for the iPhone, but I’m sure they would be thrilled that so many people — even kids with small allowances — have access to it. “It doesn’t matter if the photos aren’t prefect,” Bruce Dorbowski once said. “As long as people are capturing memories, I will be happy.”

One App Store reviewer thanked the makers of the Hipstamatic app for creating a “program for the ‘photo-stupid’ among us.” Professional photographers aren’t always so complimentary. Many see it as one more gimmick that cheapens their art form. As one photographer I greatly admire put it: “The proliferation of imagery lately is slowly sucking the creativity out of photography.”

Maybe. I admit that I sometimes feel a little dirty when I take pictures with my Hipstamatic app instead of my fancy Canon. But other times, when I’m in harsh midday light and feeling like a tourist, I just want to make a picture instead of a fuss with my gear. That’s when the Hipstamatic is my best friend. It lets me enjoy the moment, be silly, feel like a kid. I think the Dorbowski brothers would dig that.

— Jill

A road trip of yearlong proportions requires a certain amount of gear. And by “certain amount,” I mean a shit ton. Boxes, racks and ice chests. Sleeping bags, stoves and lanterns. Suitcases, backpacks and functional clothes. These are the things — from essential devices and to clever do-dads — that make an itinerant life livable. And since Jill and I are in a position to give such gear a pretty thorough road test, we thought we’d share some thoughts about stuff we like (and stuff we don’t). The subject of our inaugural review falls into the former category. Cheers.

She Says: I’d like to introduce you to my fancy Jetboil Flash. Aside from my backpack and hiking boots, it’s the most technical piece of outdoor equipment I own. And I own it proudly. It was a Christmas gift. One that my backpacker husband thought was a little silly, a little excessive. It’s my bit of luxury on this live-in-the-car-and-out-of-a-tent adventure.

He Says: I don’t think the Jetboil is silly. I just think, at $100, it’s a little pricey for a water-boiling device, which is why I’d never bought one before. I’m plenty happy with my backpacking stove, the MSR PocketRocket, which weighs 3 ounces (that’s less than an iPhone) and costs about 40 bucks. But when your wife requests backcountry gear for Christmas — any backcountry gear — you whisper a prayer of thanks and immediately speed to REI.

She Says: I drink tea. Lots of tea. Green tea, yerba mate tea, red rooibos tea. It’s my new habit, taking the place of my old one — smoking. Thanks to the Jetboil, I can get my tea fix in 2 minutes. That’s how long it takes  to boil  2 cups of water.

He Says: Who talks about liquid in cups? Even the metric system is better than cups. For those of you who don’t spend much time in the kitchen — and when you do, tend not to measure things — the Jetboil boils 16 ounces of water in 2 minutes. It’s able to do that because an accordion-shaped metal ring on the bottom of the cooking cup (patented by Jetboil as the “FluxRing”) transfers heat from the burner to the water with amazing efficiency. But, really, is boiling water for tea in 2 minutes that much better than boiling water for tea in 4 minutes?

She Says: Yes, it’s twice as good. (Do the math, Mr. Wizard.) But what’s really cool is that you boil the water in a cup that easily detaches from the stove and its little fuel tank. So you don’t have to balance a pot on a tiny burner and then pour water from the pot into a mug — you just drop a tea bag into the Jetboil cup and you’re ready to go. Plus, the cup is insulated — it’s like a beer cozy. What’s even cooler is what the Jetboil website calls a “Flash color-change heat indicator,” which is a rubbery meter on the insulator that turns orange when the water is boiled.

He Edits What She Says: It’s  a fuel canister, not a “fuel tank.” A fuel tank goes in an automobile, not a backpack. I might also be inclined to taunt you for needing a color-change indicator to tell if water has boiled, but that indicator does eliminate having to constantly pull off the lid and check. And you’re right: The insulated cooking cup is user friendly. Another nice feature is the push-button igniter. I hate trying to light a match in the wind. A word to the wise, though: An old colleague of mine who founded the excellent website GearJunkie.com reports that the piezoelectric igniter doesn’t work well at sub-freezing, high-elevation conditions.

She Says: I can assure you that, over the course of this trip, I will NOT be making yerba mate in at “sub-freezing, high-elevation conditions.”

He Says: That’s what you think.

—Jill and Scott