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Ultra light weight digital photo backup - OTG cable, smart phone & USB drive

For my holiday to Peru I wanted to find a small cheap and light way to keep my digital photos backed up every day. 

When I travelled around south East Asia for 3 months I was paranoid about backing up my photos. I was terrified that something would happen and I would have lost every photo. So I carried a 1.5Kg net book and charger, a memory card reader and a bulky portable hard drive. It worked I didn't loose any photos and when my hard drive was stolen I bought a replacement and quickly backed everything up again. But it was a heavy and bulky amount of tech to take backpacking. 

Doing some research I decided the best way to achieve a small, cheap and light back up was to make use of an OTG (On The Go) Cable. This is simply a short cable with a male micro USB port at one end to plug into your phone and a female regular sized USB port at the other end for you to plug a multitude of normal USB devices into. This lets you do things like plugging a full sized keyboard into a phone. Importantly it also lets you plug in USB memory devices. 

To keep with the aim of minimum equipment possible I did not use a card reader. But I did test this set up with an SD card reader that worked well. But the Compact flash readers didn't seem to work plug and play and I didn't have time to fiddle. 

My system was simply plug the camera via the OTG cable directly into my phone at the end of each day. I set the cameras USB connect settings to Mass Storage in the cameras settings menu. I would then use the pre-installed file explorer programme to copy all the days images onto my SD Card (64GB). Once that transfer had completed I disconnected the Camera and plugged in my USB Thumb Drive (64GB). I then copied the photos onto the thumb drive. I read that android and OTG connections can only read FAT32 formatted file systems. But FAT32 is only meant to be used with memory devices of 32GB of less, be default you cannot format a 64GB thumb drive to FAT32 using the windows standard formatting tool. However, this 3rd party app did the job no problem. It might not work for every drive but it worked perfectly for me. 

Sorry about the very low quality image. As both my best camera are in the photo
I had to take it with an older crappy smart phone

I had a 32GB compact flash memory card in my DSLR and as I was only away for 3 weeks I didn't fill the card up. This meant I had 3 copies of each photo. 1 in the camera in my day bag, 1 in my phones SD card in my zipped pocket and 1 in a USB thumb drive that I kept buried in my main bag. If my phone got pick-pocketed I still had the thumb drive and camera. If I was mugged and lost phone and camera, I had the thumb drive back up. 

So I used for the back up

Micro USB Male to USB A Female On-The-Go Cable Adapter

SanDisk Cruzer Blade 64 GB

I already was planning on taking my phone with a MicroSD  

Sony Xperia Z1 
SanDisk microSDXC - 64 GB

And the DSLR camera including lead was
Sony A200 

The system worked for me and was much much lighter then taking a laptop and full size portable hard drive. I was travelling with my wife who had an android tablet. So I put a 4th copy on her tablet for extra backups and it was a perfect device for reviewing photos at the end of the day. 

I hope this helps if you are looking to do digital photo back ups in the lightest way possible. Just make sure you phone can do OTG (lots of modern androids can do this but not all, and some windows phones but no iphones can use this system) and think about how many GB storage you need. 64GB was fine for me to take several thousand photos but if you shot in RAW or have a different camera you might need more storage. 


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