Knowing what gear to take on an overseas adventure can be a tough, endearing process. The feeling of “if only I packed x thing/lens/accessory” is a painful feeling all avid creators know well when they’ve travelled. That being said, on the other end of the scale, the last thing you want to do is to over-pack and endear climbing a mountain with the equivalent of a bucket of bricks strapped to your back (which I did up Mt Misen in Japan, good times). For me, it’s knowing what you want to shoot, and packing accordingly around that basic intent. Ultimately, the best camera is the one that’s on you, so even a point and shoot on your hip is better than nothing at all, so know your limits and what you’re willing to lug around on a day to day basis so that you don’t end up lumping your camera gear altogether mid-trip.
The Essentials – Cameras
In just over a week i’ll be heading out to New Zealand for a week of travelling around, catching up with family and, with a bit of luck, taking some gorgeous photos and video. This time round, i’ll be taking three cameras with me. For some, that’s overkill, sure, but when you’re trying to create as much content as possible from a few days, having the right tools for the job is important. Here’s what i’ll be packing (so to speak).
Main Camera – Canon 6D
Right now, i’m between rigs. I’m brand agnostic, and in the last few months alone i’ve used Canon, Nikon & Sony cameras (albeit primarily with Canon Lenses) to get jobs for my clients done. While I figure out what to put my hard earned cash towards next (A7rii, 5DX, Ursa Mini, choices, choices), I’m sporting my Canon 6D currently. It’s an incredible full-frame camera, great in low light, weather resistant, does GPS tracking – essentially all the things you’d want for a travel DSLR. My one’s been through hell and back and it still takes incredible photos. Admittedly i’m not the biggest fan of Canon right now while they lag behind the competition (Sony) but to be fair, their commitment to building utterly rock-solid gear is second to none. Pair it with a few decent lenses (my go to lens for travelling is the 17-40 F4 L for its weather resistance, light form factor and versatility, but some prefer the Canon 24-105 F4 L for it’s image stabilisation and zoom) and you’ve got yourself a hot little piece of kit.
B-Cam / Everyday Use / Vlogging Camera – Sony RX100iv
This is a new addition to the family. Right now i’m still undecided. It takes some incredible 4K footage, but why it doesn’t have a hot shoe or audio inputs when it can capture log footage (ideal for professionals wanting to colour grade footage) is frustrating to say the least. Luckily, the camera itself is rugged, solid and is capable of taking some pretty decent stills, even under low-light. The tilt-able main screen and pop-up viewfinder are great for keeping stealthy while you get the shots you need. Word of warning, like many other Sony cameras, these things will eat batteries, so be sure to pack extras. Overall, it’s a brilliant camera, but the over-heating issue is a huge blight on an otherwise almost perfect compact camera. You can almost get some decent shallow depth of field! Winner!
Underwater / Subtle Camera – GoPro Hero 4 Session
Sometimes if you’re in a nice restaurant or at a classy event, you don’t want to scream “VLOGGER!” That’s when the GoPro Hero 4 Session comes into play. It’s amazingly tiny and the crazy amount of accessories you can pick up for GoPros these days make it a no brainer. Want to do a driving time-lapse? Done. Want to throw in the water with you? Easy. One of my favourite little tricks is the ability to control it via my Apple Watch, no more GoPro remote needed for selfies. Excellent. Two gripes with the current model, no removable battery (a big issue when you rely on it to get shots) and lack of 4K stop it from being the ultimate action camera.
Packing it in – Bags
Right now I use two bags, depending on where i’m going and what i’m shooting. For when I want to look less like a photographer and more like a human being, I use a Kelly Moore Thirst Relief bag. It’s subtle, sexy and classy enough you can pair with a nice shirt and look the part where-ever you are. Day to day, I use this bag to move my mobile editing suite around. There’s plenty of pockets to store accessories like hard drives and power packs, plus there’s removable dividers that you can configure depending on what kind of camera you have.
The other bag, which i’ve held onto for years is an Incase DSLR Backpack. These things are indestructible, and when I need to pack a decent amount of gear I turn to this to get the job done. You’ll get sick of the weight this bag can handle before it dies on you. From our last Japan trip, it handled multiple lenses, rigging equipment, laptops, hard drives, charging gear, microphones etc. etc. etc. The best part? It’s not that ugly. In fact, as far as DSLR back packs go, it’s the least insulting i’ve ever come across. I don’t know why, but camera bag makers seem to have this odd fetish for combining the most tasteless, unbreathable materials in the name of function over form. Incase, however, seem to actually get it right. It’s water resistant, has plenty of pockets and zippers, and like the Kelly Moore bag, comes with an array of dividers to optimise your gear packing. The material on the outside is subtle but refined, and for a bag going on four years, it’s aged remarkably well.
Ultimately, the best bag is the one that makes getting your gear out at a moment’s notice a breeze. To complicated or painful to work with might mean you’ll just end up not bothering, which is a damn shame in hindsight, so pick something carefully.
Must have accessories
Sometimes getting the most from your holiday isn’t necessarily just cameras, lenses and bags. Here’s some neat little gadgets and things you should always pack while travelling
Batteries – Duh, right?
It goes without saying, always pack extras for every camera you use. Outside of cameras though, it pays to buy a powerpack for when your phone runs low during the day. It’s a traveller’s nightmare being stuck in an unknown place with no way of knowing how to get home because mission critical gear like a wifi hotspot or a phone has just died. I bought a Xiaomi Mi 10,000MaH battery for roughly 30 bucks off eBay, and it’s kept us running against all odds. I’ve also bought USB-based charging docks for all my different battery types, that way I can still juice up batteries on the go if I end up going snap crazy.
Memory Cards, Tripods & Quick Release Clips
We’ve all heard that horror story of how someone lost an entire holiday’s worth of images because it got drenched, stolen, broken… Pick your poison, right? There’s two factors to consider to avoid this from happening to you. Firstly, buy genuine cards from genuine brands. You’ve spent thousands on flights, hotels, cameras and adventures, why cheap out on crappy no-name cards off eBay? I buy nothing but Sandisk from reputable sources and keep a mental note of how many cycles the cards have done. I buy new cards every year and slowly rotate the old ones out. Thus far, touch wood, I’ve not lost a single image in over a decade. Crazy, right?
The second is keep them together, and safe. I bought a simple, waterproof plastic hard case off eBay for around ten bucks. I can drop it, kick it, throw it, and while I have no idea why i’d do any of the former, I do have the assurance of knowing that even if my bag gets crumpled on a flight, my memories are still safe.
I generally avoid taking larger gear like tripods unless it’s for work or i’m booking a rental car. Tripods add ridiculous bulk to your kit, and sometimes, it’s for little to no gain. Instead, I use a Joby Gorilla tripod. It’s tiny, light and flexible enough that I can mould it to hang off stuff. They make variants for super small compact cameras right up to DSLRs. Neato gang, neato.
Finally, when i’m in a new city and have no idea what to expect, my keep my camera close to my heart, literally, should the perfect moment arise. When I was in Japan last, I picked up Peak Design’s neat quick release system that you can pop onto a belt or a backpack strap, and the ability to have your camera ready to shoot in seconds means you’ll be ready for anything. They’re a worthwhile investment ($30-$100) if you dig your travel photography.
Audio – Headphones & Mics
Sound is one of those things that often goes unlooked when you’re filming on the go. But having solid, clean audio can sometimes make or break your video, so making sure you’re packing great audio gear is essential. As far as lavalier & shotgun microphones go, it’s hard not to go anwyhere but Rode. They’re Australian (go team), and they make rock solid gear that’s backed up by some of the best support in the industry. I had a clip fail on a lavalier mic last year and I had replacement clips shipped out for free within a few days. It makes me proud to know there’s still Aussie brands around like Rode that totally kickass.
As for headphones, I picked up a pair of matte black Beats Studio Wireless headphones. Back in 2014 I was on the hunt for a decent pair of noise-cancelling, bluetooth headphones, and surprisingly, unlike their other models in the range, the Studio Wireless headphones offer surprisingly great sound and solid noise-cancelling when compared to Sony’s and Bose’s offerings. Yes, I don’t doubt there’s better sounding headphones out there, but for flying, no one comes close if you don’t want to choose between having only noise-cancelling or having only wireless capabilities.
Do you have any must pack tech items for your travelling adventures? Let us know in the comments below!