In 2 weeks I leave for 6 months of assignment work with humanitarian organizations. I just spent a few hours yesterday finalizing my packing list and getting all the details figured out of what fits where, how heavy it is, and how many bags it takes to carry it all.
I thought I would share what I take on the road and what I use to haul it around.
Before I do that I wanted to back up a bit and fill in a bit of background on my travel philosophy. For most of my assignment work I travel with my wife and our 2 children. We try to batch our assignments into connected loops that allow us to spread the cost of travel over several assignments and stories. This allows us to work with more organizations at a cheaper cost.
This goal of being able to help more organizations also guides a lot of the gear choices that we make. The more money I spend on gear the larger my budget requirement. Spending less on gear and using the items that will do the job but cost less is always a priority for me.
So far this year we are scheduled to travel in China, Laos and Vietnam.
Below are my gear bags for this trip.
- A – Ciao rolling suitcase bought on a Black Friday door buster sale at department store that was going out of business.
- B – Promaster TB-4 tripod bag
- C – Cheap backpack bought on back to school clearance sale
- D- Diesel canvas messenger bag purchased for $6 in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
My main bag is packed solid with gear, but it is all modular so it can be moved from one bag to another at a moments notice.
Since most of my travel is overland I have to be able to move the most valuable gear to smaller bags I can take with me into the top of the bus when the larger rolling bag won’t fit in the luggage racks above the seats (which is almost always). I never want to be put in a position where my expensive gear is out of my site during travel.
Most of the bags that make up this system either came with the piece of gear (lens cases) or were purchased at Goodwill for $2 or less, with the exception of the padded camera bag inserts. I realize that there are professional photography brands out there that have these needs covered but the cost is too high and it all looks like it holds expensive gear. These cheap goodwill bags remove the advertising of expensive gear and cost me almost nothing.
- A – Sound gear
- B – Camera batteries
- C – Promaster XC533 Tripod
- D – Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro for Sony
- E – Sigma 70-200 2.8 for Sony
- F – Cords and hard drives
- G – Fotasy Quick Strap
- H – Video Lights
- I – Laptop Bag
- J – Cameras in Koolerton Padded Camera Bag insert
- K – Cabella’s Waterproof Dry bag in case of the emergency
- A – Part of a luggage kit bought on clearence on Black Friday
- B – USB battery packs
- C – Hard drives: 2 – 2tb Transcend Storejet drop resistant hard drives; 2 – 500gb SSD drives 1 – 2tb Western Digital harddrive
- D – Tether Cable for Sony A99
- E – Rav Power 6 port USB charger
I carry USB battery packs to keep my phone charged, the children’s kindle’s charged, and they also power my video lights when the batteries run low. I carry 5 hard drives total, 2 – 2tb drives – 1 for a working main drive, and 1 to back that up. I carry 1 – 2 tb drive to as a floating drive and a general back up if one of the other drives fails. Then I carry 2 – 500gb SSD drives that I use for editing videos because the speed of these drives makes editing so much easier.
I just picked up the Rav Power 6 port USB charger to keep all the USB devices I used charged without having to use every outlet in the room I’m staying in.
- A – Rode Video Mic Pro
- B – Zoom H1 Audio Recorder
- C – 2 – Audio Technica Lapel mic with 20′ cord
- D – Spare batteries for Lapel mic
- D – 10 microphone Extension cable
With all the video work I do I have to have good sound recording. I am still learning and trying to improve in this area but currently I use and Audio Technica lapel mic, a Rode Video Mic Pro and feed that either into my Sony A99 or into my Zoom H1 audio recorder. I also carry lots of spare batteries and change them sooner than necessary to prevent missing key audio content.
- A – Sony 50mm 1.4
- B – Sony 20mm 2.8
- C – Sony A77mkii
- D – Sony A99
- E – Koolerton padded camera insert bag
I shoot Sony Cameras, currently the Sony A99 is my main camera and I use a the A77 as a backup. Often the A77 is run by my wife who does all my second shooting.
I travel with four lenses, three primes and one zoom. Currently I use the Sony 20mm 2.8, Sony 50mm 1.4, Sigma 105mm 2.8 Macro and the Sigma 70-200 2.8.
Since I shoot with 1 full frame sensor and 1 crop sensor I am able to get multiple focal lengths out of each lens. The 20mm doubles as a 30mm on the A77, 50mm becomes 75mm, 105mm becomes 157mm and the 70-200 becomes 105-300.
I carry the cameras in these amazing Koolerton padded inserts that I can move from one bag to the other as needed. I have two of these inserts one that goes in the rolling bag and one that goes in my messenger bag that I use when I am out shooting on the street or just shooting candids on location.
- A – Wacom Intuos Pen tablet
- B – 13″ Macbook pro
- A – 2- Yongnuo yn560ii flashes
- B – Yongnuo radio flash trigger and 2 receivers
- C – Rosco Strobist color gels
I carry Yongnuo yn560ii flashes along with a Yongnuo radio flash trigger and 2 receivers. I also carry extra batteries for the trigger since they are often hard to find where I am traveling.
I carry a small set of color gels in case I need to adjust the flash color to match existing lighting.
- A – RHA headphones for monitoring audio on video shoots.
- B – Grid kit for my portable soft box
This bag mainly is a catch all for items that don’t really fit in other places. The most important items are the headphones for monitoring audio quality on video shoots and the grid kit for my portable softbox.
I also carry Zeiss lens wipes, superglue, clamps, electrical tape, and clear medical tape. The electrical tape works great as gaffer tape and the clear medical tape is used for securing microphones for interviews.
- A – Promaster Tripod Bag
- B – 24″ video slider
- C – Promaster Tripod
- D – Small folding lightstand
- E – Telescoping boom arm for light stand
- F – Handle for Manfrotto mvh-500ah fluid video head
- G – Clamp for boom arm for light stand
- H – Weifeng Carbon fiber monopod
- I – Tripod foot for Monopod
- J – 31″ Octogon softbox umbrella with grid
This year I added the tripod bag to make carrying tripods, stands, and the slider easier. I find that I need to have at least one light stand on the road. Occasionally I use flash to light my portraits on location and often I need a stand for lights when filming interviews.
This year I added a boom arm to the bag to hold my Rode Video mic pro closer to and above my subject to improve audio quality.
Last year I carried 2 umbrellas – 1 shoot through and 1 reflective but it was a pain and I really wanted a softbox with a grid. So this year I am taking 31″ softbox umbrella that will double as a umbrella, softbox, and gridded softbox. Most of these items were purchased at the Wukesong Camera Market in Beijing, China.
I am a firm believer in having the tools to do the job, but I rarely if ever pay for name brands for accessories. Toward the end of last year I added the monopod and foot along with a Manfrotto MVH-500ah Fluid Video Head. Both were great additions to my video kit. The monopod was the cheapest one I could find that was carbon fiber and included a 3/8 female thread to accomodate the foot pictured above. I chose to go with the Manfrotto Fluid Head because I could not find a cheaper brand that matched the quality and had the same features.
- A – Diesel messenger bag
- B – Koolertron Dslr Camera bag insert
- C – Leather bag strap repurposed as a camera strap
- D – Fuji XE-1 with 18-55 kit lens
- E – Pouch for Fuji batteries and chargers
- F – Notebook and pen
- G – Batteries and charger for Fuji XE-1
- H – 10,000mah USB battery pack
I bought this messenger bag in October at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for $6. Since then I carry it everywhere with me. It allows me to always have a camera and batteries with me. It is large enough to carry a 13″ Macbook Pro (if I need to take it with me to a meeting). It also carries my phone, battery pack for the phone and accessories for the camera and general travel necessities.
I added the Koolertron DSLR insert to protect the camera and to provide a little bulk to the bag so it hangs better and it is easier to access the camera. The insert is customizable and can hold up to two cameras and 2 lenses, depending on size and configuration.