Tech Tuesday: Essential Camera Gear for Adventure Travel

Angela and I do our best to travel with carryons only. There really is nothing more satisfying than getting off a plane, bypassing other travelers waiting at the luggage conveyors, and getting our passports stamped first in immigration.

It’s a small victory, but it pays off with great dividends when you’re in competition for taxis, hotel rooms, or all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets in Tangier (more on that later).

In our experience, traveling light and moving quickly is essential. But I’m unwilling to sacrifice high-quality video or photo footage for the sake of convenience; therefore, I have whittled my camera gear down to the essentials. This is what I pack for every trip:

travel_photo_essentials_numbered_wm

  1. The Lipo Guard: Safety bag for charging and transporting extra Lipo batteries for my DJI drone. You do need to take the batteries out before going through security checkpoints at airports, but I can’t tell you how many TSA agents have enthusiastically approved and appreciated this safety measure.
  2. GoPro Hero 5 Black: It’s pictured here in the skeleton housing with attached tripod mount and lanyard. This is simply an incredible camera. It captures 4K video, which I shoot continuously during any interesting travel experience. Day or night. On land, air, or under water. The video is so good, in fact, that many of my still shots are simply screen captures from the 4K video. Not pictured is the Super Suit dive housing for the Hero 5, allowing depths of up to 196ft and essential for anyone interested in scuba diving.
  3. 360fly HD Camera: You can upgrade to the 4K version of this camera for another $200, but I’ve been quite satisfied with the basic model thus far. It’s solid-state, meaning you can’t change out the 16G memory. But that also means the thing is self-contained and super simple to use. Charging and data transfer are accomplished by an ingenious magnetic base. Check out this post on my experience with the camera thus far.
  4. Super-cheap extension arm: When you need just a little reach but don’t need a telescoping pole, this piece of plastic does the trick. Link three of them together, and you’ve just saved yourself $50 by not buying the GoPro 3-Way.
  5. GoPro Handlebar Clamp: There are a great variety of these, but I’ve found that this particular one is versatile, secure, and inexpensive. I’m often clamping a GoPro onto the overhead beam of a speeding dive boat or the handlebar of a JetSki. It’s always nice to know that my camera isn’t going to slip loose and end up on the bottom of the ocean.
  6. WD My Passport 2TB external USB hard drive: By necessity, I have several external hard drives, but this is the one I take with me. It’s big enough to hold all of the photos and video captured during a single trip, but compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket for quick access. Moreover, this particular hard drive is powered over its USB connection, meaning you don’t have to keep up with an additional power cord or sacrifice the often scarce power outlets when you’re overseas, in the cabin of a boat, or wanting to edit video during the flight home.
  7. Duct tape: Arguably the greatest tool invented. I don’t sacrifice precious space by taking a full roll. Instead, I unroll a generous portion into a flattened square.
  8. Essential charge and transfer cords: I bring one of each kind of USB cord, all conveniently packaged into a single snack bag.
  9. Flexible tripod: I much prefer this flexible tripod to a rigid one. The arms can be bent around deck railings, tree branches, or even your forearm, effectively turning this tripod into a multitude of other GoPro mounts. I also enjoy setting it up on the sandy patches in between coral reefs and leaving the camera behind. In my absence, the sea life often approaches the camera, making for some great shots. There are more expensive versions of this tripod, but the salt water destroys them just a quickly as it does the cheaper ones.
  10. Telescoping extension pole: Sometimes, you just have to have a selfie.
  11. SanDisk microSD memory cards: I tried several different brand names before settling on the SanDisk Extreme card, pictured here with the accompanying standard SD adapter. I have ten of these that I use in rotation with all of my GoPro cameras and the DJI Mavic Pro drone, and I have not had one fail yet. The card is fast enough to keep up with the data transfer demands of 4K video, and the price for higher-capacity 64GB cards is quite affordable.
  12. DJI Mavic Pro quadcopter drone: I’ve already written a post dedicated to the new DJI Mavic Pro. Still, I can’t help but tout the quality, simplicity, and unbelievably-compact profile of this product. The photo above shows the entire case, containing the drone, the controller, two spare batteries, and a set of spare rotors. Small enough to count as your personal item on the airplane, this is the drone built for travel.
  13. Apple MagSafe power adapter: Comes standard with an Apple MacBook and works well with iJoy’s Powwer adapter plugs that slide on and off the charging block to convert to any international format. Don’t forget the extension cord that allows you to work with inconveniently located outlets in airports and hotel rooms.
  14. Apple MacBook Pro: While this photo shows my previous 15-inch MacBook, I recently upgraded to the new 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with touch bar. Both are fantastic for downloading and editing video and photos from all of the cameras, particularly when coupled with iMovie and Adobe’s Photoshop CC and Lightroom.

All of this gear easily fits into my carryon backpack, which makes it readily accessible for working on long flights.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a high-end DSLR with interchangeable lenses for top-quality images. And, truth be told, I might be adding one of those to my list eventually. But unless you’re shooting for a magazine, I have found that the gear I use will not only capture the shot but also impress your friends, grow your Instagram following, and be versatile enough to function on land, in the air, and under water.