This guide has been in the making for two years. While researching, I rented a countless amount of gear and personally travel tested the items that made the first cut. In seeking the best options, I used the following as my criteria: cost, size, dependability and ease of replaceability. After traveling with this elite group of gear for over a year now, I am happy to share what I know to be the best video gear for travelers.
Best Cameras For Travelers
Canon T4i (Primary Camera) – As far as non-human things go, this camera is my best friend! I originally agonized and spent a ridiculous amount of time testing and reading about the many options available for small DSLRs. Since purchasing this camera, I have never looked back. I use it at least every other day. My T4i is the camera I use to film all of the videos on this site as well as the camera I use to take all of the photos shown on this site. I have traveled all over the world with it and battle-tested the crap out of it! Does this camera have the highest specs in the industry? Nope! Does it perform better than I need it to? Absolutely! This camera is rugged, shoots incredibly high quality stills and video and is available worldwide at a reasonable price. It is lightweight, high quality, easy to replace internationally and cheap enough that if/when it gets stolen, I won’t need to sell an organ. I can not recommend the Canon T4i highly enough! (Also, I am quite aware that Canon offers a T5i. I still recommend the T4i as the features are nearly identical and the “older” version is less expensive.) Seriously, I love this camera!
GoPro Hero 3 (Secondary Camera) – When not gushing over my T4i, I am using my GoPro. This secondary camera has two benefits over my primary camera. First, it is easy to make waterproof (there are many options for making a DSLR waterproof but they are all clunky and expensive). Salt water, fresh water, unknown liquid, it makes no difference, I have tested them all. The GoPro simply works. The second advantage of this camera over my primary camera is that it is crash-proof. I have literally thrown it as hard as I can straight up into the air (I thought I could get a cool shot!), dropped it from third story windows and stepped on it all without any damage. The camera is a rock. My only complaint with the GoPro is that it doesn’t have a viewing port so it is difficult to compose a nice shot. You can buy an LCD screen to fix this problem but it drains the battery and is expensive. As such, I use it for shots where perfect composition isn’t important.
Best Lenses For Travelers
Canon 18-135mm EF-S IS STM Lens – I may get some flak for recommending this lens as it is a kit lens (OMG!) Even still, this lens is tough, flexible (in range, not material) and collapses small enough that I have regularly been able to sneak into areas that forbid zoom lenses. This is my primary lens and the tool for most of my still work. It gives me the range and quality that I need while still being inexpensive enough to be easily replaceable. This is the lens I use 90% of the time during my adventures.
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Len – This pancake lens is a lifesaver! Its main draw is that it is incredibly tiny and light. I literally stick it in a roll of Gaff tape while traveling. It is a standard 40mm so I know my shot will be fine and for the quality, it likely couldn’t be smaller. It is great when you need a relatable perspective to highlight people or simple objects. It is reasonably priced, easy to replace and can easily handle the rough and tough nature of travel.
Best Video Gear Cases For Travelers
SKB iSeries H4N/DSLR Combo Case – This case is absolutely indispensable! I have tried dozens of alternatives and it is by far the superior option. It is big enough to securely hold almost everything mentioned in this post (the notable exception is my tripod) but small enough to be considered carry-on size in the USA, Europe and Asia. This case is near bullet proof (I have dropped it in sea water, onto concrete, and down a flight of stairs… all accidentally :-p) and it barely has a scratch. More importantly, everything inside was perfectly fine. I can’t recommend this case highly enough.
Best Video Lighting For Travelers
Neewer 160 LED CN-160 – This is my primary travel light and is the one I use for all of my remote videos. It attaches easily to most DSLRs, is lightweight, rugged and takes standard AA batteries. I affix it to the top of my camera and do my best to not look directly into it :-) It actually produces so much light that I usually run it at 80% (a really good problem to have). This thing is a workhorse and one of my most useful pieces of gear.
I use this light for one reason only, it makes eyes pop. Go back and look at my videos and you will now not be able to unsee the effect this light creates. This small but important benefit makes it worth it for me to drag all over the planet. The light is easy to use, small and lightweight. I affix it directly to my zoom lens and power it with two AA batteries. My only problem with it is that when placed on my zoom lens, it is visible at many lengths.
Best Audio Recorders For Travelers
Shure SM93 Lavalier Microphone – Recording crisp, high quality audio in general is difficult. Recording crisp, high quality, audio while traveling is damn near impossible. Well, at least without this microphone. I use this Lavalier for all of my recording (you can see it clipped to my shirt on all of my videos). This microphone has great recording quality, requires no external power and is incredibly tiny. I love this microphone so much that I have bought several for a variety of purposes.
Zoom H4n – The single biggest downside of the prosumer DSLRs is that they lack acceptable internal audio. This means to do audio right, you need record it externally. This digital recorder is the industry standard. It is reliable, relatively inexpensive (Zoom has a newer version which I don’t recommend but happily that release lowered the price for this unit!) and small. My only complaint with this item is the slow startup speed and difficult to navigate menu. That said, it is still the best at what it does.
Best Video Tripod For Travelers
Slik Sprint Pro II Tripod – I went through approximately a dozen tripods (rentals) before eventually finding this jewel. The Sprint Pro II is incredibly small (it fits without issue in my carry-on bag), extremely lightweight (I can lift it with a single finger) and remarkable stable. It holds my T4i without issue and extends to a variety of helpful heights. It also works as a great monopod. My only problem with it is the lack of exchangeable heads but honestly for everything else it does, it is best of class for travelers.
Best Video Storage Devices For Travelers
SanDisk Extreme Pro 32 GB SDHC Class 10 (For t4i) – This is a standard choice for SD cards. I always recommend going with Class 10 so that you don’t drop frames. Also, I highly recommend splurging on the 32 GB card as it gives you plenty of room to record big 1080p files while being small enough to force you to switch cards when it is appropriate for data reliability reasons. (Keeping all of your irreplaceable footage on one card is a very bad idea! Don’t do it!)
SanDisk Ultra 64 GB MicroSDXC Class 10 (For GoPro) – This is also a standard choice for GoPro owners. The card is rugged enough to keep up with everything I have put my GoPro through without dropping any frames. The 64 GB card is the best option as it is large enough to keep you from ever running out of space on a single battery charge. (The card lasts longer than the battery.) This card is tiny, reliable and remarkably travel ready.
Best Video Accessories For Travelers
Aputure Timer Camera Remote Control (For Primary Camera) – This tool is my secret weapon. Whereas, it is intended to be used as an intervalometer, its real value comes from being able to stand in front of the camera and using it to focus or refocus a shot of myself talking. The alternative is either guessing (don’t bother) or focusing on an object that temporarily lays at the range you plan to stand at. Focusing with this tool, saves me a lot of time and when using it, I know that my focus will be perfect every time.
Canon LP-E8 Battery Pack (For Primary Camera) – I usually carry three of these with me on any given trip. While there are cheaper battery options, these are the only ones that are made by Canon and are compatible with the battery status display within the camera itself. I have used the cheaper alternatives and won’t make that mistake again. The last thing I need when I am out in the remote wilderness is a faulty or leaky battery. As such, I pay the little bit extra and get the official gear.
Duracell Coppertop AA Batteries (For Lights) – These are standard batteries in the States but oddly difficult to find internationally. I have learned the hard way that in developing countries, batteries are sold frequently out of juice and are non-rechargable. (There seems to be large market of people reselling empty batteries) Originally, I was worried that TSA might stop me with this many battery cells but after a year traveling with these through about 12 countries, this has never been a problem. In a pinch, they can be used to power other electronics as well.
GoPro Battery BacPac (for GoPro) – The standard battery that comes with the GoPro does not last nearly as long as necessary. This means that I count this add-on battery as a must-have for a usable GoPro. It is lightweight, durable and comes with extension shelling so that the camera can remain waterproof even with the extension battery attached. It is the only battery I use with my secondary camera. My only problem with it is it seems you have to charge the GoPro camera first and then this extension battery second. The whole process usually takes an entire afternoon which is a bit absurd.
Gaffers Tape (for everything!) – Gaffer’s tape is the most important multipurpose tool I have in my collection. It has all of the pros of duct tape but is melt resistant, water resistant and most importantly, doesn’t leave behind any sticky residue. It is easy to tear, lightweight and has countless uses. I use it frequently on my electronics and never have to worry about it ruining my gear. Gaff tape is versatile, reliable and in my opinion, essential!
Final Cut Pro – Final Cut Pro X is my video editing program of choice. It has a steep learning curve but is sophisticated enough for feature film quality editing while being streamlined enough to allow you to focus on story without getting caught up in editing fodder. It received a lot of flak after a disastrous upgrade but has since fixed all of the previous bugs. It has a strong ecosystem of add-ons, is developed by Apple and is specialized to run on Macbook Pros. It is a feature beast but enables anyone using it to become a better storyteller.
That is the complete list! Short isn’t it? That is intentional. When traveling, you want as little gear as possible. Let me know if you have any questions via the comments below. I am a gear nut, and know all of the items above inside and out.