5 Essential Travel Vlogging Gear to Have in Your Backpack
As a travel vlogger, being able to record your trips without carrying a mountain of gear on your back can be a challenge. After all, most professional filmmaking equipment is heavy. Thankfully, there are good workarounds you can apply to be able to record useful video without carrying an entire studio with you.
These are the 5 things you need to know for each piece of equipment you will need:
1) Choose a Compact or Mirrorless Camera for Travel Vlogging
Having the right camera for travel vlogging doesn’t have to come with a high price tag. That is, if you focus on what’s important: lightweight and image stabilization. A flip screen isn’t exactly mandatory, but it can help you a lot.
You can record 1080p with a cheap compact camera that has at least these two features, but investing in a better one can make things a lot easier for you and give you more quality and useful resources for recording.
The two kinds of cameras that are the best fit for traveling are compact and mirrorless.
Well, I’m sure you know you’ll want to keep your travel weight at the minimum. You want to be able to carry everything in your backpack without losing your back!
You don’t want something like this:
Compact and mirrorless are the lightest cameras that can still keep up with a DSLR in quality, especially mirrorless. Both kinds are good in the image quality department, as long as you get one hovering the $500 mark. These are the best cameras you could get for travel vlogging.
Camcorders are also a viable option, but they have the smallest sensor. I don’t like them unless I’m recording with good lighting, be it artificial or during a sunny day. This is not something you can control as you travel.
Finally, DSLRs are a lot heavier and are a pain to carry around. As a traveler, they will make things more difficult for you. If you really want to get DSLR-like quality, a mirrorless is the way to go for you.
Now that we agree that mirrorless and compacts are the best options, which one should you choose?
Both of them have their unique advantages:
Why a Mirrorless?
The first thing is that they have a larger sensor. This feature makes them better at capturing light, so they can usually record better in poor lighting—like recording indoors, even during the day. Some of them have a Micro Four Thirds sensor, but most of them—especially Sony—have APS-C, which is the sensor found in DSLRs. Micro Four Thirds are smaller, but they are still larger than what is found in compact cameras.
Also, they have interchangeable lenses. This means that you can keep upgrading your camera in the upcoming years with better lenses, so you can improve it throughout the years. And better yet, when you change your camera’s body, you can use your lenses in the new body you get. You might need an adapter, but if you plan ahead you can get the right kind of lenses for the camera you plan to upgrade to later on.
The disadvantage is that they aren’t as small and pocketable as a compact camera. Also, they require a bigger money investment from the beginning since you will need to get good-quality lenses, and those are surprisingly expensive.
Why a Compact?
Compact cameras are literally point & shoot. You don’t need to worry about lenses as you are going to get an extremely high quality lens from the start—basically for free. This is, of course, if you get one of the top compact cameras in the market—I’ll show you which ones below. The catch is that you are stuck with the lens for the rest of your camera’s life. But still, it’s quite versatile and high-quality, so 90% of vloggers won’t need any other kind of lens.
Also, they are truly pocketable. Some of them might not be small enough to fit in a small pocket, but you get the idea that they are slightly more portable.
The bad part is that they come with an extremely small sensor. Recording at night won’t deliver results as good as using a mirrorless APS-C camera.
I’m sure it’s needless to say that most vloggers choose a compact. They are basically ready for shooting and you don’t need to know much for them to work fine. Also, they are smaller and their good lens allows them to capture a lot of light despite their small sensor.
The 5 Best Travel Vlogging Cameras
These are the lightest cameras on the market that can record top quality video and have the needed features for travel vlogging. The most popular between our readers is the Canon G7X Mark II:
If you want to read a deep comparison between these cameras, read my list of the best cameras of 2017.
And remember: as a travel vlogger you will need extra batteries for your camera. Do not forget to get at least a spare one. You will be recording a lot, and small cameras have low battery life.
But before spending an important amount of money in a nice camera, you should know that there is something more important to worry about. The best camera won’t matter if your viewers can’t hear you. So let’s check what you can do to make sure you are heard.
2) An External Microphone: Be Heard or Be Gone!
This is a problem I see so often in travel vloggers: when we travel, we usually record in really windy scenarios that destroy the audio of our videos. Your camera must be able to pick up the sound of your voice, even if you’re in the middle of a storm—hopefully, you won’t get into this kind of situation.
Having good audio by using your camera’s built-in mics is basically impossible. It might be able to pick up your voice in most normal situations, but any sign of wind and your audio is done for. You have to solve this issue with an external microphone.
“But my camera doesn’t have an external microphone port!”. Well, then you need an external recorder. You probably have one next to you, on your desktop right now: a smartphone.
Most vloggers get a decent lavaliere microphone to connect to their smartphone. Everyone has one, and the only thing you’ll need to do is put together the audio and the video in your editing software. This is easier to do than it seems.
If you’re more serious about this or want to save your phone’s battery for other important stuff—like using Viber—you can get a dedicated external recorder.
There are two models that I love: the Zoom H1 and Zoom H4N Pro. The former is the cheapest and is good enough for most people. The H4N Pro, on the other hand, allows you to connect higher quality XLR microphones. Both are really nice devices that are made to last and are much better than using your camera’s built-in microphone.
Remember, it doesn’t really matter if you get one of the top cameras for video. They will still record pretty bad audio that can be seriously improved even with a cheap $12 mic.
3) Don’t Forget Your Windshield
As I said before, travelers will encounter windy scenarios more often than any other kind of vlogger. Mountains, beaches and basically any kind of open field can cause you a lot of troubles. Using a microphone windshield will help you record useful audio in most situations like this.
There are windshields for every kind of microphone. It doesn’t matter if you want to use your smartphone, a lavaliere, a shotgun mic, or even your camera’s built-in microphone, you can find one for each kind. Just look for one compatible with your microphone on Amazon and you will make it possible to record in almost any windy situation.
If you don’t want to use an external mic for audio, the best you can do is get a mini windscreen for your camera’s mic. These are little windscreens you can stick to your camera’s mics.
The location of the microphones will depend on your camera model. To identify where they are, look for two tiny holes on your camera’s body that aren’t a charger or USB input. They are hard to miss if you look closely.
But for one last time, be warned: you might end up having to mute your entire vlog if you use your camera’s mic. You can get a good mic for only $12. I don’t think it’s worth risking it!
4) Your Tripod, Your Savior
For travel vlogging, getting the right tripod is a big deal. I like to bring it down to two main option, either a GorillaPod or the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2. I’ll explain what’s good about them:
A gorillapod is a tripod that you can transform into almost anything. Besides being able to use it as your camera’s stick and tripod, you can set it on any kind of surface, no matter how irregular it is.
Found an amazing view, and a tree cut in half by a thunder strike is the only possible place to set your camera on? No problem! This makes this tripod an incredibly useful tool.
GorillaPods come in all sizes and you should choose one based on the size of your camera. The heavier your camera is, the heavier the GorillaPod you will need to hold it steadily.
The problem with them is that if you have a mirrorless or DSLR camera, combining it with one of these tripods can make your vlogging rig too big and heavy, and that’s when the next tripod comes into play.
The second option—the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2—is not as versatile, but it is a lot lighter and can still support a DSLR. You can use it as a tabletop tripod or a camera stick. You will be thankful for its weight when you hold your camera for an entire day while walking around a foreign city.
My favorite option for vlogging is the Manfrotto. Still, I love carrying a GorillaPod because it allows me to take shots that’d be impossible with any other. For me, they are useful for different things, so you should choose the one that is right for you.
There’s another good option to use as a tripod for your trips that you may like. Check my tripod comparison for more info on this.
5) A Complementary Action Camera for Unique Shots
Having a GoPro available can be incredibly handy for a travel vlogger. It’s not only that you can record underwater footage or record your point of view of any sports activity you do, it’s also great at taking wide-angle pictures. And it’s so small and light that you may forget you have it on you.
But unless you are an extreme sports vlogger, you won’t want to record everything with your GoPro. I often see this mistake. You hear about the GoPro, see some amazing footage, so you buy one and think you’re set to record incredible shots and vlog your entire trip. Error. You only want your GoPro for those fast-paced, adventurous moments. You don’t want to be speaking to an action camera.
Why? Basically, because your longer videos will become really hard to watch after a while. The ultra wide-angle lens featured in GoPros apply a lot of Perspective Distortion. This makes everything look unnatural, including your own face. You might not know why, but if you watch a video like this for a while you will start feeling weird.
Action cameras are an amazing tool, but you have to use them for what they are made for. That is why they offer 4k video for less than $200, like the Yi 4k action camera. There has to be a tradeoff, and this—together with bad audio quality and lack of optical zoom—is it.
If you want to start recording your trips, make sure you have the right equipment before leaving to the airport. If you want to make sure you will be able to record everything without many troubles, make sure you have the following list of things:
1. A small, portable camera with optical image stabilization. Preferably a compact or a mirrorless.
2. An external microphone, preferably a lavaliere. If your camera doesn’t have external mic port, use your smartphone or get an external recorder to connect your mic to it.
3. A windshield for your microphone. Windy situations are really common when traveling. Microphone windshields are the best way to deal with them.
4. A mini tripod that you can use as a selfie stick. Make sure it’s light enough to be carried for an entire day.
5. An action camera to record when you can’t hold your camera with your hands. Do not overuse it!
Remember, action cameras are just for you to use for specific scenarios that require it. Do not use it as your main camera or you will get disappointing results.
Did I miss something? Is there anything you carry with you for your travel vlogs that I didn’t mention here? Let me know!