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How to build a camera kit for adventure shooting

For most of my life, nature has been my sanctuary. My job and life keep me hyperlinked to the technological world, like many of us, but it's only when I get into the fresh air that I can slow down to get a feeling of cacophony in my head. For many years, photography had no place in it. I just wanted to be in the experience, not fiddling with gadgets and settings. Finally, I found myself wanting to share these places and these experiences, and some of them must be seen as believed.

What began as a preliminary relationship with outdoor photography has evolved into a full-bodied love, fed by digging into legends like Ansel Adams and Instagram's most creative posters. Now I find myself planning all trips around something that I want to shoot. In fact, it motivates me to get into the desert even more than I did before.

While I really do not argue that I'm on the same level as the incredible professionals out there, I've spent a long time. In recent years, I've done forced-specific investigations and collide my kit. Through a lot of attempts and mistakes, I think I've put together a highly respectable adventure photo kit, and it's one that probably does not require a second mortgage. Here is my recommended setting. (Remember, you do not have to buy all this at once.)

Cameras and Lenses

This is the most expensive and controversial part of the entire shebang. The camera companies have their colored-in-wool lojalists, as well as the lens marks and even the size of the sensor. The truth is that cameras are ridiculously good right now and I recommend everyone to do their own research and see what is best suited to their goals, preferences and budget. Here's what I'm using. (Please do not scare me.)

Primary Camera

My current camera is Sony A7R III, and generally I really love it. It's a full-frame camera (which means the image sensor is about as big as 35mm movie), which gives a lot of light. It's important to me because I make very low light shooting, including images from the stars. It's 42 megapixels, which I like because I can crop pictures and / or print large copies and they still look great. Over the years I shot the much cheaper Sony A7S, and before, Canon's full-screen image, 6D and I, could get some of my favorite photos with them. I would recommend going full view if you can, so you can shoot broader brighter photos with a deeper depth of field, but you can still get good results with cameras with smaller sensors.


Lens] No matter what camera you stop choosing, there are likely to be dozens (if not hundreds) of lenses to choose from, some of which will cost as much as your car. How do you choose? Well, what are you most interested in photography? Start by buying your lenses based on it. I knew I wanted to do a lot of landscaping and be able to show the Milky Way that stretches out over the sky, so finding a good, fast and wide lens was important to me. The best thing I have ever tried is Sigma 14mm f / 1.8. It's razors and fast, so I can take starfoot with significantly less noise and blur. However, it is $ 1600, which is not cheap inexpensive. With that said, the first wide lens I bought was Rokinon 14mm f / 2.8. It was only about $ 250, and it's a fantastic lens that I'm still using all the time. If you do not care about landscapes and just want to photograph small birds, you will probably have a stabilized telephoto lens. If you want to do a bit of everything, it's nice to have a versatile, fast zoom lens. Sony's new ish 24-105mm f / 4.0 is my current go-to, but I used it slightly cheaper 24-240mm f / 3.5-6.3 this year and got very good things.

Secondary camera

A lot of photographers carry several camera bodies with them. Good for you if you have that kind of scratch! Personally, I only carry my main body, my phone (more than once) and an action camera, currently GoPro Hero 7 Black. I try to get it in my pocket as I walk. It's robust, it's waterproof, and you can mount it on almost anything. It's just extremely versatile. I used it recently while glancing through a tight flooded castle canal in southern Utah. I have also used it snowboarding, mountain biking, diving, or doing other bad things.


This is definitely not mandatory. In fact, it is often forbidden (in National parks, for example). It is said that there is a lot of wilderness out there where using a drone is completely legal and can give you perspective that you can not get on the ground. For a while my go-to-drone has been DJI Mavic Air because it's small enough to throw in a backpack or a jacket pocket and forget about it, but it gives a good picture quality, bi-directional barrier and at $ 700, it will not break the bank. That being said, if the image quality is your first priority, get the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It's $ 1500, and it's a bit bigger than the air. It not only has an omnidirectional barrier, but it has a Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch sensor that gives incredibly good images.

Carrying and mounting


I've tried a lot of camera covers over the years, and the one I keep coming back to is $ 250 Mountainsmith Borealis. The 2018 version is 35 liters (up from 25), so it suits everything I mention in this article (and then some), and it still feels comfortable to wear. The configurable, padded compartment securely holds camera bodies and lenses, it has a portable sleeve that doubles as a hydration compartment, it has a main compartment (for hot clothes, food or even sleeping bag), lots of small pockets to organize gear, and to and with a built-in rain cover. It is also made of super strong 610d Cordura (also new to 2018), it stands on its own (on a watertight bottom) and fits under the plane seat in front of me … most of the time. It's not perfect, but it's as close as anything I've found.


In three plus years I struck around an old heavy stand that I found in a wardrobe. It was clumsy, but it kept my camera safe and ultimately it's the most important job. Recently, I decided that I would need to upgrade, largely because I took more portrait-oriented images and video frames did not lean 90 degrees to facilitate it. The one who has checked all of my boxes is the Sirui Ocean Runner Tripod Kit (W-2004K20). It reaches 71 inches, but it is folded down to over 20 years. It only weighs 4.6 pounds, it has a detachable monopod, and it is waterproof. It's quickly adapted, it has a lot of bubble levels, it has very smooth panning (important for video), and last but not least, it uses an Arca type plate (see next section). It is available in aluminum for 320 kronor and carbon fiber for 490 kronor. I went with aluminum. It all had the same characteristics, it was a bit more compact, and it weighed exactly the same. I have been very pleased with that.

Quick Access Attachment

I was shocked that such a small thing could make such a big difference on the field. When hiking, cycling or encrypting rocks it is very annoying to use neck strap. It's not just shaking your neck, but the camera will bounce the entire belt all day (and / or scratch stones). $ 70 Peak Design Capture solves it. You attach the clip to the backpack and a small mounting plate on the stand to screw the camera. It clicks in place on your chest and does not bounce around as you move. It only takes a hand to throw the camera in and out, and because the plate it uses is also Arca type, it means you can pop it directly on an Arca type stand, as I mentioned above. (There is also an adapter for many Manfrotto tripods.) It's amazing.

Alternative Tripod

When I raised Grand Canyon a few years ago I packed a lot of light. The only tripod I brought was this freaky-looking Joby GorillaPod. It can hold an 11-pound camera for too long exposures, it has 360 degree panning, 90 degree tilt for portraits, and it has flexible legs that can handle cliffs and branches, but they're stiff enough to stand on their own hand It uses Arca pencils, so with my current system, I do not need to loosen the disc from my camera. It's also good for mounting GoPro, a light or even an audio recorder. The mine (in the picture) is GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X, but has since been replaced by 5K Kit, which is basically the same. At $ 180 it's not cheap, but I've got a lot of use over my years.

Photo Editions

UV Filter

Congratulations on your stylish new lens. Now let's protect it and do it better. UV filters used to be necessary back in the film camera days because films were quite sensitive to UV light. It's not really a problem in digital time. But many photographers recommend that they still use them because they are ready and they protect your expensive lens from things like small scratches, dust, sand and salt water. The UV filters are flat so they are easier to clean than the dashed surface of your lens, and if they are scratched, they are much cheaper to replace than the front element. You may want to remove it before pointing directly to a light source, as it may cause some extra lens flares. It is more of a problem with cheap filters. I really like filters from B + W. They are extremely high quality and affordable. Make sure you get the correct size for the lens. I recently bought the B + W 77mm XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano 007 Filter for $ 50, and I have not seen any impact on image quality.

Circular Polarizer

These are especially useful for shooting light skies, bodies of water (even small currents), or indeed anything that has reflectivity. Like your polarized sunglasses, these filters cut glare, and they can make a dramatic difference. Take a look at the above before and after. You can manually rotate the filter, to change the degree and appearance of the polarization. These cost you a little light, so I do not leave my entire time. But when it's bright, it really improves the pictures of my pictures. Again I went with the B + W 77mm Circular Polarizer MRC, which costs $ 83 for this size, and I have been impressed by its building quality and clarity.

Cleaning kit

Fill this under absolutely mandatory. Take a cleaning kit. It does not have to be neat or expensive. The two most important objects are a microfiber cloth and the small buttock's bucket to blow dust from the lens or sensor. Furthermore, I recommend wearing more than one microfiber cloth because they once get oily (or bring some sunscreen from the fingers) they can make matters worse. I spent a lot of $ 11 on this cleaning kit from CamKix, and it has been great. I'm also trying to keep some of these Zeus Microfiber Cleaners at hand.

Intervalometer / Remote Control

If you want to get into some more advanced technologies like extra long exposures, star traces or time disappears, you need an interval gauge. Nikon has a basic one built into the camera's software, which is a great feature that I really wish everyone else would steal. Fortunately, you can get an external range gauge that makes the job too cheap, just make sure it works with your specific camera. I went with a JCC Timer for Sony off Amazon for $ 22, and it has been solid. As I said, if you're a game to spend more, my friend Rachel Jones Ross likes $ 100 Vello Wireless ShutterBoss III, which is a dual system that lets you do everything above and manually steer your shutter up to 250 meters away.


As I mentioned, I really love Milk photography, but sometimes it's useful to put some light on your foreground (a cold rock formation, a tree, etc.) so that some details stand out with the galaxy in the background. I do not like using a big flash kit. Instead, I carry a pair of these little cubes. They are small (1.5 cubic meters), waterproof and rechargeable. They also have Bluetooth so you can pair them with your phone, control them remotely and adjust them by 1 percent at a time. For long exposures, I usually have them down to 1 or 2 percent, but they can get extremely bright and deliver flashes too. They also have a tripod screw so you can pop one on a GorillaPod and get it angled just right.

ND Filter Kit

Filter with neutral densities allows you to reduce the amount of light coming to the image sensor without affecting aperture or shutter speed. They are extremely useful when you want to catch the water's movement, such as a sunset over the ocean or a river that roars around a few rocks. Neutral density filters allow you to shoot extremely long exposures without blowing the photo, and they can also be useful for video production. The general consensus is that Lee filters are the best, but they cost quite a penny, and if you just bore your toes, I would recommend starting with a cheaper kit so you can experiment and see which filters you are likely to use most . I went with this cheap Rangers 8-Piece ND Filter Kit for $ 26, and it made me get some pictures I really love.

Audio upgrade

Do you know how I know the microphone on your camera sucks? Because they all do. If you want to shoot video, and you want to catch some sounds that are really fun for the ear, you must go externally. I have used Zoom H6 digital audio recorder for almost three years now, and it has been good. It has swappable microphones, four XLR inputs, audio output and visual levels. At $ 370 it's not cheap, but as a journalist I find it indispensable. If you are going to do many interviews it is also worth investing in a wireless lavalier package. I like Sennheiser kit, although the new G4 system (contains a low-microphone, transmitter and receiver) is about $ 600. That's said, the G3 children of the elderly are still amazing, and you can find them discounted today.

Adventure Essentials


You may have just planned for a quick walk, but sunsets can be seductive. If you stay for the last shot, you will stop going back in the dark. Always keep a headlight in your package all the time. I've tried a ton, and the one I'm coming back to is Princeton Tec Sync. It's light (150 lumen), water resistant, has floodlight and headlight, and it has a red light, so you do not spoil your night vision. What prevents me from coming back is the steering wheel that controls everything. It's easy to find, even with thick gloves on, and you do not need to memorize any complicated sequence of button presses just to get to the position you want. Oh, and it's cheap at $ 22.

Hydration blower

I drink a lot of water when I walk, and you should. When I trust a water bottle stashed in a side pocket, I hydrate, simply because it's uncomfortable. That's why I think a hydrating bladder with a snake just inches away from your face is crucial. I keep coming back to Platypus Big LP. It holds three liters, seals safely, is relatively easy to clean, and it has a valve that does not leak. It does not take too much to bite down. It fits nicely in Mountainmith Borealis bag as well.

Water Filter

For day trips I try to carry enough water so that's not a problem, but I've finished before. I used to wear a Lifestraw, which was helpful in an emergency, but you have to go down your stomach in the mud by a stream, get your face close to the water and suck as if you are drinking the world's coolest milkshake. MSR Trailshot was a revelation for me. It's a small little press pump that's small enough to fit the pants pocket, requires zero suction, and can even fill your water bottles and hydrating blisters (some straw can never do). You should be covered everywhere in the United States. But if you're going to countries where waterborne viruses are a problem, you need something bigger, like MSR Guardian Purifier, which provides military filtering (including viruses) and a high flow rate. That's what I use for longer backpacking trips.


Get $ 100 Leatherman Wave. It's a classic. Any other multitool I have used (including those made of the same brand) has left me who wants. Wave has a wide range of knives and tools, is dangerous sharp, but folds down compact in the pocket. I have used them from repairing a tent to making dinner to dig a pocket out of my thighs. I usually have one on me too for short day trips.

GPS Communicator / Navigator

Think of this as a cheap insurance. The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus satellite communicator lets you send and receive texts with your family and friends, and it also lets them track your journey. It has offline topographic maps, and it's easy to load wireless routes and waypoints from your computer. There is also an SOS button, which will call in search and save virtually anywhere on earth. There is a subscription fee for the texts and so, but it's worth it. I recently had two camera sets spread a good distance in the desert at night. I used inReach to leave a pin at each camera, and I could get back and forth between them. This thing has a permanent place in my adventure package.

Portable USB Charger

This is another permanent backpack fixture, whether in urban or wilderness. Being able to load small gadgets while on the field is extremely important. I have used Anker's portable USB charger for many years and they are incredibly good. For most people, I recommend $ 60 PowerCore II. As the name suggests, it is packed in 20,000 mAh of power in a very small bar that fits into a jacket pocket. This new one has a port that can deliver charging at 18W, which is enough to quickly charge your phone or even give your full-frame mirror-free camera a boost.


Having a good outdoor clock is good for a lot of reasons. Personally, I use Garmin Fenix ​​5S Plus. It's not just a fitness tracker and rudimentary smartwatch (showing messages, etc.), but it has built-in TOPO maps for the entire United States. You can also use GPS to track back if you've lost your track, and it can also show weather and sunrise / sunset times. It's good for me to carry it all the time, even when I'm in town. This clock precursor really made me sure twice during a nasty, widespread heat wave last year in the southwest.


There are some things even a good multitool can not do, like rejecting bears. If you will be in bear land, get some bear spray and keep it on your hip all the time. You do not want to end up like Leo in Revenant .

In addition to things in this category, I strongly recommend that you wear a compressible hot layer, a waterproof layer, a small first aid kit, a way to cook (stormproof matches are a good choice) and a handful of bars or other calorie-tight feeds to hold you if you get stuck out there.

Data Handling

After You Have taken your photos, you have to do something with them.


Getting a discussion about which laptop is the best can be as bloody as the argument about cameras. Personally, I used a 15-inch MacBook Pro for several years. For image work I would not go with a screen smaller than that. In recent years, however, I have not liked what Apple has done with the MacBook Pro. I did not like writing on the keyboard, and I did not think I could not get a 4K screen and that it only had one type of port (USB-C). So I jumped ship this summer and got a 15-inch HP Specter x360. It has a 4K touchscreen (great for photo editing), it has a wonderful keyboard, it has the latest Intel processor and a Radeon RX Vega M for graphics. It has every port I want, including two flash compatible USB-Cs, an older USB-A, a full-size HDMI port and an SD slot. That means I never have to wear any stupid adapters or dongles with me. Oh, and it costs about half the price of a less powerful MacBook Pro. I will not lie: I miss macOS much, but I miss it as a lot.

External Hard Drive

Look at the little thing in my hand. It's a terabyte. The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD will disappear in your shirt, but it's also fast (550 MB / s read speeds) and robust to IP55, which means it's going to be good in the rain or with small drops. Having a spinning hard drive fails with me this year when I encountered it ever so little, I can not tell you how much the peace of mind is worth. This has fallen off my desk on the hard floor, and it did not even seem to notice. It comes in a number of capacities, but I think that $ 210 for 1TB is a solid investment.

Wi-Fi hot spot

While cafes with internet are abundant and many phones support tethering, I still prefer a dedicated Wi-Fi hot spot, as my rates tend to be a bit faster than they are via my phone. (And with your phone as a hot spot, the battery kills very quickly.) In the United States, I've used a Verizon Jetpack for almost three and a half years as my go-to internet connection. I've also had a T-Mobile ZTE Falcon hot spot that I've leaned on almost as much. Yes, you have to pay for data, but when your supply depends on getting online, well, it pays off quickly.

For next year …

I hesitated to insert this because it will not be available until the beginning of 2019, but I find it interesting that it is worth mentioning. The original Gnarbox was a good idea. It was basically a portable hard drive with SD card slot and own power source. As soon as you stopped shooting, you can throw the card into it, and it would be enough. You can even start editing full-res files from your mobile phone and the changes would be maintained when you get back to your home system. As I said, it's a good idea. But the first iteration did not really live. Gnarbox 2.0 looks much better. It uses SSD so transmission speeds will be extremely fast, and they will be check sum validated so you do not have to worry if they are really backed up. It also has a screen now, and the whole app is taken care of. Again there is not yet, so I do not recommend it, but I think it has a lot of potential, so watch it.

Phone and Apps

Smartphone cameras have been really great. They are still far from a real full-size camera, especially in low light, but some of my favorite photos are those I snatched with my phone, simply because I could grab it on time to capture the moment. My current phone is Google Pixel 3 XL. The pictures it shows is the best I've ever seen from a phone. But there are other strong reasons to always have your phone with you, and many of these reasons are apps.

Google Maps

If you drive into the wilderness, its ability to download maps for offline use literally save your life.


Its interfaces are not completely intuitive (although comparing to competition), but PhotoPills (iOS, Android) is one of the most powerful programs for planning photos, especially if you're trying to shoot a sunset, a moon event or winter street. It even has AR so that you can adjust exactly where the sun / moon / liquid will be hours, days or even months in advance. My night shots have had a lot of improved success since I started using it.


This is another that mainly refers to night shoots. Astrospheric (iOS, Android) offers super detailed weather forecasts a few days in advance, but it goes beyond "it's raining." It looks at things like transparency, true looking, moon phases and light pollution to give

Adobe Lightroom CC Mobile

For each photo I bring my phone, GoPro, or even those that I quickly transfer from my big camera while still in the field I run it through Lightroom CC Mobile (iOS, Android) before I send it. It gives you granular control over how your photos look, and it really takes them up.


What Google Maps is for roads, AllTrails (iOS, Android) is for hiking trails. It not only helps you find a good hiking anywhere in the world, but you can download interactive topographic maps directly to your phone with the route clearly marked on them. You then use the phone's GPS to keep track of the correct track. If you are in a true wilderness area where tracks may be poorly labeled (or nonexistent), this can easily make the difference between reaching your intended destination or not. It's a subscription service, but it's very worth it.

And that's my list. Is that all you ever need? No. Are there any things you never need? Probably! As I said, it is not necessary to hurry and buy all this at once. This is supposed to be a list of things you may want to add over time or pointing in one direction if you want to replace something from your own kit. This is all I've tested and have served me well. If you buy any of it, I hope it will help you well too.

Brent Rose is a freelance writer and a regular Verge contributor. He is currently traveling in the United States who lives in a high tech van, looking for stories to tell. Follow his adventure on Instagram Twitter Facebook and ConnectedStates.com .

Photography by Brent Rose of The Verge [19659089] Vox Media has affiliated partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, but Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. For more information, see our Ethics Policy .

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