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There’s a lot to consider when packing camera gear for an extended shoot. And the stakes are even higher when you’re planning to spend a month in the Thai mountains - just a touch out of reach from the nearest JB Hi-Fi.

Ultimately we never wanted to feel like our shots were being compromised by gear choices. But when shoot schedules are based around steep jungle roads and bumpy descents, all equipment has to be worth its weight. From lenses to lapel mics, everything was under scrutiny.

Here are our four major things to consider during the gear-packing process (all helped by a dollop of 20/20 hindsight):

1. Watch Your Weight:

Nope, we’re not talking about whether or not you should have a second helping of khao soi for breakfast (that answer is always yes). This comes down to the dozens of micro-choices needed when packing your bags.

If you’re shooting for X hours per day, how much hard drive space will you need to safely backup footage? Can you really afford not to pack another LaCie? OK, well that’s an additional 350g in your bag. Where do you draw the line for personal hygiene? Is that 200g mini shampoo a must-have or a luxury when sweating your way through the humid jungle days? And for the rare downtime, is a single paperback book really that excessive? Well, that’s another 150g.

Our suggestion is to go full Marie Kondo and pack the bare minimum. Lower your hygiene standards – even if it doesn’t spark joy for your travel mates – because you will curse every gram of unnecessary weight when you’re 600 vertical metres into a 1500m hill climb. And if you’re a filmmaker on the move, you’re already lugging more weight than the average bikepacker.

2. Keep yourself charged

Picture this: you’re crouching in the reeds, camera in hand, next to a beautiful river crossing. The sun is filtering through the trees and your talent is on their mark, lit up perfectly by a golden hour backlight. The last camera battery hits 0% and you’re forced to wrap for the day, a few kilometres from the next charge point.

This was our worst case scenario and an outcome we avoided thanks to careful pre-prod. We approached the battery planning on two fronts: A) selecting the right number of batteries to keep all equipment juiced for 48 hours, and B) bringing enough power packs to recharge all gear in the case of any curveballs. As it turns out, even the most remote homestays and campsites in Thailand provided reliable access to powerpoints – but the following setup provided ample power for 2.5 days of shooting in the middle of flippin’ nowhere:

  • 4x Sony camera batteries 
  • 2x Shinobi monitor batteries 
  • 3x DJI drone batteries 
  • 2x 10,000 mAh power packs 
  • Cables/extenders/adaptors

Total weight: 3kg. Yeah, time to ditch that shampoo.

3. Don’t cut corners:

I’ll be the first to admit, there were a few sleepless nights thinking about how our precious camera gear was going to fare across hundreds of kilometres of rutted dirt roads. This was our first bikepacking trip as filmmakers and we felt like anxious parents as we tucked the camera body, lenses, drone and monitor into a blanket-padded front bag.

One major gear failure had the potential to derail the whole trip, so there was a lot riding on it. Despite tropical downpours, mud-splattered gear bags and the cast of A Bug’s Life waiting in the wings, we avoided any code-red scenarios. When you’re exhausted, it’s so tempting to cut corners on the pack-down process, but that’s when sensors get dirty, sand gets in focus rings and toys get thrown out of the pram. Take that extra time to stabilise the bike, work together to swap lenses efficiently, clean out bike bags regularly, protect the sensor with your life – and most importantly – be patient and kind with each other.

4. Rapid response:

Thailand’s roads offer a lot of surprises. From small trucks creaking under the weight of one million bananas to wayward elephants causing traffic jams (true story), it’s important to be quick off the mark when shooting. Our camera rig needed to be strong, mobile and quick to set up from start to finish.

Here’s our on-the-road setup:

The rig foundation was a full SmallRig cage armed with a side handle (featuring remote record button), and a twistable top handle connected via a quick-release Nato rail. Adaptable, ergonomic, and rock solid.  With the top handle turned sideways, this full setup would sit snugly in the bike’s front bag, housing our camera body (Sony A7siii) and primary lens (Sony 24-70mm, f2.8) pointing up. Being able to stow the camera with the lens still fitted was a non-negotiable. Fitting lenses and exposing the sensor dozens of times per day in the steamy, buggy, muddy jungle just isn’t practical. The front bag itself was locally made by Buffalo Bags – a Thai company specialising in bikepacking gear. And honestly, we couldn’t fault it.

During each pack up / pack down we would attach a 5” Shinobi monitor and a directional Rode Mic Pro+ to the SmallRig. Both were wrapped in a loose sleeping bag liner for quick access, safety and support, and this was stowed in the same front bag. You could definitely use a more professional approach here – like a foam padded bag – but we wanted to avoid too many fiddly zipped bags within clipped bags. And surprisingly this redneck solution worked really well.

The final bit of front bag kit was the DJI Mavic Mini 3 drone, control pad, batteries and repair accessories – all housed neatly within the DJI kit bag. Amazingly our big ticket items fitted perfectly together within the front bag to limit movement and comfortably ride out the bouncing trails.  

It took a lot of convincing from our bikepacking pals that our custom-padded backpack should remain at home. But if there’s one key takeaway from our trip’s gear choices: a backpack is a definite no-no on the road. Terrible for balance, terrible for overheating and sweat, and a total liability if you should fall off your bike.

Having easy access to your camera is essential. Firstly, you don’t want to miss the time-sensitive shots. But also, because you’ll be packing your gear dozens of times per day, any finicky processes get old fast. And if you’re hangry, it’ll feel even worse. Trust us on that.

Dan

Dan has been in the engine room of video production and marketing agencies over the last 10 years, delivering content, campaigns and strategies for some of Australia’s most well-known brands - and some fun, feisty challengers.

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