Lightweight Video Gear for Backpackers

Everything but my Pixel 3a phone is in this picture

When you live out of your backpack full-time, ultralight packing becomes an obsessive necessity. There are plenty of packing lists that guide you towards ultralight pack weights — but what happens when you add a videography or podcasting hobby?

I'll show you how my versatile vlogging gear — along with everything else I travel with — still weighs less than fifteen pounds altogether. That includes all my clothes, camping gear, toiletries, all this video gear for traveling — everything.

This travel videography gear allows for multiple camera angles, underwater shooting, drone footage, high-quality audio, and the ability to store and edit all this 4K awesomeness.

I'll break this gear down into the following sections:

  • Cameras
  • Microphones
  • Computing and Storage
  • Tripods and light
  • Batteries and power
  • Cables and adapters
I made this video covering all the same gear as well:

Cameras used for travel vlogging

Everyone knows just how powerful smartphone cameras are nowadays, and seeing that 99.99% of people travel with a phone anyway, you get this camera at zero extra weight-cost. You may as well choose the phone with the best camera if this is your passion.

I've loved my Pixel 3a, but obviously, the latest iPhones and Samsung phones are more than decent as well. If I were to upgrade right now I'd jump on the Pixel 4a 5G or the Pixel 5.
The addition of the GoPro has been a game-changer for me. Compared to the Pixel, the GoPro gives me the ability to film underwater and in the rain, the footage is smoother, and time-lapses turn out amazing (all without holding my phone hostage while filming). The small form factor takes up minimal extra space but will set you back ~$300 depending on which model you get. I have the Hero 8, but the Hero 9 is now available.

An extra battery is critical

Having both the Pixel and the GoPro also allows for filming one thing from two angles, which instantly ups the production value (I'll get into tripods here in a minute). It's also pretty handy that they're both powered by USB-C (I'll get into all that too).
When people see the slim size of my backpack they're usually shocked enough that I have a sleeping bag and bivy-tent hidden in there giving me the ability to camp. Pulling out a drone — one capable of shooting beautiful videos from a multitude of angles — and they're mind is truly boggled.

I'll admit, as tiny as the Mavi Mini is compared to most drones, I was pretty hesitant about the extra weight and mostly the extra space it would take up in my pack. Is it worth it? Hell yeah.

Besides the obvious high-altitude ariel shots I was looking for, the drone also allows me to capture buttery-smooth panning shots closer to earth that would otherwise be impossible. And the ariel shots are still oh-so-sweet. The production value of videos goes up 100x with this beast.

And it's fun. I'll sometimes use the Mini just to get a better look at my surroundings or even scope out potential campsites for the night.

Custom minimal case using the box it came in.

I cut up the actual box the drone came in to make a custom minimalist "case" for it. I added one little strip of foam and got a propeller guard from Amazon, throw the whole thing in a ziplock bag with my beanie wrapped around it, and it's good to go.

Microphones used for vlogging and podcasting

Honestly, if I had just one smartLav+ mic and nothing else, I could make it work. It sounds great and is the smallest of all the mics I carry. But I'll explain why I have more.

First, I have not one, but two smartLav+ mics. This allows recording two-person interviews at the highest possible quality. I can plug them directly into my Pixel, Surface Go, into my GoPro (with the required mic adapter), or into any professional audio interface or camera (like when I travel with Nick Noyes filming episodes of Hopping: The Backpacking Beer Adventure).

This also gives me the ability to record a far away shot with great audio. For example, I could have the GoPro on a tripod capturing me walking out to a cliff edge while the smartLav+ is plugged into my Pixel in my pocket recording audio separately that I can sync later in post-production.

The Movo VXR10 is my best bet in the wind, or when filming myself or others on the go where wiring up one of the lavs just isn't viable. It's a great mic, but it's also the bulkiest (especially with the windscreen) and would be the first to go if I had to leave one behind.
Then there's the Samson Go Mic. I rarely use this while filming, but it's my go-to mic for podcasting and post-production voice-overs. It sounds the best, and while only slightly wider than a lighter, I gladly keep it around. I also went ahead and detached the microphone from the black stand to save weight. It uses Mini-USB, which is why I got a small USB C adapter so I can use the USB C cables I already have rather than carry another.

I also made this DIY pop filter using a pipe cleaner, stocking, and scrap piece of crbon fiber to reduce plosives while recording.
My Pixel 3a indeed has a headphone jack that I can plug the Rode smartLav+ or Movo microphone into, but for whatever reason, using this USB C to 3.5mm adapter makes it sound much, much better. If your phone doesn't have a headphone jack, like so many high-end phones these days, then this adapter is essential.

The need for this GoPro microphone adapter is pretty annoying. I wish you could use any USB C to 3.5mm adapter (like the last one I wrote about), but you need to buy their proprietary, bulky, and costly dedicated adapter (or the media mod) if you want to use an external microphone with the GoPro. Oh well.

An 8' 3.5mm extension cable allows me to use my smartLav+ when I'm far from the camera. If I'm further than that, then I record audio separately to the phone in my pocket as I mentioned earlier.

Computing and storage

I absolutely love the Microsoft Surface Go. While it's by no means the ideal powerhouse video-editing machine folks dream of, it gets the job done and is ridiculously small and light compared to other laptop options.

If you search YouTube you'll find mixed reviews of people trying to run Adobe Premiere Pro and edit using the Microsoft Surface Go. I will say, it's not the smoothest experience and rendering can take some time, but I've stitched 4K files into twenty-minute runtime videos together regularly. There's plenty of tips online to maximize your settings.

There's also a built-in webcam and a forward-facing camera — a bonus forth 1080 camera in my setup if I'm desperate for another angle.

One thing that helps video editing go smoother is an external 1TB SSD. The Sabrent Rocket Nano was about the cheapest 1TB drive I could find that was small and light enough (about the size of a lighter) to be worth carrying around the world with me. Keeping my video files on here lets Premiere run smoother, and obviously allows me to store everything nicely (although I still back up to the cloud, personally I use Google Drive).

It's certainly worth noting the I have the original Surface Go, and there's now the Surface Go 2. It's the same physical size but with an optional upgraded processor and larger screen size thanks to shrunken bezels.

The Surface Go has only one USB C port, a headphone jack, and a proprietary port for charging. While it's possible to charge via the USB C port (and therefore rely on your existing USB C charger rather than carry an extra proprietary wall-wort), that would mean you couldn't charge and have the USB SSD drive plugged in at the same time. This little adapter cable is the solution, allowing you to use your existing charger and USB cable.

I'll describe my charger and cables further in the section below.

Tripods and light for Vlogging

This is about as light and compact as I've found for a tripod that can raise my cameras to a stationary eye level. The exact model I have is no longer available, but this one is pretty close and maybe better. It's not as stable as a traditional tripod, but it certainly gets the job done. Also, because it is indeed a selfie-stick (a long one at that), you can get some wider selfie shots, extend it around corners, out over railings, and high up to get some interesting shots you otherwise couldn't. It came with a Bluetooth shutter-remote as well, which can be handy.

The second tripod is just a 12 inch, but it's super-bendy, grippy, and waterproof. This is great for handheld use with the GoPro, setup on boulders or uneven ground, or be wrapped around poles or tree limbs to get the perfect angle on a particular shot.

This one is admittedly a bit much, but if you know what you're doing with lighting (I'm only just figuring it out) then something like this will be pretty handy. This particular light has five different brightness settings. You could of course just try to grab random lamps wherever you are, but having this is a pretty handy way to get some great shots.

Power and Batteries for traveling videography

A power bank adds some weight, for sure, but with all these gizmos, it's good to have a universal way to charge any of them while you're on the go. I like Morphie Powerstation PD XL because it has fast charging and 10,050 mAh is a decent amount of charge in a compact form factor, but feel free to jump down the Amazon rabbit hole to find something else. If you think you found something just as good or better/lighter, definitely throw it in the comments.

Rather than get multiple chargers, this is the smallest multi-port charger I could find powerful enough for my tablet and other devices. I can easily charge my Surface Go, Pixel 3a, and the Mavic Mini (or any combination of three of my devices) all at once.
This is the smallest USB C car charger I could find on Amazon, and even with the bonus of the regular USB port to charge two devices at once if need be.
If you plan to travel internationally, you'll need to pick up a kit like this. All you really need is the NZ/AU and European adapters (you can use the Euro one in the UK using this hack).

Cables, adapters, etc

Headphones, of course, are a must while traveling and editing video or your podcast.

The various lengths of USB C cable are needed for charging and data transfer. One long-ish one and two short has served me well.

The Micro USB to USB A cable is most handy for plugging the drone directly into the port on my wall charger, power bank, or car charger.

The female USB C to male Micro USB adapter allows me to use my regular USB C cables to also charge the drone, drone remote, or Bluetooth shutter remote that came with the selfie stick tripod.
The female USB A to male USB C adapter lets me plug just about anything into my Surface Go or Pixel, or mix and match cables as needed.
The female USB C to male USB A adapter also comes in handy for mixing and matching cables and ports, like using that third USB A port on the wall charger to charge one of my USB C devices.

Packed up and ready to roll

Well, that about sums it up. That's everything I carry. If you'd like to see how it all packs up alongside my clothes and camping gear, check out the video below showing everything I own and how it's packed up.

Take some kick-ass pictures, make some badass videos, and travel forth. Good times!