My Tech Gear: The Roadtreking Guide to Traveling Tech

I get lots of questions and requests for suggestions and recommendations about the tech gear I use to capture and blog the reports I’m doing out on the road.

(This report was updated February 15, 2015)

I’m always adding various things so here’s my latest update on the gear I like to take with me.

You can read the story on how this blog came about here. On this page, let me describe the tech gear I take with me on-the-road. I change and add gear all the time so this is current as of the last update note below.

My main video camera: I use the Canon XA20  Professional Video Camera. I love this camera. I got this in the fall of 2013 and have found it to be the perfect “run-and-gun” camcorder, suitable for HD ENG work (Electronic News Gathering), event coverage, interviews, scenic shots, how-to-videos and documentary filmmaking. The camera features a 1/2.84″, 1920 x 1080 CMOS sensor that captures video at various frame rates up to 59.94p, including a 24p mode for a more cinematic feel. The integrated Canon 20x HD Optical zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 26.8 to 576mm and features an 8-bladed iris to render highlights in a more natural manner. It uses professional XLR audio inputs for two channel recording. I use an attached shotgun mic and a wireless mic on the two inputs.

Back-up Video Cameras -Two  GoPro Hero3 + Black Edition video cameras . Waterproof, dustproof, HD and able to be strapped to anything from a helmet to the side of my Roadtrek, these cameras get wide angle perspectives that are great for action shots. There are lots of mounts. I have a helmet mount for biking and a suction cup mount for slapping on my motorhome or any flat surface. One of these cameras is dedicated to my drone, see below.

Wireless Microphone System – Good sound is essential. I use the Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System, with BodyPack Transmitter,Plug-on Transmitter, Camera Receiver. This system is a workhouse for professional videographers and news crews. It provides video recording in the most varied recording situations, from as far as 100 feet. The ME 2 clip-on microphone is virtually invisible. The extremely small SK 100 G2 bodypack transmitter and the SKP 100 G2 plug-on transmitter as well as the EK 100 G2 camera receiver feature nine frequency banks with four directly accessible presets each.

My main DSLR Camera – The Canon 5D Mark III with an 24-105 mm lens. Awesome photos, great HD video. I bought this to do still and video but now use just for stills. Since this is a bit tricky to focus for video out in the boonies, I now use dedicated video and still cameras. This camera produces superbly detailed imagery with immense low-light sensitivity  Some bigname photographers say it is one of the finest DSLR cameras on the market. It’s the most expensive camera I’ve ever bought, I’ll tell you that. This first-class sensor features many of the same new technologies as used by professional Canon cameras to maximize each pixel’s light-gathering efficiency. I am very impressed with the highly detailed, rich images it gives. It produces images with a maximum resolution of 5616 x 3744 pixels. I’m taking several photographic classes and slowly learning how to use manual instead of automatic. But it’s a great camera. I use an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens for wildlife shots, with a Extender EF 1.4X III as needed for distance shots.

My secondary DSLR Camera: As a backup, I sometimes use the new Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 50x Optical Zoom. I have been stunned at the capabilities of this camera and especially how clear and crisp that 50X zoom is in geting me up close to wildlife and nature shots. This is much lighter than the 5D and is seriously vying as my always-carry camera. Because I like photographing wildlife – big, dangerous wildlife like wolves, moose, bison and bear – I need a good telephoto. I can’t afford $10,000 for a huge telephoto for the 5D so I sometimes rely on this camera for my wildlife close ups.

Tripod – I use the GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit (Titanium). It offers a sturdy, compact tripod that extends to 64.2″, supports up to 26.4 lb, and folds down to just over 16″. The GlobeTrotter is actually two camera supports in one: a foam-cushioned, removable leg attaches to the center column to convert to full size monopod. The tripod’s legs can be spread independently with two-position leg angle stops. A spring-loaded hook is located in a recess at the bottom of the center column, allowing you to hang a heavy object from it for additional stability. The ball head offers separate head and pan locks, a 360° pan index, and an integral bubble level. An Arca-Swiss style quick release plate with a 1/4″-20 camera screw is included in the kit, along with a durable carry case with a shoulder strap for storage and transport. I carry it in my Roadtrek at all times and use it for my DSLR and video cameras.

Field camera bag- After years of searching, I’ve found the perfect gear bag for my DSLR camera, back up camera, lenses, wireless mics and batteries. It also holds my 15-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the Tamrac 5788 Evolution 8 Photo/Laptop sling backpack. This bag can be carried as a backpack and as a sling pack on either shoulder. The pack has a Triple Access System that allows gear to be accessed through the front door and through 2 side doors. It can carry and protect my 5D  DSLR camera with up to an 8.0″ lens attached, several additional lenses, a flash and accessories. My SX50 also fits in the bag. The rear, completely foam-padded laptop pocket holds my 15 inch MacBook Pro. For quick access to the camera gear, I slip off 1 shoulder strap, swing the pack around to the front, and open the side door to access my main 5D camera with the lens attached. To get at additional equipment, swing the pack around to the opposite shoulder and open the side door on the other side of the pack. When worn as a backpack, the 2 foam-padded shoulder straps, waist belt, and chest strap distribute the weight. I got the one briwn one. It also comes in black.

Computers – At home, I use the 3.5GHz six-core Mac Pro, with 32 GB of RAM. On the road, it’s the MacBook Pro with Retina display. Quite simply, this is the finest computer I have ever owned.  Mine is the 15-inch version, with the 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor. I have 16 GB of RAM and 750 GB of flash storage. Because there are no moving parts, the the solid state flash drive boots up remarkably fast. About 20 seconds does it.

Video editing software – I use Final Cut Pro X. Fast, powerful, full featured and able to handle 1080p HD video without breaking a sweat.

Photo editing softwareAdobe Photoshop CC Plus Lightroom. I am a member of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, meaning I get all updates free. It costs me $10 a month. Learning to use this software can take time, fortunately there are options through services like lynda.com, where you can take online Photoshop or Lightroom classes.

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Portable hard drives – HD video files are huge. So I carry two Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB external hard drives when I travel.  make files for each shoot, organize them on one FreeAgent and never worry about using up my MacBook Pro storage. I use the other drive for backup.

Portable Memory Card Backup – I shoot a lot of images and video on SD cards. So I have the Nexto DI ND2901 750GB Portable Memory Card Backup Storage. Maybe it is overkill but after driving across the country, staking out a moose in a cold mountain rain all day, I don’t want to take any chances of erasing or losing my images.

Cloud backup – I back up all my files from the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro in the cloud as well, using the iDrive service for $59 a year. I am very paranoid while traveling about losing my photos or videos while on a shoot. iDrive backs up all my photos, movies, music and documents automatically. All I need is an Internet connection. Total peace of mind.

Backup Power – There are so many things that depend on battery power. Cameras, smartphones, tablets, laptops. I bring the Mophie Powerstation XL with me on all trips. It charges anything that I have that has a USB connector.

Smartphone – I  use the iPhone 6 Plus with 128 GB.  I’ve had every iPhone since they came out and just keep coming back to them. Nothing is better. I’ve used many of the Android phones, of which I most like the Galaxy S 4 and the Note 3.

Tablet – The iPad. The 4g Verizon model. Great for apps on the road. Check my PC Mike NBC-TV reports for my favorite apps.

My Mobile NetworkVerizon Wireless. Verizon, I’ve found, offers the best and reliable nationwide coverage. I’ve had AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. None came close to Verizon in terms of coverage while on-the-road, offering 3 and 4g coverage and reliability.  If no WiFi is available, I  use the Verizon MiFi wireless modem to set up a 4g hotspot on the Verizon network. That lets me use my MacBook Pro for web updates, uploading photos and videos.

Cell Phone Booster – I am often camping in the boondocks, off-the-grid in a state or national forest, many times at the far edges of cellular coverage. To make a better connection, I use the Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G – Vehicle Cellular Signal Booster. It has often had me go from no bars to three bars. To help pull in the maximum signal, I substituted the small little stubby antenna that comes with the Sleek with the Wilson Dual Band – 800-1900 MHz Magnet Mount Antenna. I have it mounted at the top of the vehicle and I snaked in the coax cable around the drivers door.

Ham radio – I’m a long-time licensed amateur radio operator (K8ZRH) and I always have a rig with me. I travel with the ICOM IC-V85 two meter FM hand held transceiver and, permanently mounted, the Kenwood 144/440 MHz TM-V71A transceiver. I use amateur radio for emergency communications, weather monitoring and just plain chit-chatting with locals on their repeaters. I did a blog post on installing ham radio in an RV.  I’m hoping to add an HF model some day soon.

GPS gear – For my Roadtrek, I use the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710. I am not crazy about this GPS unit but like the fact that it has a seven inch screen and can be synced to a central site to reflect the latest in construction issues and detours. Made specifically for RVs, it has lots of RV-specific data and Points of Interest (POI).

My Drone – I also travel with my own personal drone. It’s really not a drone in the sense of the military drones we keep hearing about, but is a radio controlled quadricopter, the Phantom 2 with a Zenmuse  H3-2D  Gimbal that acts as a steadycam for the GoPro Hero3 camera it carries. I use this for aerial shots to show scenic views and overhead perspectives of the places I blog about. I have an FPV (First Person Video) monitor attached to the flight controller that transmits back the image the camera is recording. The camera has a built in compass and GPS navigation control.

My Dash Cam – I have really enjoyed using a Dashboard Camera. Here’s a blog post I did on dash cams. The unit I use is the Windshield Witness. I bought mine for around $200 and chose a 32 GB memory card, good for about 11 hours of recording. A big feature for me in choosing the one I got is that it has a flip down video screen that can show me what the camera is seeing. The mount also can swivel the camera around, to capture video of the inside of my RV. And it also picks up and records audio.

Clothing – I wear coats, shorts, jackets, vests, pants and shirts made by ScottEVest, an American maker of tech-enabled very high quality casual clothing that is known for having an abundance of pockets for all the tech gear one would want to carry around. The company started with a great photographer’s vest and for well over a decade, I proudly wore mine all over the world. Now, Scott Jordan, the guy behind the company, makes a whole line of mens and womens clothing. They are stylish and comfortable and perfect for all my gadgets and gizmos.

Weather Station – On my sticks and bricks home, I have the Davis Vantage Pro 2 weather station. It is accessible via a webpage so I can see the conditions at my home from anywhere. It is mounted on the roof of my house and measures wind, rain, barometer, temperature. Connects wirelessly to a console inside and trhe rooftoop gear is partially solar powered.

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