10 Tips and Tricks for Road-Tripping with Camera Gear

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You don’t have to sacrifice gear when you travel. In a world full of minimalism, we are constantly bombarded with messages to pack light and bring less. We're here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way!

Berty and I are professional photographers and travel bloggers at TheMandagies.com (An Adventure + Travel Blog). There's no such thing as packing light for us. However, there is a way of packing smart, and we're here to share how you can be efficient on the road without sacrificing (or destroying) your gear. Read on for our favorite tips, products, and tricks for making the most of your camera gear when you’re on the road.

1. Set Up a Charging Station

Before reaching your first destination, it's important to juice up your gear to make sure you're ready for any situation. We use a charging station for the car with this WAGAN Elite 400W PRO Pure Sine Wave DC to AC Power Inverter. It fits easily into a car adapter and allows us to use our gear in the front seat between locations. We also like the option to charge smaller things like phones and portable battery packs via USB. Don’t forget to pick up some extra camera batteries.

For charging when the car is off, we use our GOAL ZERO Yeti 400 Solar Generator. This is a perfect option for backcountry trips because it can recharge gear using energy from the sun.

2. Designate a Space for Your Gear

Road trip travel can get messy and disorganized easily. You don't want that to be the case with your expensive equipment. When traveling with camera gear, it's important to establish an area in your vehicle for photography only. During our trip, we were driving a converted Sprinter Van with lots of drawers and storage. We dedicated one large drawer for camera gear, and we always put things back after every use. Doing this helped us keep track of everything we brought, and made it easy to grab things quickly for a spur-of-the-moment shoot.

Don't have a van drawer like we have? Try packing your gear in a hard case, such as the Pelican 1450, with some dividers. You can even customize the foam inserts to keep your cameras safe, and designate a space for everything. Another favorite of ours is the WANDRD HEXAD Access 45L Duffel.

3. Take Extra Safety Measures

Being on the road with your gear comes with its vulnerabilities. Traveling with camera gear brings an extra risk of stolen gear, lost items, weather hazards, and simply more wear and tear on your cameras. One simple precaution you can take is to make sure your camera gear is hidden from view when you leave your car unattended. This means taking the time to find camera bags and organizers that stash easily under car seats and remain hidden from view. It also means choosing a bag that secures with a key or combination lock. Even more, you can make it extremely difficult for thieves to steal your gear by locking one strap of your bag around a car seat. The Dry 25L Anti-Theft Backpack by PacSafe has a strap that can wrap and lock around anything, for peace of mind.

We also think it’s important to invest in waterproof gear if you’re traveling to rainy areas. Adventures like driving down the Oregon Coast or an Olympic Peninsula road trip bring especially wet conditions, so do a little research on the type of weather you’ll experience along your route, to be fully prepared. Most of all, have your hard drive with you, always. Make no exceptions.

4. Test New Lenses

Road trips are a time to bring your favorite camera lenses, but also a great time to test new ones. Road tripping brings you to many new and exciting places (like these stops from our Utah National Parks road trip), which is the perfect setting for trying a new camera setup in different environments. For our latest adventure, we tested the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera, which you can pick up with an accessory kit, and the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Zoom Lens. Bringing it to our many amazing hikes in Sedona, looking down the basin at Death Valley, and capturing Mount Whitney in the distance at Alabama Hills was just the start of the adventures with this new setup.

5. Keep Organized

When shooting and editing photos on the road, it is of the utmost importance to stay organized. Small tools like cord organizers (such as the Lowepro GearUp Case), bags with compartments, and clear labels are small ways to make a huge difference. We recommend a soft case insert like the Vanguard Supreme Divider, with adjustable, padded dividers to fit all your camera bodies and lenses. On a budget? Use clean socks to keep your lenses from banging against each other. We like to wear beanies, so we wrap them in those during bumpy off-road adventures.

6. Stay Comfortable

Most of our road trips go like this: drive to a destination, hike in said destination, edit at night, drive to a new location. We're always on the go and it’s important to stay comfortable! We like to make small tweaks to our gear that help prevent us from experiencing body fatigue. Here are some things to consider.

  • Comfortable camera straps, such as the Slide from Peak Design
  • Backpacks with hip straps and/or chest straps for support and proper ventilation (there’s the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II)
  • Switch which side you carry your camera on your shoulders and avoid wearing it around your neck when hiking
  • Consider using a camera clip to keep your hands free on hikes and backpacking trips

7. Keep Living and Working Spaces Separate

Keeping work and everyday life separate may be difficult on the road, but it significantly minimizes your risk of ruining any important gear. Before making camping meals and when winding down to sleep, we put all our cameras away in their proper place. This way, we don't run the risk of stepping on something in the dark or spilling food when eating. It may seem like a hassle, but when you put that hassle into perspective, one overturned water glass can result in thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and loss of photos. That's worth putting in the extra few minutes to tidy up!

Not much space? Invest in disaster-proof containers like waterproof bags and hard-shelled storage. Pelican has always been known for serious waterproof cases, including its SD card holder, and OverBoard has some great dry bags.

8. Back Up Your Photos Every Night

Road trip travel photography can be an exhilarating adventure. While it's a busy time, making a routine of backing up your photos every night will help you stay ahead of the game. We like to use the LaCie 4TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drives because they are built to withstand bumpy rides and minor drops. Never be stuck with full memory cards again! Make sure to back up, organize, and store files the night before to clear up space for the adventures of the next day. Other alternatives include the wireless-capable Gnarbox 2.0 SSD Rugged Backup Device and ultra-compact SanDisk 2TB Extreme Portable External SSD.

9. Make a Travel Photography Gear List

Before your trip, take some time to make an inventory of all the gear you are bringing on your travel-photography road trip. We’ve made a list of all our travel-photography gear. Itemizing everything you bring will help you stay organized and keep track of things before and after your trip. Make sure to get hyper-specific with smaller items like number of batteries, memory cards, and accessories (like headlamps). It also is helpful to label cords, lens caps, and camera-specific accessories to help you quickly identify items in a hurry. Two helpful items are the Rite In The Rain All-Weather Expedition Notebook or the All-Weather Spiral Notebook.

10. Get Insurance

About making an inventory list: if you are a professional photographer who travels with camera gear, it's important to have insurance. This type of coverage looks different depending on the kind of photographer you are, and what kind of gear you use. We suggest calling a B&H representative at 800.606.6969 or 212.444.6615 to talk about what kind of insurance best fits your hobby or business.

Have you ever been on the road with your camera gear? What are some tips you could share with others planning the same kind of trip? Share them with us in the Comments section, below.

Love traveling with your camera gear? Find more exciting adventures on the road and in the Pacific Northwest on our travel blog (TheMandagies.com) and Instagram account, @themandagies! We’d love to connect with you!

Berty and Emily Mandagie are professional travel bloggers and photographers and run the adventure and travel blog TheMandagies.com. Inspired by their home in the Pacific Northwest, the Mandagies are constantly out shooting and sharing brilliant content from their outdoor adventures. You can find them on Instagram @themandagies.

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