If it is your objective to be a travel vlogger, telling stories and capturing imagery from around the world, you need to have the right travel vlogging equipment. It just so happens that I spent 2.5 years traveling full-time, so I have quite a bit of experience to share.
From June 2017 to December 2019, I lived like a nomad. My family and I sold or gave away 90% of our belongings, and what we didn’t get rid of, we put in storage. We then spent those next 2.5 years spending about half the year traveling throughout Europe, three months traveling in Canada, and the remaining three months here in the United States.
As a family of visual artists, we took thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of video (my wife at the time was a photographer, and my son and I were the resident filmmakers). We documented our travels for personal posterity, but also to tell amazing stories of the people we met and the places we saw.
We were also in the process of shooting and producing a documentary about chronic illnesses that are “invisible.” So as we traveled, we conducted interviews with people we met along the way who were living with their own forms of invisible illnesses.
When you’re traveling like this and doing so much filming and photographing, you need to be able to travel light enough for all the forms of transportation you will take—trains, rental cars, ferries and airplanes with relatively small overhead space and strict weight allowances.
You will also need equipment that will allow you to capture the quality images you want. So I want to give you advice from my own experience, paired with what I’ve learned from others, on how to decide what kind of travel vlogging equipment to get.
The travel vlogging equipment we took on our nomadic adventure was based on the fact that we would be traveling full-time and living in AirBnBs most of the time (with the occasional hotel or vacation rental using points). For that, we needed equipment that could be used at any time, anywhere and travel with us permanently. If you’re a travel YouTuber and that’s how you live, then you’ll find my advice perfect.
But some of you may only be traveling for a brief period of time and you can afford to take a lot of equipment because you won’t be gone that long. Or maybe the places you’re traveling to will have some of the equipment and resources you need. In these situations, you may be able to take different or even more gear that would be harder for someone living a full-time, nomadic life to take.
With that said, let’s look at the travel vlogging equipment.
Picking travel vlogging equipment
When I give any specific gear recommendations, I first want to address the kinds of qualities to look for. Years from now, whichever gear I recommend might be out-dated. But this advice is evergreen. It will always be helpful.
You want travel-clothes that are light and durable, and ideally, something you don’t have to wash a lot. Look for durable, efficient, and well-designed backpacks and suitcases that allow you to easily fit your clothes and toiletries. Many airlines that fly between countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa have very strict guidelines for size and weight so you have to be able to pack tightly and efficiently. Things like hi wick nylon pants and jackets are great.
For packing our clothes, we were fans of eBags. Their backpacks are durable and can fit a lot.
Let’s get this one out of the way. It goes without saying that there are literally hundreds of different types of cameras you can take. It is beyond the scope of this article to list them all and it depends on the kinds of images you’re taking. Are you shooting stills and photos? Or are you shooting animals on safari (i.e. you need a long lens so as not to get too close to that wild hippo)? Are you shooting underwater? Do you want drone footage? I could go on and on.
I will say this: if you are not able to travel with a lot of lights, make sure you have a camera that does well in low light. You want to look for a camera that has a wide dynamic range (i.e. it can take good photos and video in both shade and really bright areas without losing detail). I would personally recommend one of the mirrorless, Micro four thirds (MFT) cameras like the Sony A7 series or Panasonic Lumix series. (For the record, the camera I used during our travels was the Panasonic Lumix GH4.)
In this video, Canadian filmmaker Ryan Harris (who shoots all around the world) shares why he likes the GH5.
There’s one more camera I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Your iPhone. The photo and video image quality on today’s iPhones is absolutely remarkable. And with programs like FilmicPro, you can add additional functionality for controlling the image. A program like LumaFusion provides powerful non-linear editing power right on your phone or iPad. And if you’re wondering if you can use a smartphone to shoot a “serious” video, just remember that Oscar-nominated films have been shot on iPhones (be sure to check out our tips for creating better videos with your smartphone.)
Tripod and rig gear
Let me start off by saying that I know the value of a really good, solid tripod head and “sticks.” One that allows for smooth camera movement, levels, and stability. That being said, those kinds of tripods are both very expensive and are often quite big. Not necessarily the best choice if you’re living a nomadic lifestyle as a travel vlogger.
I also know the value of a really good Glidecam, Steadicam, Movi or gimbal (or similar camera rig). But you naturally need something that allows you to travel light. Luckily, there are many camera stabilizers that are not only compact but even have feet that allow you to stand them up like a tripod. As of this writing, one of the most amazing is DJI’s Ronin SC.
Ronin also makes compact Drones for those of you who absolutely must have those aerial shots. On our travels, we used the DJI Mavic.
Every good YouTuber knows that you need good lighting. It goes without saying that if you need to travel light, you won’t be doing a lot of 3-point lighting. That doesn’t mean you still can’t capture beautiful images with small lighting set-ups. And I can think of no better recommendation than the LumeCube Panel Mini. The list of features is long, the size is perfect (i.e. small and compact), and the price is right—ONLY US$60. It has attachments for DSLRs and smartphones. This looks amazing.
It is cheap enough and small enough where you just might be able to invest in three and get that 3-point lighting set up.
When I was a nomad, I was traveling with a 3-person family. As the strongest person in the household, I was often responsible for carrying all of our bags up long flights of stairs in old European buildings with no elevators (the worst was being on the 7th or 8th floor of an apartment in Lyon, France.) You do not want to have to deal with that if you can avoid it. So, the more you can compact, the better.
If I were a travel vlogger traveling alone (or maybe with one other partner), I would have one bag for clothes, a small carry-on for computer, and a rolling bag or big backpack for gear naturally, if I use a backpack for gear, then my clothes would need to go in a suitcase that can roll.
One brand where you can never go wrong is Pelican. They make a backpack/rolling combo backpack in their S115 Sport Camera Backpack. There’s room for your camera, lenses, and computer. This combined with an eBag backpack would make a great pair.
If you don’t have quite as much gear and could use a smaller travel backpack, this video below has a terrific selection.
When picking lenses as a travel YouTuber, if you have space, I recommend getting a good long, medium, and wide lens. My go-to focal lengths are 70-200, 50, and 11-16, respectively. (not adjusted for crop factor, if applicable).
Royalty-free music & stock footage
Despite how much traveling I’ve done and video footage I’ve captured, there are some shots I am just not able to get. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on one of my travel videos and needed extra travel footage. So, you just might want to have access to high-quality stock footage that you can drop into your videos as well.
No travel video is complete without music. Whether it's local music from the places I traveled to or atmospheric Cinematic soundscapes that fill up the screen with energy, royalty-free travel vlog music is a must-have for any traveling YouTuber. You can check out Artlist as well as our curated travel vlog music collection.
Last, but not least
You’re going to need portable chargers for your smartphone, and wall outlet adaptors for the various countries. That’s it for me. If you travel a lot and shoot video, We'd love to hear your recommendations for travel vlogging equipment and other travel suggestions?
For nearly 20 years, Ron has been a professional video producer, content marketer, and influencer in the visual arts industry. Most recently was managing editor of the Frame.io blog and currently managing editor of Film Riot. He helps brands and creative artists tell their stories using video, content, and words. You can learn more about him at https://bladeronner.media.