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4 Month Adventure Documentary backpack?

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Mark Pedri4 Month Adventure Documentary backpack?
by on Jan 25, 2012 at 10:21:13 pm

I am producing an adventure documentary that is beginning production this summer. I have a question that I would love some help with. I am trying to decide what type of backpack to get for my crew. It consists of two people who will be on the road for 4 months. They need to be able to carry everything including their personal gear and the video gear. They can have multiple bags such as a roller bag and a back pack but they must be able to carry it themselves. We are shooting on a 7d with 2 lens, external audio device, 2 miss, Gopro with mounts, and a small sony jungle cam. They will have two small tripods, a laptop, small external hard drive, chargers, flash, and all of the fix ins that you would expect. On top of this, they will each have one week worth of clothes, a small camp stove set, compact sleeping bag, and a few personal items. The maxim amount of luggage is what they can carry. They won't be walking for the entire time but they will have to navigate getting from airports, trains, and buses fairly efficiently. For a part of the film, they will be using a car and gear will not be an issue but since two weeks they will be carless, we need to have a very effective way of safely hauling our gear. We have considered camera backpacks, backpacking packs, pelican cases, and a combination all of them. They will be flying, driving, some walking, and possibly traveling by bus or train.

I was thinking of putting the gear with one person and the personal things like clothes with the other. Since most bags big enough for our situation are too big for an international carryon, what do you recommend? I am thinking to check all of the personal items and carry on the equipment.

I know this may sound like a disaster or impossible but I am willing to listen to any advice. I have experience producing and shooting films in very extreme conditions but I have always had a home base and it was never for 4 months. My crew is depending on me to figure this out. What do you think?



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Mark SuszkoRe: 4 Month Adventure Documentary backpack?
by on Jan 26, 2012 at 4:12:11 pm

Don't put all the key gear in just one "egg basket", at any stage of this project, from the air travel to the trekking in the woods. To be safe, distribute the gear such that if half of it is suddenly unavailable, you can continue working, at least for a while. Same thing for clothing and other most important supplies.

There is a tendency to pack the kitchen sink on these things, and I'm as guilty as anyone, my kit bag-of-holding must weigh 60 pounds and looks like it was packed by Felix the Cat. But when I know I have to travel light, I have a smaller fanny pack with the true essentials most likely to be of value on the specific job. I re-pack that if the nature of the job changes. Always, I find room for a couple of Power Bars and some basic medical stuff, bandages, tape, ibuprofen and a couple other pills. Spare sharpies, binder clips, & paper, too.

Here's what's in my fanny pack right now, for in-the-city work:
(Read in a Slim Pickens voice)
2 spare 66-minute dvc Pro25 tapes
2 Powerbar nutrition bars, (peanut butter flavor)
Breath mints, small container
2 XLR gender changers
Cell phone charging cable
USb wall charger
Rubber wedge doorstop
Mini to phono audio jack adapter
Phono jack to XLR adapter with matching transformer or pad
Spare business cards
3-way AC plug adapter
2-prong power "cheater"
Handheld dynamic mic
phantom-powered lav mic.
Lens wipes and alcohol wipes in sealed foil pouches
Spare 6-foot audio xlr cable
2 safety pins
Spare earbuds
2 Sharpie markers and a post-it note pad
Plastic garbage bag, tightly folded
Roll of gaffer tape on a narrow core.
Rolled-up/scrunched 2-foot piece of blackwrap foil
4 Small binder clips
2 BNC barrel connectors
Camera battery, if possible
Spare AA and AAA and 9-volt batteries for wireless mics, always
Multitool with LED flashlight
tiny Citizen brand SD LCD monitor and cable, sometimes
Package with bandaids, gauze pads, ibuprofen and burn ointment.
Copy of Shaw's "Man and Superman", paperback (for downtime/travel)
Plastic folding map of Chicagoland area or GPS

I got a real photographer's vest last year at a thrift store: I used to mock these, but find they are damned handy in the field for holding and compartmentalizing all the little things that otherwise would fill up your pants and shirt pockets or get in the way.

Evaluate each item's ultimate usefulness and odds of being needed before you pack it and consider if something else already packed can already serve the same function, more or less. Make your stuff multi-task. Do pack multitools, tie-wraps and gaffer tape. You can re-wind a few yards of the gaffer tape onto smaller, tighter cores for more compact travel, for example.

Always pack more blank media than you think you need. The most expensive shot is the one you couldn't bring home: blank media is cheap, the cheapest thing we buy. Same deal with batteries, especially if you're going places without AC backups. You might want to pack short jumper cables and perhaps an inverter to steal power off car batteries when you have nothing else.

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Mark PedriRe: 4 Month Adventure Documentary backpack?
by on Jan 27, 2012 at 5:23:54 pm

Thanks Mark!

You make a really good point about separating the gear so that if something happens to one bag, it won't stop the production. Sounds like an interesting fanny pack! I didn't even think of bringing my inverter but that's a great idea!


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