Ultralight Film Gear for Cycle Touring and Backpacking


When you’re travelling light and making a short film, it can be really hard to know what film gear to bring

Ultralight film gear when you’re backpacking or cycle touring is a must, but can be difficult to narrow down when packing. All photographers have a fear of finding themselves with an amazing shot and not having the right film gear to capture it – on a bike trip or backpacking it’s even worse. You need to keep weight down as much as possible because everything has to be carried on your bike or on your back for days or even weeks on end.

Ultralight Film Gear

Over the last couple of years we’ve narrowed it down to a small kit of 7 items that works well for us. It doesn’t mean we have absolutely everything we want for every situation, but it’s a happy compromise that allows us to get the footage we need for our films.

Canon 5d MKII  

This camera is a classic workhorse. It’s not the latest technology; it doesn’t look particularly fancy; it doesn’t impress anybody – but it does everything we need it to do and doesn’t attract too much unwanted attention. It can be used effectively for capturing excellent quality video or still-photography.

It’s solid, reliable and sturdy. Ours even took a dunking once on Jeju Island when a freak wave broke over it. I dried it off as much as I could with my shirt and at first it seemed to be fine – several days later though, the ISO button stopped working. I resigned myself to having to change the ISO in a more lengthy and complicated way in future using the LCD screen – until we could afford to buy a replacement. Then, a couple of months later, it spontaneously started working again. Two years later, it’s still going strong.

Voigtlander 40 mm Manual Focus Prime Lens

I only bring one lens when travelling by bike or backpacking and this is my favourite lens of all time. I really like the 40mm focal length. It’s built like a brick house. It has smooth, old school manual focusing (no auto-focus). It’s black. It’s metal. It’s small. And optically, it’s superb – beautifully sharp, even with the iris wide open and I’m yet to come a across a lens with nicer or more attractive lens flare. Its small size means it doesn’t intimidate subjects like an L series zoom would and it’s easy to quickly pack the whole camera into my handlebar bag.

Rode smartLav Microphone

This lavalier microphone is tiny, cheap and plugs directly into your smartphone. When I first bought it, I tested the sound quality against my old AudioTechnica lav microphone which used a separate power-source, my shotgun microphone and the built in microphone on an iPhone 4s.  The Rode smartLav was the best by far. As you would expect from a company with a reputation like Rode, the sound quality is exceptional. I always keep mine in a tiny pouch at the bottom of my camera bag – it’s great for interviews and occasional nat. sound.

Manfrotto Lightweight Tripod (MKC3-H02)

We got this small toy-like manfrotto tripod on special in a shopping mall in Melbourne a few years ago when we were visiting family. At first glance it seems too light and plastic-y but actually it’s surprisingly solid, considering. The best thing about it is it’s small size and lightweight. It’s only a foot or so long when it’s folded up but it’s almost 6 feet tall when extended, making it suitable for interviews with standing subjects. In strong wind it’s a bit shaky and I’d rather have something else… but I just don’t have the will to carry anything heavier on the back of my bike.

Azden SGM-X Directional Microphone with 3.5mm Jack

The directional or shotgun microphone is a must for DSLR filmmakers, though I’m not a fan of this particular model. It has a small watch battery for its power source, but no power indicator light – this means that if you run out of batteries while you’re filming, you ‘ll have no way of knowing until you review your footage and find that you have no sound. It’s happened to me and I can tell you it’s pretty frustrating. Other than that…well, it gets the job done. It allows me to record nat. sound for every shot without having to pull out an external recorder and the quality of the sound is good – if not amazing.

I’ll use it until it dies and then I’ll be getting the Rode Video Mic Pro.

Portable Hard-drive

This is a new one for us. In the past we’ve taken a small computer like Emma’s macbook air but it’s a bit heavy and always at risk of theft or weather damage. On our last trip from Seoul to Busan we decided to take just a portable hard-drive and no computer. We used the computers in motel rooms to transfer footage and audio to the drive as our cards filled up. It worked pretty well.

We had to be very mindful about how much footage we took, but that felt like a healthy exercise for me as a photographer to be more focused. This worked just fine on this particular trip, because we are familiar with Korea and knew that we would be able to find motels with computers fairly easily. In other countries, this may not be the case and we’d have to consider bringing a small computer or investing in quite a few more memory cards.

GoPro Hero 3

The GoPro Hero is small and relatively cheap. You can stick it to your bike, you can take it in the rain, you can film underwater and you can make time lapses with it. Need I say any more?

Do you have any other items in your ultralight film gear kit?   If you’ve found this list helpful, please consider supporting Korean Rooftop by purchasing through the Amazon links.