NOTE! If you’re looking for Cloth Map T-shirts and stuff, head over to the Store!
This is more about the equipment we use when traveling and filming.
Okay, so this list is a little weird since not everybody needs to bring tons of video equipment wherever they go, but I hope that it will at least spark some inspiration for your own travels!
Also, many of these links are Amazon affiliate links. If you’re unfamiliar, affiliate links don’t affect price, but they do give me a small kickback if you buy something, kind of like a tip for telling you about it! If you think that’s weird for some reason, you can tell me about it over on the contact page.
I keep my passport on me at all times, hidden in a money pouch (along with some cash) that attaches to my belt and hangs between my hip and the inside of my pants. Please don’t mug me.
I don’t usually wear a watch but make an exception when I’m traveling because I tend to have more of a schedule. I also rely heavily on notebooks to keep track of the day’s events, write down interview questions, remember confirmation numbers, and so much more.
Clothes are bulky, and when you’re traveling with video gear like me, you need all the space you can get. That’s why I only bring a couple changes of synthetic (read: quick-drying) clothes: instead of bringing enough clothing to last me a few days and then having to find a place to wash them, I opt to wash the clothes I wore the day before during the morning’s shower, then let them dry for use the following day. This also allows me to be flexible when it comes to how long I stay in any particular place. Since I wash my clothes every day, I always have enough clothes!
As romantic as it is to imagine cruising the world with just a stick and bindle, it’s important to recognize what will keep you happy and sane while you’re outside your normal home life. For me, keeping up my daily hygiene routine makes me feel fresh and ready to take on all the unknown things I’m going to encounter every day while on a trip. That’s why you’ll see, for instance, Q-Tips on this list (which are hard to come by in hotels and BnBs). The space these items take up is a small price to pay for feeling good!
I also take nail clippers (for trips longer than a week), a razor, deodorant, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. The Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap is what I use to clean my clothes. I DON’T usually take shampoo and conditioner, since doing so can take up a lot of room, and because hotels and BnBs often come stocked with these. You’re not taking a trip to the moon; humans are everywhere and they all have similar needs, so finding a place that sells shampoo and soap isn’t hard (and can be kinda fun). In a pinch, I use the Dr. Bronner’s.
Medicines could theoretically be “On-Site Procurement,” like soap, but deciphering foreign medications can be difficult and maybe a little dangerous. And frankly, when I need a medication enough to go buy it, I don’t usually feel like going and buying it. I need it NOW. Here’s what I bring in my personal pharmacy:
Ibuprofen / Advil (for head- and muscle aches)
Phenylephrine / Sudafed PE (nasal decongestant)
Bismuth subsalicylate / Pepto Bismol (upset stomach)
Loperamide / Imodium (anti-diarrhea, a MUST)
I couldn't find links to the exact models of pill containers I use but I’m pretty sure I got them at the Container Store.
It’s almost impossible to totally eliminate the suckitude that comes with long airplane rides but there are a few things you can do to take the edge off. Pricey-but-worth-it noise-cancelling headphones, a white-noise app (I use Relax Rain), and a sleep mask can do a lot to put you in your own little world. Ear plugs are a cheaper alternative to the headphones and can be a lifesaver if you discover your AirBnb is next to an artillery range or something.
A neck pillow is required for me, and while this one isn’t perfect, it’s one of the few I’ve found that at least tries to support your chin rather than (perplexingly) pushing your neck forward. And while I don’t take the luggage scale with me, it’s important to know before you leave if your bag is over your airline’s weight requirement.
Since pretty much every piece of electronics I take with me has a USB power adapter, I can get away with what is effectively a USB power strip. Outlets are often at a premium and I’ve found this to be the perfect solution.
USB battery packs are also really useful in case you need to charge your phone out in the field (or your video camera battery, which I’ve had to do in a pinch). The 20100 mAh battery listed below is probably overkill for most people. I’d consider the smaller 10000 mAh version if I were to get another.
It’s not a video series without video! Lots of trial-and-error has gone into producing Cloth Map videos, and the process is constantly evolving. Here’s what we’re currently working with!
Cameras & Lenses
Cloth Map uses three cameras. The Panasonic GH5 is the primary camera. Its dual-axis stabilization makes it ideal for the run-and-gun-style filming we do. The Sony a7S II is the secondary camera. Its got great low-light visibility which means, with the GH5, we can shoot in pretty much any environment. I also bring a Sony RX100 IV as a backup camera that I sometimes use if I want to keep a low profile (like in a restaurant).
When you’re filming all day, flexible tripods like the Joby can be really useful in alleviating back pain that results from holding a camera with both hands. Of course, they also serve as tripods, but I rarely use them as such.
Keeping your footage safe is of paramount importance, which is why I copy my SD cards onto an external hard drive at the end of each shooting day so the files exist in two places. I also pack the cards and the drive in separate bags when traveling, in case one gets lost.
Variable ND filters are a MUST if moving between indoors and outdoors. Instead of having to put on and take off a filter every time, all you have to do with a variable filter is give it a twist and you’re good to go!
To get good audio, it pays to be redundant. We fit each camera with a boom mic to get ambient audio, while the interviewer and subject each wear lavalier mics connected to pocket audio recorders. In cases when there are multiple subjects, we mount a boom mic to an audio recorder with a little adapter. Then it’s just a matter of syncing all the audio tracks in post using a piece of software called Pluraleyes.
STUDIO & LIVE STREAMING
Though Cloth Map has a strong travel angle, sometimes there is a need to film at home in a studio environment.
An LED light means you can have solid lighting at any time of day, and having a teleprompter makes shoots go so much faster than winging it or trying to remember bullet points. This one uses a tablet (not included), which keeps the cost down. I use an iPad Mini with the PromptSmart app, which auto-scrolls using voice detection!
A proper XLR mic is probably overkill if all you’re doing is live streaming, but since most of Cloth Map’s feature videos include voiceover, we didn’t skimp on studio audio! Boom arms and pop screens help clean things up, and an XLR-USB interface is necessary if you want to plug the mic into your computer.
Of course, a good set of headphones is also required, though I typically don’t go too nuts on these. There’s something to be said about listening to your mix the way your audience is going to; you can’t assume everyone is an audiophile.
Digital mixers like Voicemeeter Banana are popular, cheap, and do the job most of the time, but I tend to prefer a hardware mixer that I can touch (and, more importantly, problem-solve by feel). Things like lav mics and headphone amps probably aren’t necessary if you don’t have multiple people in the same room, but I wanted to have the option.
I switched to a trackball mouse after getting some wrist pain from editing. It took about a week to get over how different and weird it was, but now I’m a trackball pro!
The 10-port USB power brick is used to charge the many devices that use USB power, especially camera battery chargers.
NAS devices like the Synology below are crucial for video production, since video files are notoriously huge. I used Synology drives at Giant Bomb and really enjoyed how easy to use they were.