Curious what it takes to create content while long-distance backpacking and thru-hiking? Here’s all the nitty gritty details behind what I carry in my pack on trail, a content creator's ultralight gear layout, if you will.
My Ultralight Gear for Content Creation
When I became eligible for my most recent phone upgrade, I had two features at the top of my priority list: battery life and camera quality. These factors are applicable to my content creation for obvious reasons, and it’s always nice to have a backup camera should something go awry.
Power Bank - Nitecore NB 20000
To make sure I was getting a power block worth the weight, I jumped headfirst into researching everything on the market - and then found this spreadsheet on r/Ultralight where someone had done it all for me. The spreadsheet compares more than 100 different charging blocks, and the Nitecore NB20000 sits at the very top. After thorough trail-testing, I’m pleased to add another affirming opinion to the crowd.
Camera + Lens - Sony a6400 w/ 16-50mm Lens
I mentioned previously that I use my phone to take photos and record videos on trail, and it’s arguable that for my social media purposes the quality would be similar to that of an expensive camera. So why did I drop over a grand on a brand spankin’ new, mirrorless, 14.2-ounce camera one week before taking off on a 350-mile media trip? The answer: having two devices makes it easier to capture a range of angles, battery capacity is extended, and for me the difference in quality matters. Additionally, the Sony a6400 also has a fold-out screen, ideal for setting up shots or vlogs.
Tripod - PEDCO Ultrapod 3
The size, durability, and ease of use of this tripod make it worth the weight. If my pack is coming off during the day, I’m setting up for a quick and easy photo session. As you research ideal pieces for your kit, keep in mind how your gadgets function in relation to one another. For instance, my Peak Designs Clip couldn’t be used with my PEDCO tripod, as they both need to screw into the bottom of the camera to work.
Microphone - Sennheiser MKE 200
1.6 ounces - Built-in wind protection and this microphone’s lightweight design won me over, but it also requires a relocation plate to be used alongside one of my favorite features of my camera — the fold-out screen.
Clip - Peak Designs V3
I’ve heard wonderful things about this clip, but it sure did me dirty on trail. Two distinct issues with securing the camera caused it to detach from my strap and tumble onto the ground, in one instance hitting the side of a rock and cracking the brand-new screen. I soon discovered my camera fits perfectly into the waterproof zippered pocket on my hip belt, so one accidental drop insurance claim later, and I’m back in business (sans camera clip). I recommend a clip of some kind for ease of use if your camera doesn’t fit into a pocket that’s easily accessible from the front.
Power Cords and Blocks
under 5 ounces
Included in my repertoire are: 2 quick charge USB-C cords that fit my phone; a Micro USB that fits my headlamp and camera; and a 30W wall block with two USB plug-ins.
Special Considerations for Content Creators in the Backcountry
Charging Capacity and Capabilities
They say you pack your fears and mine is certainly running out of power on trail. My phone is more than just a way to catalog memories and record content: it’s my knowledge base for water sources, mile markers, camping information, and navigation. That means I need to treat it like the lifeline it is and prioritize battery life as a matter of safety alongside my needs as a content creator.
On my 3 week thru-hike of the Appalachian High Route, I recharged my phone fully every evening at camp; and recharged my headlamp, charging block, and camera in town. Thanks to the impressive battery life on my Sony, I didn’t have to use my stored charge on trail for anything besides my phone. I stayed out in the backcountry for a maximum of 6 days at a time before returning to town, and never had to worry about my charging block dipping below 30%.
I recommend tailoring the number of cords and wall blocks you carry to your hiking style. If you’re more likely to pass through town than stay the night, you may want to be equipped to charge quickly and all-at-once, as opposed to having only one of everything and needing to rotate devices.
Ease of Use and Accessibility
The ease of having everything I needed accessible at a moment’s (or a few moments) notice was instrumental for capturing the content I did on the Appalachian High Route.
The ideal setup for my pack had my camera in my hip belt (a perfect fit!), my phone in a removable pouch on my shoulder strap, my charging block and cables stored inside my pack in my itty-bitty-ditty-bag, and everything else in my content kit in a waterproof bag stored on the back of my pack. At any given moment, I was 30 seconds away from filming with all my gadgets — and when you’re traveling through the land of the black bears, that’s a good place to be.
The advantages of keeping weight down on trail are endless, but some potential additions to your kit may especially speak to you. Know there’s always some room for luxury items, but be prepared to bear the weight in stride. Options to further deck out your kit include: a higher-quality camera lens, a camera pod for accessible storage, and more charging capacity.
Before setting out into the unknown with an abundance of expensive equipment, be prepared for conditions to turn on a dime. Keep a dry bag accessible on the outside of your pack; be diligent about keeping electronics dry and out of extreme cold; research weather-sealed equipment; and carefully review any policies or warranties on gear before hitting the trail. Additional accident insurance for drops and/ or water damage may be worthwhile (I for one can attest to its value).
If the temps plunge at night, consider putting your electronics in the bottom of your sleeping bag/ quilt to mitigate the cold’s battery-draining effects. Or, another option is using Cold Case Gear, a cold- and heat-resistant phone case built with NASA technology. Lastly, turn the power off on all of your devices at night, phone included, to preserve battery life.
In the wild world of content creation, your audience is following you for a reason - play around with your options, make mistakes, and turn it into an opportunity to share your own unique story. You’ll end up with a kit that suits your style and fits your needs in no time.
What ultralight gadgets have made their way into your pack? Do you have tips or tricks to share from your experience creating content on trail? Let us know in the comments below!