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Tips & Tricks

Traveling Light: The Perfect Rig For Photo & Video in Extreme Locations

By Hanssie on January 5th 2015

Having just come home from a 10 day trip to China, lugging my back-breaking DSLR kit, laptop and luggage full of souvenirs through airports, on subways, and through crowded streets, I had the urge to ditch all of my gear for a few iPhone lenses, my laptop for an iPad with a detachable keyboard and hiring a baggage handler to follow me around for any other heavy lifting.

perfect-travel-rig-photo-video-2 Traveling light is getting a bit easier these days with the the new mirrorless offerings, as I have recently discovered after playing with the Fuji XT-1 for the last few weeks, but if you were visiting an extreme location, like Iceland, what would you need to not only be prepared with your gear, not have to lug around 900lbs of equipment, and still be able to carry it all on with you on the airplanes?


In the following video, Alex Cornell shows what gear he brings to create a perfect one person, lightweight rig for both photo and video, that fits in two carry-ons designed to “be easily transported between cars, planes, hotels, and the field.” Alex used this rig to shoot Planet Iceland and wanted to be able to shoot not only photo, but up to 4k video as well.

He designed the rig with quick set-up and breakdown in mind and recommends this as the ideal image-capture equipment for spontaneous travel.


Alex describes what he chooses and why, including why he doesn’t go with one of the mirrorless offerings. Below is his gear list.  To me, it still seems a bit heavy, but I’ve not been to many (any) extreme locations that also required me to shoot 4k video.

Pelican 1520 Case:
Canon C100 Dual AF
Canon 1DC
Canon 16-35mm f2.8
Canon 24-70mm f4
Canon 70-200mm 2.8
(At anyone time, each camera has a lens attached. Case is customized to fit them like this to allow for quick access).

InCase DSLR Pro:
MacBook Pro 13″
Monster Overdrive 1TB SSD
GoPro Hero4
Lexar Dual CF/SD Reader USB 3.0
Lexar CF and SD cards in Pelican 0945 Case
– Extra batteries for C100/1DC
ND and Polarizing Filters by B+W
Gitzo GT1542T with Manfrotto RC2
– Chargers
Black Rapid Curve with FR-T1
Ikan D5 (duplicative if you are mostly shooting with C100)


Watch “Travel Gear: A Lightweight Rig for Photo and Video in Extreme Locations”

So now, as you are planning out your 2015 adventures, be sure to check out our airline travel tips for photographers, to help you prepare for your trip. Where are you going in 2015? Comment below and let me know…so I can become green with envy!
[Via iso 1200/Alex Cornell on Vimeo/Images via screencaps]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Pelican cases may well protect your gear but they say “hey, look expensive stuff in here”. I travel with a lot of technical (non-photographic gear) for my work and have learned to use bags that are fairly innocuous to the casual observer. Pack your gear in neoprene and water proof bags to protect them.

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  2. David Hall

    I’ve made the mistake of carrying too much gear. You’re dead by the end of the day. Go light.

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  3. Stephen Velasquez

    Was he being sarcastic when he said lightweight rig?

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  4. Cody Edger

    What about carry on bag with personal belongings in addition to the camera gear? I’m about to leave on assignment in Chile and I’m trying to find something that will carry camera gear and then also comfortably carry some personal belongings. Just in case if my checked baggage doesn’t make it to my destination when I do.

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  5. Jason Switzer

    I travelled around France with my wife for two weeks last year. We brought a 5Diii and a 6D, plus 2 flashes, a 16-35L, 50 1.4, 35L, 85L ii, and a 135L. We used all of our gear (except the flashes) and got great shots. That being said, carrying around all if that gear while walking around in each city nearly broke my back. If money were no object, I would get us a pair of Sony A7_, and some high quality rangefinder glass (maybe 4 primes between the two of us) and call it a day.

    I love my Canon gear, but it’s best when I’m using it for work or for fun nearby home. Traveling with heavy gear can suck the enjoyment from a trip. Just waiting for an A7R ii with IS and a fix to the mirror shake.

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  6. Chad Focha

    Nothing “lightweight or efficient” about this package. This seems more like a promotional video than anything. Anyone interested in travel photography would not invest in this setup unless you are a pro. At which case you wouldn’t need to be watching this.

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  7. Jason Markos

    Really useful guide and great to get the insight to see how a particular pro works… but doesn’t exactly seem like a lightweight set up.

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    • Stan Rogers

      I think that mostly comes down to the difference between “git ‘er dun” and “git ‘er dun… for cinematic release”. It feels very different comparing it to, say, a GH4 than it does comparing it to Panavision or a fully-kitted-out RED or Arri.

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    • Alex Cornell

      A fair point indeed — I’ve updated the video to make this a bit clearer. The term “lightweight” was meant in comparison to a full professional setup (support, lighting, lensing, RED or similar). This in contrast, was basically the most stripped down kit I could muster, while still managing a high-level of quality and creative latitude. A much different, but equally interesting video, would be the kit for a “true” lightweight travel setup. Would be pretty quick explanation though lol.

      Updated the wording where possible to frame this more clearly. Hope you enjoyed!

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