What’s in the Bag?

A comprehensive list of what I carry with me to the islands.



People often ask me what gear I carry, what camera I use, which computer and programs I rely on and what I put it all in?  This past weekend I was looking over my gear in preparation for my next trip to the islands.  With everything laid out in front of me I thought I would take advantage of the situation and take some pictures for this article.  I know what’s in my bag but I think it’s a good idea, especially prior to a trip, to check batteries, condition, charges and overall operation of what you have.  Some trips don’t require every item and some more.  Here are my core items:

Kata Source-261 PL Backpack

Kata Source-261 PL Backpack ©2011 Carl Grooms

The Kata Source backpack is a new addition for me.  I’ve used Tenba photography bags for years, including for my one year trip around the world, so switching wasn’t on the top of my mind until I found this bag.  I like the way it has three compartments, the weight is very nice and the yellow interior makes it easier to find small items.  This bag never leaves my side.  It fits in the airplane overhead allowing me to avoid the carry-on issue.  When I’m out and about on the islands this bag has everything I need to capture the moment either photographically or with video.

Outside pocket contents

Outside pocket contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

A good flashlight is a must.  I carry multiple extra AA batteries as many items in my bag use them.  A Sharpie is always handy and I have wrapped gaffer’s tape (black multipurpose tape) around the barrel.  You can never have enough tape!  Aspirin of some type is always nice for hangovers as well.

Main compartment contents

Main compartment contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

The Kata backpack has three compartments making organization much easier and helping you avoid opening the entire bag for one item.  Furthermore, the main body cover opens only large enough to take out the camera keeping prying eyes off everything else.  From top to bottom, my camera which is a Canon 7d with a Canon EFS 17-55mm  ƒ 2.8 IS USM lens.  I keep a SanDsik Extreme Pro 32 GB 90 MB/s chip in the camera with multiple backups.  I also carry 3 additional camera batteries.  A noise canceling Bose headset lays in the center on top of my Sennheiser audio gear.

Audio gear

Audio gear ©2011 Carl Grooms

I often shoot video in noisy spaces so the lavaliere microphones come in handy.  I also use a wireless connector for my shotgun mike as well which you can see to the left of unit ‘B’.  This audio gear is quite pricy, being able to pack it in the center of the backpack surrounded by my custom made foam works perfect. At the left of the picture and the bottom of the bag is my primary independent audio hub.  The Zoom H4n accepts my Sennheiser signals via XLR inputs and gives me wide latitude in how I run my audio.

Bottom body contents

Bottom body contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

Underneath the Zoom H4n in the very depths of the bottom of the bag are my extra batteries.  These can be expensive in the islands so I stock up.  Most of my gear runs on AA or their own internal batteries which I am always careful to keep topped up.

Left compartment contents

Left compartment contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

The left compartment of my bag carries an assortment of things.  For more creativity and longer shots I carry the Canon 85mm ƒ1.2 IS USM lens.  Sometimes I couple this with Canon’s 1.4x extender.  Considering that I am shooting with a 1.6x CCD this effectively takes me to almost 200 mm equivalent.  On the bottom left is my lens cloth which is hiding a weather cover for the overall backpack.  It always rains in the islands having this cover is a must.

The GoPro Hero camera is a fun new addition to my bag. To the right of it is a head mount for POV video and to the far right is a suction mount which is good for cars and boats.  I always have a lens focal plane slide rule with me which is the blue and white item on the far right.  This reassures me that my shallow depth of field shots are set up correctly for my subject to be in focus.  The little tripod item on the right is a holder for an iPhone.  Recently I acquired the iPhone 4S for the 1080p video and upgraded camera.  This little tripod is great for keeping your shots steady.  All the pictures in this post were shot with the new iPhone.

The final item is the white block in the center bottom.  This is the Apple Airport Express Wifi base station.  Often in older hotels you have an ethernet connection but no Wifi.  With this I have my own Wifi by plugging the ethernet cable into this.  Very nice addition and it doesn’t take up much room.  On the topic of connectivity, I use my iPhone on AT&T as a base station when I’m traveling.  When you are in the Virgin Islands, even in the BVI, often you can pick up an AT&T signal and you’ll on line.

Right compartment contents

Right compartment contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

The right compartment is largely audio.  The Rode shotgun mike is for the Canon.  This is my backup audio source and it also allows me to more easily synch my independent audio on the Zoom H4n to the video track by synching audio to audio.  The Canon TC-80N3 is a timer remote.  I use this for time lapse video as well as remotely timed still photography. The two filters are a Hoya circular polarizer and a Fader-Neutral Density MkII  variable filter used to control exposure when shooting video on bright environments. The last item on the left is a 3.0X Hoodeye used on the back of the camera to check focus.

Hard drive and Audio gear

Hard drive and Audio gear ©2011 Carl Grooms

I also carry a Seagate 1.5TB thunderbolt hard drive.  Primarily I use it with my Mac for Time Machine backups while I am traveling.  Once a day I ensure this backup occurs and then I separate the hard drive from the computer.  That way if I am robbed I have a copy of my computer’s hard drive always safe.

Wires and small gear bag

Wires and small gear bag ©2011 Carl Grooms

I have a bag full of wires.  There is no good way to keep wires neat, therefore using the bag as about as good as you can get.  I have a CF card reader, USB drive, iPod shuffle, card readers for my iPad and an ethernet adaptor for my Mac.

Computer and iPad compartment

Computer and iPad compartment ©2011 Carl Grooms

There is a small compartment on the back of the bag close to my back.  In here I can easily slide my MacBook Air and iPad along with a few magazines if I wish.

MacBook Air and iPad

MacBook Air and iPad ©2011 Carl Grooms

I like to keep a small lightweight case with my computer as well so I can just carry that out to a do work if I wish.  I primarily use the 1st generation iPad for reading books and maybe movies, though I am more of a book guy.  When it comes to software, I rely on Final Cut Pro X and Aperture 3.2.  I also use Photoshop, Illustrator, Tweetdeck and the iWork suite of programs.

There are two additional items that I normally carry and cannot fit in the backpack.  The first is a set of video lights.  I use a 300 bulb LED setup that is about as powerful as you can get with an on camera light.  The case is no larger than my Bose headset but as you can see the bag is already maxed.  Second is my tripod. This backpack does have a tripod holder that is made to hang off the back or sides.  I use the a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod for light weight coupled with a Gitzo titanium video head.  Each chosen more for weight realities than budget as neither were cheap.

How heavy is all this, not including tripod? Would you believe only 25 pounds.  Considering all the items I manage to pack and the vast array of creative options each allow me I have to say that I am more than pleased with my setup.  Are there better choices?  For sure there are.  I’d love to hear what you pack and why as well.

Expanded view of all contents

Expanded view of all contents ©2011 Carl Grooms

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One Response to “What’s in the Bag?”

  1. Wendy Gunderson October 17, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I’m amazed you can cram that much stuff in that bag! I now use the ThinkTank Airport Airstream. It meets all the International regs on size and fits under the seat. The only reg it will exceed is weight. On our trip to Ireland, I was about double the Aer Lingus weight and luckily had children with backpacks and weight to spare. I have to avoid the temptation to bring too many lenses! Cool article. Thanks for the info!

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