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When planning an extended photo expedition, having the right camera, lens and laptop is really only the first step. A truly successful excursion comes down to the peripherals—the extras that help take your photography to the next level. There’s no better way to ensure that you have all of the equipment needed than by decking out your vehicle.
One of the most important aspects is first choosing the right vehicle. Make sure you have enough room for equipment, bags and camping stuff, if you plan on roughing it. When it’s time to outfit your photo vehicle, keep in mind the space allotted for camera equipment, your and other passengers’ comfort level, and the ability to easily access gear you’ll need on the road, like GPS units.
Keeping your camera equipment within reach also is a good idea for taking advantage of surprise photo opportunities along the way. Consider packing these essentials the next time you hit the road.
The value of a GPS system can’t be overstated. No matter how savvy you are on those backroads, everyone gets lost. With prices continuing to fall, there’s really no reason to lose your way again. Garmin offers a variety of GPS systems to accommodate a range of needs. The lightweight eTrex H fits in the palm of your hand, has a high-sensitivity GPS receiver that locks onto satellite signals quickly and is built with a rugged, waterproof exterior. Easy-to-reach buttons let you operate it with just one hand. List Price: $106.
If your needs are more advanced, step up to the Garmin Quest 2. This high-end navigator is pocket-sized, so you can take it on a hike. It comes preloaded with City Navigator NT maps that highlight hotels, restaurants, ATMs and other points of interest. Extra maps can be downloaded for planning customized off-road excursions. It provides turn-by-turn directions with voice guidance, and provides up to 20 hours of use with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. List Price: $749.
With a large 2.7-inch color touch screen, the handheld Magellan Triton 2000 packs in a ton of helpful features, including an LED flashlight, built-in maps, a barometer and a voice recorder. A built-in 2-megapixel camera lets you take pictures that can be set as waypoints to help you easily find your way back. Estimated Street Price: $450.
The CrossoverGPS, also by Magellan, is waterproof, has a touch screen, and gives turn-by-turn voice and visual guidance. Like the Triton 2000, it has an SD expansion slot, letting you review images. It’s just 4.3x3.4x1.1 inches and weighs 7.8 ounces, so you can easily take it with you. Estimated Street Price: $359.
Lowepro DryZone 200
Really Right Stuff BH-55
Extended trips require a tripod that can support any and all of your lenses. But you also want something that’s lightweight, yet sturdy enough to help you take steady shots. The Gitzo GT2941 Series 2 Basalt tripod supports D-SLRs with an attached lens all the way up to 300mm. The GT2941 is rigid and tall, with three- or four-section models at standard and eye-level heights, respectively. The legs are made from crushed and melted basalt rock, which is then transformed into tubes through the same process that Gitzo uses on its tough 6X legs for high thermal and dimensional stability. G-Lock legs and an Anti-Leg rotation design provide fast setup with tight support. Estimated Street Price: $445.
Of course, no tripod is complete without its head. The GH2750QR Series 3 Off Center Ball Head from Gitzo attaches perfectly to the GT2941 or other Series 2 and 3 tripods for smooth rotation, positive locking and rapid camera mounting and removal with a quick-release plate. The graduated base uses independent locking—a nice solution for panoramic photography. Great for close-ups of flowers or insects, offset ballheads make it possible to shoot at more than a 90-degree angle down. It also works for low-to-the-ground shooting with or without a tripod. Estimated Street Price: $275.
The Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead is rated to hold 50 pounds, but only weighs 1.6 pounds. It features a quick-release mechanism, main and micro control knobs, and a dual cutout in the ball socket for convenient vertical orientation of your camera. List Price: $455.
The rugged and precise BH-1 ballhead from Kirk Enterprises provides stability and durability. Weighing only two pounds, the ball-and-socket design allows a full 360 degrees of panning, and a universal quick-release plate with built-in spirit level accepts Arca-style mounts and plates. List Price: $355.
The Induro CarbonFlex 8x CX113 tripod has an easy-to-use center column that adjusts quickly for vertical or horizontal shots. Eight-layer carbon-fiber tubing makes the tripod strong. The leg locks were designed with dust and moisture-resistant seals, and foam grips on the legs help you hold on comfortably. Other features include rubber feet and stainless-steel spikes, a built-in bubble level and adjustable-angle leg locks for when you’re on uneven terrain. Estimated Street Price: $340.
With a 100-percent carbon-fiber body built to support your camera in all kinds of shooting scenarios, the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 four-section tripod weighs less than three pounds, yet can handle a heavy D-SLR without you having to worry about the payload. The Q90° quick center-column system lets you go from vertical to horizontal in seconds. A newly designed ergonomic leg-angle selector improves comfort and precision. Estimated Street Price: $325.
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By using multilayer carbon-fiber material to enhance rigidity, the Slik PRO 713 CF-II tripod can support four times its three-pound weight. Three leg sections fold down to a manageable 22 inches. When fully extended, it reaches a height of 65 inches. Multiangle locks allow you to individually position each leg. The center column consists of two threaded pieces that unscrew to convert the top piece into a short column. Combined with the multiangle locks, this allows the tripod to lower to less than eight inches from the ground for low-angle or macro photography. Estimated Street Price: $270.
Once you’ve reached the end of the road, you need a comfortable, spacious bag that protects your equipment from the elements. The Lowepro DryZone 200 backpack is waterproof, and even when fully loaded, it’s buoyant enough to float. The inner “drypod” with a waterproof TIZIP zipper provides watertight protection with leakproof sealing. The padded interior can be customized in several ways to fit a large D-SLR, four to five lenses (up to a 300mm ƒ/2.8), flash and accessories. The bag features ergonomic lumbar support and fully adjustable shoulder straps for added comfort. There’s also a tuck-away tripod holder. List Price: $364.
In the Tamrac Expedition 8x backpack, a Dual Hinge Divider system adjusts to allow two digital or film SLRs to be carried with lenses attached. The foam-padded main compartment houses additional lenses, flash units and accessories. The QuickClip on the outside safely secures a tripod. A foam-padded front pocket with water-resistant zipper protects laptops with up to 17-inch screens. The plastic, foam-padded platform at the bottom provides shock protection, while a LockDown rain flap protects the zipper from the elements. Estimated Street Price: $230.
While traveling by foot requires a light bag with easy access, storing equipment in the vehicle for longer trips calls for safer storage. The Pelican 1560 Case has a soft interior with Pick ’N’ Pluck foam that can be customized to fit your equipment snugly. The foam is high density for protection from impact, shock and vibrations, perfect for protecting sensitive camera equipment while driving. The exterior of the case is virtually unbreakable, with watertight, airtight and dustproof sealing. It’s made from an ultra-high-impact structural copolymer material. The case also is resistant to chemicals and corrosion, and can float in salt water with a load of up to 45 pounds. An automatic purge valve equalizes the case after changes in atmospheric pressure. List Price: $247.
Don’t get caught without juice when your equipment runs out of power. Whether it’s batteries or AC adapters, you need power for all of your high-tech devices. The Brunton SolarPort 4.4 is a portable, solar-powered device that charges your cell, GPS unit and camera via USB. It allows you to link up to three devices at once and charge them simultaneously. Estimated Street Price: $160.
Also from Brunton is the Solo 7.5 rechargeable power storage device for laptops, cell phones and camera chargers. It’s a nice fit for your car with a vehicle DC outlet. Estimated Street Price: $255.
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging)
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging)
Really Right Stuff
Slik (THK Photo Products)