What’s in your bag? 

 August 13, 2013

By  Pascal Depuhl

I recently had the chance to try out ThinkTank’s Airport Accelerator photo back pack. I own an International Airport rolling bag, but I was going to film on the Ucayali river in the jungles of Peru – and a back pack made more sense that my rolling case. Thanks to my friends at ThinkTank for loaning me this bag.

Cinematographer Pascal Depuhl, films the trip up the Ucuyali River hanging out of a Pekipeki boat to capture a beautiful sunset in the jungle.
Pascal Depuhl filming the ride upriver on the Ucuyali in Peru with a GoPro (photo by Don McChesney)

This trip presented some interesting challenges in terms of the logistics of travel: international air travel where carry on size does matter, a 13 1/2 hour boat ride on a banana boat and 10 days on foot in the jungle. I needed solid protection, roomy size, comfortable portability and fast access.

When you travel off the grid like this, redundancy is imperative and protection is vital. My ThinkTank International Airport bag has proven it’s worth on last years filming in Afghanistan and the slightly smaller Airport Accelerator did very well.

Even fully loaded it’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time and the ability to tuck the straps and waistband behind a panel is genius, if you’re just carrying the bag by it’s comfortable handle (they seam to be everywhere, so if you carry it vertically or horizontally there’s two nice fat padded handles and if you’re lifting the bag face up there’s a third handle that makes lifting the bag super easy.)

Pascal Depuhl carries his gear comfortably through a peruvian airport on recent assignment in the jungles.
ThinkTank makes it comfortable to carry heavy gear through the airports.

Remember size does matter when you’re flying, but so does weight – and that’s up to you. ThinkTank has taken care of the size part. As professionals there are certain things that just never get checked they always fly in the cabin: cameras, lenses, computers, hard drives, … but all of those are pretty heavy – at least in my case the bag was (way) over the 8 kg (17.5 lbs) that the airline had specified for my carry on bag. It was so heavy that the gate agent couldn’t lift the bag. It helps having your media or press credentials with you at the airport. They let the airline and security personal know that they’re dealing with a professional. I’m just not gonna gate check that bag.

I also love the slide out computer case – it speeds up your processing at security a lot, since there’s no bag to open. Whip out computer, insert in tray, run through x-ray, slide laptop back into bag. Done. Maybe that’s why it’s called the accelerator. My bags always beat me through security.

So what’s in my bag? Well let’s take a look – this changes with everytrip, but here’s what went into the jungle with me. I traveled on a smaller footprint than I did for “On Wings of Hope“, because I needed to be able to carry 100% of my gear at times (although I was very grateful for my friends that helped me cary during this trip).

Here is all the gear spread out that lived in ThinkTanks backpack on my trip to film in Peru.
Cameras, lenses, audio equipment and much more lived in my backpack while filming in the jungle.

Cameras: Canon 5D (yup the first model) for time lapse and still photos. Canon 5d Mk II – my main camera for video capture, especially interviews. 2 GoPro Hero3 Lenses: Couple of Nikon primes (24, 28, 50) and a Canon 70-200 4.0, less than I usually take, but space was at a premium. Step up rings, lens shades, Genus Vari ND filter, ND Grad filter.
Audio: Tascam DR 100 digital audio recorder, Sennheiser G3 wireless with a custom Lav mic, Rode NTG2 shotgun mic, Sony headphones and all the necessary cables and plenty of AA batteries.
Cine gear: Letus follow focus, Zacuto EVF, plenty of HDMI cables,
Power: 3 batteries for the 5D, 13 Batteries for the 5D Mk II, BlueShape bubble pack battery that can run the 5D Mk II, the EVF and an Ikan ID 400, just in case. 8 batteries for the GoPro Hero3, 50 AA batteries (lithium and Aansman rechargeable NiMH) and on top of all that a 27 Watt GoalZero solar pannel with a GoalZero Yeti 150 battery with integrated inverter (USB, 12V and 110 V). Power is one thing you need when going off the grid (and chargers). Redundancy is key here too. I had 2 separate chargers for each type of battery – except for the 5D still camera, but I can use the Mk II to take photos, if I have to.
Miscellaneous stuff: Up to now it’s been quite conventional, I mean we all pack pretty much they same stuff. This category is based on experience and usually things you missed in the past. It’s also the stuff I rarely use, but am greatful to have in my bag. Some gaffers tape (stuck on theinside cover off the ThinkTank bag, zip ties, a sheet of Black Wrap, insurance certificate, rubber lid opener – helps remove misthreaded filters and step up rings, wet erase markers – for marking the follow focus disc, …

Travel documents: Passport, immunization paperwork, malaria medicine. (All these travel on my person, but they were vital for this trip).

ThinkTank's backpack sits at the feet of Movies by Depuhl's camera setup for an interview in the jungle.
My interview setup in the jungle.

On the water it was a different story. Let me paint you a picture, so you know what I’m talking about: imagine a open boat – about 8 feet across. Made out of wood with a wooden flat roof. No windows, no handrails, and a sidewall that’s about 6 inches above the waterline. Sounds safe? Yeah right. Oh and don’t forget the guy bailing water with a 5 gallon bucket for the duration of the trip.

Now place a few 1,000 pounds of lumber, bananas, live chickens, oil drums, propane gas tanks, assorted luggage, babies and a bunch of people on that vessel. That’s where you’re equipment is going to be for 13 1/2 hours. I repacked my bags in Pucallpa, because I needed to ensure 100% waterproof storage for the most critical equipment – all of that went into a Stormcase, which got wrapped in a dry bag. The ThinkTank bag was placed in another dry bag. Due to its compact shape, it fit in with room to spare. Once off the boat, everything got repacked some things just don’t go into carry on luggage and others need to be protected from water. Fun times.

Fortunately I did not have to try out the water proof abilities on the bags while traveling (I did test them beforehand though). I also like to travel with bags that don’t scream: Photography equipment.

The airport accelerator kept everything safe, clean and made it easy and comfortable to move a bunch of gear in a very remote location.


Camera Support Kit

Our friends at Think Tank Photo just announced a special offer for August.  With this offer, when you order any of their highly-regarded photography backpacks – like the airport accelerator I used in Peru – you will receive for free their Camera Strap and Support Kit.  This combination Camera Strap V2.0 plus Camera Support Strap shifts the weight of your camera and lens from your neck to the backpack’s frame, thus reducing stress on your neck and shoulders.


Disclaimer: If you read my blog, you know I have worked hard to build relationships with the manufacturers of the gear that I use. I’m happy to review any products and recommend products that I use myself when filming and photographing. I am affiliated with some of these companies in various ways, but in the end it’s always with your benefit  in mind, either as a give away prizes at my seminars or in form of discounts or special offers like the one in this post. 


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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.