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Best Road Trip Camera Gear

Here are the cameras and gear to step up your photo and video game.

Updated Nov. 7, 2023 8:00 p.m. PT

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Written by  Geoffrey Morrison
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Geoffrey Morrison Contributor
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
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$249 at Amazon
yt-firstlook-gopro-hero-10-b
Still the best action camera overall
GoPro Hero 10 Black
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$400 at Best Buy
The Insta360 X3 along with its app in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Best 360 camera
Insta360 One X3
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See at Amazon
insta360-go-2
Best tiny camera
Insta360 Go 2
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$350 at Best Buy
gopro-hero-11-black-01
Ultimate action camera
GoPro Hero 11 Black
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$159 at Amazon
dji-om5-reviewthumb2
Best gimbal
DJI OM 5
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$99 at Amazon
A hand holds the pocket-sized SanDisk Extreme portable 2TB SSD.
Portable hard drive
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD
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Memories are priceless. And having the best camera to capture life's moments can make a huge difference. When you're venturing out for a quiet weekend getaway, planning a once-in-a-lifetime international trip or heading off on an epic drive across the US, having a durable, easy-to-use camera that can deliver quality shots is a must-have. A proper camera won't just give the best videos and photos and videos -- it's ensure you'll have a collection of memories that'll stand the test of time. And if you're looking to level-up your vacation videos, the best camera can bring amazing slow-motion footage to life. Most importantly, the right camera will remain protected from wild waters and whatever other rugged adventures come your way. This all sounds like a lot, but there are a variety of affordable high-end cameras on the market. You won't need to break the bank for something like this. And, more often than not, a simple GoPro can deliver the goods.

I travel a lot, and I bring more camera gear than usually need. That said, there are some gear I end up using all the time. Those devices are what I recommend here. One of them will probably be all you need for your next road trip.

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$249 at Amazon

Still the best action camera overall

GoPro Hero 10 Black

You can't go wrong with a GoPro. They have excellent image quality, are quite rugged and their app is pretty solid in letting you edit your photos and footage to look its best. The main reason I'm recommending the Hero 10 over one of the less expensive options is because of the Max Lens Mod. This lens swaps in and records an even wider angle of view. Plus, it improves the already excellent stabilization. 

I've been using it not only to capture scenic vistas, but also as a dash camera, as you can see in the video below.

The newer GoPro Hero 11 has a few improvements, but for most people the Hero 10 will look pretty much the same and will save you some money.

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$400 at Best Buy

Best 360 camera

Insta360 One X3

I've used 360 cameras for years. They've come a long way. This is the first I'd consider using without a backup action camera. 360 cameras capture everything in a sphere around the camera. Later, with the app, you can pick and choose what to show and how. So basically you record everything, and then crop to show just the interesting parts. 

One of the coolest tricks a 360 camera can do is automatically remove the selfie stick, so it looks like you have a drone following you. For more, check out:

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See at Amazon

Best tiny camera

Insta360 Go 2

This is a unique and tiny action camera that I've been using a lot. It's not really a main camera, but definitely an excellent secondary camera. It's about the size of your thumb -- and magnetic. You can hang it on your shirt while wearing an included magnetic pendant, or attach it to anything metal, or use one of the myriad clever mounts. The case that recharges and controls the camera even has a built-in tripod. The footage is wonderfully stabilized and looks far better than you'd expect for something so small.

Because of its size, it can record perspectives other cameras can't, like the model train POV in the video below.

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$350 at Best Buy

Ultimate action camera

GoPro Hero 11 Black

For most people the GoPro Hero 10 Black is all the action camera they'll need. If you don't mind spending a bit more, the newer Hero 11 improves on the 10 in a few minor ways. For one, there's a new image sensor. The primary difference is it's more square. So if you often post vertical content for, say, TikTok or Instagram, but still want to be able to post standard horizontal content to YouTube, this allows you to more easily do both without a significant loss in quality. 

You can read more about it here:

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$159 at Amazon

Best gimbal

DJI OM 5

If you don't want to invest in a new camera or don't want the bulk of one (fair), consider a gimbal. You can really improve the quality of your videos with a gimbal. They smooth out your hand's movements while you're walking around, and can do slick, professional-looking pans and tilts. They're an absolute must-have if you're primarily using your phone. I have the OM 3, but the 5 is the current model and is easier to connect to your phone.

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$99 at Amazon

Portable hard drive

SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD

If you're recording a lot of video, your camera and phone's storage are going to fill up fast. Cloud storage is one option, but if you're bringing a laptop, consider a tiny portable hard drive. I have one of these and they seem impossibly small for how much they can store. They're also reasonably rugged.

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Selfie stick

I don't have a strong recommendation for this one, other than to say selfie sticks are great (when you're not in crowds, that is) and you should find one you like. Even I, who has what one friend describes as "freakishly long arms," find great use in a selfie stick. They let me capture photos and videos that would be impossible any other way, especially with a 360 camera that automatically deletes the stick from the final image or video. 

Precariously perched over the Badlands, thanks to a 360 camera and a selfie stick.

Precariously perched over the Badlands, thanks to a 360 camera and a selfie stick.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

I recommend getting one with tripod-mount screws on both ends, which gives you more options on what you can mount and how you can mount the stick itself. Similarly, make sure you get one that can hold all your cameras and phones. 

Camera remote

I find these to be super handy, though depending on how you're recording, it might not be. It's a simple Bluetooth remote that lets you control when the camera starts and stops recording along with changing modes, settings, and so on. True, you can use the camera's app on your phone instead, but I feel like I spend half my life trying to get cameras to connect to their apps, so sometimes a remote is easier. Sometimes the remote won't connect either. It's a hassle either way. Oh well.

joby gorillapod
Joby

Tripods and other mounts

One last thing. Tripods and mounts. You probably don't need a full-size tripod, few people do. A small bendable model can be super handy though, letting you mount the camera to just about anything and get a great shot with you in it. I've had good luck with Joby GorillaPods. I have an older version of this one.

Also check out suction-cup and dash mounts. I have a tiny dashboard and tiny windshield, so it was a lot harder to find something that worked. So what I'm using probably won't work for you. Generally I'd recommend mounting the camera as high as possible, if you can, for a better view. 

I'll end with my favorite, an antenna mount. Unscrew your antenna and install this mount. When paired with a 360 camera, it lets you get an exciting and unique view of your adventure. I got one of these and put a selfie stick on top of it, plus a 360 camera, to get the drone-like footage of me and my car in Grand Teton National Park. How well this works is going to depend on your particular vehicle, however.

Read more: Best Tripod for Photography and Video in 2023


As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines and a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.