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Best camera gear for your next road trip

Get the best cameras and gear to document your epic summer road-trip adventure.

I'm currently 3,000 miles into a summer-long road trip. Since I'm documenting the whole thing (follow along on YouTube!) I've brought copious amounts of camera gear. I haven't needed all of it, but what I have been using, I've been using a lot

So this is a list of the gear that has worked great on my trip so far, along with some alternatives that might work even better for you. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

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 9 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.

Read our GoPro Hero 9 Black review.

 

Insta360

I'm a huge fan of 360 cameras. They capture everything in a sphere around the camera and then later you can pick and choose what to show and how. Some models, like the One X2, can track your movements and more. 

I've been using both the One X2 and GoPro's Max. I generally like the One X2 a little better, but the Max is a close second. All the car footage in the video below was recorded on the Max, not a drone. The cliffside walk at the end was with the One X2.

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.

Read our Insta360 Go 2 review.

 

DJI

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 4 is the current model and is easier to connect to your phone.

Read our DJI OM 4 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Read our list of the best external hard drive and SSDs.

 

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. 

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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 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.

GoPro makes one for their camerasInsta360 makes one for theirs.

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 the Rim Rock Drive video I linked above. How well this works is going to depend on your particular vehicle, however.

Read more: Best tripod for photography and video in 2021


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 castlesairplane graveyards and more. 

You can follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel