Mission Critical Gear [plus chasejarvis TECH video]

gearbag_chasejarvisIf you’ve been paying attention to my latest photo adventure play-by-play here online, then it needs little introduction. The short version is that I’ve been aboard the Pangaea sailing in the South China Sea (in typhoon season….) with renowned explorer Mike Horn. That said, the GEAR for my current project has been the subject of lots of your questions via my Twitter, Facebook and here on the blog, so I thought I’d give you a quick run down on the setup for this journey.

First of all, our “photo crew” is small. As in it’s just me. Actually–not entirely true–my manager Jerard is along as well, but he’s not a trained assistant or focused on gear or data. He is writing, shooting video, and occasionally acting as my support when we’re in the weeds. Suffice it to say, the normal support channels are trimmed down, as is our space to operate–since we’re in tight quarters on a boat, we’re limited to what we can “carry on” (in airplane terms)…so we each have a very small backpack carrying photo gear and a personal 20” roll aboard for 10 days worth of clothing (everything from out on the town to typhoon ready). The combination of the above required us to choose our minimal amount of gear very carefully…maintaining special attention to:

1. the task at hand (photo + video);
2. small, light, fast; and
3. redundancy/fortitude…we can’t afford to be without mission-critical gear

That said, click ‘continue reading’ below to check out what’s in our gear bags, a NEW chasejarvis TECH video of how we packed it all, corresponding links if you want to scope out the gear/specs online via B&H (affil), and some other stunning instruments that will pique your interest…

chasejarvis_pangaea _gear1

My gear bag. Very limited. Very light.

Bag one: Jarvis. (Primarily the still-photo bag)
_Nikon D3s. Bulletproof camera for stills and shoots 720 video. My fav. A workhorse.
_Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8 AF-S ED. Small spaces and lines of sight means we need some wide glass. Zoom lenses allows us to carry fewer lenses.
_Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 AF-S ED. Mid range zoom.
_Nikkor 70-200mm 2.8 AF-S ED VR2. One of my favs.
_Nikon battery charger. Plus three D3s batteries in total.
_Petzel LED headlamp. Plenty of working in the dark.
_Array of SanDisk CF cards. Approx 15 cards ranging from 32 to 8GB.
_Apple 13” Macbook Pro. 2.5 DuoCore, 4gb RAM. 256gb solid state drive. Power cord. Loaded with the software goods. Aperture. Photoshop. FCP.
_LowePro Flipside 400 AW. Modified to accommodate the laptop. GREAT bag.

chasejarvis_pangaea1_gear 2

Jerards bag. (Not pictured 13 inch Macbook Pro)

Bag two: Jerard (Primarily the video bag)
_Nikon D7000 (x2). The new 1080p/16mp camera from Nikon. Not yet shipping, but I’ve got a couple
_Nikkor 24mm 1.4 AF-S ED. Gorgeous, fast glass.
_Nikkor 85mm 1.4 IF. More gorgeous fast glass
_Nikkor 18-200mm 3.5-5.6 AF DX lens. All around zoom lens for flexibility and ease. The behind-the-scenes workhorse.
_Nikon SB-900 Flash.
_Vertical grip for D7000 (x1). No link avail at this time…
_Rode Stereo Mic. Complete with dead cat for wind noise reduction.
_Zacuto Z Finder. LCD magnifier to detect focus when shooting video.
_Nikon battery charger. Plus three D7000 batteries in total. (no link yet)
_Black Diamond Sprinter LED headlamp. Plenty of working in the dark for Jerard too.
_Array of SanDisk SD cards. Approx 15 cards ranging from 16 to 4GB.
_Apple 13” Macbook Pro. 2.26 DuoCore. 2gb RAM. 150gb hard drive. Power cord. Loaded with the software goods. Aperture. Photoshop.
_DaKine Mission photo pack. Jerard digs this bag.

Shared gear between both of our bags:
_G-tech 256gb SSD hard drives (x2). Given the amount of data we estimate shooting, this should suffice for Main and Backup copies of data.
_G-tech 500gb hard drive (x1). In case of overflow needs for the above setup.
_Sensor cleaning kit. For that pesky dust.
_Cables and adapters. FW 800, USB, iPhone, Macbook power. International plug kits. 3 of everything in case of problems.
_SanDisk card readers (x 2)
_Extra AA, AAA, and 9 volt lithium batteries.
_Other extras: Filters. Lens cloths. Headphones.

That’s the gear that I’m using. It’s specialized for this trip and it’s chosen carefully. And speaking of specialized…since many readers really get into the gear we use to make images–the precision engineering, the details, and all the thinking that goes into it–I thought it would be cool to call attention to some equipment Mike Horn calls “mission critical” for his expedition: his Panerai Luminor 1950 Pangaea Submersible Depth Gauge Watch and the additional Panerai equipment on his boat–barometer, hygrometer, and temperature gauges. Talk about engineering masterpieces…these are precision instruments and they are gorgeous.



I’m relatively new to knowing Officine Panerai, but I’ve quickly developed a lot of respect for the brand, for their heritage, their manufacturing prowess, and their impressive support for Mike’s goals to make the world a better place. Panerai have built all of these essential tools specifically for Mike from the ground up. The gauges on board are crucial info for navigating the seas. And the watch? Check these specs: It’s been with him at 60 meters below the ocean surface and at at 8000 meters atop the Himalaya. It’s been to every continent with him, it’s survived dozens of hurricanes and tropical storms, deserts and icebergs, it’s circumnavigated the world more than 2 times already. It hasn’t left his wrist in over two years. And through all Mike adds, “It hasn’t lost even a single second.” Pretty remarkable.

So Nikon, ahem, you wanna make a Mike Horn edition D4? Or anybody out there worn your camera around your neck for 2 years straight? Didn’t think so.

Anyhow, here’s a chasejarvis TECH video..buried as a little easter egg for the hardcores… on how we packed this gear for our trip. I’m hoping you’ll devour the gear and the vid in this post and perhaps have some questions. Send them over via comments below.

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Jay says:

Hey Chase, love your no frills ‘mission critical’ approach in this video. Is it possible to see a new video in the future showing more of your custom ‘mods’ (especially the flipside 400), similar to the pelican laptop video. Love the way you think & work outside the box. Cheers from Australia.

thanks ,the post is so helpful.best wishes

Craig says:

Hey Chase,

Great video!

I’m interested in your modification to the bag to fit the laptop…

Can you give me anymore information? Does it affect protection at all from weather/rain….

Seems like a great bag.


Ronan says:

Hi, just my 2 cents comment : You took realy amazing gear with you, but didn’t you watch before what other sailor photographer (as the Volvo Ocean media crew members) took with them? If I remember Rick Tomlinson took 2 SLR one fisheye 16mm, one 20mm and one 80-200 to shoot everything on a 9 month circumnavigation race. Lastly Rick Deppe (american crew member on Puma) went with two D90, 10,5 fisheye, 12-24 and 70-200.
Anyway, I’m realy impressed by what you do, and hope to be as good one day!

Alvin says:

I love it. I shot mostly with primes but this year i’m looking at getting the new 70-200mm f2.8 VR2 as I only have the old version. Would love to watch you work one day and learn from you chase. You’re the reason I started shooting! ;)

sup – nice blog, just searching some blogs, seems a reasonably nice platform you are applying. I’m currently using WordPress

John says:

I also wonder how you modify your backpack to fit the 13 inch MBP. How to video will be very much welcome to some of us, checked out the flipside 400 AW and is a great back only missing the place for an MBP 13 inch.

Walt H. says:

Ditto on the questions regarding the Fastpack modifications you made, would love to know how you accomplished the alterations without the inside of the pack badly fraying and falling apart. Do tell!

Hi Chase,

I was wondering if you ever get nervous carrying around $10,000 in gear in your backpack. Have you ever shot in situations that you felt were unsafe? Do you have this gear insured? What precautions do you take to make sure nothing is stolen?


Nabel says:

wow, Love those things :D

Andreas says:

Hi Chase,
Did you slit the bag then patch it to add the extra space for the macbook?
I’m thinking of doing the same, would save a lot of space.

Ask says:

Interesting read! How do you like the new D7000? I have been considering trading in my D300s for a D7000 since it’s smaller and lighter, but afraid I’d regret it. Need it to work with old AIS.

Darryl says:

Hey chase, what sort of cleaning kit/gear do you use/recommend?

Fabian Gonzales says:

Hi Chase,

Nice walkthrough. But I have a question: what kind of card reader do you use? You show it to us briefly, but don’t mention what kind of reader it is.

– Fabian

Corey says:

Lowepro shoul ngive you and endorsement deal. I went out and brought the flipside 400 making that bag #3 in my arsenal of lowepro bags. I also have the pro runner 450 aw for travel shoots when I need to lug my laptop and camera gear and I also own the flipside 200 for when i want to travel light. I saw this video and was like, “the 400 is a perfect everyday bag”! I work in and out of NYC so a good backpack is essential to have.

Sebastian says:

Firs of your video I didn´t watch because of photography or gear aspects, but only for the most beautiful watches in the world. I love the Panerai Luminor. Hope I will have the extra coins for one someday. I am eagerly waiting for the pics and videos of the campaign!

Ben Madden says:

I apologize for my earlier comment, except for the last sentence. I’m stressed big time this week and something got triggered. No excuse, though. It was childish.

Ben Madden says:

Sailing during typhoon season..oooohhh…aaaaahhhhhh…the danger! Being forced to pack a limited wardrobe…..aaaarrrrrhhhh…the agony!

Jerard is shooting video, with new not-available-to-the-public cameras, a major manufacture who specifically requested the equipment be tested in rigorous conditions, responsible for video-documenting the whole dangerous (see above) agonizing (see above) journey, and he’s “not focused on gear or data”??

And, ‘specialized’ gear at that (“it’s specialized for this trip”). How do specialize an SB900 for typhoon season? Or a Sandisk CF card? (spray it with water repellent?) In what way are the lenses ‘specialized’ – I have those lenses and might want to ‘specialize’ mine.

You’re a good dude at heart, Chase. No need to dramatize.

Richard says:

You have got to be the busiest photographer that I follow regularly, and yet you are also the one who tweets and blogs the most, giving us all a glimpse into the goings on of a professional of your caliber. You rock so hard it’s ridiculous.

Also, kudos keeping your head on straight with all of the super gear specific questions and comments you receive. Somehow you even manage to answer most of those, knowing it’s not going to help anyone make better pictures.

Aj says:

Is it just me or does that 70-200 look like the old VR I not the new VR II. I didn’t think the new one had the brass plate on top.

Lenn Long says:

Longtime BBC television documentary producer David Attenborough was famously known for always wearing a short sleeve light blue shirt and khahis. In a documentary he mentioned his choice of wardrobe was intentional. It improved the continuity of his video production, if he had to clip footage from several days together, and needless to say, it made packing a breeze.

Brian says:

Hi Chase,
Thanks for all of the info. Were you worried about backing up your files seeing as you could not separate your drives like you usually do as you were in the middle of the S.China Sea in a wet/damp environment. Did you take any other type precuations to ensure your/your clients files stayed safe?

hey guys, just wondering how the standard hard drive MBP held up on the rocky ocean? trying to make a decision on whether to spend the extra on an SSD!

Uysy says:

On the photo (and video as well) there’s first version of 70-200, you wrote you use the VRII version. Actually I’m quite surprised you still use the older one, as you have newest, top of the line gear, first of all, and so on :)

Great assignment. Many would sell their kidney for this, including me.

Jay says:

So why the solid state drives for backup? More bomb proof than spinning disks? Faster transfer? Certainly not for the price/GB. LOL.

Pablo G says:

Hello there, I have two questions:

1) Do you guys find as an important limitation the fact that the D7000 can’t shoot @ 25/30/60fps in 1080p, or 60fps @ 720p? To my understanding, you couldn’t work with the “must” format for TV commercials (30) or the slow motion shoots (50/60)…

2) Could you please recommend a basic lenses kit for filmmaking? Something below the $2,000 budget if possible…


Hafe says:

Sweet set for an amazing trip. Love the DaKine Mission in use, my wife used to work for DaKine. So I sent this along and don’t be shock to get a few packs in the mail!

Stay Gold!

iwan says:

hai chase, why didn’t you bring any micro lenses for this project?

Veeral says:

I’m surprised you used the MBP 13″ with 2GB to run Aperture and FCP. Life as a minimalist :-) Looking forward to seeing some stills from your trip.

Chase Jarvis says:

@veeral: actually the mbp that’s running aperture and FCP is the dual core 4gb ram with solid state 256gb hard drive. it’s a TON faster

Ido says:

is aperture workable on a 13″ mbp or is it just bearable?

jeremy says:

dying to get my d7000…question, are you shooting everything flat to then grade later in post, or is that just how the video looked normally?

Chase Jarvis says:

yes. we shoot it as flat as possible. the color grading you see in this vid is aweful becuasue it was me taking literally 5 seconds and moving two sliders (contrast and saturation) in iMovie while on an airplane ;)

in truth, i find a lot of latitude available in the d7000 for color work in post… just haven’t done it in these bts vids.

jeremy says:

thanks Chase…the videos are super informative and awesome. PB says to shoot flat and grade in post, but if CJ is doing it than that makes it a must for me too. I mean, your the Nikon Philip bloom…sadly i don’t think you’ll be coming to Boston to do any $99 workshops anytime soon :-(

p.s. if you ever get 3:12 seconds i’de love for you to check out ( http://vimeo.com/14891878 ), shot with a d300s…

Thanks Chase I really enjoy this stuff. I shoot canon but your video and blogs really help me out on what equipment I need and how to use it.

Thanks Chase I really enjoy this stuff. I shoot canon but your video and blogs really

Mondostic says:

Thanks for this video, nice to see how light you pros can (or dare) go for something special like this.

Awesome set-up, these are the projects I dream of doing. The Banksy laptop case is awesome too.

Tyler says:

Banksy seconded!

Sailor says:

One question, and thanks for sharing!

Why is your skin so yellow in some parts – like the hand of the camera man, and your lower part of legs.. I suppose it’s some issue with the D7000…?

Quentin says:

Why haven’t you taken your underwater housing? There are some shots that aren’t possible withour it… and they often are the best ones when remembering the big storms and the “stress-moments”!

Sam says:

the still bag looks a lot like mine. with the exception of the act that mine has lesser gear, a WD drive and a few other things. chase what did you guys do for power requirements or did you guys pack a lot of batteries?

I think, Nikon could make a camera which you could wear for 2 years, but it will cost as much as that watch.

Skunk says:

Chase et al, love the logistics type videos.

How is the AF working out on the D7000? I can’t wait for mine. Any performance increase with the battery grip on the D7000 (faster FPS?)?

What are you using to hold the flash? Crew members? Or on camera only?

Joshtacular says:

Thanks for the video. I only wish I had half of that gear and this is “packing light” for you!

Mark D. says:


I don’t do a lot of video shooting but when I, I cant seem to get as clear and sharp of video as you do. I am using a D90 which I is only 720p. Could you explain what you do to process and edit your videos for the web. Thanks for sharing.

Kim says:

What kind of controls are on the Rode mic? The tech specs say stereo mic. Can you control the volume and gain on it?

Erik Hecht says:

There’s a -10db/0db gain toggle switch on it, but that’s it for level control. We just let the camera do AGC for behind the scenes stuff.

Randy says:

I’d like to see the details on how you modified the LowePro Flipside 400 AW to fit the laptop into it. Any pictures?

Peace Out!

fenix says:

I think he means he just ran an xact-o knife (carpet cutter, scapel) along the bottom to pick up an extra inch or two.

I really enjoy the photojournalistic look to the images. It proves that you don’t necessarily need the most advanced wireless studio strobe system to produce great commercial advertising images. Great work.

Brad Trent says:

Way to go, Chase….now on top of all the photo geeks who follow your blog, you’re gonna have the watch geeks…Paneristi’s specifically…checkin’ you out, too!


That’s one thick ass watch!

Chase says:

I was about to ask about a backup to the D3, but you have 2 D7000’s to rock as backup that would be capable.

Love the solid state drives, about to invest in a few.

Thanks for the love.

Marshall says:

From the “pointless nitpicking” department: it’s “Petzl” with no second e.

My wallet breathes a sigh of relief that my wife doesn’t like really big watches like that (I know, it’s MY wrist, but still). But it is gorgeous.

Thanks as always for the interesting posts.

– Marshall

Chase, great to see you guys rockin’ the D7000. I really think Nikon hit a home run with this camera body and seeing you put it to use in the field further enforces the principle that the best gear is not directly proportional to the best images.

As always, thanks for sharing.


Bobby from Taipei says:

Hi Chase,

Can’t wait to see the video footage and pictures from your awesome trip!

John Papa says:

That watch is enormous. You could probably fit a 55mm filter on that thing.

Toby says:


What’s nice about this is that it might remind a few people out there of the ‘Gear Ain’t Everything Rule’.

The ‘Gear Ain’t Everything Rule’ states that “GEAR AIN’T EVERYTHING”… Doubtless you will post some fantastic images with what’s, realistically, quite a humble set up.

Next time I’d like to see you do it with disposables though… ;)

Best wishes,


Daniel Evan says:

Its funny that by far the most pricey piece of gear you have there is the Watch!

Was about the external mic on the d7000 was it used to make this wonderful video?

Jao says:

It’s funny how what you call absolutely minimal is a dream outfit to most of us.

Where’s the Dramamine?

Thanks for this!

BenjaminR says:

Chase, I find it interesting you had no lighting packed in your bag.

Chase says:

had the sb-900. d7000 has built in pop up to trigger, so in a pinch could have a two light system. keep in mind the spaces on a boat are VERY small…. no real need. plus it wasn’t really an artificial light sort of shoot….

If you’ve never traveled by boat its actually quite a hard concept to grasp. You packed ALL that and that didn’t even include clothes, like outerwear. I’m surprised.
Save for the D7000 and that SUPER fast glass, I have a similar set-up. I never thought to have THAT many back up HDDs though.
Did you end up utilizing the third HDD or was that just your saving grace?
Props on the bag selection Jarard!

BenjaminR says:

Dude! I WANT that D7000! :o

Great stuff Chase. You are always considering your community! Thanks brother! We are due for a hang out soon!

Thanks for the head’s up Chase.

Personally, I used dead squirrels over dead cats for noise reduction. They seem much more efficient.

Thanks again


henry says:

So no tripod, or was everything handheld?

Chase says:

everything was handheld, save a couple of video interviews you’ll see later. they were shot with a tripod that was available to us on the boat since mike is a photographer himself…

we needed to be light light light and fast….

Lee Ramsden says:

Awesome as always!
you boys certainly need to employ a british photographer like myself to equal the balance :0)

Thanks Chase, loving the posts, most interesting. and i like the fact you blog about gear you use and like, most seem to have a massive influence to post stuff that they are £££ influenced to use.


Volodymyr says:

Would you like to come to Ukraine? I can arrange a tour of the castles.

Michael P says:

Thanks for sharing, Chase.

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