Field Recordists - How do you protect your mics on the way to the field?



So I've recently been doing a bit of hiking to remote locations for field recording. On my trips so far I have used a rain coat that also zips up into a bag to hold my m/s rig in a rycote with a bit of padding. My recorder is in a portabrace bag and I use the mixer bag to hold other things i need like food, water, etc. It's ok for short hikes or less difficult ones, but I want to get to some spots where it would be eaiser if everything fit into a medium sized backpack.

Does anyone do this? Do people leave their mics in their windjammer when hiking? How do people protect their rycote on hikes where you would not be able to hand carry it due to climbing or trail narrow trail conditions?

I know alot of location recordists use PVC pipe on their carts, but I am looking for a way to safely transport my m/s setup that is light and affords some protection. Alfacase makes some nice cases but none that fit a m/s rig.

What do you people do?


Posted 2010-08-31T17:44:58.860

Reputation: 803



This is a great, great question. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it can be a real challenge to solve. What's more, if you're backpacking, you have no more room for much else, even with a 50-75 liter pack. What's a soundie to do?

I pick a pack that will carry my essentials for the day/afternoon/hour and will also fit at least my mics in their zeppelin. The problem is that that $#!% gets big. When I'm doing serious backpacking, which is the worst-case-scenario for carrying a lot of stuff in addition to audio gear, I shove the zepp horizontally underneath the lid of the pack and I wear my SD 702 in a Portabrace with a chest harness lifted from a LowePro TopLoader SLR bag. Fits great and backpack straps go right over it. (Or, I just bring a handheld recorder if the conditions and subject matter warrant. Way easier/lighter!)

Never overlook the ability to pack things INSIDE the zeppelin/blimp/windscreen - great way to carry a fleece or other jacket, and keep the mics nice and snug. Lots of room in those things. Less to worry about if rain hits the outside, too. I've successfully loaded up a backpack and a messenger bag (both Chrome brand) with full kit, but with not a lot of room for the essentials. Gets crowded in there with a zepp holding an M/S rig!

Sometimes I attach the windscreen to a boom pole just so I have something to strap to my recorder case, which is easier with a Petrol case than a Portabrace.

Your idea of using a coat to cover the zepp itself lets you strap it to the outside of your pack. Grosgrain-webbing compression straps can be purchased cheaply, or you can get a few meters of shock cord with a cord lock, depending on the attachment options of your pack itself. You can also look for silicone-impregnated nylon (silnylon) stuff sacks at outdoors stores - not waterproof but reasonably splash-resistant, better if you seal the seams with McNett SeamSeal or a mixture of silicone caulking and mineral spirits. My local REI sees me arrive with audio gear all the time. You'd be surprised how similar windscreens are to rolled-up sleeping bags in size and girth.

I've seen people with smaller rigs (like a PCM-D50, Sound Devices MixPre, and lavs) operate out of fanny packs or even large jackets with lots of pockets. Gordon Hempton rolls out of a Domke photog bag (I have one, they're incredible, but a zepp often won't fit inside). Others jam stuff in backpacks, which is far more common.

Air travel's totally different, and actual mic cases, pvc tubing, and Pelican cases are great for serious transit - but I'm assuming from your question that you're talking about mic carry on-person.

I've had some recent huge successes with some unusual bags that I'm still experimenting with. Formal reviews shall be forthcoming in September! Stay tuned...


Posted 2010-08-31T17:44:58.860

Reputation: 11 088

Thanks for the excellent answer! I have been using a LowePro chest harness to hold my Portabrace and carrying my mic on the side, but I almost slipped off a cliff 40 feet in the air last weekend trying to scale a boulder with my gear throwing me off balance.

I wasn't sure how much protection is needed for mics in a windjammer and if it's ok to transport the mics in them. I smaller recording rig would be nice, but for now I'm just using what I got. I was thinking of taking a trip to REI with my gear and seeing if I can find something that will hold everything at once. – bpert – 2010-09-01T01:31:21.097

Also, I find the chest harness very valuable when actually recording, although I think it can be a bit of a pain on a tough trail as it throws your balance. I'm thinking a waterproof sack would be a nice layer of protection for the mics while in the backpack. – bpert – 2010-09-01T01:33:21.563

How much you carry on your chest should be derivative of how much you have on your back. Shoulder and chest pouches are actually great for offsetting larger weight on your back, balance-wise, but yeah - if you have no load or a light load and a lot in a chest harness, that gets weird.

BTW, if you want killer waterproof sacks, check out Ron Bell has been pioneering the use of cuben fiber as an ultralight alternative to silnylon, and some of his larger cuben drybags are pretty sweet and weigh nothing. SeaToSummit bags are good for splashes, but not immersion. – NoiseJockey – 2010-09-01T15:13:23.337

I'll look into that, thanks for the info as always! – bpert – 2010-09-02T16:16:54.833

@bpert, I've got some reviews of some of the bags I mentioned in the last line of my answer online here: More ideas and reviews on this topic are coming soon, too. Just an FYI/follow-up!

– NoiseJockey – 2010-09-08T14:17:23.177