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A record of past projects and what it took to complete them

Top 10 Strategies to Hike 30 miles a day with camera gear

Palmer Durr

The following is based on a journey through Greece, May 2016, where I shot a documentary while hiking 240 miles in eight days on mountains, valleys, and coastlines.

This is all based on a 4.0 mile per hour pace. Your pack should weigh no more than 30 lbs with gear and supplies fully loaded (this will lighten as you eat your snacks and drink throughout the day). Plan to resupply every 10 Kilometers if possible (especially during hotter months).

At the end of each day I stayed in a small country hotel (allowing me to catch up with work/family/friends and charge all my gear/offload footage into a hard drive).

Here is the documentary I filmed and edited:

1.) The right Back-Pack
- Lightweight
- Cross Strap on chest = less stress on back
- Can easily fit 3L camel back bladder
- Multiple pockets within arms reach, allowing you to continue moving and accessing supplies
- Flipping this around onto your chest allows you to quickly access your camera without stopping
- Top zipper (big enough for wallet, batteries, and SD cards)
- Two main compartments, allowing you to stow camera gear in one and water in the other (in case of water leak this is extra helpful)
- Recommended hacks: place foam or packing bubble wrap at the base of the pack to keep electronics safer, try to keep the pack upright when setting it down if your water bladder is full (otherwise you risk leakage), and keep your mavic style mini-drone in the base of the pack with your mirror-less placed upon it (try to keep all weight within the pack as high as you can for less stress on your body).

You cannot reasonably maintain a 30 mile a day pace with a larger pack, especially as your journey compounds over consecutive days.

2.) The right water bladder

- Three Liters of water is a requirement for a weighted long distance event (more is too much, less is too little).
- This bladder fits into the above mentioned backpack
- The hose is well built with a locking mechanism and all other joints are sturdy (preventing leaks).
- All camel back water bladders are susceptible to leakage, but if you keep it upright when full, you’ll have no problems.
- Hacks: add electrolytes in the morning, use a paper clip, or bobby pin to secure the top plastic hook to your bladder anchor within the backpack. When you are moving, there is a chance the bladder could slide off the anchor, which would distribute the weight of the water lower in your pack (doubling the stress on your body). If you take the pack off, set it against a tree, fence, rock, or anything to keep it upright to prevent leakage.

3.) The right fuel & hydration

- Train with these foods to see how your body reacts to them (obviously don’t buy anything you are allergic to).
- The nut butter from probar I found to be the keystone between meals (the butter was easily consumed and digested while moving). This source of fat helped satiate my hunger and provided a clean burn over a long period of time.
- The variety pack gives you an opportunity to try different flavors to break up the road side rations. These “meal bars” are more akin to a typical energy bar, but full of good fats and carbs. This allows you to take a break from the butter and eat something with a bit more to it (I often found myself eating the bar in the afternoon or late morning)

- MCT powder is great in coffee, I recommend Bubs brand as I personally know the owner and trust his company/product (keeps your mind clear for the morning and allows you to have a light breakfast, which will serve you well as you begin your daily 4 hour walk to lunch)

- A collagen supplement will aid, especially during your six months of training, in keeping your joints and skin healthy. You will have a lot of wear and tear on knees/hips/ankles/feet.

- take electrolytes before bed every day and first thing in the morning (hydrate with plain water otherwise)

4.) Training Plan
- six months or more of preparation
- gradually increase total distance each week (one mile per day, until you are getting 20 miles a week)
- gradually add weight to your hikes, to a max of 60 lbs by the end of the six months
- focus mostly on body weight movements outside of hiking (lunges, push-ups, situps)
- break in your shoes and solidify your nutrition plan (if you decide to buy new shoes before the event, break them in for two or more weeks prior to leaving and grab the same brand/type)
- ease up on training a week before the event and focus more on mobility (yoga) and light jogs

5.) Shoes + Socks
- WIDE TOE SHOES. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT wear narrow toe shoes.
- Thick soles and comfortable foam insert (compensate shoe size based on insert)
- Do not wear heavy boots (Do not)
- Do not wear boots covering the ankle (you are on a path, not a jagged mountain)
- Do not wear water proof shoes/boots (if you do this, you’ll suffocate your feet)

- thin inner sock, dry fit outer sock

6.) Mirror-less Camera
- all of these are great candidates depending on your needs (comment below if you want details pertaining to the pros/cons of each platform)

- pack at least six batteries per camera (don’t worry about shoulder rigs and Dtap power, as it would be too bulky)

- buy a power strip with USB ports (see next point) and multiple (at least two) chargers for the corresponding camera batteries

7.) Drone

- DJI mavic series are easily the best drones for the job here… super lightweight and provide powerful cinematography for landscapes (you can’t fully capture a hiking trip without a drone in my opinion)

- phone charger needed so that you can always have your screen (smart phone) ready

- buy a power strip with additional USB ports that is adapted to the power outlets of your country (almost everything drone related can be charged by usb)

8.) Gimbal

- do not buy anything other than this if you plan to operate with the before mentioned camera bodies

- can easily fit in the outer pocket of the back pack

- you will not be able to walk and film with a stable shot unless you have this

9.) Lenses

- I recommend a 25 mm and 50 mm (macro capable) lens with a photography housing (cinema housings will be too big and heavy for the gimbal/pack)

- sigma, sony, canon, nikon, zeiss all have great options in this area that can fit to the lens adapter required

- buy an adapter with built in variable ND or a variable ND filter for the lens face (required)

- it’s probably best to stick to lenses that can communicate with the auto focus function of your camera body, in case you plan to walk and interview people at the same time

10.) Shotgun Microphone

- be sure to purchase the furry wind cover accessory

- this microphone is the best in the business (in my opinion) when it comes to camera mounted reference audio (and in this case, your main source of clean audio)

- light enough to be mounted on camera while flying on gimbal, high quality recording with plus or minus DB switch, and battery will last days

Blueberry Film

Palmer Durr

Blueberry is a comedy feature directed and produced by the Hangs. I had the honor of being their second unit cinematographer, where we spent 24 hours filming around LA on the Red Epic-W and Nikon Nikkor lenses (24mm and 35mm).

BLUEBERRY is a surreal dark comedy with elements of magical realism. It's about a Beverly Hills tour guide whose attempt at leading a tour goes terribly wrong when he finds himself in an absurd daymare where anything can and does happen including a face to face encounter with the King of Pop 24 hours before his death.”

The Diner

Around 4PM the sun was positioned right of frame and behind some hills/trees — the parking lot and windows of the diner were catching the sun’s light and reflecting it nicely into the booths.

The Audition Room

The Audition room was a tough space to work around as it was no more than 150-200 square feet — We utilized a honey comb on my Quasar Science LED light to mimic a spot light effect on ABBA (the main character). We then flipped the scene around to shoot the child executives, where I bounced the light from the ceiling and placed a reflector underneath my camera for fill light.

Extended Commentary

I started the day around 5:30 AM and ended the day at 1:00 AM with production beginning around 9 AM and ending around midnight.

I was handheld for the entirety of the day and only had to charge up my batteries once during the crew dinner. Knowing that the day was going to be long, I was constantly transferring the footage onto the hard drive so that we didn’t have to wait hours after wrap.

I think once these frames get in the hands of a colorist and perhaps with a profile change to red gamma 3 or logfilm, they will really pop that much more.

With natural light playing a major factor in the shoot, I opted to protect my highlights with a higher ISO (800 - 1200) and utilized an IR filter to avoid any red light contamination past 2 stops.

Walking 240 miles while filming a documentary

Palmer Durr

mind over matter — if you don’t mind — it don’t matter.

In 2017, a 20 person team traveled to Greece and retraced the route of King Leonidas and his 300 warriors from Sparta to Thermopylae to intercept the Persian invaders of 480 BC, 240-250 miles in eight days. They raised over $130,000.00 for The Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation and Navy SEAL Foundation.

The organization that put this together is called Epic Charity Challenge

It was my duty to film the hike and create content (including a documentary) that would help promote what the hikers were doing and why. This would consequently help their fundraising efforts, as each athlete was responsible for raising multiple thousands of dollars, without using any of the money donated for their own personal costs, so that the charities involved would receive as much funding as possible. 

My donation included over $2,000 dollars from my friends and family as well as anything related to the filmmaking initiative (equipment/preproduction/production/postproduction).

Here is a local news story I was featured in to help spread awareness about the cause. 

I physically trained for the event for six months with a custom tailored regimen that would allow me to maintain the 4 mile per hour pace needed to complete the daily route. 

This would often entail marching on a treadmill for many miles with a hiking pack full of sand bags weighing somewhere around 40lbs or more. This was especially important for me as I would be carrying more weight than the average athlete on my shoulders. 

The daily task of hiking for eight hours -- covering an average of 30 miles on Greek mountains, valleys, and coastline was an a** kicker.

The first day one of our cadre was literally laying on the ground while peeing, because a prior hamstring/lower back injury was flaring up. 

The first day was also a huge teacher when it came to my filmmaking rhythm. I quickly found out that flying the drone while walking was nearly impossible -- so anytime I flew the lightweight and compact DJI Mavic Pro, I had to remain still and fall behind the pack. 

Which meant I had to run to catch up. Which lead to me flying the craft anytime thereafter with some consideration. 

Shooting with the A7sii was also difficult, but I could manage this task on the move thankfully -- Twisting my pack full of water and snacks from my back to my chest, pulling out the gimbal and balancing on the go or vice versa. 

In the future I think I'll create a top 10 list of things to keep in mind if you're planning to do something like this yourself. 

After the first couple days it became clear that the trails we were supposedly marching on were actually roads -- yes this was the original path the Spartans took, but it has since been converted into a two lane, sometimes single lane highway that crossed through the countryside. 

This made the journey especially punishing as anyone who enjoys running or hiking can appreciate. Even the professional long distance athletes on our team said that this was one of the hardest challenges they'd ever done. Pavlos (our greek guide) being the only exception, who would be trotting along without complaint (he did afterall have Spartan ancestors). 

It was entirely the same motion over the same time and distance each day. The pavement caused your knees, feet, and body to degrade quickly -- soon everyone was in pain and doing their best to treat their hotspots. 

I had to cut what's called a "toe box" in my tennis shoes, which meant my pinky toes were now hanging out of the front of the shoe. 

The padding of my foot started to blister just below my toes and above the arch of the foot -- there was literally nothing that could be done about it. It would take several steps before the foot would become numb, which you would endure before you could reach a somewhat normal pace or walking gait. 

Speaking of gait, one morning my quads stopped working, because the water I drank the night before lacked electrolytes and just went through me instead of being absorbed. For about four hours my forward momentum was mostly shifting my body weight with my hips and whipping my legs in front of me. I never made this mistake again. 


In the end it was an amazing journey that built many lifelong friendships and has continued to be one of the biggest highlights of my life thus far.

No one complained. 

Did I mention one of the guys did the entire journey with a hernia and didn't disclose the information until we were literally hours away from Thermopylae during his interview? Or that one man had no arms or legs and another lost is leg from an IED from a deployment in the middle east? Ferris could run a 6 minute mile with one leg -- good luck keeping up with him once he got sick of the sometimes monotonous moments of walking. 

Sure the documentary could have been better had there been a team of filmmakers on the journey with their own means of transportation, but considering it was just me I think I did a pretty damn good job. 

Did the documentary suffer, because I chose to hike along with the athletes instead of riding the support vehicles? Probably, but I think the latter would have made a nominal difference due to the very nature of being a one man band. 

Since the journey I've been able to showcase the final film to live audiences, once in Connecticut and another time in San Diego -- both times the content was well received -- it was so fun to see my work viewed by a live audience for the first time. 

I don't think I can truly encapsulate the experience in one blog post, but this will do for now!

If you have 15 minutes, watch the documentary below to see the final product! 

Molon Labe
— leonidas at the battle of Thermopylae 480 BC

I encourage you to read up on the battle of Thermopylae -- truly amazing, horrible, and inspiring. 

I recommend the book "gates of fire" if you'd like to read a historical fiction about the battle.