How To Pack The Ultimate TV Runner Rucksack
Originally published on my personal blog as “It's In The Bag” on the 5th of February 2013.
When I started running on location shoots and OBs, I felt like I was getting somewhere the first time I saw a large, broadcast camera… and didn't register excitement. “Sure,” I reflected, “it's the best part of a hundred grand's worth of kit, and its pictures are watched by millions of people, but ultimately it's just a part of the job.”
However, I am still delighted upon receiving a call sheet, hot off the PDF presses and brimming with itineraries and logistics. It brings out my inner 8-year-old cub scout and his love of being prepared. Sadly you don't always get the chance to plan ahead, as I found out last year when an eleventh hour shout-out for a runner caught my eye. My weekend was looking rather sparse, so I was pleased to step up to the plate – but my neglected rucksack was less ready. It was awkward, bulky, and poorly stocked. I resolved not to let myself be caught out again. On the contrary, I wanted the ultimate location bag, small enough to stow away but chock full of useful items.
There are already a handful of articles online with advice on stuffing a backpack. I originally sought inspiration from Lifehacker's killer 'go bag', plus Jude Winstanley's ever-brilliant The Unit List (bookmark it!) has a detailed crib sheet for TV runners. But the former is too tech-oriented, and in my view there are items that can be added to the latter – plus a few things they suggest that I've not yet needed, though of course your mileage may vary.
So the following is a list of what I actually take on location:
My biggest grumble with the rucksack I'd used previously was its sheer size, so I went from one extreme to the other – imagine swapping a 17″ MacBook Pro for an 11″ MacBook Air. Whilst inherently more portable, the small size is not without its limitations and with hindsight Karrimor's Taurus 20 would probably have made it easier to carry A4 documents. Nonetheless, in terms of sheer 'stuffability' the Sierra 10 is a veritable TARDIS. I have even used it as an overnight bag and managed to cram in a fresh set of clothes!
- Plastic-covered notebook
- Plastic A4 folio with Velcro straps
- Clear popper wallet
- Pencil case with various rollerballs
I must confess that I am obsessive about stationery, but here everything serves a purpose. A hardback notebook is easier to scribble in on the go, and a plastic folio helps paperwork to keep its shape and offers extra protection from the elements. A clear wallet provides a convenient cubby for receipts and petty cash, and its a lot more secure than an open pocket. Finally, a range of rollerball pens and a permanent marker will cover every circumstance from logging timecodes to writing names on cellophane packets.
Oh, and one quick word of advice: be careful if you take Blu-Tack. When the contents of your backpack shuffle around it makes everything it touches feel greasy, as I learnt the hard way!
- Flash disposable wipes
- J Cloth
- Disposable gloves
When I was a runner for the World Darts coverage, I absolutely swore by Flash wipes. They're handy, cleanse surfaces in seconds, and one or two wipes is enough for an entire kitchen area. On the shoot which inspired this post, I had to run for a pack after a camera op accidentally plonked his very-expensive camera down in a puddle of wee. (Brighton on a Saturday morning for you!) Funnily enough, on a subsequent project after I'd stocked up my bag I travelled home on the train and a chap nearby dropped his beer (and it clearly wasn't his first). His perplexed expression upon my presenting him with a J Cloth was priceless!
- Spare mobile phone
- USB drive
- iPod/iPhone lead
“Got an old mobile? asks the trendy young man on the Envirofone advert. Well I've just had a look and my old phone is worth precisely… nothing. If you're in the same boat, that phone could be a useful back-up if your smartphone dies when you're out and about. All you need is a spare SIM – you may even have been forced to put £10 onto one you didn't need when you bought a new phone. Just remember that your network is at liberty to disable “unused SIMs, so if you want to store your phone switched off to conserve battery life take it out every few weeks and send a quick text.
Having a spare charger for your phone in your bag will also prove useful (or even just make you look resourceful when a colleague's phone runs out of juice). Finally, USB drives are dirt cheap and basic commodities in the information age. Fellow geeks may like to investigate installing some portable apps for use on the go.
- Anti-bacterial hand gel
- Sticking plasters
When you're working there is little worse than enduring a headache. By having the basics on your person, you're less likely to be caught off guard. Ditto with a travel-sized bottle of hand gel and plasters in a range of sizes – save yourself the embarrassment of having to find the first aid kit for a nick on your thumb! I store everything here together in a clear, resealable plastic case. That way they're easy to spot when my eyes are hurting, and simple to grab even if I've chopped off a digit!
- Trebor Extra Strong
It's important to eat well on location to keep your energy levels up, but flavoursome foods can leave a nasty taste in the mouth – especially for everyone working near you! Simply place a packet of Polos in your rucksack and your reputation will stay in mint condition. (Sorry.)
- A poncho!
OK, it hasn't yet proven a lifesaver, but I picked up two for £1 and I'm sure one day that will prove money well spent! All joking aside British weather can be wildly unpredictable, so accompanying my more frivolous waterproof is a sturdy collapsible umbrella, plus a torch for when the nights set in.
So what don't I carry? Most notably, a multi-tool – just a personal choice, as I don't feel safe carrying anything that might be perceived as a weapon. I would happily take an “airline safe model if such a thing existed. I also don't take gaffer or hazard tape – quality ones are very expensive (more than the cost of my rucksack!) and you'll usually find a suitable roll is already available on the production.
I've bought everything above bit-by-bit, but estimate the overall cost to be around £40. Not an awful lot to feel confident at work.