Packing Advice for Travel Photography – I mentioned last week that for travel photography, you need to pack light, but pack right. It’s very easy to get carried away when packing your photography gear – You’re excited and inspired so you want to pack everything with the intention of using it all. Back in 2013, I dragged multiple camera bodies and lenses to Southeast Asia, in addition to a GoPro Hero 2 and pretty much every accessory for the GoPro that I had at my disposal… I barely touched most of what I brought…
There’s always a difficult balance between making sure you have all the gear you need, but that you’re not carrying additional gear for no reason.
These days I’m guilty of still traveling pretty heavily, but I’m basically carrying nothing compared to what I used to lug around. Generally, the non-negotiable items for me to pack are a camera body, two lenses, tons of memory cards, and a lightweight tripod all in a slingpack.
When reading through this, keep in mind that I actually prefer to check a bag because it just makes life easier…
My Bear Minimum Travel Setup
This is the gear that’s coming with me on every trip.
- PacSafe CamSafe Venture Slingpack – This pack has been awesome to travel with and can easily fit my bear minimum setup with a good amount of room to spare. The only downside to this pack has been that for longer treks with lot of weight (water…), the entire load is taken on one shoulder, which gets pretty uncomfortable quickly.
- Sony A7RII – Arguably one of the best cameras on the market right now (2017) and relatively compact, making it perfect for travel.
- Sony Vario-Tessar T FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens – Also arguably Sony’s best lens and it’s been my go-to for my focus on landscapes.
- Extra Batteries – Mirrorless cameras aren’t exactly known for their battery life so I typically try to carry at least 3-4 extra batteries.
- Mefoto Roadtrip Classic tripod – At 3.1 pounds, packing down to just over 15 inches, and a max load of quadruple the A7RII’s weight, this tripod is perfect for travel and backpacking.
- Memory Cards – I just have a book of twelve cards that I carry all the time.
- Arca Swiss L Plate – This is just an accessory plate for the A7RII, but has been invaluable for me. (This is just on my camera at all times.)
- UV Lens Filter – A simple filter to protect the front of my lens. (One of these are on my lenses at all times.)
- Wireless Remote – For triggering the A7RII remotely.
- Tiffen 72mm Variable ND Filter – Provides 2-8 stops of light control for slower shutter speeds, which I love to have around water and waterfalls.
Additional Considered Gear
- Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 lens – This is just a great all-around walkabout lens since it has such an incredible range for anything I might need. Listing this under “additional considered gear” is kind of misleading because this lens is now kind of part of what I’d consider my bear minimum setup, but I also consider it as “additional” because I went over a year with only traveling with the 16-35mm lens so if push comes to shove and I have to travel as light as possible, I’d bring the wide-angle over this one.
- Some sort of power bank, usually a Goal Zero Venture 30 – All my gear, with the exception of Mavic Pro batteries (below) can be charged from one of these so it’s always good for backup.
- Joby GorrillaPod – If I’m not travelling too light and anticipate needing and wanting a second tripod, this is a great option for me to stuff in a checked bag.
- Peak Design Capture Pro Clips – These clips can be incredibly handy to clip a camera onto a backpack strap for quick access to a camera or for POV footage for a GoPro (below).
- Peak Design Slide Strap – A strap for when I don’t need a backpack.
- f-Stop Loka Backpack – A larger backpack than the sling if I know I will need more gear on a trip or will be doing more hiking.
Last year, I added a drone to my tool bag and when I did, I thought this would be added to my bear minimum setup because it’s simply so awesome and fun. Then I started learning more about drone laws… Unfortunately I havent’ used this as often as I expected because it’s illegal to fly inside national parks, wilderness areas, and even entire countries (I’m lookin’ at you, Nicaragua…). So if and when I’m traveling somewhere that I can fly, I end up bringing:
- DJI Mavic Pro (w. remote)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Of course my regular phone isn’t compatible with the DJI app so I have to carry an extra old phone. (Ever since I accidentally broke a phone in the Philippines years ago, I like having an extra phone when I travel anyway, just in case.)
- ND Filters – These are a necessity to filter out light so you can keep your shutter speed at 1/50 in bright scenes to match your FPS.
- Extra 2-4 batteries
*I actually have checked the drone a few times now and knock on wood… no issues yet. I have a fairly-hard shell case that I just wrap all my clothes around for additional padding. Important to note though, according to the TSA, the batteries are illegal in checked luggage so those always need to be carried on.*
If I’m traveling to a location where I know I’m going to be spending a good amount of time in and on the water, I’ll make sure to pack:
- GoPro Hero 5 – Not much to say – it’s a waterproof camera.
- Karma Grip – When I previously traveled with a GoPro, the footage I took always drove me bananas because of how shaky it was. Granted, this stabilizer can’t get wet, but if I’m bringing my GoPro, I might as well bring the grip.
- 6″ Dome Port – This is essential to get over/underwater shots as well as just better underwater shots in general. It’s big and bulky to carry, but if I’m heading to a tropical spot known for it’s snorkeling/diving, this is now needed. (I’ve actually only traveled with this once and haven’t even processed the pictures from that one trip yet…)
- Dell XPS 13 – This laptop is such a piece of crap and I can’t wait to replace it. But for now, it gets me by, allowing me to not only back up photos while on the road, but to get some work done as well.
- Western Digital Passport Ultra – I make sure to back up images to an external hard drive. Plus for those longer trips, I have all my movies stored on here so I can change out media on my tablet for those long flights.
- Wireless Mouse – I just like having a mouse.
- Card Reader – Because the XPS 13 is a piece of crap and doesn’t have a memory card slot.