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Travel Photography: What to Pack

Monday, November 17th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Travel Photography: What to Pack

Picking and choosing the photography gear you take with you on a trip is entirely dependent on what you want to get out of the trip and where you’re going. However, here’s a rough guide you can follow to pack exactly what you need for hassle free travel photography. This list will cover you through rain, dark interiors and sandy beaches!

Bag It

Travel involves a lot more external factors than staying at home and venturing out without the basic infrastructure. Therefore, it’s imperative to carry a proper bag that will protect your photographic gear. That basically translates to a backpack that’s durable and water-resistant. One example of a bag like that is the Kata Rucksack. The main compartment has enough space for your camera, three to four lenses, speed lights and an external hard drive. Also, in the zippered top, you could keep lens cloths and cleaner, not to mention, a card reader, extra cards, a USB hub and any other small items you may want. The two zipper pockets on the outside could hold your cell phone and an iPod. Plus, the back has a secret zipper compartment that can hold your laptop, charger and a book for the road.

However, if you want to travel light and don’t need a laptop and several speed lights, you could opt for the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home. It holds your camera, all your lenses and its zipper top can hold all your little accessories, such as lens cloths, card reader and extra cards. Its front pouch can also hold your wallet, passport, phone and maps.

If you want to keep a lot of your photographic gear in your hotel room and only carry what you want, it’s best to go with a shooter bag. Since your camera is on your shoulder, a shooter bag is good enough to hold essentials, such as an extra lens, memory cards, wallet, passport and a map.

Protective Gear

Since you’re on the move all the time, it’s possible you could lose small items like your memory cards. Therefore, it’s important to keep all of your 1GB, 2GB and 4GB cards in one bunch in a little protective case that can be thrown into a larger bag.

Cleaning Cloth

Cleaning cloths are critical, but largely ignored by amateurs. Lens cloths are important to keep dust, sand and dirt away from your lenses. Similarly, a “puffer” will keep your mirrors and sensor spotless.

External Hard Drive

If you want to go to the next level of photography and really have enough time to take thousands of pictures, it’s advisable to get an external hard drive to securely store your images.

Rain-proof Gear

You never know when it will rain and dampen your photo walks. Therefore, it’s best to keep a couple of spare gallon-sized zip lock plastic bags to hold your camera and lenses. They work beautifully when you intend to keep shooting despite the inclement weather.


Carrying too many flashes might not be such a good idea when you’re traveling. Therefore, one weight-reducing measure would be to go for an LED (light emitting diode) to be used in low-light conditions.

Gorilla Pod

If a tripod is too cumbersome for you, try a Gorilla pod. They’re easy to use when you’re on the move and they don’t take up very much space.


If you’re on a photo assignment, this is one extra rule you should abide by: have extra battery chargers, storage cards and two cameras. Also, it’s important to buy two 4 GB memory cards instead of buying one 8 GB memory card, because the cards might crash, get stolen or go missing. Also, bring as many batteries as you can, especially if you’re going to be in cold weather, because batteries tend to drain faster in the cold. Backup your photos as often as you can as well.

Card Reader/Data Cable

If you hate bringing backups, one work around is to simply shoot in RAW + JPEG and upload the JPEGs to Flickr or burn a DVD at an Internet cafe. To do that, you’re going to need card readers or data cables. If you’re on a long enough trip, a card reader/data cable will help you backup all your pictures onto a DVD or upload them straight to Flickr or Gmail. So, if anything bad happens, you’ll at least have a backup.

Shower Caps

If you’re staying in a hotel, take the free shower cap when you travel. They’re best used to cover your camera if it starts raining.

Knee Pads

This could be a rarity, but it’s important nonetheless. If you happen to be doing a lot of photography from the ground upwards, you’ll need some trusty knee pads. I suggest getting two of them: one for your elbows and one for your knees.

Camera to TV Cable

Of course, a camera to TV cable is important. It’s useful to see the pictures you’ve taken without a laptop. Most hotels have a TV with an A/V input.

Battery Charger

Don’t forget to carry a battery charger so that you can charge your batteries every night.


Not only can you listen to music while you’re on the move, but you can also dump the photos you’ve taken onto it, making it a spare memory card.


While all of the suggestions above are fairly comprehensive, it’s best if you hand pick from them to go with your time, money and convenience. Happy traveling!

~ Zahid H. Javali

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