One week from today I’ll be on the other side of the world, shooting a personal project that’s been years in the making. On the one hand, I have to be prepared for all kinds of situations. On the other, I can’t bring a suitcase. What do I bring… what do I leave behind… and can I get away with only one shirt?
Living in New York, you become a master of your domain, fitting your things as efficiently as possible into limited space. I am especially proud of this skillset – think of it as grownup, real-world Tetris. After weeks of researching travel tips and Amazon reviews, I have compiled what I believe to be “THE ULTIMATE, PORTABLE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER’S BAG WITH SMALL, YET EFFECTIVE (AND REASONABLY PRICED) GEAR THAT WON’T RAISE MUCH ATTENTION” (all rights reserved).
Before we begin listing the contents of this particular bag, I need to stress a couple of important things. First, insure your equipment. Myself and several other writers use Hill and Usher for our insurance. They are very reasonably priced – especially for the peace of mind that insurance gives. Secondly, make good decisions. Be safe and careful out there. Part of my reason for building a bag like this is to be as inconspicuous as possible. I don’t want anyone targeting me as having lots of expensive equipment (especially if one plans to be in rough areas).
Many of the individual components can be switched out per your personal preference, and several of these items I’ve had for several years. I’ll include updated models and options where applicable.
Let’s begin with the outer bag itself. Since I am not bringing any luggage, I needed to treat this like a backpacking expedition (which it is), so I had to get something that was big enough for everything but not so big it would be uncomfortable to have on my back for over a week. I decided that a pack between 40-60 liters would be ideal for this trip, and tried on several on backpacks ranging from Osprey (very expensive) to Arc'teryx (still pretty expensive) to Northface and even backpacks from a military surplus store. I decided on a Kelty Redwing 50L. Comfortable design (with a good support structure and airflow), lots of pockets, well-made and a fantastic price (around $115-125). It also comes in black, although I was informed by a seasoned hiker that the reason most packs don’t come in black is because they absorb heat. He was right about that; I look hot with this bag.
Top of the bag.
Back of the bag.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be carrying the full pack around all the time, I wanted to have something smaller and less obtrusive for walking around. For this, I went with the very reasonably priced Lowepro StreamLine Sling Bag. It holds a few accessories, but it’s not really a good option when planing to shoot with lights. That said, it’s still good enough for a small camera body. Don’t expect full size SLRs to fit in this bag, so if you plan on bringing a body of that size, you will need a bigger sling.
For me, a large part of what is making this trip possible is my love for the Fuji X-T1. I’ve owned this camera for about a month, and I haven’t picked up my DSLR in that month. Image quality, speed, durability and weather sealing…it’s an absolute pleasure to shoot. I will be bringing with me a 23mm (35mm equivalent) and a 56mm (85mm equivalent). I will also be renting a wide angle and a telephoto to add to the bag. With this camera, I’ve finally felt like I wasn’t losing anything to not be on a DSLR.
One can never have enough batteries.
To charge the batteries, be sure to include a universal converter. Many electronics support both 220 and 240 volts, so all you will is an adapter. If not, you will need a step down voltage converter. I’ve also got a Monster Outlets To Go power strip to charge multiple devices from the same adapter.
You can also never have enough memory cards. The cards are stored in Pelican’s 0915 SD case that is water resistant and pretty damn durable overall.
i.Sound Portable Power for anything that can be powered or charged by USB.
Although I will not be bringing a laptop with me (there is a slot in the backpack for it), I will be bringing a card reader and hard drive to backup images using computers in the hotels’ business centers.
Two, three-stop neutral density filters and Tiffen case.
Joby Gorillapod for SLRs with ball head and bubble level.
My flash system comprises of a Canon 580ex (600EX is the current model), Quantum Battery Pack (new version here), Fuji Flash and an Impact Powersync System (because they are smaller than my Pocket Wizards).
To go along with the flash, a CowboyStudio collapsible light stand that folds down to 21” and slides nicely into the side of the bag.
A 43” Wescott Collapsible Umbrella that is about 10” when closed.
CowboyStudio Umbrella Mount Bracket (mostly metal and very solidly made).
DiCAPac WPS10 Waterproof Case for in (and maybe under)water work.
Cabeau Memory Foam Travel Pillow. I have the worst time sleeping on planes. This one folds up into a tiny bag and supports my head amazingly.
Ridiculous looking hiking / trail running shoes. If you’re going someplace hot, avoid waterproof shoes and opt for something that breathes. Superfeet inserts will save your life.
Get a journal. Buy it from any bookstore. Write everything down. Save receipts. Get postcards. Shove stuff into it.
After all of this is crammed into the bag, I was worried about how much space I would have left for clothes. How many Speedos could I realistically pack?
Everything but the sling bag fit into the outside pockets, and the sling bag fit horizontally in the main compartment.
So much space for so many Speedos.
The final weigh-in (without any clothes) came in around 18 lbs, and the sling bag takes up about five of those pounds. I am anticipating a few more pounds for the additional rented lenses, but even with those, I am more than pleased with the final result.
Here's what's in the bag.
1. Kelty Redwing 50L ($115)
2. Lowepro StreamLine Sling Bag ($39.99)
3. Fuji X-T1 ($1,299)*
4. Fuji 23mm ($749)*
5. Fuji 56mm ($999)*
6. Fuji Batteries (4 x $19.95)*
7. Voltage Adapter ($3.24)
8. Monster Outlets To Go PowerStrip ($12.99)
9. Sony 32gb Memory Cards (4 x $36)*
10. Pelican’s 0915 SD case ($17.49)
11. i.Sound Portable Power ($54.95)
12. Lexar SD Card Reader ($24.50)*
13. G-Technology 1TB Portable Drive ($193.99)*
14. Hoya 62mm NDX8 Filter (2 x $27.15)*
15. Blackrapid Camera Strap ($39.99)*
16. Joby Gorillapod for SLRs ($65.20)
17. Canon 600EX-RT ($549)*
18. Quantum Battery ($659.95)*
19. Impact Powersync System ($119.99)
20. Collapsable Light Stand ($32.44)
21. 43” Wescott Collapsible Umbrella ($19.90)
22. Fstoppers Flash Disc
23. Umbrella Mount ($15.99)
24. DiCAPac WPS10 Waterproof Case ($69.60)
25. Cabeau Memory Foam Travel Pillow ($39.99)
26. Superfeet ($25-45)
27. Journal ($30)
*You probably already have a camera system and won’t be purchasing another one.
So here it is…the best pack I could come up with after weeks of planning and obsessing. I can’t wait to schlep it to the other side of the world and put it through the ringer. Most importantly, there is still plenty of space for bigger bodies or even extra cameras and flashes.
Am I missing anything crucial? What would you add?
If you're feeling especially adventurous, follow my trip on Instagram.