10 General Items to Keep in Your Gear Bag

10 General Items to Keep in Your Gear Bag

As photographers and videographers we often obsess over our cameras, lenses, stands, lights, etc. But often times, the most important tool in your bag is from the hardware store, something that allows you to temporarily fix an unexpected situation, whether it's a gear failure, or the need to fix something in an awkward space. Here are 10 items (in no particular order) that I recommend.

10. LED Flashlight

We use a lot of lights in photography and video, but this one might not be in your gear. I've found white LED flashlights to be amazingly useful for grabbing focus in dark settings, and depending on your phone you may already have one at your disposal (I can only speak for iPhone's, but the camera light is amazingly bright and throws it's beam a decent distance).


9. Extension Cords

These should be obvious if you've ever tried to scout a location based on power outlets. Outside of spending thousands on a high end battery pack or using a generator, these are pretty much your only way to get a consistent power supply for things like modelling lights. They're easy to wind up and throw into any space you have available, and frankly. you'd be a fool to be caught without them.


8. Welding Glass 

Not only does it save your eyes from bright light, it makes a great DIY ND filter, as well.

Photo credit: DIYphotography.net

7. Clamps

Clamps fix baggy clothes, keep cords out of the way, secure backdrops, and do 1000 other MacGyver-ish things you'll discover once you have them in your kit. They come in all shapes and sizes in packs of a dozen or more for only a couple bucks, it's a no brainer.


6.  Ladder

Again, a no brainer. Getting the shot requires accessibility of all possible angles, and there's not always stuff to climb on when you need it. You don't need anything huge, but being a few feet up can offer a huge advantage. Measure the space you have to carry it around, then get whatever fits.


5. Electrical Tape

Unless you're able to afford a completely wireless setup, you're going to have a lot of cords. Cords wear down, environments aren't always dry, why not be prepared? Also works great for covering equipment brands if that's a concern.


4. Plastic Bags/Elastics 

You can't always avoid the weather, and plastic bags are the easiest thing I've found for weather proofing my gear. Sure you can buy branded industry-specific rain covers for cameras and lenses, but these are free, and you have them lying around anyway. I recommend a mixture of sizes, and throw in a couple transparent bags as well (like the ones you'd find at your local grocery store's bakery and produce isles) in case you need to see your display while it's covered.


3. Sheets

There are two ways to get a giant diffused light source... one is to buy a large, expensive, and bulky modifier, and the other is to get a large white sheet and have two friends (or clamps!) Great for simulating window light or cloudy weather.


2. Foam 

I personally try to find the board that's black on one side, white on the other. It can be used as a background for tight portraits and products, or as a light modifier (soft reflector for the white side, flag for the black). Cheap, durable, and found at most craft stores.

960512 002

1. Gaffer's Tape

Come on, you knew it was coming. Gaffer's tape is the go-to tape for many photo and video professionals world-wide,as it's made of very strong and durable cloth, while leaving no residue when removed due to it's synthetic adhesive. Use it for absolutely everything, this is your new duct tape.




Have your own item to add, or an entirely different list? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Log in or register to post comments

I got worried when I saw electrical tape at #5. But you saved it with the gaffer's tape.

Me too. If using it for wrapping cords, why not just use velcro cable ties?

I think the suggestion is more for repairing cables and cords on the fly, not organizing them.

A little Phillips screwdriver if you own a Nikon. I'm missing about 3 screws from my 50mm and I've had a lens stuck on my body because one of the screws from the mount has come undone.

i would ad a multi tool

Agreed. I just keep forgetting to take them out of my camera bag every time I fly & end up getting them confiscated. I think I may have be on multi tool #34 already.

I haven't found a bag large enough to carry a ladder with me, but other than that, nice list. I echo Keith's multitool as I have always found that essential. A mini notepad and pen has always served me well, too. I have used my Note II with a stylus in a pinch, but nothing beats pen and paper.

I guess I need a bigger bag for that ladder!

Whaw! This guy must have the biggest camera bag I've ever seen. Numbers #6, #3, #2 could not fit in my bag even if I tried.

Pretty sure this is for a location kit versus a bag.

while i get some of those things, there are a lot of things i don't need. for instance: electrical tape (use gaffa), a ladder (don't have one, wouldn't know how to transport it), electrical cords (don't have anything that connects to a electrical outlet, other than my chargers), foam board (don't get it in germany), a pastic bag (never needed one in more than 20 shootings), weldings glass (have it, but it gives a color cast. you can use it as an nd-filter, but you have to convert the images to black and white and it is limited to one specific stop). i would rather buy a cheap kit with some plastic grad and nd filters and adapter rings. they cost around 30€ in germany), sheets (i have some but i don't use them that often. if i have the space, if take them with me, but 90% of the time, they stay at home).

sure you can get foam board in germany (on Amazon) or you search "Leichtstoffplatte". I also needed some time to find it....:)

thx, i didn't find any, at the time i build my v-flats. so i used styrofoam

I always keep my multi-purpose tool in my bad along with a few other things...including a stuffed animal for me when I get stressed, I shoot concerts...hair ties as well (if you have long hair), business cards...

If you do portraits or weddings, sharpies, safety pins, scissors, comb, water bottle with spray nozzle, pen and paper, a couple of squeaky toys to catch kid's attention, scotch tape, and paper clips.......

Masking tape for labeling things like cords if you have a lot, along with a Sharpie (permanent marker pen). If 'multipurpose tool' is a Swiss army knife, yes, that too, unless you're going on a plane. Band Aids for if you get cut on the multitude of sharp things and zippers we use. A friend of mine got blood on the front of my softbox once.

Thanks for this article.
But i would add somme of battery pack (charged), screwdriver, usb cables, name cards.. before a ladder in my case.

What bag is that ladder going to fit in?

A man bag .... like a man drawer, but bigger !

Some of mine (usually do events)
- Folding poncho
- Notebook + Pen
- Tape
- Ear Plugs
- Lanyard
- Printout of photographers rights

I kinda disagree in almost all but anyways, your call =P

and one giant bag to keep it all in

The white sheet is genius!! I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this.
My addition is a sewing kit. I can't count how many wedding and bridesmaids dresses I've saved at the last minute with this!. And a few tux seams too :)

(I can only speak for iPhone’s, but the camera light is amazingly bright and throws it’s beam a decent distance).

iPhones is plural, not possessive, so it should be iPhones, and "its" is possessive, not a contraction, so that should be "throws its beam."

you forgot 'condoms' isn't why most of us get to photography in the first place ?

This is for us city folks, a bag of quarters has probably saved me thousands in parking tickets over the years..

Zip ties. Yeah, they're one-shot, and you need something to cut them loose when you're done, but they will definitely secure things better than tape or clamps in many circumstances.

I can't tell you how many times the granola bars I have packed in my camera bag have saved me at an event. And yes, a screwdriver. I keep a step ladder in my car for events, but not for weddings, as people tend to set drinks on it.

Why not make a wedding bag setup post then?

Grease pads, velcro ties, advil, clif bars, visine, anti histamine, a poncho, 2 individual shots, maybe some candy. Seems more viable for those in the wedding world than a few of these items would be.

Replace the electrical tape with http://www.tommytape.com/
Ear plugs
Breath mints / tictacs and chewing gum
Headache tablets (panadol / advil)
LED Head torch (as used for camping)
Dry bag eg: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/sealline/dry-bags/category
Sewing kit
Cotton tips
Hair ties
Cheap spare sunglasses and a hat

One thing you left out that is a MUST:
Oven roasted Turkey bags.

Seems specific, but they are about $2 for a box of 5 and they are made to withstand 450 degree temperatures. That means you can put them on your studio strobes if you are using them outdoors to keep dry in the rain and not have to worry about melting them. Ever.

Love the list!

I keep a big square of heavy duty aluminum foil. It works great as a reflector, folds up into almost nothing, and is durable enough to use again and again. Plus, since you can wrap it around almost anything, you don't need clamps or a stand to hold it up.

I would add a nice Leatherman's tool with a sheath, box cutter and
extra blades (for cutting foamcore, etc.), cinefoil, 1" artist's tape, clothes pins, both white and black gaffer's tape, hot shoe spirit level, leather gloves (for lights and sharp stuff), antistaticum cloth, 2-3 super clamps, diffusion sheets, gray card, CTB & CTO gels, bag each of med & lrg rubber bands, Hoodman Loupe (for viewing camera screen in bright light), Goo gone (cleans gaffer's tape residue from your stands, etc.), clean rags, Duvetyne, extra sync cables, adapters and tethering cable.

Some builds on this excellent advice:
1. For your LED flashlight, get the small headmounted type. You'll love having both hands free the next time you have to wrap in the dark.
2. Adorama and others have a lightweight ladder/handtruck combo. Add a couple of heavy-duty bungees (which come in handy for other things) and you can cart about 200 lbs of kit in one go, and have the ladder, too.