Accessories in Your Camera Bag You Don’t Need

Accessories in Your Camera Bag You Don’t Need

A camera bag can carry a lot of stuff. It fits a camera and lenses, but also other things that may or may not be helpful for your photography. Sometimes, there’s too much stuff that seems to be essential at first, but isn’t used at all. How many things have you collected in your camera bag?

Depending on its size, a camera bag typically holds one or two cameras and a set of lenses. If you use flash for your photography, the content will also have a couple of flashes, light modifiers, and items that allow you to place a flash somewhere, perhaps even the Frio Hold system, which I reviewed recently here on Fstoppers.  

When camera bags are discussed, we often only mention the camera equipment inside. It’s about taking the necessary lenses with you and leaving the things you don’t need for that particular shoot at home. There is no reason to have a macro lens in your bag if you only shoot portraits, unless you macro lens doubles as a portrait lens, of course. Another example is a long telelens, which has no real use for portraits. On the other hand, leave a 50mm or 85mm lens at home if you’re going to shoot landscapes. A zoom lens will do nicely.

The lenses and cameras are often stored in the main compartment of a camera bag. However, most camera bags have a lot of additional pockets to store small items. These pockets can hold a lot of things, and it’s way too easy to fill them with all sorts of accessories that might or might not come in handy.

How many small items do you have in your camera bag? 

What Accessories Do You Carry With You?

There are a few items that are wise to take with you. Put one or more spare batteries and some extra memory cards in your camera bag. After all, you don’t want to run out of power or storage space. If your lens needs a wipe, a microfiber lens cloth can save the day.

But is it really necessary to take a battery charger with you also? Or a card reader? Or a set of elastic bungee ball loops? Or a bunch of different types of USB cables? Over time, you might have gathered a lot of small items in the spare pockets of your camera bag, thinking they may come in handy someday.

Spare batteries. But how many, and are all these types necessary?

Some items may be added to your bag because you needed them a single time, while others are perhaps bought on a whim. It’s too easy to keep these things in the small pocket of your bag, even though you almost never use them. With a lot of small pockets, a lot of stuff will be added over time.

Do you have extra memory cards in your photo bag? 

What I Found in My Bag

Recently, I bought a new camera backpack for my travels. I needed a large bag that could carry some spare clothing and lunch as well. After I received the new bag, I emptied the old one completely. I was surprised how many accessories there were inside. Some I put in the bag because I thought they would be handy to have available if needed. The following accessories I found stored in my old camera bag, gathered through the years:

  • Three carabiners (two sizes)
  • Different charging cables (Lightning cable, USB-C, and micro-USB)
  • Power cable for a battery charger (without the charger)
  • A few lens and camera caps
  • Nodal slide
  • Angle finder
  • Velcro straps
  • Elastic cable ties and elastic bungee ball loops
  • Four microfiber cloths
  • AAA batteries (even some used ones)
  • AA Eneloop batteries
  • Different size Allen hex keys
  • A couple of camera batteries
  • Spare memory cards (even a few CF cards I don’t use anymore)
  • Spare Arca-Swiss camera plate
  • Two lens reverse rings (two sizes)
  • Small empty accessory bag
  • Trigger Trap cable and adapter
  • A couple of pens that didn’t write anymore
  • One tactical flashlight and one small Maglite
  • Small cold shoe spirit level bubble
  • Business cards
  • Rain cover for my camera
  • A few shower caps (which also can be used as a emergency rain cover)
  • Safety reflective vest
  • Towel
  • Op-Tech camera strap

All kinds of small necessities that are sometimes used, and often not. How many do you have in your bag? 

Some of these things can be considered essential one way or another. I already mentioned spare batteries and memory cards. Other things in the list I do use on a regular basis, like the carabiner, flashlight, rain cover, safety reflective vest, and a nodal slide.

But the other things I rarely ever use, if ever. A cold shoe spirit level bubble is unnecessary because the camera now has a built-in horizon level. The Trigger Trap cannot be used anymore since my phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm plug. The angle finder is redundant due to a tilted LCD screen.

A small Miops trigger and a Trigger Trap. Both do the same thing, but you only need one. Although the Trigger Trap doesn't take much space, it's unnecessary to have it in you bag if you have the other one.

Only Take With You What You Need

I removed a lot of accessories that once seemed to be essential but turned out to be redundant. Many camera bags have enough storage space to hold al these items without any problem, but they do take up space. And although most accessories don’t have a lot of weight, together, it all adds up.

You don't need that many cables. Take only the ones you need.

I’ve seen bags during my workshops and travels that were loaded with all sorts of accessories. Some were carrying a bag that weighed almost 20 kilograms and bulged on every side. I would advise everyone to take a good look at the things you have in your camera bag. Ask yourself if you really need the accessories you have in there. If you didn’t use something in the previous year, you probably never will.

Spare batteries. Do you need that many for one day of shooting?

What Do You Carry With You?

Have you checked your camera bag lately? What kind of accessories do you carry with you when you go out photographing? Be honest, and ask yourself if you really need all those things.

Perhaps you would like to share which accessories you find essential for your photography, things you have available in your camera bag at all times. I’m looking forward reading about them in the comments below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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"I recommend every goes on a few caravan holidays. You'll soon learn how to pack things in like a Tardis."

I lived on a bicycle for a year and a half. Makes backpacking seem like a luxury. Makes a caravan look like a five-star hotel!

I got to travel even lighter, after someone stole my Praktika camera off my bike. This was in 1975.

Do you also take a spare car with you? Just in case. And a spare smartphone. Or a spare set of shoes?
I would like to take you with me on my trips, since you have everything a photographer wishes and more,with redundancy. :)

To lighten my load a little, I put my manual on my phone and strips of gaffers tape across the back of my bag. I had a seperate bag just for all my lighting stuff except the actual flashes.
Now, even a Canon 5Dmklll/70-200 f/2.8 is too heavy for me, even without a grip!

Gaffers tape around a pencil... What a great idea

The problem is the singular bag.

I have three bags of different sizes. All of that stuff belongs in the big bag — which is actually not a "bag," but a lovely glass-door china cabinet, so I can see all my camera stuff.

When going on a trip, I pull things out of the china cabinet that I think I'll need, and they all go in the Lowe Pro AW backpack.

But I only carry that in the car or plane. The stuff I'll need for the day comes out of there and goes in the Lowe Pro Orion II AW waist bag.

Problem solved! I almost NEVER have a lot of extra stuff in my "day bag," and only have essential extra stuff in my "trip bag."

That's a nice cabinet. :) Wish I had one at home

That one was from Ikea — their Billy bookcase, with optional glass shelves and doors. I had to get rid of it in a quick move due to health issues.

But then, I found something even nicer: the top half of a two-piece china hutch. It's slightly bigger (in terms of volume), has a mirrored back surface, built-in lights, and lovely leaded glass doors. No photos yet, until our tiny house is built and it gets hung on the wall.

I'm a big fan of having things visible, so I can quickly grab what I want — and be reminded of what I have!

Today I could have used an emergency umbrella, got caught in a thunderstorm with drenching rain. Oops. I did check the weather, as always, before heading out. They were wrong, so very wrong. lol.

You should also check the wind velocity when using the emergency umbrella. Just in case

I almost always have a travel umbrella with me. I love this one:

Can withstand winds up to 60kph and is almost indestructible.

Fantastic, yeah I need something like that for sure. Thank you for the link.

Finally stopped using Hoodman loops. Had several of them but just easier to review images in viewfinder on mirrorless cameras.

I had one photographer during my workshop who still uses such a thing. Works quite nice, but you need a lot of resolution to make it work, I think

Pack everything possible as long as it doesn't apply pressure/stress to your camera and lenses in the main compartment. I wish there were affordable camera bags that contained an internal main compartment for the camera and lenses that was a hard case. For example a bag where multiple pockets and pouches were the standard soft paddles stuff, but the middle compartment being essentially a hard pelican case.

You can buy semi-hard cases (ICU) for bags like Shimoda or F-stop. And other brands perhaps also. You could get one of those and use it any bag you like.

Categorize. Smallish bag for the highly immediate stuff, a separate one for your 'might need' things. Or split out even further--a bag for just chargers and cables

Besides cameras, lenses, and gear that is directly used in producing images, I also take:

snake bags - small for toads and frogs, large for large snakes and turtles

snake-proof gloves for handling venomous snakes and snapping turtles

a headlamp, and many extra batteries for it ... can go through 4 sets of 4 AA batteries in one night

spare hiking socks

warm gloves; sometimes hand muffs if the cold is severe

a "rattle pack", that, when shaken, mimics the sound of fighting deer (antlers clashing)

a Whitetail Deer grunt call

doe urine and small absorbent material for soaking in urine and tossing at the deer, to induce a Flehmen response

latex gloves and ziploc bags used when handling deer urine

ziploc bags with toilet paper or paper towels in them for crapping in the woods or on the prairie

a charged-up power bank and cable(s) for charging my phone and speaker

a bluetooth speaker to use in conjunction with my phone, to call birds in

a 4' by 6' waterproof ground cloth, so I can sit or lay on the ground and not get wet and dirty, even in mud or goose poop

a leatherman tool or a utility knife

camo cloth and spring clamps, for constructing makeshift blinds

water bottles

snacks such as tree nuts or dried fruit or triscuits or a bottle of orange juice

long johns if I think it may get colder

emergency rain poncho if I think it may rain heavily

spare lightweight polyester tee shirt to wear over my head if I think there may be many mosquitos

spare sunglasses in the event that I lose my main sunglasses

Most of these items are essential, and good photos would not be possible without them. Of course, not all of this stuff is in my bag at one time. The reptile & amphibian specific items are only taken when I am on a reptile & amphibian outing. The Deer-specific items are only taken when I am photographing Deer during the fall breeding season. The speaker, power bank, and blind-building materials are only taken when I am out to photograph birds.

There are certain to be a few more items that I regularly take with me that I do not recall at the moment.

That are a lot of things. But as you mention, you take only the things with you for one specific kind of photography. I believe that is the correct way of adding accessoires with you. Imagine if you would take everything with you on every trip, just in case. You would need a caddie, or a sherpa, or perhaps a girlfriend that loves you very, very, very much ;)

And I only listed the things that I take that fit inside my pack!

That doesn't include manufactured blinds (called "hides" in Europe), my orchard ladder, PVC pipe extensions for my tripod legs, stools, chairs, duck decoys, deer decoys, turkey decoys, grouse decoys, tree stands, floating blinds, feeding platforms, bags of cracked corn, etc.

Plus the fact that my everyday lens is a 300-800mm zoom that weighs 12 pounds and is 21 inches long ... and requires a very sturdy, tall tripod. So my camera, lens, tripod, and gimbal head weighs in at an even 26 pounds in total. And sometimes this stuff needs to be carried deep into the wild country, sometimes more than a mile ... which sometimes requires two or three trips back and forth just to get all of the gear in where I need it.

Many people have no idea how much gear and equipment it takes in order to get certain types of wildlife photos, especially staged shots, or shots of extremely wary animals that require extreme methods of staying concealed while getting very close to them.

I will never complain again when I pack my bag

That sounds like tools to get some great pictures. Not many venomous snakes where I wander, but I've been bitten by a python and it hurt.....

You might check out Fenix for high power rechargeable headlamps (swappable batteries, you can carry spares). I find that a better choice for long term use than regular penlight batteries.

Thanks - I'll check out the Fenix headlamps. The one I have is high power, I think 1,000 lumens, so it eats the batteries very quickly. I can use it at a medium setting, but that isn't nearly as useful as using it at the highest power. Can't beat lots of bright light when out on the desert at night hoping to find well-camouflaged critters!

Obviously this is all very dependent on what you're shooting, where you're going, and how you're getting there. I'll take every piece of kit I own if I'm driving to a location. If I'm hiking 10 miles, we're scaling way down to essentials.

Taking everything with you sounds reasonable. But unfortunately, leaving equipment in the car isn't something I would prefer. It wouldn't be the first car that is subject to breaking in and theft.

I'm a fan on only taking what you need or may need. Still end up taking a 10KG pack every single time (full spectrum camera, 2x normal bodies and 24-105 + 200-600mm lenses, flash and flash transmitter, camera strap). I find that this is the bare minimum for what I tend to shoot.

Still sometimes end up attaching bags to the camera pack if I need more gear such as clothing, food or water. Lowepro ProTactic is great for being able to add on as needed, but you can look a little "hard core" if it's a half day trip :-)

I general empty everything out and try to pack only what I need for what I'm planning to do. Event photography, no need for the 500mm lens. Sport photography, no need for the macro lens. Day trip? Probably don't been the chargers. Going on vacation, call a container truck.

Maybe it's a woman thing -
my handbags are cleared at the end of the day to start with only what I need the next day kn a bag matching my outfit.
I have 4 camera bags in different sizes, all empty and ready to be packef and used for their specific purpose.
All my cameras and lenses are stored in an open shoe storage thingamy so easy to see and choose and equipment in drawers below.
Makes my photography ventures as simple as choosing my matching handbag.

I would find myself forgetting something, which is why I have pre-selected 'pods'.

Hey, Dinah

I don't necessarily think it's just a woman thing. Myself and those I know who also do wildlife photography, we go through our bags each evening after the shoot, in preparation for the next day's shoot. And of course the bag is packed with only what is expected to be needed for the following day. That's pretty much normal practice among all of the photographers I know. IK honestly don't know any photographer who leaves stuff in the bag just because they're too lazy to organize it daily. Just doesn't happen, at least in my experience.