Road Trip Ready: Must-Have Equipment for Your Next Photography Adventure

Road Trip Ready: Must-Have Equipment for Your Next Photography Adventure

Summer is finally here, and it's the perfect time to embark on your next photographic adventure. You've meticulously scouted locations, carefully booked your night stays, and secured that reliable rental car. But have you honestly considered all the essential gear to make your photography adventure a thrilling success?

Summer is synonymous with hot days, ice cream, and time at the swimming pool. But for us photographers, it’s also the season of road trips! I recently embarked on the ultimate ten-day American road trip, Route 66. This road trip was a true adventure stretching over 2,400 miles across eight states. Over the last two years, I have taken several weekend trips, including visits to White Sands National Park and Zion National Park. I also hit the road twice last year, traveling through Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. I packed the car and headed to Colorado to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

Every road trip came with challenges, from maximizing space in limited baggage to the luxury of almost unlimited space in a rental car. But I was determined to overcome them, and here's the gear that helped me overcome these challenges and reassured me of its adaptability in various situations!

Hanual Procube2 Charger

Several years ago, a sales rep who had visited the camera store where I worked introduced me to the Hanual Procube Charger. It piqued my interest. For one, it can charge two batteries at once. I don't like having to charge one battery at a time, as I want to complete the most work quickly. It’s a worthy friend to have on a road trip due to its fast and rapid charging capabilities, USB port, and, ultimately, it includes a 12V car lead. Now, you can plug it into your vehicle and charge batteries while hitting the open road. I placed it on the dash of the Nissan Rogue and made it easy to access while working from the vehicle. 

Promaster USB-C Rechargeable Battery

Introducing the most convenient battery ever created, the Promaster USB-C Rechargeable Battery. Almost every vehicle these days has a USB-C port somewhere. Occasionally, it would be best to have an easy and convenient way to charge the battery on the road or while walking around when your Hanual Procube fully charges two batteries. You plug it in with the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable and charge it directly from a power bank or a port in your vehicle. I’ll have to say, this isn’t the quickest way to charge the battery, as it takes roughly four and a half hours, but in a pinch, it's a lifesaver!

Scosche InVert 150

There never seems to be enough power while on the road between trying to charge batteries, laptops, and all the other gear you have. This is especially true when you need a place to plug your laptop in while backing up images on the road. My vehicle is my office and home on the road. I sleep in the back of an SUV, and the passenger seat is set up with my laptop each evening. It allows me unlimited power for my computer while charging my iPhone through one of the USB-C or USB-A ports.

Mindshift Backlight 26L

This bag is my go-to bag whether flying or hitting the open road. Space isn’t a problem for holding all my essential gear, from the camera, lenses, filters, batteries, and much more. One might say I try to fit fifty pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack! The biggest issue while flying is the overhead bin space, as I fly through many regional airports that support much smaller jets! The bag fits in every overhead bin or usually under the seat if I don't stuff it and has held up through the rigors of airport security.

Mindshift Rotation 50L

When traveling, I don’t use conventional luggage. How often have you seen relatively new luggage on the bag carousel, clothes falling out, or luggage wrapped in plastic wrap or duct tape? This bag has two purposes. First, I pack my tripod, hygiene products, and clothes to check in at the airline counter. Two, it’s a second camera bag. If I go for a long hike at a location, I can use this bag to haul all my camera gear and non-camera gear in one bag. This allows for a much more comfortable experience for long hikes and easy access to my gear due to the integrated belt pack that rotates to the front for easy access. Talk about a beast of a bag due to the quality. It has endured many trips through multiple airlines and bag transfers and has held up with no end in sight of retirement.

Think Tank EDC Pouches 

Small cables and accessories are the bane of any photographer's existence. I have all three sizes of the EDC Pouches. These will keep you organized on the road. I use them to house my portable hard drives, cables, charging bricks, business cards, phone and computer chargers, and a light meter. These will all fit into my camera bag, keeping it organized. It also saves Mr. Money in the unlikely event I lose gear by just throwing it in a car seat!

Think Tank Freeway Longhauls and Organizer Cubes

It wouldn’t be a road trip without snacks! The Freeway Long Haulers and Organizer cubes are essential items for any road trip, long or short. From the organization of snacks to even clothing! I have used the larger Longhaul 50 with the organizer cubes to store clothes. Mostly, I use these as the go-to bags for all those miscellaneous items. Everything from snacks to an atlas, and they are pretty much a catch-all bag! When I roll up to a hotel, I grab and go and only carry less than three bags!

Rand McNally Motor Carriers Atlas

Don’t get me wrong; I love having the GPS hooked to Apple CarPlay. But we all know that the GPS isn’t always correct or takes us way off the beaten path sometimes, and sometimes it just doesn’t work without cellular reception! I always take along the Rand McNally Motor Carriers Atlas. It trumps paper maps if you can even find one. Overall, hands down, it is more detailed, has a spiral binding and laminated pages, and, over time, holds up better. Most of all, it is a lifeline in case the GPS fails, or it has no clue where you are!

These are just a few items you can take on your next photographic trip. The biggest challenges you will face while traveling are power and space to store all your items. As photographers, we have a good idea of the time of day, composition, exposure, and equipment we use to create our photographs. However, we don't always consider all the non-photographic items as we tend to focus on our trip's photographic aspect. Ultimately, I pack several must-have pieces of equipment before any road trip! What are your road trip must-haves?

Justin Tedford's picture

Justin Tedford, a Midwest photographer, captures the essence of rural America along Iowa's backroads. He's a road trip junkie, enjoys exploring national parks, and savors a good cup of coffee while focusing on showcasing the beauty of the rural American landscapes.

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Great article Justin! Definitely some great information to think about for my next photography roadtrip.

Thank you! Maybe I need to take a road trip up your way!

Great article Justin. Makes me want to plan a roadtrip.

Thanks! Road trips are the best!

I road trip extensively across and throughout the United States for wildlife photography. On average I spend about 22 weeks a year road tripping.

In fact, I am on a road trip now, having left my home in Washington state 6 weeks ago and staying in Pennsylvania and New Jersey now. Will drive back to Washington in about a month, and hopefully detour down thru Texas and Arizona on my way home. Spent a month in Arizona in 2021 and 3 weeks there in 2022, and I really want to return.

One thing that I always take on almost every road trip is my desktop computer. Honestly, I think laptops suck for working on photos and for pretty much everything else. So I just take my nice big 27" iMac with me just about any time I go on any road trip that is over a week long.

Some things I keep in my car at all times:

1 - a full sized spare wheel and tire, in addition to the little donut spare

2 - a 2 ton floor jack

3 - a 24" long breaker bar with a socket that fits my lug nuts

4 - tarps for sleeping or napping on the ground in parks and roadside stops

5 - a full size pillow and a smaller travel pillow

6 - Gore-tex rain parka

7 - EZ Pass transponder for when I travel in/to the eastern US (for tolls)

8 - folding chair

9 - small camo photo blind

10 - small duffel full of many pairs of gloves, hats, gaiters, neoprene socks, facemasks, etc.

11 - blanket made of synthetic material

12 - extra chargers and charging cords

13 - powerful bluetooth speaker

14 - basic tools; pliers, screwdrivers, adj wrenches, socket/ratchet kit, utility knife, etc.

15 - stuff to change my own oil with - funnel, latex gloves, socket wrench, etc.

16 - 4 man tent - it's actually the perfect size for one person

17 - sleeping pad and sleeping bag

18 - extra footwear including tall waterproof boots, crocs, hiking shoes, etc.

19 - heavy duty extension cord with 3 prong adaptor

20 - small electric space heater, for when a motel room's heater is insufficient

21 - big folded paper maps for about 25 states ..... often times so much better than trying to use a cell phone as a map, which actually sucks

Keeping all of this in my car at all times makes it easy because I don't have to pack it into the car every time I go on a trip - it's already there and ready at all times.

I just have a little Toyota Corolla because I have very little income and need to travel as inexpensively as possible, so the 32-35 miles per gallon really helps. I have no trouble at all putting everything I need, and more, into my little Corolla. One does NOT need an SUV or a truck or a big car if traveling solo, no matter how long or how far your road trip is.

It depends on where I usually go; a car would do. Lately, I have been getting free upgrades to an SUV! Arizona is one of my favorite places!

That's great that you get free upgrades! But renting a car is still really expensive.

Living in Iowa must be great, because it is somewhat centrally located in the contiguous U.S. So you're not really more than 3 days' driving from anywhere. Even if you could only get two weeks off for a trip, and you were going all the way to southern California, you could drive for 3 days to get there spend a whopping 10 days there, drive 3 days to get back home, and still make it to work on Monday morning. Pretty much anywhere else in the U.S., you could get to in just 2 days of driving, which is freakin' awesome! I mean even the Florida Keys is only 2 days driving from Iowa, and the other extreme, the Pacific Northwest, is only 2 days, which I know from experience because whenever I drive from Washington state to Pennsylvania, I get to Iowa in just two days, which is great!

Living way up in northern Washington state means that getting around the country is more difficult for me than it is for you, but I still manage to drive everywhere and never have to fly and then rent a car. I really dislike the fly/car rental experience. It is better to just take more time for the trip and drive my own car from home to wherever I'm going.

What parts of Arizona do you like the most? I absolutely fell in love with the Sonoran Desert in the extreme southern part of the state, especially the "low desert" in areas around Ajo, Yuma, Gila Bend, Tuscon, Phoenix, Dateland, etc.

It is excellent being smack dab in the middle, LOL! Rentals are cheaper in the long run since I usually drive a truck. I loved the Phoenix area!

Phoenix! Yes!

There are so many wildlife and nature opportunities within a 3 hour's drive of Phoenix, it is staggering. Because of this, Phoenix is where I based myself for 3 weeks in 2022. So close to so many diverse habitats. And the fact that it is a huge, sprawling city means that amenities and necessities are in plentiful supply, which means they are cheap, compared to those in more remote areas.

You might want to add a power bank like the Anker 337 for those long nightscape sessions, along with a low-power red flashlight and/or headlamp. I'd also add a dedicated GPS receiver that will work well when you're out of reach of a cell tower. Add to that Garmin inReach Mini 2 satellite communicator for emergencies when you're not near a cell tower. And if you're in need of a replacement sleeping bag, I'd suggest that you consider bags from Wiggy's in Grand Junction, CO. I use a nestable set (Nautilus and Hunter Superlight with hood) that will accommodate temperatures down to -40 degrees C.

Headlamps are actually an essential item for me, as I am a herper, and often go out herping at night. In fact, on dedicated herp photography trips, I become rather nocturnal. I keep 3 headlamps in my herping kit, along with a power brick and a few dozen extra AA batteries.

Thanks for the suggestion on the sleeping bag. Nestable sounds great as it would suit my varied needs well. I haven't been thru Grand Junction since 2019, but will probably go thru there this summer ..... if so, I will definitely stop in at Wiggy's!

Great advice! If I may add to the list -- Pringles, Oreo double stuff, and Laffy Taffy.

I can agree to this!

Great addition!

Another great snack can be found at any Dollar General ... a small bag of chocolate covered almonds for one dollar. Yes, one dollar. They are great with a few cups of coffee from the thermos! Plus most Dollar Generals have bananas as well so add a banana and you have a well-rounded breakfast for $1.30 ..... lol