Ten Non-Photography Items Every Landscape Photographer Should Carry

Ten Non-Photography Items Every Landscape Photographer Should Carry

Landscape photography brings with it its own special set of challenges and risks. But beyond your filters and spare batteries, you're going to want to carry some extra non-photography gear to make sure you're in tip-top shape to capture those beautiful shots.

1. Bug Repellant

When I reviewed the Pentax K-1, I wanted to test its advanced astrophotography features. Luckily, I live near a dedicated low light pollution park with some of the darkest skies in the United States. As you might imagine, it's in some deep country. When I took the Pentax out there at 2 a.m., I was eaten alive. I was ready to take a cheese grater to my legs by the time I got home. Don't forget your bug spray! 

2. Phone

It seems obvious, but a lot of us like to get off the grid for a while. That's fine, but if you're hiking out into the wilderness, it's a good idea to have a phone with you in case you're a complete klutz (like me) and frequently slip and fall. You can always leave the phone off and turn it on if needed.

3. Battery Pack and Charging Cable

However, the often spotty cell coverage of the places landscape photographers frequent means your phone will deplete its battery more quickly in searching for a signal if you leave it on. Grab yourself a battery pack and spare charging cable to bring along. Because of the often poor coverage, you might want to consider a backup: a whistle. 

4. Flashlight and Fire Starter

Even if you plan on only going out during the day, stuff happens. I once drove 40 miles in the wrong direction until I saw a sign for a state I was definitely not traveling to. Today's LED flashlights are tiny and light, so it's not a huge burden to toss one in your bag, and you never know when you'll be stuck and need a fire. They even make combination flashlight/fire starters if matches aren't your thing.

5. First Aid Kit

You never know when you might slip and slice your arm or walk straight into a thorn bush (who would do that?!). Bring along a first aid kit. Mine saved me that time I was attacked by that rogue thorn bush.

6. Sunscreen

If there's one thing baling hay has taught me, it's to always wear sunscreen, or else you will get a terrible sunburn. And your terrible friends will constantly slap you on the back and yell, "How's that sunburn doing!?" 

7. Map and Compass

Cell phones and GPS are cool and all, but what if your phone dies or doesn't get a signal? You can download offline maps, but as they teach us in aviation: a map's battery never dies.

8. Extra Socks

Wet feet are the worst. You're probably going to step in some puddles or miss that rock sticking out of the creek, so bring a change of socks.

9. Rain Gear and Warm Clothing

Living in Cleveland has taught me to always wear shorts underneath my snowpants, bring an umbrella, and prepare for the occasional tornado. Ok, so you don't have to go to those extremes, but having rain gear and warm clothing is always a good idea, particularly if you're going on an all-day adventure.

10. Food and Water

Bring enough water to cover your estimated time for your trip and then some. Bring snacks (and meals if you'll be out that long). Keeping an emergency filter that will allow you to drink out of streams or rivers handy is never a bad idea. 

Do you have any essentials you take in the field with you? Let us know in the comments!

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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On #1 - as a Floridian who spends too much time in the swamp, I'd like to recommend Repel's lemon eucalyptus bug spray (there are other brands, too). While not as effective as DEET, it won't eat your camera or leave permanently etched fingerprints in your shutter button (ask me how I know), and it works great with keeping ticks away. You just have to reapply it pretty often and when bugs are really bad, you'll want to use DEET on everything other than your hands/arms.

Good list. Three (related) items I never go in the field without are high-top waterproof (not water resistant) boots, SmartWool socks and water resistant pants that have been treated with additional water repellant. Extra socks are great but with this combination, I've never needed them.

One more thing I would suggest for google maps users is to download the offline map for the are you will be in. I can't count how many times it has helped me navigate in areas that have no signal and the rails are not marked.

I use Global Mapper to convert trail maps, unavailable with Google Earth, to a format I can download to my hand-held GPS.

Whenever I work in remote places I always take a GPS thats independent from my phone. I use a Garmin GPS64 and love it but there are a few other rugged GPS options out there that'll do the trick.

If you ever need to call for a life flight having accurate location data could be the difference between life and death.

Pretty spot on. I'd also add that you can get a hinged waterproof plastic case for your phone at Wal Mart in the camping section for under 10 bucks that works very very well.

I can rack up a ton of amazing gear I would use when out in the wilderness, photographing or not.

However I would never leave without a knife, or at least a small Victorinox army knife. You can use a knife to a lot of things and it makes starting a fire a lot easier.

Another things I would never leave without is my Tierra GoreTex Pro jacket and pants. (Tierra is however only sold in Sweden atm but I would also reccomend arcteryx as I've used those too). This however, it may feel wrong to drop 400US on a jacket but you can use it all year around and its pretty much as good as it gets.

A small towel is good. (One from Seatosummit for example) If you will have to vade you will want to dry your feet afterwards, otherwise you will not have a good time puttin your feet back into the boots.

A large water bottle. This one is pretty self explanitory. If you are hiking in a area where you can't drink the water bring tablets that can "purify" it. Personally I have not had to do that since I've only hikied for longer periods here in Sweden where you can easily drink the water in the mountains.

Along with the sunscreen, I always have sunblock chapstick.

A head lamp with red and white options is great for night photography.

A red hot pad - the kind you use in the kitchen. You attach it to your belt loop with a clip and use it to kneel on when you get down for that lower angle. It’s red so that you can find it when you wander off without it. It’s also a good way to meet people when they ask you why you have a hot pad attached to your belt loop.

After being lost once at high altitude in a snowstorm, at night; I sure could have used one of those space blankets. They're very small and lightweight.

I don't really do landscapes but yes to all of this.

And make sure that first aid kit has tick removal tweezers. Even if you live in England, people! (Lyme disease is a thing across the entirety of the UK)

Add to that a Bivouac and whistle, learn the correct amount of whistle blows to indicate distress. Also tell family where you plan to go, what route and arrange a contact time a quick text (if you have a signal) to let people know your safe.