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We Review the Best Packing App for Photographers: Packaroo

Photographers have gear, and gear needs to be packed without being forgotten. If you’re like us, you obsess about systems that will make sure you have everything you need to create the work you want. Packaroo is an app we have been using to streamline this process.

For years, I’ve been a spreadsheet packer. Open Excel on the computer, carry the computer around, and pack the bags. It’s 2021 and about time for me to grab hold of a packing app.

Enter Packaroo, a new packing list app that’s perfect for photographers especially those of us that travel. Now, instead of walking around my house with a computer checking things off on a spreadsheet, I can pack for a trip with a sleek app. No more forgetting a light stand because I was too lazy to open my spreadsheet. Additionally, since I work and travel with my wife, we can separate our gear into our bags for when we’re working together versus separately and whether it's overnight or involves other activities like camping, climbing, or skiing.

Best Packing App Features for Photographers

1. Cost of Admittance and Customization

Here I’m not talking about the cost of the app, which is free with an option to upgrade for $4.99 at the time of this article, I’m talking about what it's going to cost me to set up my packing list. Packaroo is designed with list makers and spreadsheet lovers in mind. 

When you start, the app has packing list suggestions for you and it even includes a photography category. There are suggestions based on location and you can select what you want to add to your list. It’s a pretty comprehensive and well-thought-out list, but they go one step further by recognizing that your bag is unique, and they make everything completely customizable with the Pro version.

If you’re starting from scratch, Packaroo has 400 items organized into nine different collections based on their seemingly extensive research. However, if you have specialty items that go beyond the average traveler, you can customize to your heart's desire. This is the feature that was most important for me.

I was able to bulk-add my items into the app and customize my bundles to suit my needs. Simply copy and paste your existing list into their framework and you’re ready to go. My fear of re-creating the packing list that I’ve developed over years of trips was quickly assuaged.

Packaroo has layers of customization. You can create multiple packing lists for different people or bags, and then, within a packing list, you can create bundles for different bags or cubes or types of trips. Bundles are organized by collections such as toiletries or clothes so you’re sure not to leave anything out. 

Prefer a grid view to a list view? Packaroo gives you that choice.

2. Repeatable, Repackable, Remarkable

Need to pack the same thing for multiple trips? Copy the whole trip or make a bundle of frequently packed items to reuse. This app makes my spreadsheet with unlimited customization look limited, and it’s way easier on the eyes.

My spreadsheet involved typing x’s in a column next to the item that wasn’t packed and then clearing the x’s before a new trip — rudimentary, but it worked. Additionally, I had a big packing list with columns and columns of gear for all the different types of trips. Am I going on a day trip or overnight, camping or not, beach or mountains, do I need food?

The cumbersome spreadsheet had it all. It wasn’t pretty, but it had it all. The Packaroo app allows me to have collections and bundles for all the types of trips I take, but when I go to pack for a select trip, I can create a list solely based on what I need.

It has the complexity on the backend with good design on the front end as a high-quality app should.

3. Easy to Learn and Room to Grow

The app is intuitive and easy to learn and has a lot of in-depth functionality. There are two types of people: those that read the user manual and those that just start building the thing.

Regardless of which kind of person you are, Packaroo will fit your style. You can learn on the fly and use the app following only your intuition. However, might I recommend that you dive into their website and discover all the other things you can do with that app?

You might come up with ideas for ways to use the app that you didn’t think about. Do you want to create a separate pack list for each bag or one for each family member? What types of collections would be useful to you?

4. Nerdy and Artistic

The app designers are both nerdy and artistic, just like photographers. You’ll appreciate the design while reveling in the functionality. It’s complex on the inside but pretty on the outside.

With Packaroo, I don’t feel like I have to choose from or function, as I get both. The app feels modern and fresh and even uses fun icons for different collections and bundles.

If you’re traveling somewhere new, they even provide fun tips for different locations.

How I Use the Packaroo Packing App

I don’t just use this packing app for my photography gear, I use it for traveling in general. I took my old clunky packing list spreadsheet and created it in the Packaroo app. I’ll always have a thing for spreadsheets, but there’s nothing like a slick app.

Now, when I plan for a trip or a photo shoot, I can automatically populate the trip with the gear I need from various categories. Do I need photo gear, video gear, food, overnight, climbing, skiing, or other specialty adventure gear? 

The Packaroo app comes with an impressive catalog of items sorted into common packing collections. As I mentioned, they even have a photography collection. Of course, the first thing for me to do was use the customizability to expand this collection to make sure it has the specifics of my camera bag.

Now, I can create packing lists for an upcoming trip. I can have separate packing lists for camera gear, video gear, clothes, food, or any other categories I want. To navigate between packing lists, you swipe left or right. Then, I add items from the collections using my pre-created bundles of commonly packed gear to populate the list. Then, you scroll up and down to view the items for each list organized by the bundle. 

For example, my first packing list is photo gear, and I have a bundle for my camera bag, one for my wife's camera bag, and one for our accessories bag. These are all on the photo gear packing list. Then, you swipe right, and if it’s an overnight trip, I’ll have a clothing packing list with bundles for my bag, my wife's bag, the kids' bag, and toiletries. If it’s a camping trip, swipe right again for outdoor gear and scroll through the list.

Finally, I use the app to pack my gear checking off items as I go. I can also add things I need to buy to a shopping list or get recommendations and tips based on the location I’m traveling to. When I’m planning a new trip, I can duplicate a previous one as a starting point or simply uncheck all boxes.

What I Liked

  • Functionality
  • Customization
  • Intuitive
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Ability to create a shopping list

What Could Be Improved

  • The app is new and there are a few small bugs that will hopefully be worked out with future updates
  • I’m looking forward to when I can integrate TripIt (another favorite app) and also use the app across multiple devices
  • The free version wasn’t enough for me, as the app excels with the premium service

Closing Thoughts

Gear is good and organized gear is better. I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life and make things more efficient. I love a good tool or app and am adding the Packaroo packing app to my arsenal.

I suggest starting with the free version just to test it out and see how seamless it looks. If you don’t already have an extensive packing list, the free version might be sufficient for you, and you can add your items. However, if like me, you’re attached to your packing list, then you’ll want the pro version so that you can bulk add items and create everything how your brain works.

When you first install the app, it walks you through creating your first packing list. You can create a bundle for your regulars in each category. For example, if you always pack your toothbrush, add it to your toiletry regulars, but if you only sometimes need your makeup, create a bundle for trips with formal events.

Once you have everything set up and ready to go, you can pack for your trip or start planning for the next one by creating another trip. If you decide to upgrade, there are a handful of features from practical to simply fun. Save yourself time and increase your efficiency with the right tools for the job.

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39 Comments

J.d. Davis's picture

Clip Board
Pencil

Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy!

craig salmon's picture

yes but then you have another piece of paper you have find at the end to make sure you/ your assistants pack everything up at the end of a hectic day shooting on-location. By then I'm always looking for the parking voucher. Are you really going to take the time to manually write out all the little grip gear on your list for each shoot?

J.d. Davis's picture

It's a checklist - on a clip board
A check as you pack
a check as you load for your location
a check as you unpack
a check when you repack
a check when you put the equipment away in the studio

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

craig salmon's picture

I think you are missing two concepts. first it's 2021 make that expensive phone do something the least it can do is reduce the numbers of pieces of paper I need to carry around.

Second I am not taking the time to physically write out 25' white electrical cord, 25' orange electrical cord, 50', 100', tungsten gel pack full, 1/4, 1/2, 1/8, super clamp, 4 black A-clamps etc, etc, etc. to basically come up with a list of 500 little items each and every time I go on location if I can have an electronic list to check and recheck on that expensive phone that annoys me with spam calls then maybe that's a little bit of a benefit.

Seems to me that the piss poor planning would be not to utilize the expensive item you are already carrying with the hope you always find that piece of paper at the end of the day after physically creating it each and every time you go for a shoot.

J.d. Davis's picture

au contraire:

You make one list and print it out before your location shoot - fresh, easy, clean and it doesn't need batteries or an unsecured app!

it's the reason building contractors have punch lists...

Jan Holler's picture

I have never used a packing list, no matter what the situation or time in my life. What I always do: days before I leave, I think about what I need. Because like everyone, I forget things for which a list would be handy. I put these things aside or write them down. But that only concerns very few things. Mostly, it's the ones I rarely need. All the other things I pack routinely. I don't have to remind myself of them with an app or a list.

Leo dj's picture

That's very old fashioned. People need an app that tells them when to go to the toilet.

Jan Holler's picture

I'm getting old, maybe that's the reason. Nevertheless, I feel that my brain is still capable of handling such tasks. Being an IT professional for more than 30 years and still a hacker (in the old sense of the word), I try to keep dependence on technology to a minimum.

Leo dj's picture

Well Jan, i was talking about myself as well. :)

Michael Dougherty's picture

I use a spreadsheet format (actually HTML) to keep a list of what to pack for a certain kind of trip. Packing for a summer trip with 100 F temps is quite a bit different than a trip with 20 F temps. I also take the list with me and make notes of what I forgot or really don't need for the next similar trip. Duration of the trip also makes a big difference.

Leo dj's picture

That's what i do. I have a list on paper in my travel bag and put it out when i go out. Hi tech solution.

Luca Santirocco's picture

Use ToDo

Jon Kellett's picture

I personally use Google Sheets. Works and is free. Though funnily, I only use Sheets for non-photography items.

For trips overseas, I have a standard pack. Same goes for intercity.

The app looked interesting until I saw that it was IOS only. Would have been nice to state in the article (near the top, preferably) what operating systems are supported.

Ed C's picture

Same. I can have it everywhere. When I am sitting at the computer it is nice and large and very little scrolling vs. everything on a phone needing to be scrolled. It is also just part of my overall packing list which includes clothes, toiletries, etc. I have the ability to have a Qty column for the items that need quantities.

This app would be a giant step backwards for m.

Jan Holler's picture

It should be mentioned, that photographers better all use iPhones. Because this app is not available on Android.

Kris Hary's picture

yes, doing a review on an app that is only for a small portion of the market and is useless for the rest i waste, but then again, they have to make money somehow...

Jacques Cornell's picture

By your standard, Fstoppers shouldn't review any lenses that are for a limited subset of all mounts and formats, because they're "only for a small portion of the market".

Jan Holler's picture

At least that could have been told right at the beginning of the article. I read it, opened up the store (Android), but was not able to find it. Searched for it and learned: It was all for nothing.

Ted Mercede's picture

Agree Jan, i went to the site and saw Apple only. I have an Android, so out of luck. Not getting into the Apple/Android wars, but should have been mentioned.
I appreciate that you kept away from the wars as well, just stating facts.

Kevin Harding's picture

Seems like a copy of Packing Pro which has been around for years and has all the same features (and more). I've used Packing Pro for many years - brilliant app I use for every trip, photography, camping, family whatever.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Thanks! I'll check that one out, too.

Jon Kellett's picture

Also Apple only :-(

Johnny Kiev's picture

As someone knocking on the door of 60 yet still a tech geek, I am gobsmacked that there is even a need for this kind of thing.
You know in advance you are going on a trip so have plenty of time to lay everything out, what is wrong with just using your brain and memory to ensure you take what is needed?
In 40+ years of photo trips, I don't recall ever heading out on a photo job and forgetting a vital bit of kit, same goes for holidays, bike packing, hiking, it isn't rocket science.
There is far too much reliance on apps these days, and wonder what humankind will look like going ahead as evolution dictates we don't need memory of planning functions, hey there is an app for that!

Michael Breitung's picture

Not sure if one needs an app, but a list comes in handy during a longer trip. I once travelled for 6 months around the world and without a checklist I'm sure I would have lost quite a bit of gear. Especially when it gets a bit hectic on travel days this can happen - The checklist for me is ease of mind

Mike Ditz's picture

In 40 years you have never forgotten anything!!?
Damn, give yourself a high five :)

Jan Holler's picture

That is not what he said and meant. There was no app 30 to 40 years ago. There were no laptops, at least no affordable laptops for people. So you either used a clipboard and a pen and/or your brain. And after a while you don't need the clipboard anymore, or you rarely need it, and then one day you drop it altogether because you're experienced enough and you've trained your brain enough. And then you actually don't forget any (important) things any more. You do it the way Johnny wrote or the way I did it above.
What could be more efficient or faster or more reliable? The use of an app? Your brain is online and ready (at least most of the time), and you can activate it without an external device or your hands.

I can definitely see a reason to use an app or a spreadsheet: When you're doing something new, without much experience, and you need equipment or other things you don't know (that well). My teenage daughters make lists when we plan our holidays. Or when you have to organise a training camp for 100 children, for example, when you have to think of a lot of things.

Kevin Harding's picture

Actually these apps are more accurate and reliable (send a backup to wherever you want). You build a database (with weights) of everything and it's easy to construct a list in a few seconds by replicating one and adding/detracting. I paid I think $10 many years ago and it's been great value.

If you add or delete anything then it updates immediately. You can assign locations (bags) and are given total weights for each so it really really helps when limiting your backpack weight or ensuring you are not over the flight weight limit for any suitcase and need to repack.

I'm a very experienced mountain/travel - backpacker/camper/photographer. 4 trips to Nepal plus Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Japan, Bhutan, Dolomites, Austria, Norway, Iceland etc. etc. and I've found the Packing Pro app to be extremely helpful on each trip to plan what goes and what stays.

If you haven't tried one of these apps then I can't see that you're in a place to compare, but whatever works for the individual is what's important.

Kevin Harding's picture

Replied to the wrong person - sorry ! FS : Why no delete button ?

Matt Edwards's picture

Lists have existed for a long long long time, before apps even. Some peoples minds work differently. Some people are list people, some aren't.

And what is wrong with using a list on your phone vs. one on pencil and paper? I make grocery lists on my phone because I don't leave the house without it. If I make a list on a piece of paper, there is a damn decent chance I might forget it on my way out the door.

Kevin Harding's picture

Give yourself a pat on the back. Not everyone is you!

Michael Breitung's picture

Not sure if I need another app ;-) I usually just use OneNote, where I do all my planning for locations and travel. There I have some custom packing lists for different kinds of travel, which I simply duplicate when I do plan a certain travel.

Jon Kellett's picture

OneNote is not bad, but man... Needs better organisation. It's looking a bit tired.

Michael Breitung's picture

same as with a notepad and a pen, you're responsible for the organization ;-) But yea, other programs offer more. This is how I use if for planning my travels though

https://youtu.be/PpLSXDW0XAA

Jon Kellett's picture

I watched your vid - To be honest, I didn't know that OneNote had the functionality you demonstrated. I never had the patience to delve that deep into it's capabilities.

Anthony CHAPITEAU's picture

For years, I’ve been a spreadsheet packer. Open Excel on the computer, carry the computer around, and pack the bags.
Me whispers: You can open spreasheets on the go, right from your phone (iOS AND Android)

"No more forgetting a light stand because I was too lazy to open my spreadsheet" will become "Forgot the lightstand because I was too lazy to open Packaroo"

Jacques Cornell's picture

Been looking for something like this for years. Thanks for the heads-up!

Bert Nase's picture

No privacy protection warning by Apple for this app!

craig salmon's picture

Looking for a database app like this. Two questions, first I would like to be able to print out a label (QR code?) for each item that I could go around with the phone photograph and it would log into the app that this/these are the items I'm taking on location today, is this a feature? Second how does this implement with your regular computer or is this just data on this app?

Les Sucettes's picture

Sounds like the perfect app for procrastination..

Gee are people so incapable to use a tool that comes free on every phone called “Notes” where you can endlessly create whatever lists you want and instead need to download an app which probably costs a superscript on in order to walk them through a ….. packing list?

What next an app that tells you how to go to the toilet?