17 Outdoor Photographers Share How They Pack Their Bags and Get the Job Done

Packing for outdoor photography isn’t as easy as packing for most other jobs. Out in the nature, you are on your own and without access to shops selling that one thing you forgot at the studio.

So just what do you need to pack for your next outdoor job? And what kind of bag should you choose to pack things in?

To find out, we have talked with 17 experienced outdoor photographers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 17 have years of experience, so they really know what they are talking about!).

The 16 Photographers

Pratap J

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • I always carry a roll of gaffer’s tape;
  • A small backpack that can be stuffed into a pack;
  • A muti-pin wall adapter or power strip.

The gaffer’s tape has innumerable uses, especially in situations when you don’t have the right fix. For example, I use an external trigger when my camera is mounted on a tripod. I use the gaffer’s tape to prevent the camera trigger from dangling around.

Carrying a small pack helps when you have bigger backs that you need to leave behind at the hotel, or cloak room. Sometimes I don’t need to carry my entire photography kit, so I can slip in a small camera, a bottle of water, and a few other essentials for a quick walkabout when I leave my main pack somewhere safely.

The multi-pin plug helps you share power from a wall socket in public places. For example, if you need to charge your phone at the airport and all the wall sockets are in use, the multi-pin adapter helps more than one person use the power source. It also helps in hotel rooms that offer only one or two power sockets.

I like cameras and gadgets that can be charged from a USB power source. Look for third party manufacturers who make USB charging options for camera batteries that need an AC power source for charging. The fewer charging accessories that you bring along with you, the better.

How do you bring things with you?

My day pack is the Deuter ACT Trail 32L. I carry more than one camera and lens when I am on the road, so I have a custom made camera insert which fits into this pack. Unfortunately, camera backpacks tend to be suited only for one purpose. By converting a regular backpack into a camera bag, I have the flexibility of using it as a regular day pack, or a camera bag. In the past I have used camera bags from Lowe Pro and Clik Elite. Clik Elite bags are very rugged and suited for outdoor use. Lowe Pro bags are economical. They have a variety of models to choose from.

One item, which I always find difficult to carry, is my tripod. I like to limit the number of pieces of luggage I bring along. Although I have a travel tripod that folds and becomes compact, I still prefer carrying it as part of my main luggage. I wish camera bags had large side pockets to carry a tripod. Unfortunately, even if you find a way to carry the tripod along with your day pack, you need to check it in at the airport. This makes a tripod the most annoying thing to carry!

I like to carry cables and other small accessories in one or more small pouches. I always end up having a lot of cables. Bag makers ought to acknowledge this about the modern day traveler. I like bags that have multiple compartments for easy organization.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

My advice to outdoor photographers would be to minimize on unwanted camera and lens accessories. Where possible, leave behind your chargers, lens hoods, camera straps, and lens pouches. These small items add up and make your pack heavy. A heavy pack is a big demotivator.

If you can’t decide on a camera bag, pick a regular backpack which you find comfortable to carry. Wrap your gear in small terry towels and place them inside. Such packs tend to be low profile and can help you navigate the mean streets with piece of mind. You don’t always need to invest in an expensive camera bag. I never carry a camera and lens mounted, and I wouldn’t advice it to anyone. Always keep the lens and camera separate when traveling.

Visit Pratap J’s website

Kerry Mark Leibowitz

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

If there’s any chance that I’ll be photographing around water–particularly waterfalls and streams–I bring a pair of waterproof knee-high rubber boots with me. They’re fairly heavy and they take up a lot of room in checked luggage, but when photographing they allow me to reach spots that would otherwise be inaccessible.

If I’m going to be traveling to places at times of year when the weather is apt to be marginal, I will bring an assortment of outer garments. Again, they take up room (though they don’t weigh a lot), but I’ve found that creativity dies in discomfort. I spend almost all day out in the field when I’m on a photo trip and it’s imperative that I’m not in a state of misery. I’ve experienced brutally cold weather photographing sunrise at places like Moraine Lake in Banff N.P. in Alberta and in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado and thanked the stars that I had a heavy overcoat to help me deal with the cold while standing around waiting for the light.

The other thing I’ll bring–depending on my destination–is some form of repellent, be it insect spray or bear spray. The latter is for safety–peace of mind, more than anything else. The former is a corollary to the clothing point above; I find it almost impossible to concentrate on photography if I’m dodging mosquitoes and black flies. I’ve had experiences from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Everglades National Park in Florida to Chincoteague Island in Virginia which have reinforced this theme; I’ve seen people literally chased out of the field by insects.

None of these things really aid in travel per se, but they’re all worth their proverbial weight in gold once the destination has been reached. They actually are a hindrance when traveling by air (because they make staying within luggage size/weight limits more difficult). When traveling by ground, however, they have virtually no cost attached to them.

How do you bring things with you?

When traveling to destinations by ground, luggage limitations are virtual non-issues. When I fly, given the need to place items like a tripod, tripod head and leveling head in checked luggage (because my photo backpack is my carry-on and my laptop is my personal item), I often have to travel with two suitcases. The problem isn’t space–even for a two-week trip I can typically fit everything I need to bring in one decent size piece of luggage–it’s weight. The suitcase itself–even a lightweight American Tourister model that I’ve used–sucks up more than 1/4 of the weight limit.

Packing is typically done by using clothing as a “cushion” to buttress heavier, less flexible items (like the aforementioned tripod and accessories). I must be doing something right because I’ve never had anything break.

I have recently acquired a single Away suitcase. It’s extremely lightweight (about seven pounds), and I’m hopeful that I may now be able to pack everything I need in a single case while staying within the 50 lbs. limit for domestic travel in North America. That would be a tremendous step forward because there are fewer things more annoying than having to maneuver through airports with two large suitcases.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

There’s an incredibly fine line between bringing too much and not bringing enough with you. My forays are virtually always to places where services are limited, but if there’s anything that I think I’m going to need that I can pick up without tremendous difficulty on location, that’s what I’ll do. Unfortunately, that’s not often an option.

When traveling by air, if I don’t think it’s probable that I’ll use or need a particular item, it doesn’t come with me. Occasionally I’ll bring something with me and not use it, but that’s rare. Regardless, I don’t bring every photo item I have or “might” use with me, because there simply isn’t space for everything. Experience tells me what I’m likely to need and what amounts to a luxury.

I do a lot of hiking for my photography and that’s a useful analogy, I think, for considering what to pack on a photo trip. Before I hit the trail, I have to consider what to take with me, keeping in mind that while I don’t want to leave anything I might use behind, I actually have to physically carry everything. If I weigh myself down with everything but the kitchen sink, it’s going to make the hike itself miserable and that, in turn, is going to negatively impact my photography. Packing for a trip is similar; you *might* need something but if you probably don’t and it’s going to weigh you down, best not to bring it at all.

Visit Kerry Mark Leibowitz’s website

Sebastian Kennerknecht

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I will premise this by saying that I tend to travel to very remote locations, often being hours away from any kind of city. Plus doing wildlife photography and then specializing on hard to see cats means my travel is a bit different than most others.

  • Satellite phone: On my last trip to Kyrgyzstan, I was a four hour horse ride from the closest road. If I would have had a medical emergency, the only way to communicate about the urgent situation would have been with the satellite phone. Luckily that never came to be. Plus my wife appreciated a call here and there!
  • Steripen/Water pump: We take clean water for granted, but guess what, in many parts of the world, including in some parts of the US, that is simply not the case. So will you just bring gallons and gallons of water with you? Carrying the extra weight is just not feasible. You have to be able to purify the water you naturally encounter in the environment. A water pump (for sediment extraction) along with a steripen (which kills the bacteria and viruses) are essential to alleviating any kind of water problems. I once saw both animals and people poop in a river. That was the only water source around. I used my water purification system and was totally fine!
  • Silica Gels: In tropical environments, even when it isn’t raining, the humidity is absolutely absurd (my baseball hat was growing three different species of fungi the last time I was in Borneo), which can lead to health issues and fungus growing inside of your photo gear. To ensure that the air within your bags is less humid, silica packets are absolutely essential.

How do you bring things with you?

My bag needs are different than most wildlife photographers, since I often use multiple customized SLR camera traps on my assignments. These alone will add up to about 140 pounds. After a decade of traveling the world with this equipment, I have found these bags to be my go to:

Osprey transporter 95 duffel bags – lightweight, durable, and loads of room. Each camera trap sits in its own pelican case inside the duffel, so they are quite secure.

Additionally, I use an Osprey Aether 85 backpack – it is lightweight, durable, and allows me to carry lots of gear comfortably in the field.

For my normal photo gear, I use a Mindshift Gear FirstLight 40L. Fits my 600mm, two pro bodies, 24-70mm, 100-400mm, flash, and accessories. It also fits into overhead bins on airplanes and it doesn’t look bulky.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

I’d say it takes a couple of trips to determine what you really use, and what you don’t use. Just make sure to leave those unnecessary items at home the next time. Figure out what you can buy in country cheaper than bringing it with you (like toiletries). I don’t pack light, like I said, I tend to have 200 lbs of gear with me because of the camera traps, but I don’t pack something I don’t need.

In terms of getting out the door, start getting out the door locally, then travel to a different part of the country, and then you will be ready to travel abroad.

Visit Sebastian Kennerknecht’s website

Will Nicholls

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

As a wildlife photographer, my work often involves long waits and persistence over days, even weeks or more in some cases. The top three things that I always make sure I pack with me are:

  • Food and water. There’s nothing quite like the moment you’re waiting in the hide, 5 hours in, and realise you’ve forgotten food and drink. This means that you’ll probably have to cut your stint short, wasting the hours you’ve already put in. There’s only so long that a wildlife photographer can go without refuelling, and a number of forgetful trips has taught me that a bottle of water and a sandwich is an absolute MUST.
  • Rechargeable phone battery. Whilst I think it is important to switch off and connect with nature, if you’re putting in hours and hours over a number of days, you’re probably going to find yourself on your smartphone at some stage. Whether that’s listening to music, catching up with admin work, or even GPS mapping wildlife locations you’ve spotted whilst roaming around, a rechargeable battery pack will keep your phone full of juice throughout your trip.
  • Balaclava and gloves. Your face (particularly the ears) and hands are likely the first things to get cold during a long wait in a hide. I’ve recently bought myself a good balaclava to keep the chill off, and it works a treat. It’s also excellent for camouflage, too. As a British man, my white face can be a bit of a give-away when stalking up to an animal. A balaclava allows you to cover your skin and remain hidden.

How do you bring things with you?

I use a MindShift Gear 40L FirstLight backpack. Careful organisation with dividers, and making use of all the zip pockets, means that I have plenty of room for my equipment. There’s great support too, meaning that carrying heavy gear over distances isn’t too taxing.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

  • Learn about your wildlife subjects. A lot of great wildlife photos come from understanding the biology and behaviour of animals. If you’re able to anticipate what kind of wildlife spectacles you might be treated to, you’ve got a much greater chance of capturing them on camera. Simple things like a bird leaning forwards, and taking a number 2, means that it is about to take flight from its perch.
  • Don’t give up. 5 more minutes in the hide could mean a world-class image. It’s really addictive, actually, once you get hooked into a project. If you’re working in a hide, consider putting in an all day stint (if that’s necessary) to ensure that you stand maximum chances of seeing the star of the show.
  • Understand the limits of your camera and how to overcome them. Wildlife often comes out at dawn and dusk, meaning light levels are low. Not all cameras will be able to shoot comfortably at high ISO speeds without introducing much noise, so learn where your cameras limits are before pictures become unusable. If you’re approaching those limits, try practising good technique and reducing your shutter speed to let in more light. You’ll have more blurred shots, but images of animals standing still are definitely possible at shutter speeds around 1/30th second if you shoot in burst mode to maximise your hit rate.

Visit Will Nicholls’ website

Tyler King

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Beside the common stuff I always bring atlases for everywhere I am going. Too many people I travel with rely on their phones and when you really get off the roads, a phone isn’t going to cut it. I have actually had to teach a few people how to use an atlas.

I never bring any food than needs to be heated up or cooked. I travel too quickly and take advantage of the few hours I get too much to take the time to cook anything. Everything ready or dehydrated makes the trip super smooth. Before I really got into my method I remember spending three days in the desert eating only pop tarts because I was driving, shooting, and didn’t want to stop to cook. Now I have dried soup mixes that just need hot water or roll-ups in my cooler.

I suppose the third thing I bring that may not be normal is about 15 extra batteries for my cameras. This comes from my days of photographing weddings but it works perfectly into travel and nature photography. I know many photographers that are constantly charging. They are also constantly frustrated because they don’t have adequate battery life. I love being able to just grab an extra and go!

How do you bring things with you?

The majority of my travel is done in a van, I have a queen size bed built in and I can take the seats out and put them back in if I have a group with me. I have found that duffel bags work best for me on the road.

I use a few of the Cabela’s canvas bags, Mountain Smith, and REI bags. My equipment is transported in hard sided waterproof SKB i-Series cases.

When I get out and hit the trails I have more choices for backpacks than I actually need. The two I use most are a small over the shoulder Eddie Bauer bag and an Osprey Manta 28. The smaller bag is used typically on five or less mile hikes and on the coast. The Manta is used the days I need to hit 15+ miles or carry extra gear. It can fit two full frame bodies, a wide telephoto, and a super-telephoto zoom, tripod, a little extra gear and snacks. The weight sucks and the bag doesn’t carry it the best but it works.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

My first piece of advice would be to not get caught up in the gear, what you have right now will work. Just get outside and use it! Take the money you would have spent on some fancy lens and use it to travel. Having a better camera or lens will not make you a better photographer, experience on the other hand will. Once you get to the point where your gear is holding you back, then upgrade.

Another tip I would have is to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and all of these stupid photography “rules”. It really doesn’t matter what lens you use for a certain shot just because some “expert” said you should. Don’t have a wide angle? Don’t worry about it; almost all of my best selling images have been taken at 400mm. This disregard for the rules for me refers to the “photography rules”. Not to be confused with respecting the natural world and staying out of where you shouldn’t be.

Last but not least, Always. Shoot. In. Manual. I disagree with the photographers that also set manual white balance; this is too easily corrected later. But really knowing your camera is what will make you a much better photographer.

Visit Tyler King’s website

Floris van Breugel

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I tend not to bring too much more than is necessary. I often pack a ultralight emergency bivy. A Kindle for passing the time if I need to wait. Maybe my crazy creek (camp chair) if I think I might be sitting around a bunch.

How do you bring things with you?

For a short hike, I bring my F-stop Tilopa BC, for longer trips (e.g. overnights) I use my Cilo Gear Worksack 45L or Arcteryx Bora 80. I prefer a simple backpack with one main compartment, this makes it easier to pack it tightly so that the weight is balanced. In all three systems I use one of F-stop’s ICU’s for my camera/lenses. The rear access in the F-stop is nice, in the other toploading packs I try to pack to keep the camera reasonably accessible. 1 or 2 other pockets (e.g. top of the pack) is nice to keep small things hand and organized. In terms of carrying, the Cilo Gear is best. It is simple, light, but comfortable, and it really moves with the body. The back panel is minimal, keeping the weight close to your body, which gives you better balance. The only thing it’s missing is side or rear access.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

If you want to learn to pack light, buy a smaller backpack. It will force you to consider what you put in it. But, don’t over do it. It’s good to be prepared to spend a uncomfortable but safe night out, just in case.

Visit Floris van Breugel’s website

Paul Nguyen

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

The most affordable and underrated thing I bring is a simple clear shower cap! When I do a photo shoot in the rain, I put the shower cap over the front of the lens, and it keeps the rain from accumulating on the glass. Since it’s clear, I can still set up my camera, remove the lens cap, and compose my intended shot through the shower cap, while keeping everything dry – and then when I’m ready to take the shot, I quickly remove the shower cap for just long enough to make the exposure, and then I put it back on again.

I also bring extra lens caps in case I drop one in a stream or the ocean.

And I like to bring a bunch of those activated charcoal instant hand warmers. They’re not only great for stuffing into gloves for keeping my fingers warm, but I can also strap them to my lenses for long overnight shoots – keeping the lens warm prevents water from condensing on the glass and fogging up my long exposure shots.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry all my camera gear in a LowePro Whistler 350 backpack. I used to use a larger LowePro Trekker backpack, but I found that when I used larger packs, I carried more gear that I didn’t use. By using a smaller pack now, I force myself to think more about what to bring to each shoot and suit my gear to the situation, rather than bringing the entire arsenal. A lighter load leads to less fatigue for the long hikes, and a much more pleasant day overall.

For most of my extended shoots, I am arriving by airplane, and then driving and living in an SUV for a week or more. I carry my clothes and camping gear in a large REI wheeled duffel bag. I find the wheeled bag is great for air travel, and is sturdy enough for life on the road as well. I used to use an even larger Easton hockey duffel bag, but again, with a larger bag I was just carrying more unnecessary gear and wearing myself out dragging it everywhere.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

I would encourage all outdoor photographers to invest in a high quality photography-specific backpack that actually fits their body frame. For some reason, most photo backpacks are designed for very large men it seems – the waist strap is very large, and the torso is very long. It can be a challenge to find a pack that fits if you are slender. And if you are small female photographer, it can be even harder. There are packs out there designed especially for women, fortunately. A well-fitting backpack leads to a much more enjoyable day and many more miles hiked without pain. And a good padded waist strap helps distribute all the weight of those heavy cameras and lenses to your core instead of resting on your shoulders.

I just hate to see photographers who lumber around all day with two cameras hanging from their shoulders and no way to support them other than their straps. These guys usually end up sore by the end, or worse, stumbling over and hurting themselves and their equipment.

The key to great outdoor photography is not buying lots of fancy gear in the hope that it will make you better – it’s the actual motivation and determination to get outside, persevere through adversity, and be ready for that moment when Mother Nature shows you the best of what she has. Keeping your camera kit minimal and easy to carry just leaves you with more energy to go further and stay out longer.

Visit Paul Nguyen’s website

Steven Barger

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Things that I bring with me in the field besides the common things:

A Garmin inReach Explorer+. This device allows me to maintain contact with the outside world by text messaging. It also tracks my route and has SOS capability in case of emergency.

Several photo apps such as PhotoPills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris are loaded on my cell phone and tablet. These apps are very helpful when planning and setting up landscape shots. They show the position of the sun, moon, and Milky Way in the sky on any given day at any time of the day or night.

All manuals for my equipment are stored on my cell phone, laptop, and tablet as pdf files allowing easy access when needed. This has proven to be more convenient than carrying bulky manuals with me when traveling or in the field.

Finally, if weight dictates that it would not be practical to bring a laptop, I pack a Colorspace UDMA device designed for downloading, storing, and viewing images. This device contains a SSD drive for storage, has a small screen for viewing an image, and will also display the metadata including a histogram. Although the viewing screen is small, it does allow the user to judge image sharpness and composition. I like using the screen for verification of the download. A few years ago, while traveling in Africa, the video card in my laptop computer quit working making the computer useless. Fortunately, I had packed my Colorspace and was able to use it for downloading images.

The most useless thing that I have seen people bring with them would have to be a small, undersized, and flimsy tripod incapable of supporting the weight of the camera equipment they are using. Not only will the setup guarantee unsharp images, but there is also the risk of their equipment being damaged if the tripod would be knocked over by the wind or bumped by someone. Buy the best tripod and head you can afford whose weight you can comfortably carry when photographing in the field.

How do you bring things with you?

When packing for airline travel, if I will be limited by weight and can bring only one carryon bag on the plane with me, I will pack camera bodies, lenses, and computer in my carryon backpack, and batteries, storage devices such as hard drives and memory cards, polarizing filters, and power supplies for computer, and phone, placed in the photo vest pockets. The tripod and head are wrapped in protective material and placed in my checked bag since they are too big and bulky to carryon the plane with me. I choose a backpack since they allow the weight of camera equipment to be evenly distributed. When I arrive at my destination, I then reorganize the equipment in my backpack and photo vest for easy and quick access in the field. On the right side will be my telephoto lens with camera body attached and ready to use. On the left side will be a couple of smaller zoom lenses and one or two extra camera bodies. These lenses may or may not be attached to cameras depending on the possible photographic subjects. The main point here is that each piece of equipment has a dedicated space in my backpack so that I can quickly locate it.

I have three go to packs that I use depending on the subjects that I will be photographing, equipment used, and how I will be moving around in the field. For long telephoto lens work from a vehicle, I use a Lens Coat 4Xpandable bag for my super telephoto setup. I can place my super telephoto lens with camera body attached and hood extended in this bag and be ready to photograph when the opportunity arises. The bag protects the camera and lens while in the vehicle. I also have a Think Tank Airport Extreme or Gura Gear 32L backpack that I use. I can place my super telephoto lens without camera attached and lens hood extended in the Gura Gear backpack for travel. The Think Tank backpack is good since its corners are square allowing for more efficient use of space when packing. Both backpacks allow carrying equipment comfortably since they have good lumbar support and waist and chest straps for weight distribution.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

Top tips for outdoor photographers:

Take only the gear that you will need. This includes cameras, lenses, and photographic accessories. If traveling by air, careful research prior to your trip, will identify the equipment needed to capture the desired images. Bring only that equipment and leave the rest back home. For example, if embarking on a trip to photograph polar bears, you know that close approach of your subject will not be possible. Therefore the equipment that you pack will include a long telephoto. If embarking on a trip to photograph landscapes, the telephoto lens can stay home.

When traveling by air, I favor zoom lenses over fixed focal length lenses. Properly used, today’s zoom lenses are extremely sharp. Zoom lenses have the added advantage of versatility and, excluding the fast zoom lenses, can result in less weight.

Finally, devise a system to organize the equipment in your backpack. The goal here is to know where the location of each piece of photographic equipment and you can access this equipment even in the dark. Nothing can be more frustrating than have a once in a lifetime image unfold before you and cannot locate the needed lens or camera in your camera bag.

Visit Steven Barger’s website

Tom Dyring

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I`m a professional wildlife photographer and a “long lens guy”. Accordingly my cameras & lenses are big & heavy and since I basicly have to carry my own stuff myself …. I am very careful to bring other “not really necessary” items”. Clothes get dirty, but they can be washed under way … and you can have that shower when you come home ! It will not kill you ! I don`t have any “3 things besides my common stuff”, but I always bring many extra batteries and power banks and since I bring a load of memory cards I can leave my computor back home. This saves weight and gives “quality time” out there !

How do you bring things with you?

I have projects all over the world and accordingly I fly a lot. Bringing my valuable gear through airports and flights has been a big issue for me. For hand luggage I now use a photo backpack from Mrjangear : Boris IV ( mrjangear.com ). This is the best photo backpack I have ever tried, it is very “spacy” and fits into the overhead lockers within common rules & regulations. For checked in luggage I use a Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW III for the rest of my photo gear. Once the Lowepro is stuffed & zipped I put it into a big hardshell suitcase. The gear is now 100% protected from any rough handling at airports (except thefts !!).

In the field, I often need to carry more than the photo gear and use a big 120 liter backpack.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

If things have to be carried: Make a critical and to the bone realistic approach to what and how many lenses you need to bring …. and as I already said: Consider to bring memory cards in stead of computers. You will save weight.

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Jake Davis

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I always bring a system for backing up my images. My choice is to travel with a couple Samsung 1TB T5 Portable SSDs. These solid state drives are so small you wouldn’t even notice them in your pocket, and they are lightning fast to edit off of. I download my cards onto both hard drives, and then I keep each one in a different bag. This way, if one of the bags is stolen or lost, I still have all my work from the trip.

I like to pack reading material on the location and subjects I will be photographing. I am just now returning from a month long trip in Costa Rica, and my backpack is stuffed with books on the birds of Costa Rica and Central America.

How do you bring things with you?

It depends on the trip, and how much photography gear is required. In some cases, if I need access to a lot of gear and will be photographing in a wide variety of circumstances, it just means flying with a lot of Pelican Cases.

Other times when I don’t need as much gear I will try to get creative with my packing so as to avoid scrambling through the airport with ten bags. In this case, I will try to combine as much camera gear and clothing into the same luggage as possible. I use the hardsided Samsonite Novaire Spinner, and stuff it with another camera backpack inside, such as the Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW, a tripod, and the clothing I need for the trip. I find this to be a very efficient way to travel, and the clothing packed around the camera backpack makes me feel very comfortable checking the camera gear. I have used this method countless times without any issues.

Whether or not I am checking a lot equipment, I will always make sure to have at least one camera set up with me as carry on usually the Canon 1dx MKII and the 100-400mm. That way I am still able to photograph if for some reason my gear doesn’t make it on the plane. I use the Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW backpack to hold my carry on gear. It easily fits the 1DXMKII, 100-400mm, 24-70mm, along with other accessories such batteries, etc.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

Often photographers dread flying with their gear, but doesn’t need to be a headache. You just need a solid system, and to be realistic with yourself about what you will need. I think it is common for people to bring far more equipment than they need or will actually use. Do you really need three cameras? Or, will the two bodies do the job just fine? Also, if traveling light is a priority, then you should try to avoid to redundancy with focal lengths. For example, if you are bringing a 100-400 and 24-70, then you probably can get by without the 70-200.

Also, it really is okay to check your gear. You simply won’t be able to carry everything on the plane. Purchasing a couple pelican cases, or using hard sided luggage creatively as I explained above will allow you to easily travel with all the gear you need.

Visit Jake Davis’ website

Sarah Marino

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • My iPhone with Gaia GPS. Gaia is my favorite app on my phone and I use it constantly for travel, photography, and hiking. It is so helpful to be able to mark waypoints and include photos while exploring. Using Gaia, I have been able to create a repository of information that is very helpful for scouting and record-keeping.
  • A microfiber towel. Even though my camera is weather-sealed, I try to be careful with it when I am in difficult weather. Having a towel along means that I can cover it if it is snowing or raining, often extending my ability to photograph beyond what I would feel comfortable doing without that little bit of added protection. I have found a towel to be much more flexible and useful that the cumbersome camera covers that are made for the same purpose. I also use the towel as a protective shield when changing lenses out on sand dunes during windy conditions and to help create even lighting when photographing very small subjects. It is a definite multi-tasker!
  • A lightweight foam knee-pad. I enjoy photographing small subjects, like plants. This often means getting on the ground to photograph. After being sick of my knees getting bruised, I started bringing along a small foam pad that I can use as a seat or knee rest. These pads weigh almost nothing so they are easy to toss in my pack without even noticing the additional weight.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry all of my camera gear in an F-stop Loka camera bag (the Loka model has been discontinued but F-stop has a similar model for sale – the mid-range size that will fit in an overhead compartment on an airplane). F-stop sells an internal camera unit that slips into the bag, protecting gear inside of it. I carry a Canon camera body, four lenses, a tripod, and a few extras in the bag both when traveling and when hiking. I use this bag about 80% of the time, filling in the rest of my time with my Osprey Ariel backpacking backpack and North Face waist pack for shorter day hikes. All these bags are well-made and meet most of my needs. My only major complaint is that so few camera bag manufacturers make women-specific bags. The hip belt and sternum straps of most camera bags just are not made for women.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

In teaching workshops, one of the most common questions I hear is, “What lens should I bring?” My answer is usually, “All of them!” I think that not bringing along gear because it is heavy is probably the biggest mistake that outdoor photographers make in packing gear, which results in missed opportunities when out in the field.

Since an outdoor photographer never knows quite what they will encounter in terms of photo opportunities, I think it is important to balance packing light with packing the right gear. If you are not traveling far from the car, I think it typically makes sense to bring along a full kit of gear. If you will be hiking, then it makes sense to spend some time thinking about where you will be photographing and what kind of scenery you might encounter and then bringing the gear that might be most useful.

For my own photography, I generally bring all of my gear if I am hiking less than 3 or 4 miles. I am more selective on long day hikes, usually bringing along my tripod, camera body, and two to three lenses. If I am backpacking, I usually bring along a small lightweight tripod, a camera body, and one to two lenses.

Visit Sarah Marino’s website

Steve Gettle and Nicole Sudduth

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

The top three things we bring on our trips are cameras, cameras, cameras – oh, and lenses too. Being professional nature photographers, Nicole and I make a living by building unique photography trips to beautiful parts of the world that we share with other photographers and nature lovers. Because of the amount of gear we bring, every ounce is an important decision. Keeping this in mind, one of the essentials that we include on every packing list is a bit of dark chocolate since it isn’t always available at the locations we travel to. Bringing other people along on our journeys, we often see unusual packing choices. For instance, on our last trip to Costa Rica, we had one client who always travels with his own personal showerhead and accompanying wrench with which to do the necessary plumbing.

How do you bring things with you?

Our gear is essential to our trips so how we transport and secure this expensive equipment is critical to our comfort and success. The bags we use play a big part in our travel. For our gear, Nicole and I use only one brand for travel: Think Tank. Nicole, being of slighter frame, prefers the rolling Think Tank Airport Advantage bag, while I use the Think Tank Airport Addicted Backpack. Having done this type of work and travel for over 30 years, they are quite simply the best bags we have found. They are strong, durable and lightweight while also providing the needed protection for our fragile gear.

As for our checked luggage, we could not live without our 30” Eagle Creek Rolling Duffles. These bags provide the right number of compartments as well as reinforced zippers, buckles, and corners. We never question the durability of Eagle Creek bags. In addition, on the inside, Nicole swears by the Eagle Creek packing cubes. Being able to keep clothes, personal items as well as small camera gear well organized in separate packs inside the duffle compartment has greatly simplified travel. Being out in the field all day, it is nice to be able to return to the lodge and pull out unruffled clothes so we can dress for a fine dinner.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

Our top tips for other photographers: Tip #1 come on a trip with us! We have a lot of fun and go to epic destinations where we make incredible images. Our best packing recommendation is to use the Think Tank bags to carry on all of your expensive, hard to replace gear. This includes camera bodies, super telephoto lenses, all necessary chargers, cords, cables, laptop computer and of course the hard drives containing precious imagery. In the checked Eagle Creek 30” duffles, we recommend packing the tripods, tripod heads, mid-range and wide angle zoom lenses, flashes and other equipment.

We take this approach because when we arrive at some remote location, we need to have all of our essential gear with us. In the event that checked bags don’t arrive, we may be able to purchase smaller gear and tripods on location but our trusted camera bodies and long lenses would be virtually impossible to replace in the countries we travel to.

The biggest mistake we see is photographers trying to learn a brand new unfamiliar camera on their trip of a lifetime. The other mistake we see is when people bring gear that they will never use. Photographers tend to love their gadgets but travel photography is not the place for unnecessary gadgets.

In the end, travel is about having amazing experiences in epic locations where we explore new cultures and environments, creating memories that last a lifetime. Your gear should never get in the way of that.

Visit Steve Gettle and Nicole Sudduth’s website

Joshua Holko

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • A Thermos for coffee – Because every good shoot needs coffee
  • A small hand towel – For drying off my gear after shooting in rain and snow, which is where I do most of my photography
  • Chemical hand warmers – As I am often working in temperatures well below freezing.

How do you bring things with you?

Generally, I am working in quite remote locations in the Polar regions so often I am using backpacks such as the Telemaster and Cinemaster from F-Stop. Both of these bags will swallow all of my camera gear and still leave room for some spare clothes, snacks and accessories.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

I have never been one to pack light and prefer to bring it with me and not need it, rather than not have it and need it. So I generally encourage people to bring as much as they are willing to carry on a trip and as much as they think they will need to get the job done.

When it comes to getting out the door – you just have to do it. The hardest part is actually making the decision to make a start. Once you make that decision, it becomes much easier.

Visit Joshua Holko’s website

Christian Hoiberg

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

As an outdoors photographer most the things I pack is, obviously, related to photography. The most important thing I bring besides my camera equipment is pre moisturized wipes. These are essential in keeping the camera gear clean, especially in rough areas. You would be surprised to hear just how many I use at times.

Whenever I travel I tend also to bring at least a couple protein bars to get me through those early morning sessions. taking into consideration that sunrise can be as early as 2 or 3AM where I’m located in Norway, it’s a bit early for me to have a big breakfast before that. However, bringing a few protein bars lets me be energised throughout the session and/or hike.

Lastly, I also bring a portable battery hub so that I can charge my phone on the road. It’s not that often I need it but unfortunately, the iPhone tends to be pretty horrible in sub-zero temperatures so having one in the backpack can make a huge difference in case something happens.

How do you bring things with you?

I use the F-Stop Sukha backpack with a Large Slope CPU to carry my camera gear. This is a 70l backpack with plenty of space to carry all the essential camping and camera gear, and I use it both for sessions without hiking and multi-day hikes. It’s comfortable and spacious as well as water resistant so it’s perfect in most cases. It’s also got space to carry my laptop so it’s my go-to backpack whenever I travel.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

I think that the term “outdoor photographer” can be quite broad, ergo it’s hard to give tips that suit everyone. However, if you’re an outdoor photographer who goes hiking it’s, of course, important to take the weight into consideration.

While most of us wants the biggest and best cameras, it’s not always the best. Even lower quality cameras can produce good images, as long as you know how to properly use it. After all, it’s more important to get the shot, right?

I use my Nikon D810 and Holy Trinity lenses for the majority of my shoots but I’ve also purchased a smaller and lighter Fuji X-T2 that I bring with me on hikes or whenever weight is a concern. It’s a great camera and it allows me to push a little harder in order to reach places or get the shots I might not otherwise do. I know it can be challenging to limit yourself by bringing less gear but it’s also a great way for you to learn how to work with the conditions (and equioment) you’ve got.

Visit Christian Hoiberg’s website

John Paul Caponigro

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I don’t go anywhere without paper and pen – or their digital equivalents. There are many things you can’t record or work out with a camera. I collect impressions from all of my senses. I bring my feelings to light. I work out my ideas. I find and create connections. I test compositions. I create storyboards. I identify what’s missing. If you want to go beyond making pictures of things and make pictures about things and experience the greatest creative growth it helps to make your process more intentional and versatile.

I often see people use inferior gear, bags, or clothing that isn’t high quality enough to get the job done well or fails altogether. You may think you’ve saved money, until you lose images or the images you make have serious flaws. Then you regret having cut corners – and then you’ll still have to buy the higher quality tools to replace the lower quality ones that failed. That’s not a savings, it’s a double loss. Nothing can replace the time you’ve invested and the images you’ve made. Invest in quality tools that get the job done right the first time and protect your gear and yourself.

How do you bring things with you?

I carry my gear through airports with a LowePro Stealth Reporter. I can fit all of my cameras, lenses, computer, and cords in it and it fits under airplane seats. I truly miss wheels on my bag, but bags with wheels are targeted for gate checks – and that’s something I won’t do with my gear, which could get damages or stolen.

Because my gear bag is almost always overweight for carry on, in case I’m forced to gate check my bag, I carry a sturdy shopping bag in my bag to carry on select items, but that hasn’t happened yet. When I’m on location, I leave my gear bag in the car and offload items I want to use during a shoot into a light waterproof backpack. There’s an art to packing lean and light but the simpler systems are easier to use and maintain, make a journey more enjoyable, and save time and energy for making images. I find I rarely want the things I leave behind.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

If you ever find the gear you’re using reduces your impulse to go make an image, whether it’s getting out the door, getting it out of your bag, or getting to the top of a rise, then you’re probably using the wrong equipment. Pay close attention to how the tools you use shape the experiences you have and so by extension the images you make.

The equipment that’s right for you flows with you and your passion for making images draws you to have new experiences, experiences you might have missed otherwise.

Don’t underestimate the power of smart phone photography. It can be spontaneous, experimental, and energizing. The images you make while finding your way to final results make important contributions to your creative growth. And great images aren’t measured in megapixels or by dynamic range. The tool that helps you create the deepest connect with the world and yourself is the right tool for you.

Visit John Paul Caponigro’s website

Esther Beaton

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

At least one speedlight. I shoot a variety of subjects on assignments: wildlife, nature, people, landscapes, macro, etc. It doesn’t matter what the subject, everything needs some fill light. so I have a Nikon speedlight, usually the SB 910 attached to my camera almost all the time, set at about minus one stop. This has the effect of filling in shadows, especially the eye area, and also brightening colours and adding sharpness. Sometimes I handhold the speedlight off to one side or put it on a stand. At least one is always with me.

Next most important thing is a teleconverter. I don’t always have my large 500 mm lens with me, but if a fabulous bird gets close enough, I don’t want to miss the shot. The small Nikon TC-20E III teleconverter is so handy to keep in my bag and, since I always have the Nikkor 70-200 zoom with me, I can extend the focal length to 400 mm.

You’d be surprised what the third item is. It’s the Better Beamer Flash Extender. When I do extend my lens to longer than 200 mm, the flash needs to be a similar focal length too. The Better Beamer is so handy. It’s a bit of plastic that folds up to nothing and is always in my bag. With the combination of a powerful speedlight, the flash extender and a 2x teleconverter, I am ready to grab opportunistic bird or other wildlife shots. And they look good!

How do you bring things with you?

As a wildlife photographer, I’m always on foot, outdoors, hiking, walking, climbing, and so on, so I need to carry my gear in a convenient way. For the last 20 years, it’s been in the form of a backpack, especially the ones made by Lowepro. I really loved the Trekker series. When my first Mini Trekker Classic wore out after about 15 years, I bought the Mini Trekker AW which I’m still using. The Trekker backpacks are no longer for sale, so when mine wears out I’ll have to look at the next best thing by Lowepro, something like the Pro Runner BP 350 AW II or the Vertex 300 AW backpack.

Having your gear on your back is not really efficient. I’m always stopping, swinging the pack off my back, putting it on the ground, opening it, choosing the particular gear and assembling it, and then walking away to take the picture. When finished, I pack it all up, swing the pack onto my back and continue walking. This is fine when I’m ambling along on my own time.

But when I need to work fast, like say at an outdoor event like a dog swim race or other high action situation, I have a Kata DB 453 Digital Bag over one shoulder, and my camera/lens combo over the other shoulder. I can keep mobile while I shoot, change lenses, batteries, etc, all by just reaching into the bag. The Kata is really great; it has so many external pockets, takes lots of lenses, all in the upright position, and has a bright yellow interior which makes things really visible in low light.

Probably my favourite bag though, is the Lowepro Roller Lite 150 AW. It’s large enough to hold all my standard gear in a really efficient suitcase style. It rolls along behind me anywhere. The wheels are well-spaced and sturdy, going over the roughest terrain, even through mud!

I really don’t like to carry heavy loads of gear. So my usual working system on an assignment is to pack everything into the Roller, keep it in the back of my car, which has a hatchback style of back opening, and work off that platform. When I have to walk away from the car, I pack the essential item into the backpack or shoulder bag, grab the tripod and go. So the Roller is like my “home base” and the other two cases are for “short hops”.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

If there’s one “mistake” I see amateurs making, it’s not having enough gear with them. They’ll leave something behind so they can be light. On workshops when I ask why they don’t have something with them, I usually hear the excuse, “It’s too heavy.” On the other hand, I have waaaaaay too much to carry. I’ve put my back out heaps of times. My ex-partner, also a photographer, said once: “You’ve got the heaviest case I’ve ever picked up, bar none.” But if it’s an unrepeatable assignment, I simply have to take as much as possible.

So my compromise suggestion is a balance between the two extremes. Definitely do pack as much as possible with you. But when you arrive at your photographic destination, break it down into smaller lots – maybe just a camera-lens-tripod over the shoulder and a few essentials in a small bum bag. (Like my Lowepro Orion).

Here’s a non-gear recommendation I’d like to add: just get out there. Even when it’s something we really want to do, we still procrastinate about it. I’ve been guilty so often of delaying some project until I’ve acquired that special purpose lens or other fancy item. But when I look back over my early work, some of the best results came from pushing along with my existing gear. My old cheaper, slower lenses delivered great results; so did weak output flashes or floppy tripod heads.

The committed photographer has the burning desire to experiment, to take risks, to go further out on a limb. No matter how many paid assignments I do, I still love the freedom I feel when I give myself an assignment, the freedom to try something out and hang the consequences. I’ll always be an amateur in that sense because there’s always something new to learn, a new adventure to experience, a new risk to take. So, swing your bag over your back and “just get out there”.

Visit Esther Beaton’s website

John Marshall

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • When traveling in the developing world, I like to bring a Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter. We bought ours on sale for around $250 and it paid for itself many times over. This little marvel is compact, uses a ceramic cylinder to collect all micro-organisms larger than 0.2 microns (which is everything), and literally pumps clear drinkable water out of the gutter. It not only saved us money as we sweated and hydrated our way around the planet, it also helped us avoid contributing to the world’s glut of plastic bottles, which is critical.
  • Everyone needs a sarong: Part bath towel, part beach blanket, part shawl, part skirt, part scarf. This versatile piece of cloth is great for both men and women.
  • A small mirrorless camera. Forget your gigantic DSLR and your massive lenses. Get one of the new Sony or Fuji mirroless cameras and save yourself the weight. The picture quality is amazing and you’ll be glad not to lug your huge Canon or Nikon rig around with you.
  • As an added bonus, I always travel with a mosquito net. I crush it at the bottom of my pack and keep it around just in case. Quite often I haul it out and save myself a restless, bug-bitten night. I also keep a roll of Gorilla Tape with me just in case. You never know when you’re going to need it.

How do you bring things with you?

I don’t have any special gear. I bring a backpack for clothes and a travel bag for camera gear and computer.

What are your top tips for other outdoor photographers?

The number one way to make a trip of any kind happen is to decide to do it. Not dream about it or desire to one day do it…but to make an iron clad decision to get out the door. Once you fully commit, the rest is just detail.

When you do remember: Pack light. Every ounce counts. Some day, somewhere, you’ll be walking with your heavy pack and you’ll wish you’d left that third pair of jeans at home.

If you’re going to more modest countries, leave your booty shorts and your crop tops at home. Be respectful of local customs. Cover up when everyone else is covering. If you don’t see any bare shoulders, don’t show any.

Visit John Marshall’s website

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