In my Improve Your Travel Photography class I give students a peek inside my gear bag. What I do before every major outing is lay my gear on the floor and take a picture of it to act as a “visual list.” This is not only good for insurance purposes, but it also forces me go through every piece of gear in my kit to be sure I don’t forget anything.
This week I’m off on a humanitarian trip to Cuba, and they’re asking us to bring donations of aspirin, vitamins, gauze and other over the counter medications and supplies to benefit the Cuban people, because they need everything. Guaranteed, if I forget something in my bag, however seemingly minor, chances are really good that I won’t be able to pick it up there at the local camera or electronics store (they don’t exist) so I need to be really confident that I’ve got it all from the outset.
Above is the most recent visual list of the gear I’ll be taking to Cuba. Getting these items together also forces me to be sure that I’ve got all the cords, connectors, adaptors, plugs, chargers, converters and other parts and pieces that make up the whole of my gear bag. Nowadays, it seems like so many of the electronics we have, whether to charge our laptops, smart phones, cameras or other accessories, come in two parts. In my case there’s the charger “brick” that I slip my camera battery into, and then a separate cord that plugs into it. If I forget one or the other of those pieces, I’m out of luck, but especially in Cuba.
All of the gear you see in my visual list above fits snuggly into a single bag that I carry on the plane and guard with my life. Most of these items I’ll first arrange in a clear packing bag that I get simply by saving the ones that come with linens and sheet sets (I love to recycle and reuse perfectly good things that we would normally throw away). They’re just right for organizing gear because they come in various sizes, are typically clear so I can always see what’s inside, and they have a zipper to close them. Only thing is they’re not waterproof, but that’s why I bring some Zip-Loc bags, as well.
And speaking of bags, my main gear bag doesn’t say “Nikon” or “Lowepro” or STEAL FROM ME. I want to be discreet and not look like a professional photographer with expensive gear, so I carry what looks like an inexpensive student’s book bag.
And so here it is, stuffed to the brim with all of the above. I carefully pad my camera with other items around it for safe keeping, but I’m also sure to pack those items I might need on the plane or in the airport in convenient locations for easy access during the flight.
I’m sure you’ll have other gear suggestions and requirements, so if you do, leave a comment. I’m sure my readers and I would be interested in what your tips and suggestions are.
Also, a few last quick tips before we get into my gear list. Clear all your memory cards before leaving on your trip so that they’re formatted and ready to go. Have all your batteries and equipment charged up, too. Nothing worse than getting to a place only to find out that the piece of gear you needed is DOA.
This is a list of what I’m bringing on this trip (it all fits in this one bag):
- D-SLR camera body or bodies (Nikon D200 & D300s)
- Nikkor 24 – 120 mm f/4 lens
- Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 lens
- 18 – 200 mm lens (great for travel photography)
- D-SLR battery
- 2 extra batteries (charged)
- Camera battery charger with cord
- Rapid Strap RS-5
- Lens cleaning supplies
- Circular polarizer for each lens
- UV filter for each lens
- Gorillapod with ball head for SLR
- Gorillapod for point and shoot
- External flash
- Poor man’s tripod (look for a future post on this one)
- Headlamp for hands-free night photography
- Remote control cable release
- All instruction manuals
- 32 GB flash drive for additional backup
- 8 GB flash drive for backup
- Canon S90 point and shoot camera
- S90 battery
- S90 battery charger
- 4 AA batteries
- 4 AAA batteries
- Epson P-3000 Multimedia Storage Viewer
- Epson P-3000 charger and cord
- Epson P-3000 USB connector
- 6-outlet Monster Cable power strip
- Bose headphones
- Earphones for iPhone
- iPhone 3Gs with the My Shot Lists for Travel app installed
- iPhone charger with plug adaptor
- iPhone cigarette lighter charger adaptor
- 50 GB worth of CF memory cards (from 1 GB to 8 GB in size)
- 25 GB worth of SD memory cards (from 1 GB to 8 GB in size)
- CF and SD card reader
- Laptop (netbook or MacBook Pro)
- Laptop charger and cord
- Wireless microphone set for recording audio
- 2 extra 9V batteries
- SD video camera
- SD video camera charger and cord
- External hard drive (500 GB)
- Power inverter with cigarette lighter, USB and 3 prong plug capability
- Fanny pack for when I don’t want to carry my backpack
- Ethernet cable
- TriPadd (bean bag stability device)
- Shower cap for protection against light rain and drizzle
- Notepad and pens
- Swiss Army knife (won’t be carrying this on)
- Three prong plug converter
- 2 European-style outlet converters
- Business cards
Additionally, it’s my feeling that the vast majority of people are good, and so I also use a Brother label maker to adhere labels to any of my gear that has a flat surface (memory cards, camera body, flash drives, netbook, etc.). I do this in case I lose anything so that the person who finds it can get it back to me. If there’s no way of getting in touch with me, I’ll never get the item back, but if there’s some sort of identifying information, there’s a good possibility I may have it returned (I would if I saw someone’s name and contact information on something I found). For this I suggest putting “Reward if found!” and an e-mail address, not a phone number. If you lose something in a foreign place, they’re not likely to know how to call your phone number, but should have access to e-mail. I’ll even put a label on each cord so I easily know which of my devices it goes to. Some people will even take a picture of a piece of paper that says, “If found, contact me at …..” This way if someone looks at the pictures on their memory card they’ll know who the owner is. Not a bad idea either.
Remember, it’s not about who has the most gear. I like to travel light and be nimble on my feet so that I can get in and out of places quickly and discreetly.