Photography is a big part of our way of traveling and Simon’s gear is always on him. He carries everything in a standard, nondescript, black Patagonia 30L school bag, which is big enough for his photography gear, a rain jacket, and other miscellaneous objects. Although dedicated photography backpacks offer many technical features that school bags lack, they are also more expensive and most importantly, they are easily identified making them a more obvious target for theft. During the day, however, I carry the Lowepro Photo Runner 100 waist pack , and I love it! It’s big enough to carry a full frame camera with a walkaround lens attached to it (see below), and two other accessories (a lens and a flash for example). Not everyone likes waist pack, and it does take some getting used to, but the benefit of having your camera with you at all times and not kill your shoulders is priceless.
My gear consists of a Canon 6D body with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM mounted as a general walk-around lens. This lens has the perfect balance between image quality, size, and weight and the focal range allows for wide angle photos (great for temples and groups of people) to moderate zoom (good for catching candid moments without being too close). Also, it is very well constructed, has very fast auto-focus, and it comes with a lens hood—I keep mine on at all the time to protect the front element. I also carry a Hoya UV, a Hoya Polarizer, and a Hoya Neutral Density (9 stops) filter for certain occasions.
For moments when I need something wider than 24mm, usually landscapes, I travel with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens. This lens is outstanding; it’s light to carry, it’s tack sharp from corner to corner even at its widest aperture, and it focuses very fast and accurately (including in low light). I love it so much that some days it’s the only lens I bring! However, for when I need something really wide, and mostly for pictures of starry nights (astrophotography), I also have the Rokinon 14mm Ultra Wide-Angle f/2.8 IF ED UMC lens. This lens is cool because it’s, well, very wide but also because of its large aperture (meaning it allows for tons of light to reach the sensor). It’s also very compact, light, and cheap—only $300. The main problem with the lens is that is fully manual (hence the low price), which means that you have to focus manually—so it’s best used when you have time to set up the shot you want (like slow moving stars). Recently, I added one of the best lenses in the whole Canon’s line up: the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens! This is probably the best lens I own, delivering sharp images even wide open, and is a champion of low light situations! It has the perfect wide-to-normal angle and allows me to take environmental portraits where you not only see the subject but also where the live or what they are doing. I find this key for traveling photography as it gives you more context. Alternatively, when I want a tighter portrait with less of the surrounding environment, I grab my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens. This lens, known as the nifty-fifthy, delivers incredible sharp images at f/2.8, is extremely light weight, and is a bargain at $125 USD! This is a lens that every photographer should use before committing to a more expensive prime lens. Finally, I have a Canon 430EX II Speedlite TTL Shoe-Mount flash for those rare times when I need the extra light. This flash is great but I’ve noticed that I leave it at the hotel more often than not.
Photo taken with the Canon 16-35mm lens
Photo taken with the Rokinon 14mm ultra wide angle lens
As for support, and this is something I debated for a long long time, I carry a Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod with the C-10X Ball Head. Let be honest, tripods are a pain to carry. They are bulky, heavy, and don’t get used that much. For this reason, I first thought to travel with a Joby GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X bundle, which supports my camera quite well and weighs only 760g (1.7lb). The problem is that this tripod is only 30 cm (14”) tall making it very restrictive. The Sirui on the other hand, extends to up to 140cm (55”), is as compact as the Joby when folded (30cm/12”), and weighs only 800g (1.7lb)! It is, of course, more expensive but I think it is the perfect backpacking tripod out there and I can’t recommend it enough. I carry it every day with me inside my bag and I barely notice it.
Taken using a tripod
For picture storage, I have two 32 Gb Transcend High-Speed memory cards that get archived in a 2Tb Western Digital external hard drive. This hard drive is, in turn, backed up to an identical disk, in case one of them fails, gets lost, or stolen. Finally, each hard drive is housed in a small Pelican Micro 1040 case that protects them from most harms.
We travel with an Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2.3GHz 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 1Tb, 16GB RAM), which we use for photo editing, watching movies, blogging, and other computer stuff. This computer is very good and powerful for photo editing but it’s extremely heavy (~2Kg/4lb) and it’s only with us because we’ll need it in the future for work. We don’t carry the computer every day, it stays at the hotels/hostels, but when we do we can definitively feel it. We would much rather have a lighter MacBook Air 13.3-inch. I edit all of my pictures using Adobe Lightroom 6, which is an amazing program for both editing and managing large amounts of photos.
Something that I thought about long and hard was to either or not bring my big lens—a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom. This is a fantastic lens with superb image quality and focal range, ideal for wildlife, birds, and sneaky/paparazzi shots. The main drawback is its weight, at 1.4 Kg (3 lb) it is definitively not a light lens to carry every day (unless you are on a safari or national park). I decided not to bring it this time and, so far, I have only missed it a few times.
As for random and miscellaneous items go, I carry a large dry bag at the bottom of my backpack (very helpful for torrential rain while trekking and for boat rides), some microfiber cloths to clean my lenses, two spare batteries for the camera, and a small Panasonic Lumix point and shoot camera. This camera is great to have as it’s waterproof (up to 10 meters) and shock proof. The image quality is not the greatest but it’s fun to have in shallow dives or snorkeling and other activities where my main camera can’t go. Lastly, I have four small cheap carabiners attach to various places outside my backpack to hang stuff to it (mostly food for long bus rides) and to anchor my backpack to a chair or table by connecting the two straps together. This is a great way to add a little bit of security to your gear as it makes it harder for someone to snatch your backpack and run away with it.
Taken with our waterproof point and shot camera. Nemo!
So there you have it, that’s what is in my camera bag with me at all time. Some say this setup is crazy and that I carry too much but in reality, it doesn’t add too much weight—at least when it comes to photography gear. I really enjoy taking pictures and I would not be able to travel with just an iPhone or a point and shoot. Some people do, they enjoy it, and that is great for them. For me, I made the commitment to carrying all this and to be honest, I love it! 🙂
The links in this article are associated links, which means that if you click on them and buy the item I will get a small commission. This will not change the price you pay but it will help support our trip. We thank you in advance 🙂