Travel Photographer's Master Packing List

I like to travel light. Not "ultra-light" necessarily- I'm a photographer, so the gear required to do a job takes precedence over everything else I carry. That stuff adds a bit of weight. I do manage, however, to fit everything I need for most travel photography situations into a single 35 litre backpack (usually weighing less than 30 lbs). I don't check luggage. That means all the camera gear, clothing, and everything else has to fit into one backpack that fits in any overhead compartment. It's taken years to whittle things down and develop a system that provides me with everything I need and nothing extraneous. One pack means I don't have to waste extra funds paying to check bags and risk missing flights during layovers waiting for my luggage to be rechecked (never check your camera gear!).

Below is my "master packing list." Everything listed here fits into (or onto) a 35L Mammut Nirvana Pro backpack. This system works great for both city travel and nature photography. The following assumes I am traveling to a destination by plane with weight restrictions.

 Pictured are a few of my travel photography essentials. The F-Stop Gear Medium Shallow ICU fits perfectly in my Mammut Nirvana Pro 35 backpack with just enough room left over for the necessary photo accessories and clothing for 1 - 2 weeks. The Cameron CF700 tripod with BH30 head is a new addition that I may review later. It straps securly to the outside of my backpack.

Pictured are a few of my travel photography essentials. The F-Stop Gear Medium Shallow ICU fits perfectly in my Mammut Nirvana Pro 35 backpack with just enough room left over for the necessary photo accessories and clothing for 1 - 2 weeks. The Cameron CF700 tripod with BH30 head is a new addition that I may review later. It straps securly to the outside of my backpack.

Storage System:

Clothing:

Miscellaneous Essentials:

  • Passports & wallet
  • Toiletries (I only take toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant)
  • Clif Bars (4 to 6)
  • Empty water bottle (filled with random things on this list to save space)
  • Headlamp
  • Travel-size first aid kit (with Ibuprofen and extra bandaids)
  • Small notebook and 2 pens
  • Parachute cord (20 feet)
  • Maps (good old fashioned printed on paper maps are best)
  • Phone, iPad Mini, ear phones, and chargers
  • Power adaptor (for international travel)

Camera Gear Option I: Typical for City Travel

Camera Gear Option II: Typical for Nature & Wildlife Trips

Why not use a traditional camera backpack? After my most recent Lowepro bag finally kicked the dust, I decided to look for better options for not only storing camera gear, but everything else I needed for travel as well. Camera bag manufacturers just don't make comfortable bags for hiking long distances either, so I started looking into alpine pack companies like Mammut who make rugged packs with a fully-opening back just like traditional camera packs. The Nirvana Pro 35 zips open on the back to fully reveal the main compartment's contents just like F-Stop or Lowepro packs.

Using the F-Stop ICU, I can have quick and easy access to my gear while the backpack lies flat on the ground. It works just like F-Stop Gear's system, but with a much cheaper backpack. For us Canadians, F-Stop bags are just too pricey once you factor in import fees and taxes. My Mammut bag, which is very well designed and comfortable, was only $120 CDN at my local outdoor gear shop (and about $150 for the F-Stop Medium ICU on Amazon). After several uses on international trips, wildlife excursions, and landscape shoots, I can confidently say this is the best/most versitile camera backpack I've ever had. 

Mammut Backpack with F-Stop Medium Shallow ICU:

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