Holidays are over us these days, which for many of us means travelling – to foreign countries or maybe merely to our neighbour city. However we go adventures are awaiting many of us one way or another. And no matter how far or how long we travel, we all have our list of indispensable travel accessories we bring along. I bet photographers have more than most, but I also bet many of those photographers will not necessarily need all that equipment they carry around.
I do my fair amount of travelling throughout the year, since travelling is part of my work. Thus I give the things I bring along some serious considerations. I probably travel lighter than most – both when it comes to photo equipment, as well as personal belongings. When I can bring a small photo bag and just a carry-on; that’s when I am most happy – even when I go long-distance travelling. Here is my list of 10 indispensable accessories (with a bonus item thrown in at the end) I will bring along on most of my trips. It’s not about photo equipment – well mostly not, that you can figure out yourself I believe. And to be honest it’s not really indispensable accessories, I hardly bring everything along on all my trips. But it makes for a good header for the post, doesn’t it?
● Tamrac Aero 80 Photo/Laptop Backpack. Let me start out with what I carry my photo equipment in. I have had my Tamrac for quite some time already and I have been very happy with it. It has three main compartments; one in the lower part for photo equipment, one in the upper part for personal belongings – a book, some food, a sweater for a long distance flight for instance or rain gear when I am out in the field, and finally one compartment in the back for a laptop. The construction is well done and mostly keeps the rain out – at least when it’s not raining cats and dogs. It will house a camera, a couple of lenses, a flash, and other photo accessories I may need. The only negative experience I have had with the Tamrac is the zipper for the laptop compartment which doesn’t always zip properly. It’s not big enough for all professional jobs, but then I bring a Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+ backpack instead. That pack carries more photo equipment than I need.
● Asus Eee PC 8.9 inch netbook. Some people like to bring a tablet when they travel, but I really prefer to have a keyboard with my computer. For that my little netbook from Asus is just perfect. I know you can get keyboards for iPads and the likes, but my netbook is a full-blooded PC, and even though it’s not meant for photo editing, I have installed both Lightroom and Photoshop, which function if I need to do some photo editing and processing – I just have to be a bit of patient. The best part of my Asus is its battery capacity. It has a little thicker battery than usual, which is suppose to give me 14 hours of computer time, but these days it’s more down to 8 or 9 hours. That’s still good for most flights to anywhere in the world. One more thing; I bought my Asus at the time of Windows 7, which I am really glad for since like so many others I think Windows 8 sucks. Why is it that every second instalment of the Microsoft operating system is nothing but a pain in the butt? Some of you may ask why I don’t go for Apple instead. I don’t like proprietary systems. More than anything I dislike being controlled by one company. If you buy Apple, everything has to be Apple. At least with Microsoft I don’t have to buy their hardware as well. By the way, when I travel for work I bring a 15 inch Asus. It’s a monster compared to the netbook, both when it comes to size and performance.
● Panasonic Lumix LX7. It’s really not correct to call this a travel accessory for me; I don’t leave bed without it, whether I travel or not. I know most of us bring phones with cameras that functions well when something suddenly happens that is worth photographing (in fact they are good for more than emergencies). But while I might leave my phone behind now and then, I will always bring my Lumix. It stays clipped to my belt, so the only places I don’t bring it is in bed and wherever I go without trousers… The Lumix is a high end point-and-shoot camera. It captures excellent images, it’s very responsive, it gives me RAW and the all settings I may fancy. And most importantly it zooms down to the equivalent of a 24 mm wide-angle – not many point-and-shoot cameras do that. Anyone who has followed my blog knows how addicted to wide-angle I am – can’t go long without one. My Lumix also functions as an underwater camera whenever I go diving or do water sports. An underwater house from Ikelite is made specifically for the Lumix LX7.
● Bose IE2 Headphones. Another thing I am addicted to is music. I can fly to the end of the earth without getting bored as long as I have my music. The Bose ear buds (they are really not headphones despite the name) bring out excellent sound, isolate enough to keep outside sound outside where it belongs and they are lightweight, small, fit perfectly and they come in a practical, little box. I have long craved for the big Bose noise-cancelling headphones, but they are just too big to bring along. I discovered the Bose IE2 Headphones thanks to a recommendation by David duChemin on his blog some time ago. They are not the cheapest, but I can very well extend that recommendation.
● Lowe Alpine TT Dryzone money belt. Not a big thing, but it keeps passport, credit cards and money in the safest place when you travel. It’s not very comfortable to have a money belt stuck inside the trousers, but it’s sometimes worth it. I won’t bring it to what I regard as safer countries and when everything is mostly arranged beforehand. But when I go to Congo or Somalia, I certainly do. And I do use it when I go to places where you can’t really use credit cards. For those places I may have a stack of thousands of dollars – often in small denominations because big bills will not be accepted either in those places. I really wouldn’t like to have a wad of thousand dollars in my pockets. By the way, I always spread the risk. Most of the valuables go in the money belt, but I put some money in my trousers and some in my breast pocket. If I get mugged that will redirect the attention away from the big stack in the money belt. As to this money belt from Lowe Alpine, it keeps the content dry. If you ever have travelled in Sahara with a money belt inside your trouser, you know how wet everything is going to be from sweat. It’s nice not to have to wring the passport dry after a day in the sun.
● Mini Maglite Led. Again; most cell phones perform as torches as well. But I still like to bring dependable light that you know will keep going for hours as long as the batteries are new. How often haven’t we found ourselves with a cell phone that is running out of batteries with no place to recharge it? The Maglite is small, it has a bright light and it lasts for a long time thanks to LED-technology. In addition you can turn it into a candle, by unscrewing the reflector around the bulb. Comes in very handy when you are inside a place with no electricity.
● Teva flips flops. If you travel light, shoes take a lot of space. I usually make do with the pair of shoes I travel in and then a pair of flip flops in my bag. If you are not travelling to Antarctica or some winter destination, they are really practical. They are airy, good to walk in and they can be used at the hotel after a long day of walking, at the beach and the pool, and even throughout the day for normal walking. I prefer flip flops of a little higher quality by brands such as Teva.
● GoLite Virga jacket. Another no-brainer for those who travel light. This jacket doesn’t take any space at all and can be stashed away anywhere. In addition the GoLite is, yes, very light, only 8 oz or a couple of hundred grams. It’s perfect for sudden rainfall, and even though it will not keep water out through a whole day of rain, it works perfectly for emergency situations – and some more. The GoLite Virga is not breathing, which means condensation will build up inside when I wear it. But I prefer that to getting soaked because the high-tech breathing material doesn’t work as it is supposed to do. I am simply sick and tired of Goretex and the likes that let water through with the slightest amount of stress on the material. Then I’d rather get moist from the inside; after all my sweat is warm whereas rain normally is cold. By the way the Virga jacket has been discontinued, but other jackets by GoLite has replaced it.
● Rapiddominance Heavy Weight Field Bag. When I travel I often leave my photo bag at the hotel. A lot of the equipment I don’t need out in the field, such as chargers and laptop, and some equipment I might not need on a specific day. That’s when a daypack comes in handy. This shoulder bag from Rapiddominance is my perfect daypack. It’s small and inconspicuous. And it’s tough – made of canvas. It may hold a notebook, some drinks and the before mentioned GoLite jacket. Or I may leave a couple of lenses in it, while having my camera hanging over the other shoulder. In that case I stick a compartment insert from Domke in it to protect the lenses. When I don’t use it, it folds into my main pack and doesn’t take much space.
● 3 Legged Thing X1.1 Brian Evolution 2 with AirHed 1 Ballhead. Yes, I know, this is photo equipment. But since I absolutely dislike using a tripod, I’ll regard it as not. But I do need it from time to time and the 3 Legged Thing (which is really the name of the tripod) is the best I have ever come across. It’s light but still sturdy enough, and it folds into a compact unit I can easily pack inside my bag. It’s not the cheapest, since it’s made of carbon fibres, but man, I might actually one day enjoy using it. Particularly these days with more and more video shooting it’s imperative to have a steady camera. Nothing makes you sicker than watching a video where the camera is shaking and moving in all kinds of unwanted directions.
Finally we have come to my bonus accessory:
● Rubber sink stopper. If all the other suggested travel accessories are not really indispensable (or most of them), this one really is. You know, if you only travel to first class hotels you will never need it, but if you happen to come by a rundown hole of what only in name resembles anything of a hotel, the rubber sink stopper will be a life saver. How would you otherwise be able to wash you clothes (remember a hole doesn’t offer laundry service and I travel lightweight and need to get my clothes cleaned from time to time) or shave – whether we talk face or legs? I don’t leave home without a rubber sink stopper. Period. It fits any sink and will make the sink into a usable sink when no stopper is included in the hotel price.
This list of items I take along when I go travelling has come to what it is after many years of travelling and experimenting. There is one more thing that is indispensable when travelling to foreign countries and that is some plug adaptors. Unfortunately I haven’t found anything worth recommending. Either they come in an assortment of small plugs that are so ill-fitted that my plugs always fall out of them or they are the universal big round ones that are so heavy they fall out of the wall. Maybe you have come over plug adaptors you can recommend? Besides plug adaptors, have you got something you won’t travel without? Leave a comment and let us know!