Friday 2 January 2015

Packing - For Photography

Hi, my name is Will and I'm a cameraholic.  But more seriously, I love photography and taking photos however packing (and carrying) camera gear can be a real pain in the neck (or back).  Decision about what to take, how to pack it, what to pack it in tend to drive me mad but I thought I'd write a bit about my decision process and some cool gear incase it helps you out.

Define some parameters

Where are you going and what will you be shooting?

I'm about to do a bit of an around the world trip which will involve lots of landscape and wildlife photography followed by more city touring.  I would be doing lots of walking both city and trail and will want my camera with me.  [Regions: US, Canada, Southern Africa, Europe, UK]

What luggage restrictions will you have?

All my camera can computer had to fit in my carry-on baggage and I needed to be able to carry it and my main bag at the same time.  The main bag ended up being a rolling duffel bag after much debate but I did find a way to attached my camera pack to the front of my hike pack. (Note: see comments at the end in regards to restrictions when actually getting on planes)

Camera equipment for the trip (excluding card reader, extra travel adapters and tripod)


Camera Gear

  •  Canon 7D Mark II
  • Tamron 150-600 mm
  • Canon 17-22 mm f/2.8
  • Canon 10-22 mm
  • Sony Cybershot DSC-TF1 + spare battery
The Mark II was an upgrade from the original 7D because it sounded amazing for wildlife (and very good in general) and I thought I'd splurge for the trip.  I had used the 7D + Canon 100-400 for wildlife in Southern Africa and it had performed quite well but I had a few frustrations and as always, wanted more length, so that's why I also added the Tamron 150-600 to the list. It had been getting great reviews and has some extra length, better image stabilisation and seems to have very good image quality for it's size and weight.  

The other two lenses are the best way of covering the wide and standard range from the kit I already had, plus the both have the same filter size which is always a plus.  I also have a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 which I almost brought because it is much smaller and lighter than the Canon when you don't need the stabilisation but I decided against it because of the filter size.

I also debated a lot about bringing a flash and a macro and eventually decided against it.
The Sony is a waterproof camera that I've recently started playing around with.  Not high end but for taking snaps in heavy rain, under water or as a small camera around town it works pretty well.  Plus we got it cheap.


  •  Benro travel tripod
  • 77 mm polarising filter
  • 77 mm variable ND filter
  • Lens cloth x many
  • Lens blower
  • Shutter release
  • Batteries & cards

Camera Bag

This took quite a lot of searching as the camera plus the tamron wildlife lens is a very long set-up and my old LowenPro fastback 250 could hold it.  Basically I was looking for a bag that had a similar concept, some space for camera stuff and space for other stuff and a laptop and was airline compatible.  In the end I found a brand called F-Stop and after much debate settled on the Loka with a large shallow ICU (you have to buy the camera padded section separately).  This was tricky because I had to mail order the bag and couldn't try it out with my gear or my back.  Turned out pretty well and the harness is fantastic, I've heard many people say they are best photo packs for hiking in the world and I think they might be right.

I have also picked up a laptop sleeve with enough space to hold the power pack and a few other things in a side pocket.  This also fits neatly in the Loka bag behind the ICU (without stuff in the side pocket) and I picked up a medium packing cell from Kathmandu to keep bits and pieces together in the top of the pack.
Loka with large shallow ICU configuration to allow the camera to be packed on different lenses.


  •  MacbookPro 15" (non-retina with hard drive and DVD)
  • Back-up hard drive
  • PlugBug travel adapter
  • Reading glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones + airline adapter
  • Nexus 4 
  • Travel Documents
  • Sharpie (plus a pen in with my travel docs)
  • USB battery pack/charger
  • USB cables
  • Hydration bladder

Comments to date:

Air New Zealand - 29/12/2015
The bag all packed weight about 12.5 kg, with my laptop being about 3kg (which can be counted separately).  Air New Zealand were very tight on luggage restrictions and wouldn't balance out the weight of our checked or carry-on baggage so we had to do some quick reshuffling at the airport to be able to get on.  Not sure if this is common with all airlines but my camera gear alone weighs almost 7 kg so I might be in trouble...

Qatar Airways - 20/3/2014
Everyone's carry-on luggage was also weight by Qatar Airways when leaving Johannesburg  prior to check-in and even without my laptop my carry-on was about 9 kg.  The staff member asked what was in there, I said a camera so they said I should take it out.  Since the wildlife lens was on the camera it dropped to around 5 kg which they said was fine and if I was stopped (because they weight it again when we actually checked in) that I should tell them it is camera gear.  I might be more upfront about the camera next time.

Croatia Airlines & SAS - 8/5/2014
We had three flights between Dubrovnik and Trondheim.  My bag with laptop just fitted in the overhead locker on the Croatian Airlines flight (Bombardier Dash 8), easily fitted without laptop.  The second hop from Zurich was on a Bombardier CRJ900 which had similar size overhead lockers to the Dash 8 (maybe slightly bigger but didn't try my bag with the laptop).  On this flight they asked to check my bag at the gate for size reasons but when I said it was photo gear they let me on with a warning that it might not fit however it was not an issue.  I think the last hop to Trondheim was on the exact same plane and again, not an issue.

Other Airlines
We have had to check-in to 8 different flights in major and minor cities and these are the only two that have weighted our carry-on bags.  Other airlines Etihad, Air Canada, Norwegian Airlines, Berlin Airlines, South African Airlines (from a very small rural airport).

Luggage that can't be checked
Most airlines seem to have a policy that you can not put a camera or laptop in your checked luggage and they lithium batteries in general are can not be checked either.  So I think there are grounds to argue that you should be allowed to carry the extra weight on, within reason, if you get pulled up.

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