This list is mainly for those of us with an SLR; most of this equipment is only necessary if you have one. If you use a point and shoot camera, you may still want to consider extra memory cards and an extra battery. There’s nothing worse than going on an amazing day-trip and realizing you forgot to charge your battery or your memory card is full. That being said, this is just about all I bring with me when traveling.
1. Lens(es) – There are countless options for lenses out there and it’s sometimes hard to make the right choice. If you stay closer to home, you can have as many as you want and be able to change them often. On the road, it’s not always that simple or desirable. The more traveling I’ve done, the more I realize how important it is to pack light. On my first few trips, I would take ALL my gear including 6 or 7 lenses. Over time, I’ve cut it down and upgraded. I’ve also realized that with a good all-purpose or walk-around lens, you can do just about everything you want. So, try and choose one that has a good range in focal length and you should be fine. I shoot Canon and on my next trip I will only be taking a 24-105mm lens. Well, maybe also the 70-200mm – I’m undecided.
2. Filters – Depending what you shoot, you will want to consider your filter options. Not only do they help protect your lens, but can add effects or contrast and even let you capture photos that would otherwise be impossible. When you buy your lenses, the salesman will always try and sell you a UV Filter. These are the cheapest and will protect your lens from damage. A Circular Polarizing Filter helps to reduce glare, filter out UV, add contrast and improve saturation. Great for shooting in bright outdoor settings. A Neutral Density Filter will reduce the amount of light that enters your camera without changing any of the colours allowing you greater flexibility in different shooting conditions such (i.e. daytime long exposures). Buy the best you can afford.
3. Case/Pack – It’s important to choose the right camera case or backpack for the type of traveling you do. I have gone through in only a year more than several different types. I now use, after cutting down my lens assortment, a thinkTANK Digital Holster 20 2.0 as my lightweight, durable, over the shoulder case and I love it. It is expandable for longer lenses, has several pouches and even a rain cover. For my larger backpack, I have a Dakine Sequence pack that I also love. It will hold just about all the gear you could need. It has a removable camera block making it a great option for short trips as carry on. You can remove the camera block on your way home and you have a whole new, empty backpack for souvenirs and purchases from your trip. Whatever you decide on, put some serious thought into it. Camera gear isn’t cheap.
4. Extra Battery – Always a good idea to keep a fresh one charged. Also a little pricey, but worth it. I always opt for genuine Canon, but there are aftermarket batteries available for almost all major brands.
5. HEPA Jet II – Unless you never change lenses, one of these or something similar is essential. You can pump short bursts of clean, filtered air directly onto your sensor when you apply the manual cleaning mode and lock the mirror. Great for removing dust spots and could well save you the cost of having it professionally cleaned. Personally, I have no interest in cleaning my own sensor directly. It does the trick for me, but I don’t often shoot in extreme environments.
6. Micro-fibre Cloth – Safely cleans up your lenses, LCD screens or sunglasses. Always good to have a few of these handy. My favorite is from Henry’s and comes in its own little pouch that clips to your camera bag.
7. Flash – You may want to consider a flash. The one that is built in to your camera is okay, but even Canon’s bottom of the line model will tilt and they start at around $200. This allows you to direct the intense light of the flash away from your subject diffusing the light. You can literally bounce the flash off walls or ceilings giving a less harsh effect and producing far less glare or red eye. They are also higher off the camera with less chance of creating a shadow from your lens. These are great indoors, especially if you are traveling light and don’t have the fastest of lenses.
8. Remote Shutter Release – A great little gadget to have with you. There are a couple of different types to choose from. With the cable release, you have to hold it very close to the camera because the cable is so short. Still great in all kinds of scenarios. The remote controlled shutter release, however, allows you to easily photograph yourself in some of your pictures when combined with the two second timer. Another great use for these are long exposures – you want to have absolutely no camera movement, so if you aren’t touching it…
9. Extra Memory Cards – Don’t leave home without ’em. It’s good to have at least a few of these in your kit. If you run out of room, you don’t have to go through and erase bad pics on the go – instead, just pop in a new card. Or, if you haven’t had time to back-up your photos, you can just pop in a new card and leave your previous pics at home, the hotel or hostel where they will be safe. If your camera is lost or stolen, you’ve only lost that days work. It can be heartbreaking to be nearing the end of a trip and your camera goes missing – with the entire trips photos. This happened to me, it will never happen again.
10. Tripod – Although not essential, these are great to have. It will certainly add to the weight and awkwardness of your kit, but could make or break some of your shots. I personally love taking long exposures. Without a tripod you can certainly rest your camera on something stable and shoot from there, but a tripod will give you so many more options. Try and pick one that is lightweight and durable. The more you spend, as with most things in life, the better off you’re gonna be.