What’s in the bag (and in the luggage)?

So, you’re heading off on a big “photography” trip.  I know the feeling — I’ll be on my way to Venice to lead a Vagabond Vistas Photo Tour at 2:10pm this afternoon!  In preparation for this journey, I put together a comprehensive list off all of the gear that I need to bring, or would like to bring, but simply don’t have the room in my luggage (or don’t see the items as “essential” for travel photography, or for this particular photo tour).

Basilica - Quito, EcuadorI thought I’d take the opportunity to share this with you, in case you were considering a photography-themed trip in the future.  Please keep in mind that this list pertains to me as both a traveling photographer, and as a photo tour leader.  I’m not bringing all of this gear, but I am bringing most of it.  Your needs will vary, and feel free to copy-and-paste this list into a document for yourself that you can edit as you see fit.

NOTE ABOUT MY LENSES:  Many folks ask me about which lenses they should bring for “travel” photography.  Well, it all depends on the person!  If you don’t mind carrying around a lot of gear, the by all means bring the f/2.8 glass.  Me?  I’m quite comfortable with just three lenses when I travel:  My “go to” lens is my Nikon 28mm – 300mm f/3.5 – f/5.6 FX w/ VR.  I also bring my Tokina 16mm – 28mm f/2.8 for the wide shots, as well as my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 in case I need something for very low light, or very shallow depth-of-field.  Would  I prefer my two Nikon f/2.8 lenses?  Of course I would!  But, I really don’t want to lug them around, and the 28-300 lens allows me to be much more flexible in that I do not need to change lenses on my D700 in order to get the focal length that I need for a shot.  Yes, it’s a trade-off not to have the fast glass, but I’m quite comfortable with the “all purpose” lens.

David’s Packing List for Photo-related Travel (e.g., Photo Tours)




Plane Tickets / Boarding Passes

Insurance Documents

Itemized List of Camera & Computer Gear

Hotel reservation docs / info

Credit Cards

Driver’s License

Money belt

Emergency Contact Information

Medical History / Medication / Allergy Information

Photo copies (2) of all of the above (leave one copy at home with someone)

US Dollars

Local Currency

Bank ATM Card (w/ PIN)

Guide Book

Language Phrase Book / Dictionary

Street Map(s)


Electricity plug adapter

Power strip (to plug in multiple US plugs at once)

Ball-point pens, highlighter, Black Sharpie

Lap top computer

Power cord for lap top

Back up hard drive (500GB)

Thumb drive(s)

USB / FW cable

Cable for lap top plug into a TV (for doing client critiques on the TV screen)

Digital Projector (for client critiques)

Memory card reader

Mini Battery-operated Printer w/ ink & paper (optional)

Business cards

Cell phone

Cell phone charger / car charger

Clipboard & blank paper

Note pad

Reading glasses

Pens & Pencils to give to local children

Postcards from “home” to give to locals (e.g., Blue Ridge Mountains)


Backpack camera bag for transit on planes, etc.

Shoulder camera bag for walking the streets (pack in checked baggage)

Memory cards (w/ enough memory to last the entire trip)

Memory card wallet(s), preferably waterproof

Camera batteries (4)

Camera battery charger(s)

Point-and-shoot camera (Canon S-95)

Extra batter for P&S camera

P&S camera battery charger

Gitzo Tripod & Really Right Stuff Ball-head

Tripod bag / strap

Tripod mounting brackets for camera body (w/ necessary tools)

Gorilla Pod for P&S camera

Camera instruction manual

DSLR camera bodies (2 x Nikon D700)

Vertical grip w/ battery (optional)

50mm f/1.4 lens – Nikon

28mm – 300mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Lens – Nikon VR lens (“All around” lens = good for travel)

16mm – 28mm f/2.8 Lens – Tokina

Lens Baby Composer (optional)

105mm Macro Lens – Sigma (optional)

24mm – 70mm f/2.8 Lens – Nikon (optional)

70mm – 200mm f/2.8 Lens – Nikon (optional)

1.7X Teleconverter – Nikon (optional)

Lens cleaner fluid (pack in checked baggage)

Lens cleaning lint-free wipes

Sensor cleaning fluid (pack in checked baggage)

Sensor cleaning swabs

“Rocket” air pump for sensor (pack in checked baggage as it looks like a rocket)

Black Rapid camera strap(s)

Cable release / Remote

UV filters for all lenses (except Tokina)

Polarizing filter for Nikon zoom lenses

Neutral Density Filters for Nikon zoom lenses (4-stop and 6-stop)

Graduated Neutral Density Filter & Mounting Brackets

SB-900 Speed Light (flash)

AA Batteries for speed light

Camera rain cover

Camera bag rain cover

Bubble level for hot shoe

Puffer diffuser for pop-up flash

Pencil eraser to clean lens / body contacts


Warm weather clothing

Cool weather clothing

Board shorts / Bathing suit

Rain jacket

Comfortable street-walking shoes

Comfortable hiking shoes (depends on the trip)

Comfortable socks

Sandals / Lounging shoes

Baseball hat

Warm cap (fleece)

Toiletries (including a hair brush!)

Medications, if needed

Suitcase / Backpack

Pen light / Small flash light (w/ batteries)

Multi-tool (pack in checked baggage due to knife)

Wine bottle opener (pack in checked baggage)

Light-weight rain poncho


Ear plugs

Sun glasses


Book(s) / Magazine(s) to read

First Aid Kit

Zip-loc bags (different sizes)


Travel pillow

Toothbrush in carry-on baggage

One change of clothes in carry-on baggage (in case of luggage delay)

Travel Coffee Cup (for places where coffee “to go” is not common)

Extra space in luggage to allow for purchases while traveling

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