Traveling with professional photography gear makes it incredibly difficult to pack light. Whether you take pictures of nature, people, or underwater marine life special consideration needs to be taken to ensure you have space for both your equipment and personal belongings.

Getting off the beaten path? From clothes to gear, these packing tips for travel photographers have everything you need!

 


Packing Tips for Travel Photographers

Written by: Jess Sern


 

As a photographer of other cultures, packing and fashion is extremely important.

If I appear too ‘different’, it’s more difficult to gain the trust of those people whose lives I want to photograph. Therefore, my clothing must fit with local fashion—not necessarily my fashion.

 

Photography by: Jess Sern with Longest Bus Ride

 

As a travel photographer, I must blend in as much as possible and gain  the trust of the people I photograph. Trust shows in the faces of my subjects and in the access I am given to their personal lives.

And, packing light is required, as I often travel solo, or on the back of someone else’s motorbike. My priority is my photography gear, not clothes.

 

Photography by: Jess Sern with Longest Bus Ride

 

Weather

 

These packing tips work best for warm or hot weather. Thin and light layers can be worn, like long shirts instead of sweaters.

The heat dries clothing quickly, so clothes can be washed every few days and worn again the next day. (I wash clothes in the morning or evening.)

Alternatively, it’s useful to buy clothes in fabrics you can easily re-wear, which you can learn about here.

Cold weather requires bulkier clothing, including warm pants and a jacket, gloves, and hat, making packing light more difficult for a professional photographer.

 

Read these tips on how to pack carryon only when it’s cold!

 

Packing List

 

This was my actual packing list for a 6-week trip in Southeast Asia during hot-dry season. Read this guide for more info.

 

LUGGAGE

 

Lowepro Camera Daypack / Stuff Sack

 

Daypack – for camera gear and heaviest items. I suggest one with a waist belt and chest buckle, so that the weight is supported on your hips, and not shoulders.

Foldable cloth bag – The Stuffa Vest fits in a foldable bag, in case I don’t want to wear the vest (most of the time, since it looks silly on me in size Men’s large). However, this bag packs very small, so goes into a Stuff vest pocket when not in use.

 

Stuffa Vest

 

Stuffa Vest – The inner lining of this jacket is a wearable vest. It has many zippered and Velcro pockets, and does not count as luggage on flights. Heavy items may be packed in this vest short- term when boarding a flight, but the designer of the vest suggested I not rely on their strength for expensive lenses for regular walking around (his wife is a photographer).

 

CLOTHES

 

I always purchase a local item, so that I blend better with the culture in which I’m visiting. This typically includes a skirt, so I take very few shorts or pants. This also assists with safety. I avoid dressing in a style that is more revealing than what local women wear.

 

Crew T-ShirtChambray Shirt

 

Shirts: 3 merino wool tees (or other breathable, moisture wicking fabric) and 1 lightweight long-sleeve for sun protection

 

Trekkie ShortBoyfriend Jeans

 

Shorts: 1, which can double as a swimsuit bottom

Pants: 1 pair of jeans, worn on flight from home

 

Teva Mush Flip-flops /  / Hiking Shoes

 

Shoes: 1 pair  flip-flops / thongs and 1 pair hiking shoes (Pack only if useful. Most walking can be done in lightweight sneakers.)

I like the Teva Mush because they’re soft shoes and are comfortable on my feet. I can hike 10+ miles in them with no problem. Also, in southeast Asia, most days involve taking shoes off and putting them back on many times each day for entering homes and temples.

 

Knix Evolution Bra  / Merino Wool Underwear

 

Bras: 1 regular bra and 2 Knix brand Evolution bras. These Knix bras are odor resistant and reversible. They double as bikini tops when swimming. When washed, they hang dry overnight in hot weather.

Underwear: 4 pairs of thin, lightweight merino wool underwear ( they hang dry in an hour or two in hot weather). The wool is soft and not itchy. Other underwear is in the Feminine Hygiene section below.

 

Here’s a round up of the best travel underwear for women!

 

ACCESSORIES AND TOILETRIES

 

Don’t take any ‘just in case’ items in your packing list for travel photographers. Add $10 into your budget in case you buy them while traveling.

 

Silk Scarf / Sunglasses / Tweezers / Pill Bag / Sunhat / Insect Repellant Wipes /  SunscreenTravel Tube

 

Sunny weather items: sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat.

Insect repellant, depending on your destination: I pack insect repellant wipes, since I would be devastated if liquid repellant leaked onto my photography gear or clothing.

Silk scarf: serves as a sunshade or as a decorative accessory if I need to look nice for a dinner. Also, used as a covering for entering religious buildings, such as temples and churches. Finally, it serves as a belt, blanket, and much more. The multi-knife of clothing! To pack small: fold, twist, and tie in a knot.

Shampoo: a bit more than for just my hair, since it doubles as clothes washing soap and body wash. However, most hotels provide soap. In a 6-week trip I still had some left over in my small travel bottle.

Pill bags: for $5 in the pharmacy section you can buy very small baggies for pills. You can write on them. I include a few aspirin, since I know I use them when I get my period. And, I pack a few antihistamine pills for when I get a travelers head cold or allergies. For prescription medication: take the label off the original bottle and stick it on the bag. Some countries don’t allow certain medications without a prescription, so you don’t want yours confiscated. Comb, razor, toothbrush, paste, and floss.

Tweezers: these are practically a Swiss army multi-knife tool in terms of usefulness. Since I fly carry-on only, I can’t actually pack a knife.

 

FEMININE HYGIENE

 

Knix Underwear / Tampons

 

Tampons or pads: remove these from their main box or bag and placed in a ziploc bag, which is more flexible. Only take as many as you’ll need during your trip + a few extra to share with your fellow travelers.

Underwear: Knix brand underwear have absorbent panties. These worked fine and I did not pack pantyliners. I washed these at the end of each day. You will probably want a private sink or shower to rinse them, rather than a public sink you might encounter in a hostel.

 

Tip: many girls prefer to travel with menstrual cups – learn the pro and cons!

 

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP

 

Southeast Asia on a Shoestring

 

When spending more than a week in a country, I take a guidebook. Guidebooks provide hotel phone numbers and a good overview of cities. I also pack a map specific to the country, because I stay flexible with my destinations.

The map is an invaluable planning tool when getting recommendations from locals or other tourists. A distance may be long, but along a main highway, so fast. Or, a distance may be short, but on dirt roads, so slow. Try it once and see if it helps you, too.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR

Canon 70D with 18-135 lens / Tamron AF 70-300mm / Tripod

 

All my photography equipment fits into a daypack, since I always carry-on all my ‘must not lose’ items on all flights. I travel with my iPhone and SLR + 3 lenses. This includes tripods for both cameras, remote shutter, filters, and more.

 

A full photography packing list is on the Longest Bus Ride website here.

 

Photography by: Jess Sern with Longest Bus Ride

 

Your packing list should also include flexibility with the foods you eat. I don’t eat frogs at home, but these fried frogs in Myanmar were delicious, like potato chips!

 

Travel Tip

 

Hotels and hostels often will hold luggage at no cost. For example, when I was in Peru, my hotel in Cusco kept my luggage while I trekked to Machu Picchu. I have found this arrangement available around the world.

Make a note on paper/phone of what you left, with photos. After a week, it’s easy to accidentally leave a bag behind. Also, take the hotels business card, in case you need to contact them (or just find your way back on return to town).

 


What are your packing tips for travel photographers? Share your tips below!


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 photo Author Profile pic_zpsvhdljgub.jpgAuthor Bio: Jess Sern, founder of Longest Bus Ride website. LBR is the go-to online resource for Travel Photography Advice for anyone exploring the world with a phone or camera. She also publishes photography and stories of her worldwide solo travel journeys, including Mongolia, Maui, and Myanmar. Her blog is here, and you can find here on social media here: Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter


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