It has always been something very complex for me while traveling; carrying and using the photo gear as well as the travel gear. What to bring, what not to bring, not forgetting anything but not overloading either. I try to respect the usual rule of packing to cover 75% of situations and improvising on the moment for the 25% that can occur. This trip is even more complicated than usual because I will be traveling in India, from the South to the North which implies that first I have to bring summer and winter gear and quite an important amount of medicine stuff. Add the photo gear on top of that and it’s not simple.
I’ll try to keep this post simple and explain what is the basic idea behind my set up and just describe what I bring and why and how it can fit together. Overall, the idea is to have a large backpack, the Serratus 70L from Mec with everything, containing the clothes and the computer through different bags and one smaller photo daypack which is the Lowepro Flipside Sport 10L.
Compression bags Sea to Summit 10L
I bring two compression bags, Sea to Summit 10L; one for the sleeping bag (MEC Aquila 0) which takes very small space for such a warm bag and the other compression bag for all the winter clothes when I will not be needing them.
- Gloves Soft Shell Seirus
- Garmont pants
- Merino wool tube scarf
- Arcteryx beanie
- Arcteryx Soft Shell
- Mid layer Helly Hansen
- Smart Wool merino socks
- Muluc mid-layer shirt
Large backpack: Serratus 70L
The rest of the clothes and the “summer” clothes will be directly in the large Serratus 70L backpack. It’s good to have them loose and not necessarily in a compression bag as the clothes provide some protection for the content of the bag.
What I bring;
- MEC Merino Hoody
- Mec Flightcheck coat
- MEC mochilero convertible pants
- Y Athletics Silver air t-shirt
- Prana organic cotton + polyester t-shirt
- Lozeau bag for the dirty clothes
The hoody in merino wool from MEC is one of my most precious possessions and well worth the 90$ investment as it is incredibly light, soft (just wearing it is a constant joy) and warm. It gets very compact and takes almost no space. The Flightcheck coat is one of the best rainproof coat MEC ever made and so far I love it, once again it gets extremely compact and small and not a drop of water can go through. It’s also an impressive wind stopper. As the rest of my clothes, it’s blue, yep. The Silver air t-shirt also seems quite impressive, it’s made with 5% of real silver and it should stay “clean” and odorless for a very long time, looking forward (or not) to find out how well it works. It’s also very comfortable by the way. I know I know the Lozeau bag is not the most breathing bag for dirty clothes but it’s very strong, reminds me of where I bought most of my photo gear and makes a nice advertisement for the shop that gave us their employee’s rebates for all our purchases!
I chose this particular bag (MEC Serratus 70L) first for its important volume capacity of 70L and also mainly for its bottom compartment that could in theory hold the photo equipment to be removed quickly. There are also many nice little elements such as the side bags that can be removed and carried separately. This is perfect to make room for the tripod as there are pockets and straps to hold it in place. Those bags are also perfect to hold things such as the sandals when they are not tied to in front of the bag or to hold the medical and electronic stuff pouches. Rest of the bag includes practical holding points for hooking bags and shoes as well as a nice hidden interior pocket for the hydration. The top compartment seems well made but shows a very serious misconception mistake. If the bag is not fully loaded to the top (and even then), the top compartment tends to slide down in front, leaving the top of the bag exposed and overall in a unusual and uncomfortable position, forcing you to retie the straps and put it back in place once in a while. This is the only important flaw I have found with this bag so far.
MEC Pillow bag
The rest of the clothes I am bringing is, and I know you were looking forward for this part, mostly underwear that I put in a MEC pillow bag that serves as a small, you’ve guessed it pillow. It is reversible and can be either warm or cold.
What I bring in that:
- MEC merino wool boxers (those are incredible)
- MEC normal quick drying boxers
- super high tech instantly drying travel adapted Exofficio travel boxers
- Merrell merino socks
- Small Smart wool socks
- mid layer thin socks
- light Wigwam cotton socks
- Shoot to Help t-shirt
MEC bathroom accessories bag
As we need quite a lot of medication for India, I simply cannot put everything in this medium MEC bathroom bag. Good thing about traveling with a friend is we can split the drugs between us but even then we each need a separate medical bag meaning that this one only holds accessories.
This bag contains:
- Dove body soap in bar
- Lush solid shampoo bar
- Nail clipper
- Small scissors
- Hand lotion
- Back up lip balm
Little Medical Bag
And to continue with the nice stuff, I carry part of the drugs and medical stuff hopefully not needed.
- Solar Cream 60 (got a tattoo to protect!)
- Activated coal pills (for stomach and indigestion problems)
- Probaclac traveler (probiotic pills to help with digestion for the beginning of the trip)
- Acetalozamide (altitude sickness pills for when we’ll be in Ladakh at 3 500m)
- Gastrolyte (for when we’ll be dehydrated because, you know why)
- Super strong antibiotic Zythromax
- Water cleaning pills
Small electronic bag
That’s just a generic net small bag to hold some stuff while seeing what’s inside. I use it to put all the electronic and photo accessories that I do not need too often and that is not so fragile to require padding.
What I have in this bag:
- Ansmann Powerline 4 Charger (to charge the lithium-ion batteries)
- Ansmann AA batteries x4 (for the flash)
- Ansmann AAA batteries x4 (for the Microsoft Arche mouse and the frontal flashlight)
- Canon LPE 6 (a third battery acting as a backup)
- Lens + Body Cap (containing a back-up SD card)
- BW Neutral Density Filter 77mm 0,9 (for those long exposure shots)
- Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (nice and small, fast and cheap, small and light, black)
- Fospower multi adapter (very useful, from any power cord to any plug and even with two USB port, white)
Think Tank Artificial Intelligence 13 V3.0
Now we’re getting to more interesting stuff. As you probably know, I am (we both are in fact) traveling with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 i7 to be able to work full time on the pictures, and reports and to be as efficient as possible. I have been using it full time for the last 5 months as my main computer and I truly love it. Even if it is quite sturdy with its aluminium body, gorilla glass and protective keyboard, the importance and value of it means I need something good enough to protect it and practical enough to carry it around. I’ve searched online a lot to find the perfect solution but couldn’t find anything, seriously. It was by chance that I looked around in Lozeau one of the 10 times I was there in the past month and found that incredible bag. It. Is. Just. Perfect. The Surface fits perfectly, it’s well padded and protected without being bulky, there is room for the power plug, book and some small stuff and I have put peak design anchor points to carry it around with a camera strap. Perfect find!
What I put inside this lovely bag;
- Microsoft Surface Pro 3
- Power cable of the Surface
- Microsoft Arche Mouse (which flats itself completely taking almost no space)
- 1 US to Europe power adapter
- My very own Canadian passport
- MEC travel wallet (perfect little wallet, small, light, cheap and above all, blue)
- Lens cloth
- Lip balm
- Clif bar (pumpkin, yummy)
- Baghavad Gita book
- Peak Design Anchor points x2 + Canon Strap
- Samsung Galaxy S4 cellphone
- USB cable
- Klipsch headphones
- Business cards
Yep that’s quite a lot of stuff for a small bag
Lowerpro Flipside Sport 10L AW
Finally the interesting part. How to hold the only really vital thing while traveling; the camera and the lenses. First of all, I want to say that leaving for this trip was also an extremely difficult thing to do for me as I left behind my beloved Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens. It could not fit in the bag and carrying it in a Lowepro Lens Changer bag would have been possible but would have added a lot of weight to my set up. After a sleepless night and good counseling from my fellow photographer friends I decided it was better to take the risk of not having it instead of the risk of having it. As my good friend and incredibly talented photographer Benjamin Von Wong cleverly said, I will regret it either way. I might as well choose the regret with the less risks and force myself to get more creative with the gear I have. As I am writing these lines I am already regretting not bringing it and the keyboard is wet with my tears of despair. I know I will probably have a nervous breakdown in a balloon over Bagan in Myanmar without my teleobjective.
What I bring in this bag;
- Canon EOS 6D (Vince has the 7D, meaning I will sometimes go for a double body set up but not often)
- Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L (standard zoom lens with a large aperture, I also like it a lot for portraits even if it’s not the 70-200)
- Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS (ultra wide stabilized, very sharp, quite cheap and not so heavy)
- Canon LPE-6 batteries x2
- Lexar 32gb SD card x2
- Peak Design Capture pro clip (this is for clipping the camera on the bag itself when not using the strap and it’s also the same clip for the tripod)
- Silicon Power AT80 1TB Hard drive (military grade rugged, can resist to anything, I always have one hard drive on me and one in the other backpack)
- Canon LPE-6 charger (for when I’m on the plane, otherwise, it stays in the backpack)
- Lonely Planet India (sometimes, I still have to find a way to carry it efficiently)
- 3LT Brian tripod (for when I’m doing landscapes in low light or sunset/sunrise, not often on this bag but it’s nice to be able to attach it).
- Shoot to Help Lens Cloth (because it’s the best and most beautiful lens cloth in the world, true story)
Rest of the stuff randomly thrown somewhere depending of my mood:
Canon 430 EX II flash (again, I have hesitated for a very long time between bringing the big or the small flash, as I always prefer not using a flash, I thought I might as well reduce volume and weight by bringing the smaller one)
- Philips electrical razor (because yeah I need that)
- Sync Princeton Tec headlamp (power shortage, hostel and hiking in the early morning to get to the vantage point before the sunrise)
- Mini Petzi Headlamp (can be handy)
- Travel towel (ultra light, small and compact, also, it’s blue)
- Small lock with cable
- Small lock with a key
- Passport holder
- Platypus 1L bottle with anchor (so practical! A flat plastic water bottle that I can hang on my bag)
- Platypus 1L bottle without anchor (basically the same thing as the one before but without anchor, just in case)
- Rain cover for the camera (for Holi!)
- Clif and Val-Nature bars
And finally, what I’ll be wearing in my feet! I know that if you have read that far you are dying to know the ending.
- Merrell Beluga Goretex boots (good enough for supporting the feet when hiking, water proof and high enough to walk in the snow but relatively small to be used as day to day shoes)
- Keen Sandals (light but also well adapted for walking, these are way more than flipflops)
Overall, finding the perfect solution and the perfect gear is impossible, you have to find what is the closest to perfection for your needs. Try many different combinations, think about what you can prevent from carrying and always always try to bring as less stuff as possible. You will rarely regret not bringing something as you can always find a way to make without but you can often regret bringing too much heavy stuff.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to share them!