In my post about “How I Afford To Travel,” I touch on the topic of “readiness,”—more specifically that we are never truly ready for anything. And that chasing perfection may actually prevent us from reaching our full potential. That’s particularly true in the creative realm. If we wait until we are ready (until the moment is perfect), we will never follow our dreams, indulge our passions, or push the boundaries of our experience, because all of those activities inherently involve uncertainty and risk. There is no room for “ready” in art.
Gear, or lack there of, is a common excuse people use (myself included), to not pursue photography as a passion or a career. I think there’s this notion that if you don’t have the perfect camera, the newest gear, or the best accessories, then you’re not ready to be a photographer. I get it. I’ve been there. I always want the perfect kit at my disposal so that I can take the best photos I’m capable of. But that’s a loosing battle. Gear is always improving, always evolving. And for that reason, I’ve hesitated to write this blog for a long time. In the end, “What’s In My Camera Bag,” is just a bunch of objects – tools of the trade. Those tools don’t make the photographer. They are simply there to help us bring our ideas to life.
Don’t worry if some of this gear is not in your budget.
Or, doesn’t make sense for the type of photography you are interested in. That’s okay! This is simply a list of gear that Quin and I generally take with us when we travel – because it works for us. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Quin over the last couple years, it’s that you don’t need a ton of lenses, or a super expensive camera to be a photographer. All you really need is a vision, the drive to make it a reality, and a lot of time behind the lens. That being said, here’s what’s in my camera bag!
My first full-frame camera was the Sony Alpha A7RII. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was ready to invest in a full-frame camera, so I rented one. By the end of the rental period, I was completely hooked. When the Sony Alpha A7RIII came out, I hesitated again – it’s an expensive camera and I already had a nice camera. But in the end, there were a few upgrades that won me over. I had that camera for years, and didn’t feel the need to upgrade again until Sony released the Sony A1 mirrorless camera. Just like the Sony A7RIII, I decided to make the investment because I know that it’s the only camera I’ll need foreseeable future.
The Sony A1 is a truly remarkable camera that includes the best features of multiple other Sony cameras. Thanks to its high-resolution sensor, super-fast burst shooting, lightening quick AF, professional connectivity and 8K raw video the A1 covers almost every photographic niche.
I still own the Sony A7RIII though and I frequently bring it on trips as a backup camera or even a primary camera if I’m going to a location or doing an activity that I know might be a little rougher on my gear. In fact, Quin has been using the Sony RIII exclusively for the past few years.
What it’s good for: Professional Photographers and serious hobbyists looking for a compact mirrorless body option.
UPDATE: A couple years ago Sony came out with the Sony a7 IV! This camera is an excellent option if you have your heart set on a full frame camera, but you don’t have the budget for the A1 or the brand new, Sony A7R V Mirrorless Camera (the successor to the Sony a7R III and IV), or simply don’t need 61 MP – which lets face it, most hobbyists don’t! I’d go so far as to say it has the best parts of the more expensive models without the high price tag. Pair it with the Sony FE 28-70mm kit lens and you’ll be able to meet your travel and adventure photography needs all in one compact little kit!
When I first decided that I was ready for a camera with interchangeable lenses, I did a bunch of research and landed on the Sony Alpha a6000. Sony still sells the a6000 and it is an incredible value for the quality of camera at this point! I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for an entry level camera for a great deal. The Sony Alpha A6400 was released in early 2019 and although it is quite a bit more expensive it’s also a great option, as is the slightly older a6500. It has a compact and light-weight body, making it ideal for travel, hiking, and backpacking.
This is a great option if you are just getting into photography, or not sure that you want or need a full-frame body, but still want the ability to switch out lenses. Sony also just announced that it is releasing a new Sony Alpha a6600, but I haven’t heard anything yet to convince me that I need to upgrade.
What it’s good for: Travel, hiking, backpacking. Anyone looking for a compact interchangeable lens body.
An earlier version of the Sony Cyber-Shot reignited my interest in photography. I was headed to Cuba and I wanted a low profile camera that could still capture high resolution, RAW photographs. The Cyber-Shot is still one of my favorite cameras to travel with – especially when I’m trying to go ultra-light. And while I don’t use it very often for anything other than photography, it’s also a popular camera for video and blogging.
What it’s good for: High resolution point and shoot photography and videos in a camera body small enough to fit in your pocket.
The GoPro Hero 11 Black is a great camera to have in your backpack just in case you find yourself in a situation where you are likely to get wet, you need an extra wide angle, or you want to shoot a quick video. Action cams in general are super small, so it’s easy to just throw one in your bag and go. I like the Hero 11 Black because it has a screen, as opposed to the Hero Session which you have to connect to your phone via bluetooth to get a live view.
Quin and I also use the GoPro a lot for underwater photos and video’s when we aren’t planning on diving too deep. We’ve also got a dome for it, so that we can take those cool under-over split photos!
What it’s good for: Casual action photography and videography.
DJI Mavic 3 Cine and DJI Mini 3 Pro Drones
Having a drone at your disposal is a great way to find new perspectives and add diversity to your photography and videography. They are also really fun! I like the DJI Mini 3 Pro because after years of waiting DJI finally brought back the vertical 9:16 camera aspect ratio – which makes creating content for social media so much easier! That’s the same aspect ratio you need for Instagram Stories, Reels, and TikTok videos. The Mini 3 Pro is also incredibly lightweight, and folds up into a manageable size that can easily fit into my camera bag along with the rest of my gear.
Quin on the other hand, tends to travel with the DJI Mavic 3 Cine. He likes the zoom capabilities, along with the heavier drones ability to withstand more intense weather conditions. The image quality, and low light capabilities is also pretty hard to beat! In the end we usually end up bringing both drones. I can’t tell you how many times having the backup drone has saved us!
As handy as drones can be, it’s important to remember that they are highly regulated in a lot of places, and owning one requires an extra level of research and responsibility wherever you travel.
What it’s good for: Aerial photography.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received regarding gear, was to prioritize lenses over camera bodies. It may not be intuitive at first, but camera bodies will come and go, while a good lens can stay with you for a lifetime. Sony’s FE 24-70mm was the first major investment I made in my photography gear – and now it’s my go-to everyday lens (although I’ve since upgraded to the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.4 GM II, primarily because it is significantly lighter than the original). The range is great for everything from product shots to landscapes, and the 2.8 aperture allows for low light photographs, and a nice shallow depth of field. You can see how a shallow depth of field works in the second photo below – the subject appears sharp and in focus, while the rest of the photo has a soft blurry appearance.
What it’s good for: Pretty much everything!
This was the first lens that I got for the Sony a7rII, and I still use it all the time with the a7rIII. It’s also Quin’s go-to lens. Like the Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8, the 16-35mm is a great all around lens that can be used for a diverse range of subjects. It’s particularly useful if you are trying to get that quintessential little person in a big landscape photo.
Quin actually also owns the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, and while many consider that lens to be higher quality, he prefers the F4 model because it is significantly smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the G Master.
What it’s good for: Landscape photography.
This is the most recent lens that I acquired, and it has already saved the day a number of times! Although Quin and I were skeptical at first, there were just enough times when we wished we had a wider lens than the Sony FE 16-35mm, to make it worth the investment.
What it’s good for: Ultrawide perspective on close range landscapes.
UPDATE: It’s been a few years now since we picked this lens up, and I don’t think we have used it more than a handful of times. It has been really great to have when we needed it (some of my favorite photos have been taken using this lens), but it definitely feels like a niche lens that a GoPro could easily replace in most cases.
Quin owns this lens, and recently it has been used to capture a number of my Instagram posts, so I decided to include it here. Again, the decision to purchase this lens, as opposed to the more common (and arguably higher quality), Sony FE 70-200mm F.2.8 GM, was based primarily on size and weight. This lens has an exceptionally large range, and can be used to create a number of different effects. At its widest the lens easily captures large landscapes, while zoomed in it can capture subjects way off in the distance.
Zoomed in, the lens is also useful for creating compression – giving old perspectives a new look. Compression is essentially the phenomenon of background elements (like mountains), appearing much larger in the composision than they actually are. The bellow photo is a great example of compression at work.
What it’s good for: Great when you only want to carry one lens, and you aren’t sure exactly what you are going to need.
This is the cropped sensor lens that I use for the Sony Alpha a6000 and 6500. You can purchase either of those bodies with kit lenses, but after doing some research, I decided to forgo the kit lenses, and splurge on something with a little higher quality glass. To this day it’s the only lens that I have for the a6000 series, and I’m still happy with the range of photographs it can capture.
What it’s good for: Great all in one lens for your cropped sensor a6000 series body.
I was really torn between the Apple MacBook Pro 14.2″ and the 16.2″ MacBook Pro. The 16.2″ is undoubtedly better for processing and editing photos and videos. But, at the end of the day, it was just sooo heavy and just the thought of traveling around with it hurt my back. Quin on the other hand, loves the larger screen for editing. So we ended up agreeing to disagree on this one and I went with the 14.2″ MacBook Pro while he went with the 16.2″. It’s been over a year now, and neither one of us regrets our decision! That being said, if you’re planning on doing a lot of video work, I’d highly recommend the 16.2″.
What it’s good for: Editing photographs.
Adobe Creative Cloud
My photography took the largest leap forward when I made the switch from shooting jpeg, to shooting RAW and editing with Adobe Lightroom CC. That simple change made a huge difference in my ability to edit photos, while preserving the quality of the original image. I pay around $11USD a month for the entire Adobe Creative Cloud tool suite. I currently only use Lightroom, but it includes Adobe Photoshop, and a number of other potentially very useful programs.
What it’s good for: Editing RAW images.
Camera Accessories & Other Gear
On our most recent trip to The Islands Of Tahiti, Quin and I tried out some new AquaTech Underwater Housing for the iPhone 14 Pro Max (also good for the 13 Pro Max). We also brought underwater housing for the GoPro Hero 11 Black. We also purchased an over-under dome for the iPhone housing. They both got the job done, but there are definitely pros and cons to both option. Taking photos and videos under water with the iPhone was overall a more enjoyable experience. It’s a camera we are all used to using in our daily lives and it was super nice having the large screen under water. That being said, the quality of the content decreased rapidly in deeper water with low light. The GoPro while sometimes frustrating to use, had superior quality images and color in deeper water. The GoPro housing is also significantly less expensive than the AquaTech housing for the iPhone.
One of the best camera bags I’ve come across – and all around great brand. My favorite thing about it is that it’s perfect for travel. It will fit a small kit, as well as all your other travel essentials – music, computer, toiletries etc. And it’s unisex, so it would make a great gift for the female travel photographer too. I’ve had mine for 3 years now, and it goes on basically every trip with me as my carry-on. The 30L is a great option too, if you tend to travel around with a lot of gear.
What it’s good for: Stylish and super functional camera bag that can go everywhere with you.
F-Stop KASHMIR UL
I’ve had a lot of trouble finding camera-bags that are both functional for caring gear long distances, and built to fit my small frame. The relatively lightweight Kashmir UL is the first backpack I’ve found that was designed with the active female shooter in mind. It’s honestly still a little big on me, but hey, at least they’re trying!
The Lotus model is Quin’s go-to camera bag, and he swears by it for traveling, hiking, and everyday use.
What it’s good for: The active photographer that needs a backpack that can work as hard as they do.
F-STOP INTERNAL CAMERA UNIT (ICU)
Like many other camera bags, if you decide to go with an F-Stop bag, you will also want to purchase an ICU. These individual storage units come in a number of different sizes, and can be customized to fit your gear.
What it’s good for: Organizing camera gear, while keeping it safe inside your backpack.
When I’m not hiking long distances, I use the 21 Liter WANDRD Prvke Series backpack. Built out of durable and water-resistant materials it’s an awesome travel/camera/everyday backpack. I particularly like the Prvke’s functionality, with easily accessible storage compartments and an adjustable roll top.
What it’s good for: Strong on form and function the WANDRD Prvke is a good everyday backpack.
I seriously love this camera strap. It’s super comfy, and the ability to easily remove it from my camera has been a game changer. My issue with camera straps in the past, was that sometimes I wanted the strap on, but other times, it just got in the way. Now, I don’t have to compromise!
What it’s good for: Carrying your camera.
The truth is I avoid using tripods whenever possible. I find that they really cramp my style, and just add a lot of extra weight to my bag. That being said, sometimes they are a necessity (like when I need to photograph myself or in low light situations), and right now the Peak Design Carbon Fiver Travel Tripod is the one you will find in my bag. I’ve had it for almost a year now, and I really don’t have any complaints. If the carbon fiber model is outside your budget, then there’s also a slightly heavier aluminum option available for about half the price!
What it’s good for: Self-portraits and long exposure shots.
Polarization filters are specially adapted glass that can reduce glare when turned at an angle to a light source. Quin and I use polarized filters a lot when we are shooting water. The polarizer allows us to cut through the reflection, and give more detail to items in the water. You can see the polarizer in action by comparing the two photos above. In the first photo, my reflection and the reflection of the mountains is fairly dominant. In the second photo, a polarizer was used used to cut through the reflection to reveal details under the water’s surface.
What it’s good for: Cutting through the reflection on water.
Generally, when I take photos of myself, I use the built-in 10 second timer on my camera. However, sometimes I want a little more control over when the shutter goes off, and that’s when I use the Vallo Freewave Wireless Remote Shutter. I’ve also used the remote for long exposure shots when I don’t want to risk causing vibrations by pushing down on the camera’s shutter button.
What it’s good for: Self-portraits and long exposure shots.
UPDATE: I rarely use a remote anymore. Now I tend to just turn the intervalometer on or time-laps setting inside my camera and let it go!
I always travel with my portable hard drive, and I like the Lacie Rugged Mini because I’m not particularly gentle with my gear and I frequently transfer data in the field, so it’s nice to have that extra protection. I’d also recommend having a number of backup hard drives at home, just in case anything happens to your data while traveling — it’s been a lifesaver.
I also recently made the switch to Samsung 2TB T5 Portable Solid-State Drives. These drives are solid state, so there is less risk of damaging your data. They are more expensive than external drives like the Licie, that have moving internal parts, but for me it’s well worth the peace of mind. Plus they are so much smaller (credit card sized)! Which I love for traveling. I never had any issues with my Lacie, but I had a few other external drives crash on me, so that motivated the switch.
What it’s good for: Copy and transport data (images) in the field.
I hope that you have found this camera gear guide for travel photographers and bloggers helpful! If you have any questions at all, leave a comment and I’ll make sure to get back to you. Thanks for stopping by, I truly appreciate your support. – jess
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