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Standing firmly in the “pack light carry-on only” camp, I’ve had to get creative since adding a more formal style of photography to my travel repertoire. 

Depending on where I’m going, I could potentially need two separate camera bodies with a range of lenses to suite the scene (like I did on our Tanzania trip this past November), plus a sturdy tripod, batteries, chargers, etc. Not to mention a laptop, hiking boots, rain jacket, and enough clothes to get me through three weeks of travel in varying climates. 

Of course, the most important stuff to pack on a trip like this is the camera gear, so it takes precedence when taking into account how much space I have to work with. It’s also important that said gear travels gently and is protected from the sometimes-jostling environment around it. I should note that I’m (strictly) a mirrorless camera user, so packing all this gear in a carry-on is inherently more feasible than if I were to lug around two full-size camera bodies.

Essential to packing photo gear safely is a good camera bag. This AmazonBasics pack retails at $40, has all the features I need, and is comfortable to wear. The inside padding makes it shock-proof, and the sectioned spaces are all customizable. 

While these features are standard in most camera bags, I especially like this one because of its compact size combined with the volume of camera/lens space and quick access to my gear. The adjustable external straps slide right over my carry-on handle, thus becoming my “personal item,” so both shoulders are free to move about the terminal. 

Then there’s the tripod. I prefer to pack this inside my carry-on rather than using the designated holding straps on the pack. This way it doesn’t catch on or bang into stuff while I’m in transit. It’s also impossible to walk down an airplane aisle with a tripod protruding from the outside of your bag. 

While there are better, more technical tripods out there, I like this compact one by Manfrotto because it’s sturdy and easily fits into any regulation size carry-on. My luggage system of choice is this multi-functional rolling computer bag paired with these ultralight packing cubes.

Other important components are the little (yet equally essential) items that can easily get misplaced, separated, forgotten or lost. 

These are your batteries, chargers, remotes, memory cards, external hard drives, thumb drives, and the like. Keeping all of these things in one, brightly colored case means you can grab it and run knowing that everything you need is in there and easily spotted if you set it down.

Keeping your gear safe, protected, and manageable is key to having a successful photography expedition. Don’t skimp on equipment, either. Rent extra lenses and/or camera bodies if you think it’ll help you capture that great shot you’ve been dreaming of. 

Good luck and happy shutter-bugging!

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