I've just returned from an awesome 17-day trip to Colorado, hanging with some great people, and taking (more than) a few pictures.
As I began unpacking, I thought I'd keep track of what I removed and share with you what was in my backpacks for this trip.
While leading photography workshops was my primary purpose for being in Colorado, I can instruct best when I am shooting myself.
Those, I needed gear appropriate for what we were photographing — wildlife and landscape.
As this site is also a higher priority than my personal photography, I needed to do field testing of as much new gear as possible at the same time.
Flying meant my gear was limited to what would fit in my max-airline-dimensions checked bag, a carry-on, and a personal item.
My photo trip packing strategy is to put the items with the most value (both financially and for the shoot) and the items most sensitive to damage in my carry-on and personal item camera backpacks that go with me onto the plane.
Unless my checked bag is under the 50 lb weight limit (it seldom is and the bag I checked for this trip registered exactly 50.0 lbs on the scale), I'm also interested in putting the densest (think metal) items in my carry-on and personal item packs (I've not yet had these bags weighed for domestic USA flights).
The MindShift Gear FirstLight 40L
and MindShift Gear BackLight 18L
are my current favorite camera backpacks for travel.
The larger pack goes on my back with the waist belt tightened enough for the weight to be supported on my waist — not my shoulders.
The smaller pack goes on in reverse direction — a front pack — with the waist belt clipped around the front of the case (to get it out of the way).
Here is the list of what is (or was) in the two backpacks along with some interspersed reasoning:
- Canon EOS R
- Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens
- Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM Lens
- Sony a7R IV. This camera was shipped to me in Colorado and served as my primarily wildlife camera and Sony-mount landscape lens test camera.
- Two Sony a7R III cameras. These were backups in case the two Sony a7R IV cameras did not arrive for some reason. One was needed when an a7R IV had to be returned for a sensor that I could not get clean.
- Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens with a Wimberley AP-616 Replacement Foot. This was my primary wildlife lens. It is awesome.
- Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens with a Wimberley AP-620 Replacement Foot. On my review list, this lens was a good complement to the 600 f/4 and a great wildlife lens on its own. it is packed in the larger backpack, under a camera and some lenses
- Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter. This little teleconverter and its 2x sibling are seen stacked in their compact and very protective cases beside the mount end of the 600 f/4. The 1.4x saw some use.
- Sony FE 2x Teleconverter. This teleconverter did not see daylight on this trip.
- Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens with a Wimberley AP-610 Replacement Foot. I couldn't leave home without it for this trip. Aside from being a backup to the 200-600, I was not sure that 200mm would be wide enough for environmental portraits. While I ended up not using this lens, the wider focal lengths it has (vs. the 200-600) would have been useful at times.
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. This is a superb landscape lens that I used with the Sony a7R IV for landscape photography.
- Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens. I needed to plug some of the gap between 35mm and 100mm. This lens was compact and provides the image quality I needed.
- Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens. When 24mm works for my astrophotography needs, this is the best lens available for that purpose and that is why it was along.
- Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens. I was able to get my hands on this promising new, little, inexpensive lens before leaving. Though I need to review more images captured with this lens, it appears to be the bargain I thought it would be.
- Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head. The larger lenses were supported on a monopod most of the time, leaving the tripod needs to landscape purposes and this head was perfect for that use — compact and solid.
- 9 (mostly Breakthrough) filters. These included several sizes of circular polarizer filters and several 82mm neutral density filter densities. These were layered over the gear shown in the smaller pack.
- Several step-up filter adapter rings. I used these to adapt the 82mm ND filters to narrower lens filter threads on both my own and client's lenses.
- ProMediaGear, RRS, or Kirk L-plates were on most camera bodies along with a hex key wrench included in all bags.
- Really Right Stuff MPR-CL Rail with Integral Clamp (5.7"). I included this accessory to facilitate panorama landscape techniques.
- Lens filter wrenches, 2 small and 2 large, in each pack. These cheap, light accessories can save the day.
- A supply of Visible Dust Sensor Cleaning Swabs in each pack.
- Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp. The buttons are not the easiest to use, but this small, lightweight light is otherwise just what I need.
- Swarovski 8x30 CL B Companion Wild Nature Binocular. I have a decent quality large binocular that I don't carry because it is too large and heavy and I have a small binocular that I don't use because the optisc are poor. This Swarovski binocular is just the right size and the optics are excellent. Your eyes will thank you when looking through this model.
- 4 spare batteries — 2 for each camera brand. Note that Li-ION batteries must be carried on the plane.
- Roughly 2.5TB of SD memory capacity. I don't like to re-use memory cards when traveling and the Sony a7R IV's 120GB uncompressed RAW files fill high capacity memory cards very quickly.
- Dell XPS 13 laptop (with an awesome Samsung 2TB 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 Internal SSD) and power supply.
- 2 external hard drives (Seagate 5TB and WD 4TB). Images from memory cards are copied to both drives daily. One drive stays in my car, one drive stays in the house/hotel, and the memory cards stay in my pocket upon being filled. I sometimes mail the filled/used memory cards home.
- Logitech MX Anywhere Bluetooth Mouse
- Keith Titanium water bottle. I go through TSA with the bottle empty and fill it on the way to the gate. There is then no need to wait for the water service on the plane.
- Garbage bags. They are small, light, cheap, and very useful for a variety of needs.
- A jacket with large pockets. If the worst case happened and I could not get a bag onto the plane, I can at least fill the jacket pockets with as much gear as possible.
Camera gear in the checked bag included:
- Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod. As already mentioned, the larger lenses were supported on a monopod most of the time, leaving the tripod needs to landscape purposes and this model was perfect for that use — light and solid.
- Really Right Stuff MC-34 Carbon Fiber Monopod
- 3 LensCoat camera rain covers
- 4 battery chargers — 2 for each camera brand. These mission-critical items were in my carry-on on the flight out, but they had reduced value to me on the return flight (they could easily be replaced). Being relatively light, I put them in my checked bag and moved heavier items to the backpacks.
I needed to remove enough weight from the checked bag for the Sony a7R IV box to be packed home. Yes, having the original box helps with resale value — it is psychologically important to some and therefore monetarily important to me.
- BlackRapid Breathe Sport Camera Strap (I opt for the "Left" model for big lenses) with a Really Right Stuff B2-FABN Screw-Knob Clamp.
Note that all of the links in this post lead to reviews on this site or the product pages of our affiliate retailers.
Hopefully you have found this information at least entertaining and watching me carry the gear through the airport is probably even more so.