Packing a Camera Bag For a Summer Trip 

Tips and tricks from a photographer and frequent traveller!

When you go on a trip you have been dreaming of for a long time or even for a short holiday in the countryside or at sea, you don’t want to get the contents of your camera bag wrong.
An unsuitable bag, a missing lens, bulky equipment: who has never experienced these unpleasant situations?
All photographers (even the pros) have to chose between what they want to bring and what they need to bring. Here are some tips to help you prepare your stuff the best way possible.

1 – Choose your camera bag

Before we discuss equipment, let’s take a quick look at the choice of bag will carry your belongings in. Never forget: having a good photo bag is very important! For reasons of comfort, convenience and even safety! Of course, if you decide to leave with the bare minimum, namely a smartphone or a small compact camera, a pocket, a purse or a small briefcase will do. But for those who intend to bring out the “big guns”, with camera(s) and lens(s), I insist on the importance of the quality of the bag you intend to bring.

For the durability of your back, forget shoulder bags and prefer a real backpack with two real wide straps. Be careful, some designs are better padded than others, which will have the advantage of not ” cutting ” your shoulders, even during long walks. Many designs also incorporate an abdominal strap to secure the entire thing to the body.

“[…] the size of your bag will simply depend on the amount of equipment you are used to bring with you on your trip […]”

In terms of practicality, here too, the bags are very ingenious: modular interiors, more or less rapid access to the camera, waterproof protective cover (very handy in case of rain), and reverse opening compared to a conventional backpack. So when the bag is on you, no one can access its contents.

Finally, the size of your bag will simply depend on the amount of equipment you are used to bring with you on your trip. Before making your choice, consult the references of the bag you are interested in, these very often mention the type of camera and the number of lenses they can contain.

On the field, to avoid back pain, I advise you to put your photo bag on the ground close to you while you take your photos. In this case, a backpack placed on the ground that opens from the front is very convenient because it allows immediate access to all the equipment!

2 – Which camera should you bring?

Well, the same as usual! Choosing the right camera shouldn’t be your first worry. The important thing is to leave with a tool you know. Many photographers are tempted to invest in a new camera just before a big start.

“If the desire to invest in a new camera is strong, try to do it early enough, in order to get the “beast” in hand before your trip.”

This strategy is not necessarily the right one: you will find yourself in the field with a camera that you have little or no control over, and you will have many other things to do during your stay than to go through the instructions for your new camera. If the desire to invest in a new camera is strong, try to do it early enough, in order to take the “beast” in hand before your trip.

3 – Which lenses should you bring?

This is where the puzzle begins. A trip is often a destination you only see once in a lifetime! No way to miss anything and the passionate photographer can quickly find himself with five or six lenses, two cameras, a tripod, a flash and a multitude of accessories. All weighing 15 to 20 kilos. Needless to say, if your stay involves many trips, the pleasure of photographing can turn into fatigue with so many things to carry.

“Then, ask yourself the right questions.”

Then, ask yourself the right questions. Do you really need all these lenses? Make a choice. How? Start by removing duplicate lenses, i.e. lenses with overlapping focal lengths. Then find out about your destination and the types of photos you plan on taking: landscapes, portraits, animals, etc. And select your lenses accordingly. The important thing, you will have understood, is to be able to equip yourself with lenses that will allow you to face the majority of situations, without cluttering you up.

Here is an example of the “typical” equipment for a person who likes to take landscape photos as well as life scenes and portraits :

  • A wide angle that will be used mainly for landscapes.
  • A fixed focal length lens for the portrait, and especially for the optical qualities of such a tool: these are often very bright allowing you to photograph in almost any conditions.
  • A versatile zoom, which will surely be the lens most often mounted on the body, to be able to quickly face many situations.

Generally speaking, on a trip, 80% of images are taken in the range 24-200 mm (including a 24-70 and a 70-200 mm for example). It may be interesting to have a slightly wider angle (starting at 18 mm).

4 – Don’t forget the accessories!

Filters, spare batteries, battery charger, memory cards and maybe a laptop, don’t miss the accessories that will allow you to photograph without restraint during your trip. There’s nothing more awful than running out of battery in the middle of the day, or having to delete a memory card full of photos taken the day before so you can take new ones the next day.

To go further…

And what do you do when you fly? If possible, you keep all your equipment with you in the cabin. If your equipment is really too bulky to go in the cabin, you should know that there are special boxes to transport your equipment safely. In any case, the batteries and especially the memory cards with your pictures always with you in the cabin and especially not in the hold.