Being prepared is the name of the game when it comes to photography. Those who are will get the shot, while those who are not, may not. I’ve complied a list of highly useful items that are always in my camera bag. Each and every one of them has served me well at one point or another. There’s nothing worse than missing the item you need when you’re a mile or more away from your vehicle. Don’t overlook these essential items that will help you have a safe and enjoyable experience while shooting in the outdoors.
These fleshy bodies of ours can tear open pretty easily. All it takes is a little scrape or a slight fall and there you have it, you’re leaking biohazard all over your clean camera. Bandaids are practically weightless and you’ll be glad that you have them when you need them. When it comes to bandages, I recommend the “go big or go home” motto. It’s definitely better to be over prepared in this situation.
Allergies, elevation, dehydration, and lack of caffeine are all circumstances that can cause a headache to form. Trying to shoot while suffering from a headache is never a pleasant experience. Headaches can strike at any time while traveling and that is why I always have a few travel packets of aspirin in my camera bag. You may never need to use it but if you do, you’ll be glad that you have it.
TP and ziplock bags
I can’t tell you how many times toilet paper has saved my a$$ while shooting. Literally. If you spend enough time out in nature, nature will eventually call and it’s not always at the most convenient time. Knowing how to properly go to the bathroom in the outdoors is an important aspect of photography that they don’t teach you in school. I suggest carrying some TP, wet wipes and a few ziplock bags for these special times. Remember to practice proper wilderness ethics and pack out your TP and wet wipes. That’s what the ziplock bag is for.
As photographers, we understand how important light is. Without it, we have nothing. That is why you should always have a headlamp in your camera bag at all times. No excuses! If you think you might need a headlamp for another purpose other than photography you should think about purchasing a second headlamp because as soon as you pull the headlamp out of your camera bag and forget to out it back, you’ll need it. This I can guarantee. I use an ultra bright Petzel Actik Core headlamp to ensure that I can see clearly once it gets dark. It’s 450 lumens and has a night vision mode as well.
Intervalometer or Cable release
An intervalometer is an essential piece of camera gear that every landscape photographer should own. This device allows the photographer to trigger their camera without touching it. These devices are are a must for anyone who it interested in night or timelapse photography as they allow you to shoot for more than 30 seconds as well as program in timed sequences. Neewer makes a good product that is much cheaper than the name brand models.
Spare batteries for your intervalometer and headlamp
What good is a headlamp without batteries? That’s right. It’s completely useless. Do yourself a favor and carry enough spare batteries with you to power your headlamp. I’ve had brand new batteries go dead on me because the on switch accidentally got bumped while it was in my bag. Don’t let this happen to you.
I carry enough spare batteries for my intervalometer as well. Intervalometer batteries usually last a long time but it’s good to be prepared for when they fail. It just so happens that both my intervalometer and headlamp take the same type of batteries.
Hair ties (for all of the long haired photo freaks out there)
This next section is for long haired photographers only. If you have long hair and have ever tried to do any amount of productive photography in windy conditions, you know what I’m talking about. Always carry three to four hair ties in your camera bag at all times. I realize you only need one at a time, but I guarantee that you are going to open up your pack and take out a tie the next time you’re in a windy condition. Chances are, you’re going to leave that hair tie on for much longer than you shoot for, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet that that hair tie is not going to end up back in your bag at the end of the day.
Seems obvious, right? There are a few reasons to always have a stack of business cards in your bag. I’ll start with the obvious. If someone happens to see the amazing photograph that you just took and says “hey, I’d like to buy that”, you better have a card to give them. Secondly, should you be so excited that you just sold a print that you leave your entire camera bag on the ground and walk away, you will have a lifeline if a good samaritan comes across your bag. As much as I hate to admit it, I once left my entire camera bag in a parking lot in Hawaii. I realized it 20 minutes too late and the bag disappeared. Luckily for me, the folks who took it, found my cards and returned it with everything still inside.
Blower and lens wipes
We spend thousands of dollars to own the best glass on the market, yet I often see dust and smudges on many photographers gear. Being able to remove those problems in the field will help prevent time consuming and unnecessary fixes in post. A quality blower should be in every photographer’s bag. They can be effective in removing dust from both the front and rear elements of your lenses in addition to being a very useful tool for cleaning your sensor while on the road. My favorite blower is the Giottos Rocket. Prepackaged lens wipes help remove oils from your lens that a standard lens cloth will not. They are small, light, and an invaluable tool when you need them. I’ve been very happy with Zeiss wipes.
Outside of forgetting all of your memory cards at home, there are few things more frustrating than not having the tools you need to fix your gear in the field. I always carry a set of hex keys and a few small screw drivers in my bag. At the very minimum, you should have a hex key that fits every piece of gear that you own. This includes tripod plates, tripod hinges, filter holders, and set screws.
Snacks are perhaps the most important item of all! It’s not uncommon to burn a ton of calories while out on a shoot. You want to be prepared when hunger strikes. I suggest tossing in a few trail bars into one of the side pouches of your bag. Although any food is better than no food, I highly recommend using bars that you have tried before. I don’t care how hungry you are, It’s no fun to eat bars that taste like cardboard.
if you’ve ever experienced a stuck filter, you know how frustrating the experience can be. Try as you might, the filter won’t budge. Filter wrenches give you a little extra leverage to to remove even the toughest of filters. They’re cheap and take up almost no extra space in your bag. I can’t tell you how many times these little gadgets have saved my shots.
Hat and gloves
It is nearly impossible to think clearly when you’re not comfortable. If you can’t think clearly, you cannot concentrate and if you cannot concentrate, you will not get good shots. Even in summer months, It can be a good idea to carry a hat and gloves. You might find yourself on a cold foggy coastline or high amongst the chilly mountain peaks. Either way, it’s good to be prepared no matter what. REI has a great selection of hats and gloves.
Camera rain jacket
Learn from my mistakes. Always carry a rain jacket for your camera and always use it when shooting near the coast. Salt water corrodes cameras rather quickly. All it takes is one rouge splash to completely soak your camera. I once had to fork over a grand to fix a camera with water damage. If I had been using a storm jacket, the camera would probably have survived the relatively small splash. Storm jackets work great when shooting next to misty waterfalls as well. Don’t let water ruin your gear and your shot.
You never know when you’re going to need a shower and it’s always best to be prepared. Just kidding, Shower caps work well to protect the front element of your lens when shooting in wet conditions. Sometimes you just have to wait for the weather to break and when it breaks the scene may only be visible for a few seconds. A shower cap can be removed much quicker than a lens cap and it also helpas to protect the front portion of the lens from the weather.
Rain cover for your camera bag
Your rain cover doesn’t do you any good when it’s at home. The best practice is just to leave it in your camera bag at all times. This way it will be there when you need it.If your bag did not come with a rain cover you can always buy a third party one from REI.
A small hand towel can be a very useful item in you bag. Should your camera ever get splashed, you’ll be prepared to dry it off. Hand towels are also useful for wiping sand off of your tripod and feet after shooting at the beach. Lastly, a towel can act as a bandage if you take a hard fall.
Spare caps and screws
I always carry at least one spare lens cap for every size lens that is in my bag. It is inevitable that you will loose or drop one at some point. I’ve watched my fair share roll down mountain sides. Having a spare cap is a little peace of mind that costs practically nothing compared to a lens or filter.
After your bag is packed with your camera, lenses and any additional gear, it can start to weigh up. That being said, there is one more piece of gear that I recommend sticking in your bag. I leave my camera battery charger in my bag at all times because I don’t want to head out on a trip and forget it at home. (I did that once.) If you leave a charger in your bag, you never have to worry about this happening to you. Not to mention you can always charge up at a cafe or airport if needed.
What items are in your camera bag?
Leave a comment below if I missed an essential item that you carry in your bag.
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