Minimalistic travel photography equipment & Packing it on plane guide 2021

If you ask me what is the best travel photography gear to use on a trip my answer is:

It is the travel photography equipment that you will keep using almost on a daily basis and it includes:

  • camera with 1 all round lens
  • at least 2 memory cards
  • lens cleaning kit
  • powerboard with 3 plugs and 3 USB ports
  • laptop or tablet
  • USB cables to charge all of the above
  • Gorilla Pod
  • camera battery charger (in case the camera does not charge straight from USB)

It is a minimalist list and a good starting point. It works great for beginners

Best Travel Photography Equipment and how to take all on your flight

I had the above for a 6 weeks trip and I could process all of my photos, store them online and keep working on the road. I would say the perfect kit for a blogger with some limits that I solved with a more extensive list

The IT industry is giving us also new solutions and gear which help greatly on our trip.

That is why it is important to keep this list updated. This guide has been updated for 2018 and there is no old stuff like old cameras, old phones, old memory cards, old computers.

I have also added below a few tips on how to check-in your flight with lots of gear. I usually travel with a laptop, a drone, 5 spare batteries, 2 cameras and 2 lenses all in my carry on.

And let me say that if this post seems like it’s tailor-made for travel photography, that’s because it is.

But before moving to the juicy things let me say that if you are after a great travel photography guide including this kind of tips, tutorials with compositional suggestions and much more then you should download this FREE PDF Guide (no need to give your email, no worries) of over 70 pages.

Travel Photography Gear Guide

The right equipment will make any travel photography experience more enjoyable

Every trip is different and it may require different equipment.

Just think at the difference between a trip in the raining season in India and in winter in Scandinavia. You will have problems of humidity in one case and low temperature in the other.

You may need a different set of gear and solutions to common problems (silica gel pack or rice in one case and more batteries in the other)

Essential equipment

There is obviously gear that you cannot absolutely give up like your main camera and a set of lenses but also the tripod and much more. I like to categorize this equipment as Essential.

The difference with the minimalist list is that this essential equipment will allow you to have a smoother process for your travel photography.

A Gorilla Pod may work great but a tripod will be always better

Here is the essential gear for travel photography (I added my equipment where applicable)

  • Main camera (DSLR or Mirrorless) – Sony A7RII
  • Zoom Lens (generic to cover 24-28mm to 105-120mm) – Sony 24-105mm
  • Memory card #1 – 64GB
  • Memory card #2 – 64GB
  • Sturdy light tripod  – SIRUI
  • Camera batteries (on top of the one you already have): +1
  • Lens cleaning kit
  • Laptop
  • USB cable 2m (to charge the camera directly and transfer my photos too)
  • battery charger (not needed if the camera charges directly through USB)
  • Power board/strip with 3 USB ports (you never know what you have in your hotel room) and one universal power converter: a central point of power
20150514_121022_Equipment_ Gear_ guide_ Travel_ Travel photography

I use today a Sony A7RII with a 42M sensor which is great as I can crop the photo quite considerably (therefore I do not need a wider zoom lens)

The 24-105mm lens is all I need in most of my trips, it covers 95% of my photography. I like to take a 35mm prime with me as well, mostly for markets and street, but it’s so tiny that I almost forget to have it in my pocket.

The tripod can be a bit of a pain. The obvious choice is a light one (carbon made). I recently travelled with a ZOMEI 669, it’s a bit short but so much lighter too. I usually take it when I plan some hiking or lots of flights.

If you are still unsure about what camera gear to buy then here is my best tip.

Do not buy equipment because other travel photographers or travel bloggers have it.

Making the assumption of “they make great photos with that camera, therefore I can also do it with the same camera” is going to take you to disappointments. 

What it suits me best may not work with you and your type of trips.

I suggest reading this guide for the best camera for travelling.  It’s not a list of cameras but an analysis of the cameras based on your type of trips. There are also a few cameras suggested, based on your conclusions. I wrote a similar guide for lenses. 

Suggested gear

This is the list of equipment that I like to call Suggested. This gear will help you to reach the best results doesn’t matter where you travel

It is not all essential gear as such but it will help to improve the photography experience.

Filters are a typical example. Not really needed but they do make a difference, besides saving time in post-production.

I love working on my Laptop but I prefer to spend my time doing photos then post producing my photos.

A second lens, wide angle, can be used to create unusual views and, of course, it is the best solution for interior photography and it becomes essential for astrophotography, especially a prime with a wide aperture.

A Gorilla Pod is what you want where the usual tripods are not allowed.

This is what I usually take on top of my essential list

  • Wide angle lens (to cover 12-14mm to 20-24mm) : 14mm prime f/2.8
  • Polarizer filter
  • Collapsible 5-1 small reflector (it works magic for portraits and food): I bought a 20cm collapsable on eBay
  • Gorilla tripod
  • Remote trigger: my phone in these days
  • Small camera bag (to use when hiking)
  • External Hard disk (256GB at least), or the internet if available: I have a 3TB
  • Swiss Army Knife

You may also want to consider a Multiport USB charger, in case the power board/strip does not include 3 or more USB ports 

swiss_knife_185314_Equipment_ Gear_ guide_ Travel_ Travel photography

Adventure Photography Equipment

Here is another short list of equipment that would take your photography, and your video, to the next level.

This is mostly photography equipment for the adventure kind of trip. I like to call this set the Nice to Have gear.

Yes, you can leave this gear behind you, at home or even better at the shop, but you will miss something.

The small instant printer is a typical example. I would never take it if I visit a series of cities, however, it is in my bag if I visit remote areas, for example, some villages in the Sichuan/China.

This is where I can make a photo of the locals and give it to them as a gift. I tell you, that opens a thousand doors, it is a passport to the local community.

Another photography equipment I take with me when I go on a trip is the drone. There is sometimes just no other way to shoot beautiful sceneries from a different corner.

Here is my suggested adventure photography equipment list (to add to the other 2 lists):

  • Silica Gel pack (useful in humid environments but it can be replaced with small bags of rice)
  • Headlamp/flashlight (again useful but it can be replaced with the mobile light)
  • Memory cards: another 3-5 of them, at least 64GB and 100M/s write speed on two of them for 4k video (if interested)
  • Instant Printer (or Polaroid Instant Print Digital Camera)
  • External Flash (if I am planning situations where I will need it, otherwise I will not take it)
  • Spare Camera (the second camera is always a dilemma, it is super practical but the bag becomes too heavy; I did take it only in one 5 -weeks trip and it was a hate-love relationship)
  • Action camera (only if I plan to do some photos or video in the water): GoPro 5 works great in my case
  • FiftyFifty dome for GoPro (to make that beautiful photos with part of it in the water like the one below)
  • Drone: there are many in the market, just make sure the lens is stabilized. I have a MavicPro and it works amazingly well in that respect.

Travelling with camera equipment – How to

I usually travel for work or with my family (wife and a small kid).

When I visit a city on a weekend trip I do not take any of the adventure photography equipment. But when I am on a 2-weeks, or more, trip I usually do.

When I fly to work with a tourism board or a ministry of tourism I take basically everything.

The travel photography equipment can be quite heavy in the end. How do I pack it?

Believe it or not, I usually take most of it in my carry-on luggage. Usually well over 10kg, even if the limit is 7kg

What do I take with me?

My usual carry-on bag has:

  • Camera Sony A7R II with 24-105mm f/4 lens
  • Sony 35mm f/2.8 prime lens
  • GoPro 5
  • DJI Mavic Pro Drone
  • Zhiyun smooth 4 mobile phone stabilizer
  • Laptop
  • Spare batteries (2 for A7RII, 2 for the drone, 2 for the GoPro)
  • 2 USB cables
Hway to Singapore Airport - Photo taken on the train that connects T2 with T3

Hway to Singapore Airport – Photo taken on the train that connects T2 with T3

How do I hack my carry on baggage weight limit?

First important thing, I usually use a carry-on bag that does not look big (but you can put lots of content in it). I love my Timbuk2 Messenger Bag with the Snoop Camera Insert.

There is lots of space inside and it is not eye-catching. And it’s a light bag.

Still, I have 11-12Kg so I always try to be creative.

I take the camera with the heaviest lens and I put it around my neck/shoulder. The strap, however, goes under the t-shirt or the jumper. In this way, the airline agent at the counter can’t really see it.

I take the Zhiyun and I attach it to my belt (the “violin” box has a nice hook)

I remove the laptop before going to the counter and I leave it on the floor, below the carry-on.

When they ask me to check the weight, my camera will have only a few batteries and a Go-Pro5, all under 7Kg.

After the check-in, and just before the custom, I put everything in the bag. At the boarding, if needed, I do the same trick however instead of the laptop, I put all of the spare batteries in my pockets.

Removing the laptop is just one item but it’s more visible.

I have been using this process for the last 3 years and I never experienced a problem.

Bali Airport Hotel

Why not putting expensive gear in the checked luggage?

There are three important reasons:

  • theft: unfortunately you cannot always trust the airports. I am sure you have at least one friend that they opened the checked luggage and stolen something.

Usually, this happens at the departure airport because the bag is left unattended for a long time until all the customer bags are ready to go to the aircraft

  • insurance: most of the equipment insurance policies do not cover gear inside the checked luggage. If they do, then expect a much higher price and few limits (like max $100/item)
  • luggage lost: they may find it and I may have it back in 2-3 days but that would limit my photography experience. No gear for 3 days, I can’t even imagine it 

I usually leave my tripod and the FiftyFifty dome in the checked baggage. They are too bulky and relatively inexpensive.

I would leave also the batteries but nowadays you can’t anymore, it’s an aviation rule and you will be asked at the check-in counter.

The last thing I like to say is that you should always check if you can bring a drone into the country you are visiting. And I am not talking about using it, just taking it.

There are countries like Qatar or India (but many more and increasing) where they would confiscate it at the custom and, theoretically, give it back to you on the way out, assuming you leave from the same airport.

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