Tools for the Traveling Photographer

When you’re on the road or overseas, there are things you want in your gear bag that you might not need to drag around with you when you’re close to home. Besides a backup camera or spare camera body, there are a few tools that have saved a shoot for me on more than one occasion.

photography and traveling

Photo captured by Sharon Bishop

A Small Tool Kit

The kind I carry is made by Black & Decker and has a ratchet handle and variety of screwdrivers, hex heads, and small sockets. I’m constantly amazed at what you can fix with this small kit.

A Flashlight

Don’t leave home without one. I actually pack several. At Home Depot you can sometimes get small, push-button LED flashlights with batteries for a dollar. At that price they’re almost disposable.

I carry two in my vest and one more in every equipment bag I carry. Besides those I carry a Nebo Redline Tactical Flashlight with a built-in strobe.

A Copy of Public Law 106-206

If you’re shooting on government land or in US parks, carry a copy of this regulation with you at all times. Sometimes park staff will try to claim you need a permit to shoot on federal land, but that’s only true if you’re using models, non-natural props, posing a risk to the public, or you require extensive assistance from park personnel.

I’m constantly surprised how often park personnel don’t know their own rules and try to bluff their way through. That’s why I started carrying a copy of the regs.

travel photography essential gear

“China – Fenghuang” captured by melenama

A Pocket Knife

Hard to get through airport security these days but indispensable in the field, there are few things more useful than a good pocket knife.

You don’t need to carry a folding bayonet—just something with a pocket clip and sturdy blade. I carry a Kershaw 1620. Be sure to check transport rules and blade length laws where you’re going.

Set of Jeweler’s Screwdrivers

Almost anything that’s going to need tightening on your camera is going to need a jeweler’s screwdriver. I’ve also used mine as distance markers and framing references stuck in the ground (not recommended by the manufacturer).

Gaffer Tape

This is a habit I picked up shooting video. Gaffer tape is the duct tape of the visual arts. You can tape something down and it doesn’t leave a sticky glue residue behind. If you ever go to a movie set, there will inevitably be one or two production assistants running around with a loop of different colored gaffer tape hanging off their belt.

traveling photo

“Going somewhere” captured by Thomas Jeppesen

Extra Lens Caps

You’ll lose one, eventually. It’s inevitable. I always, always put my lens cap in my left front pants pocket. A habit picked up over the years, and yet even I lose one once in a while.

Carry a spare cap in your vest or camera bag, and you’ll always have one.

Shower Caps and Disposable Ponchos

You can get disposable shower caps and clear rain ponchos by the box at the Dollar Store. They’re cheap and life savers in bad weather.

One time I was in a mountainous part of Oregon, miles from the car ,when a weather front moved in. I was able to take two ponchos and a roll of gaffer tape and fashion a crude shelter. When my friends got back, soaked to the bone, they found me warm and dry under my tent on a recliner made of equipment bags.

There’s traveling, and then there’s traveling in style.

About the Author:
Peter Timko writes for Proud Photography (http://www.proudphotography.com/) – an online photography school.

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7 Comments

  1. Joe Pellicone says:

    would be good if you could provide links to the tools you have

  2. maheanuu says:

    Great Common Sense Article! I found things that I had never thought of here, appreciate your post and will copy it for reference.

  3. Kris Koeller says:

    This is a great list. My best investment has been a lightweight, carbon-fiber Manfrotto trippod. Goes everywhere with me..

  4. Thanks for the tips! Gaffer tape is a new one for me. I’m definitely checking that one out!

    I’m with Kris above. If at all possible, I always like to bring along a lightweight tripod or at least a monopod.The carbon fibers from Gitzo are my favs although crazy expensive!

    Thanks again!
    Mary

    http://better-photography.com/

  5. Fred Seaver says:

    When on Government Land I carry my DD 2 (Retired)

  6. Michael says:

    Agreed with your list and I carry a handful of other weather-related/general goodies as well. Be sure to pack some freezer ziplock bags of various sizes, 20 feet of heavy duty thick string, 18-24″ thick piece of plastic to kneel/sit on, absorbent hand towels (cloth and/or paper), Sharpie, and most important of all – a Sima LED light (tape in off position when not in use so it doesn’t get bumped in on position), I’m sure there’s more in my bag but those are the biggies (like my Garmin GTU10 tracking unit so if it gets stolen I can quickly track it down with my mobile phone).

  7. Rildo says:

    Law 106 – 206, where can i get a copy? Does anybody have a link to that?

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