Through the Gadling Lens: what’s in my day pack?

Reader Nancy e-mailed me this week:

Hi Karen!

I was just looking at the in my camera bag sidebar on Chookooloonks, and wondered how you go about things when youre out taking photosparticularly when youre traveling. Say youre in a new city and decide to walk about and shoot for a while. Do you take your bag with ALL your lenses, etc? Assuming you dont, lol, how do you decide what to take with you? I thought that might be something you could cover on the Gadling Lens, but if not Id love to hear about itthe physicality of toting your camera gear. Thanks!


As you might remember, late last year, I wrote a post about what I pack with me to go on a trip — and even then, commenters were stunned at the amount of stuff I took with me (and generally crammed into my carry-on roller bag, or on shorter trips, my Crumpler backpack). This week, I thought I’d share everything that I take in my daypack on a particular trip. Feel free to adjust for personal comfort and need.
1. My day-pack.

First of all, it might surprise you that while I’m a fan of large, roomy padded camera bags, I tend not to use them on day trips. Why? Because, in general, they’re heavy. And if I’m going to be out all day carrying a large single-lens-reflex camera with associated lenses, the last thing I want to do is carry a bag that’s going to add to the weight.

So, for day trips, I tend to forego the Crumpler backpack (and certainly the roller bag) for a Kipling bag. I am embarrassed to admit that I have a considerable number of Kipling bags — and none of the girly ones you see on their website, either. When I’m out for the day, depending on the number of lenses I’m going to take with me, I either take my Kipling Lancelot shoulder bag (worn across my chest) or my Kipling Firefly backpack (which, in an abundance of clarity, I own in black). The reason I love Kipling? I love the fabric they’re made from, which I’m not entirely sure is of this planet. Because of the way Kipling makes their bags:

  • since the fabric’s so thin, it allows me to fold each of those bags to surprisingly small dimensions, which can be easily stowed in tight corners in my suitcase;
  • the fabric is astoundingly lightweight, so they don’t add to the weight of what I’m carrying. And when I’m out for 8 hours or more, every ounce counts;
  • the bags don’t look like camera bags, so they don’t advertise that I’m carrying expensive equipment;
  • the fabric is somewhat water-resistant, so the contents of my bag stay relatively dry — at least until I can make it into the nearest wine bar in the event of sudden inclement weather.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, the upshot is that I would recommend you take into account the weight of your daypack prior to purchasing, especially if you’re going to be out for hours at a time. Your back will thank you for it. And as far as the lack of padding — I honestly don’t worry about it. I’m just careful not to swing my bag into any hard walls, or drop it on concrete. I haven’t lost a camera yet.

Then, once I pull out my Kipling bag for the day, I fill it with the following (all fully-charged, as applicable):

2. My camera body.

These days, this means my Nikon D300, although I also own an older Nikon D200. If I’m traveling to a location which (a) is known for pick-pockets, or (b) is likely to be somewhat dirty (like, say, the beach, or the desert), I take the D200. But otherwise, I always default to the D200.

3. My camera lens(es).

I do own a variety of lenses, but one lens that always accompanies me, no matter the trip, is my 24-85mm automatic zoom lens. I love this lens because it is wide enough that I can get a pretty decent scenery shot, but telephoto enough that I can get a decent portrait as well. It’s a very good, all-purpose lens.

In addition to the 24-85mm, and depending on where I’ll be spending my day, I might add my 60mm micro lens. This lens is really beautiful if I want to take extreme up-close detail shots — so if I’m going to be spending the day in a place with really beautiful foliage and flowers, or any other place where there are small details, I’m sure to take this with me.

In the alternative, if I’m going somewhere where I’m going to want to take some intimate portraits of people in a crowded place — say, for example, some sort of festival, like Trinidad Carnival or La Tomatina — the only lens I might take with me that day (even to the exclusion of the 24-85mm) is my 70-200mm lens. This sucker is huge and SO heavy (which is why I don’t take any other lenses), but it takes beautifully intimate shots from relatively far away. And trust me, when you’re taking photographs of people hurling tomatoes at each other, you want to be far away.

4. A small point-and-shoot.

Chances are I won’t ever pull out my Nikon Coolpix, but I throw it in the bottom of the bag as a spare camera, just in case.

As far as camera equipment, that’s pretty much it! The rest of my bag likely has:

5. A Popout map

I discovered these awesome little maps when I lived in London — and there’s one available for almost every major city. They’re great for the major streets of the central part of the city, and they fold very small and tiny — so you don’t scream “TOURIST!” every time you’re looking up an address.

6. A small wallet with cash, one credit card and a cash card. ‘Nuff said.

7. My passport. I’m always torn whether to carry this around with me, or leave it in the safe. Sometimes I leave it in the safe, and take my driver’s license. Either way, I always have a copy in my suitcase.

8. My cellphone. Just in case. Also handy when I’m supposed to meet someone, and I’m running late (or he is).

9. Lip balm or gloss, and powder brush. Because, after all, I am a girl.

And that’s about it — and despite what it might look like, since I usually only have one lens (at most, two), it’s not as much stuff as you might think. Obviously, as I plan my itinerary for each day’s travel, the choice of lens changes, but must of the rest of the daypack stays the same.

Any questions? As always, please feel free to email them to me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom, and I’m happy to address them in upcoming posts!

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.