Light travel backpack and camera bag

Travelling light as a photographer (no zip-off pants allowed)

Two and a half weeks with only cabin baggage sounds terrifying to most people. And it’s exactly what I’m doing tomorrow morning. I’m flying off to the States with only a small backpack and my camera satchel.

I’ve travelled with a small bag before, in a three week trip around Vietnam. It was a completely liberating experience. I loved it when concierges looked to help me with my bags and couldn’t find any. I kept my camera gear in a small satchel bag and my personal items in a 25L backpack. Getting around uneven streets was a breeze, and it was brilliant walking straight off the plane and into a taxi.

Fast-forward a few years, and I’d given up my light travelling ways for a clamshell suitcase and wheels. But last year when I visited New York, trying to drag a 20kg roller bag up the subway stairs, I vowed I was going to travel light next time.

But as an outrageous lover of wacky vintage clothing, funky t-shirts and Leona Edmiston dresses, I couldn’t bear to wear nylon quick drying shirts to New York. No, I wanted to do it in style.

It’s a tough challenge, especially when you’re a photographer and need to include camera gear. The trickiest part is planning for multiple outings. My plans range between three-course banquets to 10 mile cycles. Plus I have my camera gear to think about. But after stressing about my packing for a week, I think I’ve finally done it. Here’s what I’m taking.

Contents of light travel pack

It all fits into my trusty Tatonka 25l backpack, which I took on that original Vietnam trip all those years ago.

What’s in my backpack?


  • 3 casual dresses
  • Cocktail dress (I have absolutely no shoes to wear with this, but I may just wear my riding boots and go for a classy combat look)
  • 3 shirts
  • 2 pants
  • Jumper
  • Leather jacket (goes with everything and makes me look cool)
  • Star Wars pajamas (goes with sleeping and makes me look nerdy)
  • Exercise gear
  • Undies et al
  • Belt that goes with everything
  • Hair drying wrap (okay okay this is a luxury but I’m not bringing a hairdryer)


  • Riding boots
  • Sneakers

Random stuff:

  • Copies of my book in a plastic container (don’t want them getting smoodged)
  • Toiletries, make up, contact lenses, the usual
  • Hat
  • Small umbrella
  • Laundry detergent, sink plug and clothesline
  • Bowl, spoon and fork for breakfasts (I eat cereal in the hotel for cheap, it makes a huge difference)
  • Power chargers and converters
  • Inflatable neck pillow

I have probably packed too much, but I really like these dresses and couldn’t decide which ones to take.

Now for the camera gear. I’m excited to try out my new Kata camera satchel. I used to use a backpack, but I found it was too big for the equipment I was carrying. I’ve also decided against taking my laptop, instead replacing this with a portable keyboard and tablet. Instead of my big tripod, I’m taking a tiny Gorillapod which fits perfectly into the satchel.

Light camera bag

What’s in my camera bag?

  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Sigma 10-20 f/4.5-5.6
  • Crumpler pull out camera protector
  • Gorillapod
  • Water bottle
  • Tablet and portable keyboard
  • Kikki K travel wallet (and all the stuff that goes inside)

I’m keen to see how this experiment goes, but one thing’s for sure, it won’t be as much pain as lugging a suitcase through the subway!

What’s the one thing you can’t travel without? Would you ever travel with just cabin baggage? Respond in the comments below!

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One comment

  • Caroline Ritchey October 22, 2016  

    I do most of my traveling with one carry-on bag. I can’t stand to pay extra to wait for luggage that is most likely lost.. haha. I usually fill an old school pack with all my goodies, and carry a purse as a “personal item”.

    Hmm… the one thing I can’t travel without. Other than the whole passport/money deal, I would say that I don’t really travel these days without a good pair of headphones. I learned the hard way after months of South American and African buses, that you need a way to block out all the sounds.

    Good luck and have fun!

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