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?

Clothing:

  • 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)

Shoes:

  • 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!

Kat Clay is an award-winning photographer and writer from Melbourne, Australia. Her novella, Double Exposure, was published in 2015 by Crime Factory. Her work has been published in The Victorian Writer, Literary Traveler, TNT, Travel Weekly, Matador Network and Weird Fiction Review. She loves inspiring people to be more creative in everyday life.

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  • Caroline Ritchey

    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!