How to Pack for a Photography Road Trip

Photo gear for a road trip, clockwise from top left: gaffer tape, microfiber cloth, extra glasses, AM/FM radio, Sennheiser shotgun mic, 400mm f2.8 Canon lens, fanny pack, belt bag/pouch, Fotosharp rain covers, CF card wallet with cards, 1.4x tele-extender wtih Mark IV camera body, 16-35 zoom, monopod, extra camera batteries, Canon 1DX with 70-200mm lens. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Photo gear for a road trip, clockwise from top left: gaffer tape, microfiber cloth, extra glasses, AM/FM radio, Sennheiser shotgun mic, 400mm f2.8 Canon lens, fanny pack, belt bag/pouch, Fotosharp rain covers, CF card wallet with cards, 1.4x tele-extender wtih Mark IV camera body, 16-35 zoom, monopod, extra camera batteries, Canon 1DX with 70-200mm lens. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

I was just on a trip to Denver, CO., to shoot the NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Denver Broncos and while packing my gear it occurred to me that the art and science of photography road trip packing might make an interesting post.

What to pack? How to pack it? What can I not afford to forget? Are there any rules for packing for this type of trip?

I used to do a lot of backpacking and packing for a photography road trip is similar: you want to only take the things you’re going to really need, but you also must make sure not to forget anything essential! Photo gear is just esoteric enough that once you reach your far-flung destination, chances are pretty good a decent camera store will not be conveniently close by. So our goal here is to make the right decsions in the packing job.

For big road trips with lots of gear, there’s nothing better than the rolling Airport Security bagby Think Tank Photo. It holds big lenses, camera bodies and everything else you might need for your shoot, AND it fits in the overhead bin of most airlines. This is critical because, NEVER, NEVER  do you want to check your fragile and valuable camera gear! I’ll check my clothes because I can always replace those, but without the camera gear I’m out of a job. So regardless of the bag you use, your first takeaway from this post is: never check your camera gear!

Here's the same equipment packed into a Think Tank Airport Security rolling bag. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Here’s the same equipment packed into a Think Tank Airport Security rolling bag. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Here are the cameras and lenses I currently carry for football:
(1)  Canon 1DX camera body
(1)  Canon Mark IV camera body
(1)  Canon 400mm f2.8 lens (this is a pool item, shared by the staff)
(1)  Canon 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens
(1)  Canon 16-35mm f2.8 wide angle zoom
(1)  Canon 1.4x Tele-extender
(1)  Giottos Monopod—football stadiums don’t allow tripods and the big lenses require a monopod for support
(1)  Canon 580EX Strobe

Beyond cameras and lenses, I have a check list of items I want to remember to pack. Here it is, with explanatory notes about each item:

Knee pads—for outdoor stadiums only. Most require kneeling and it gets cold and wet without the pads. I use a set that’s sold for ceramic tile installation.

Extra batteries—for every device you might use. I typcially carry AAA’s,  AA’s and 9-volts.

Microfiber cloth—keeps the front of lenses clean and works on my glasses too.

Phone chargers—I bring both a wall and an auto charger.

Extra eye glasses—if you have to wear them, bring an extra pair, just in case.

CF or SD cards—depending on your camera, you want plenty of extras.

Belt bags/pouches—In a Domke side belt pouch, I’ll have a Canon 16-35mm f2.8 lens and a 580EX strobe. In a separate fanny pack, I carry an extra camera battery, Sennheiser MKE-400 shotgun mic, AM/FM radio (to listen to the play-by-play of the game) and my CF card wallet. (One camera will have the 400, one the 70-200 for most of the game.)

Rain covers for cameras & lenses—I like the Fotosharp brand because they’re reasonably priced and they work.

Gaffer tape—I always bring a roll of this along. Gaffer tape has a thousand uses, sticks with incredible strength and doesn’t leave a sticky residue when you pull it off.

Rain suit—hopefully you won’t need it, but the games will go on in the rain, so you must be prepared.

Hand towel—if it rains, you need a way to wipe things off. (See my separate post about shooting in the rain for more rain tips.)

That’s about it.Now it’s just a matter of shooting the game and hoping for some decent images!

That's me, top right, behind the guy with the beard and pony tail....notice how none of us is getting much of a photo, once Drew Brees (#9) turned away....

That’s me, top right, behind the guy with the beard and pony tail….notice how none of us is getting much of a photo, once Drew Brees (#9) turned away….

Here's how it looked from my side of the shot. Note how almost everyone has their cameras raised up shooting 'Hail Mary' shots. (Photo by G. Andrew Boyd, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

Here’s how it looked from my side of the shot. Note how almost everyone has their cameras raised up shooting ‘Hail Mary’ shots. (Photo by G. Andrew Boyd, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

2 Comments on "How to Pack for a Photography Road Trip"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. BayouBill says:

    Very timely, since I will be shooting the state high school cross country finals next week for our local weekly, and you mention a few things I didn’t already have on my list. Thanks!

  2. Glad to hear it, Bill. Good luck with your shoot!

Post a Comment