16 Pieces of Gear to Up Your Travel Photography
I want to preface this post by saying that camera gear is subjective. Very much like photography itself. Depending on your style of photography or the type of travel you do will influence what goes in your camera bag.
This post is for the photographer who travels, which most likely means the following:
- You’re physically carrying all your gear
- You have limited space
- You have to do more with less
- Efficiency is a priority
- Extra Protection for Gear and Images
If this sounds like you, then we can relate! Here’s our top 16 pieces of gear we use for travel photography that we bring on all our outdoor adventures.
TABLE OF CONTENTS - click below to be taken to a specific topic
1. DSLR Camera Body
Here at We Who Roam, we use a DSLR camera body for the majority of our images, more specifically a Nikon D810 FX SLR.
Before you allow your emotions to run wild, we want you to know that we believe several brands have great cameras, lenses, and accessories.
Whether you shoot Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, DSLR or Mirrorless, or any other brand or style we’re just stoked that you’re shooting! The theme of this post is based on what’s in our camera bag, but you can apply the majority of this gear to any platform.
2. Extra, Extra Batteries
What’s a camera without any juice?
We emphasize carrying multiple batteries when traveling. For our D810 we have 4 batteries and 6 for our D3300. Do some research as every brand will have different types of batteries with varying battery life.
When traveling you might go a day or 2 without being able to recharge. It’s a sinking feeling when you get all set up for that perfect shot and the battery icon starts blinking with no spares available.
This battery is compatible with the Nikon:
D610, D500 and D500 Sports & Wildlife Kit
D750, D7000, D7100, D7200 and D7500
D800, D800E, D810, D810A, D850
Compatible with the Nikon:
Coolpix, P7800, P7700, P7100, P7000
DF, D5600, D5500, D5300, D5200, D5100
D3400, D3300, D3200, D3100
Compatible with most EOS Canon Camera Bodies.
3. Carry Multiple Cards (SD/CF)
This is a general rule whether you’re traveling or not, but we’ll say it again because it’s so important.
Use all your card slots on your camera and carry backups.
The majority of pro level camera bodies have 2 card slots, newer cameras generally having 2x SD card slots. Other cameras, like our D810, have 1x SD card slot and 1x CF card slot. Use both slots and set your camera to back up every image you shoot.
This way if 1 card gets corrupted you’ll have a back up.
On top of using 2 cards in camera, we recommend carrying at least 2 extra cards for a total of 4 or more cards. When you’re traveling and a set of cards fill up, you’ll be grateful that you have at least an extra pair to shoot with.
Buy in 2’s so you’ll always have a backup when shooting.
1 more tip – As for storage it’s widely recommended that you don’t get cards over 32GB. This is just one more safety measure to not put all your eggs in 1 basket. If you lose data on a card, it’s better that it’s 32GB over 64GB.
We use the following cards:
So, What’s the Best Lens for Travel Photography?
Short answer: It depends.
You’ve probably heard the term “The Holy Trinity of Lenses,” and if you haven’t it refers to the group of lenses that cover ultra wide to long telephoto focal lengths.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Primes are sharper, faster, and better in low light, why would I use a zoom? First, I’m referring to pro level zoom lenses, which rival prime lenses in many ways and second, travel.
If you wanted a focal range of 14-200 spread out among prime lenses you’re going to need even more money, a second camera bag, and mad patience for all of those lens changes.
Again, this is also subjective depending on your style. You don’t necessarily need 3 zoom lenses or a dozen prime lenses. Some photographers shoot with only a single prime lens while others choose a single zoom. In the end, a zoom will give you more options in focal lengths and the convenience to, well, zoom.
For us, we shoot landscape, portrait, people, and sometimes wildlife (when we can catch a glimpse). The general styles for basic travel photography.
The holy trinity of lenses satisfies all of these styles while taking up the least amount of space. In my opinion, a (pro level) zoom lens is the best lens for travel photography.
Before we jump into the Trinity here’s some info on focal lengths to help you understand these lenses and what they’re used for:
- 10-15mm Ultra Wide Angle
- 16-28mm Wide Angle
- 28-40mm Normal
- 40-60mm Short Telephoto
- 60-135 Medium Telephoto
- 135-300mm Long Telephoto
- 300+mm Super Telephoto
You can read more on each of these focal lengths from the guys at Photography-Cameras.org.
4. 14-24 Lens – Ultra Wide Angle Monster
This lens has a mind bending range of 114 to 84 degrees.
Set at 14mm or 114°, this focal length is beyond the average person’s field of vision. That’s huge!
So wide in fact, many photographers have trouble composing shots. A more traditional ultra wide focal length is 24mm. So with this ultra wide angle monster you get the best of both worlds and all in between.
We specifically use this lens for landscape photography and when we want to capture an entire audience in a small space.
My absolute favorite is shooting massive natural landscapes, covering fore, middle, and background. The result is an immersive image you can practically walk into as you look at it.
We use the arguably best ultra wide zoom lens in the market. The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.
For our Canon friends we recommend the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM.
5. 24-70 Lens – Sound and Best “All Around”
The 24-70 is considered a “Mid Zoom” and it’s just that. It stretches from wide to mid telephoto perfect for landscapes to portraits.
This lens gets a lot of time on the D810 because of this. An ultra wide lens just can’t do portraits the way a mid or long telephoto can and a long telephoto lens can’t encompass what an ultra wide lens can.
While this is the most convenient lens of the 3, we’ve noticed that it’s the least unique of the 3. Because of the convenience of this focal range, it’s the most commonly used focal lengths for many people.
Having to just shoot ultra wide or just long telephoto forces you to get creative with your shots and you often produce something more impactful because of it. With that said, the mid zoom 24-70 still gets a lot of light because of it’s versatility.
After tons of research, reading reviews, and watching comparison videos, we decided on the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. It’s half the price of Nikon and Canon’s glass and it rivals their equivalents head on with very minor nuances. Canon friends can find it here.
6. 70-200 Lens – Compression Obsession
Want a tack sharp portrait with creamy bokeh and a massively compressed background?
A long telephoto lens is what you need.
Shelby often commented that our portraits with the 24-70 were just missing something. She couldn’t even describe it at first, but I soon realized that she was referring to the amount of compression in an image produced by a longer focal length. Isolating or emphasizing a subject while pulling in the background and making it look HUGE.
Alongside intensely compressed shots, we also get the distance needed for candid shots of people and just enough reach to capture wildlife. These benefits have amplified our travel photography greatly.
And now you know, the Holy Trinity of Zoom Lenses, covering Ultra Wide (14mm) to Long Telephoto (200mm). All 3 lenses crucial for multiple styles of travel photography.
7. Compact Travel Tripod
First off, why would I need a travel tripod?
If you’re traveling solo you’ll want a tripod to take pictures of yourself. Shoot in low light using a tripod to keep your shot steady while you use a slower shutter speed.
Shooting landscapes? Use a tripod to help give you the sharpest image possible.
In a perfect world we would bring a full size tripod with no more than 2 leg sections and no center column, but this is not the case. It’s only appropriate that we recommend a travel tripod for travel photography.
A full size tripod isn’t exactly easy to pack or take onto a plane. You’ll need to sacrifice some stability for something highly portable.
If you haven’t already explored the tripod world, you’ll quickly find out that quality tripods are very expensive. On top of that, many of the finer tripods have to be purchased in 2 parts; tripod legs and tripod head.
While you can spend literally thousands on a complete tripod, we found a very reasonable set up we’ve been very pleased with for much less. I’ll mention our setup after the following text.
Light Tripod Legs
For legs you can choose aluminum or carbon fiber with lock levers or twist locks. Aluminum is generally cheaper and heavier, while carbon fiber is lighter and more expensive.
As for locks, we prefer the streamline design of twist locks over the bulkier lock levers. Although lock levers are easier to maneuver in cold weather and in general.
Sturdy Ball Head
As for a ball head, this nifty topper allows you to angle and spin your camera freely in any direction with the simple twist of knob. This is so convenient for making quick and immediate adjustments.
When it comes to ball heads you’ll want to pick one that can handle the weight of the heaviest camera and lens combination that you own. You’ll see under specifications the max weight that a ball head can handle.
If you’re at the top of a ball heads max weight, I’d recommend going a size larger. A ball head won’t sturdily hold your camera in place if the camera is too heavy for it.
So, What Do We Use?
As I previously stated, you can spend hours reading how a $1,000+ tripod is the answer to stability and ultimate control, but we’ve found an underdog setup that we’re more than happy with for half the price. Even better is that the tripod legs and head are under the same brand, and that brand is Sirui.
Assembled, this tripod weighs under 5 pounds and shrinks down incredibly small. An important quality when it comes to travel photography.
There are some smaller and lighter options out there, but we opted for taller, stiffer travel legs and a beefy ball head to handle our full frame D810, our heavy 70-200mm lens, and on camera accessories including battery grip, extra battery, shotgun mic, L-Bracket, and Capture Clip.
If you’re strapped for cash there are several great bargain tripods available with very similar features at a fraction of the cost. You will notice significant differences in the build quality and overall sturdiness, but they’re better than no tripod at all!
AmazonBasics 63-Inch Lightweight Aluminum Travel Tripod/Monopod with Bag
(Yep, Amazon Basics is on the wagon)
8. Increase Efficiency with an L-Bracket
Since I went into so much detail about a travel tripod I might as well tell you about L-Brackets. These brackets are in the shape of an L and generally work with Arca Swiss compatible Ball Heads. They attach to your camera body so you can quickly move your camera back and forth between landscape and portrait.
Ball heads do allow you to tilt your camera into the portrait position, but it’s at the cost of the camera being off center over the tripod, off setting weight and stability. Also, by using the ball head to move the camera from Landscape to Portrait, you lose your original composition as the ball head position changes.
With an L-Bracket, you lock the ball head with the composition you want and you can freely shift the camera from Landscape to Portrait on top. This maintains center weight and allows you to capture the same composition.
Until recently, many L Brackets were custom and made to fit different types of camera bodies, but now we have a few brands making Universal L-Brackets.
We picked up a 3 Legged Thing QR11-LG Universal L-Bracket on the cheap and never looked back!
9. Meet Convenience with a Wireless Remote Shutter Release
Whether you’re traveling alone needing selfies, with a partner needing pics of the 2 of you, or you just want sharper images in low light, a wireless remote shutter release is invaluable. The one we use in particular has an insane 300ft radius and operates with a single AAA battery.
It’s amazing and we think, essential, for many types of travel photography.
10. We Trust in the Peak Design Capture Clip V3
When you’re traveling and on the move, a camera strap isn’t always ideal. Have you tried wearing your camera strap over your backpack? It’s uncomfortable and often times more of a pain than a convenience.
Enter the Peak Design Capture Clip. This is by far my favorite way to carry our camera. You simply attach the 4-way Arca Swiss compatible plate to the bottom or your camera body and anchor the clip to your belt or backpack strap.
The plate locks into the clip securely and with the push of a button you can release it. The clip is rated for 200lbs so as long as your clip and plate are fully tightened, your rig isn’t going anywhere until you want it too.
With this setup you get virtually no camera bounce and the camera is held close to the body, either at my hip or over my chest. This poses far less risk of my expensive gear banging into things as you walk around.
To make my work flow even more efficient I did shell out for a second Peak Design Clip so I can have 1 permanently mounted to my backpack and one for my belt.
For heavier setups, I’d also recommend using the Pro Pad, which prepositions the clip lower and into a more comfortable position off your belt.
The only draw backs I’ve experienced is that you need to double, triple check that the plate is secure so there are no accidental drops (this is true for many straps too). And the fact that your camera has nothing to save it from hitting the ground should you drop it.
A hand strap could solve this, but I personally free hand it and have yet to have any accidents. *knock on wood*
11. Stay Strapped with the Peak Design Slide Camera Strap
I already said it and I’ll say it again, I prefer the Capture Clip V3 to any camera strap. But with that said, sometimes a strap is more convenient or comfortable.
When I’m not wearing a backpack and want to casually shoot pictures, a strap is nice to have and the guys at Peak Design also make a mighty fine strap. Also compatible with their Capture Clip. Smart design team and marketing for sure!
This strap is wide, comfy, durable, and includes quick detach points so I can effortlessly remove the strap in seconds when I want to go back to my Capture Clip carry.
No need to spend 10 minutes fastening or unfastening the strap to 2 points of the camera.
12. Protect Your Photos with a Water and Shock Resistant Card Case
You spent the money on the camera, lenses, batteries, and now several cards. Keep your cards safe from the elements and travel by keeping em in a water and shock resistant card case.
Unlike every other piece of travel photography gear, a card case can truly be had on the cheap. Relieved? Yeah, us too.
13. Your Travel Cleaning Kit
For on the go cleaning, we highly recommend an air blaster, lens cloth, lens cleaner solution in a 3oz or smaller bottle, and a LensPen. This sweet, compact pen has a retractable brush and a dry carbon compound lens surface cleaner. Perfect for those frustrating water marks and stubborn smudges.
A must have in your travel photography gear as you never know when you’ll need a quick clean when you’re out in the field.
This kit is small and very effective.
BONUS TIP: Unless your images are being affected, it’s best to keep cleaning minimal. Regular, unwarranted cleaning of a lens can lift the nano coating off, affecting image quality permanently.
We use the following in our Cleaning Kit:
LensPen Cleaning Kit (in this kit you get 3 sizes stored in a roll up microfiber cloth)
If you want to save some money the following kit is unbeatable for the price. If we didn’t already invest in the above I would try this out.
You’ll still need some solution!
14. Card Reader Equals Lightning Fast Transfer Speeds
Travel photography involves travel which means you’re moving frequently and may have less down time. After a day of shooting, it’s a good habit to upload your images to your laptop and external hard drives.
We might have hundreds of images or a few hours of video footage at the end of the day and we’re not about to lose it!
Many laptops don’t have integrated SD Card Reader and most certainly don’t have CF Card Readers. A dedicated multi card reader will give you all the options you need to transfer from any card you’re working with.
We use a UGREEN USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader Hub.
Be sure to back your images up on both your computer and an external hard drive so your cards can be cleared and ready for the next shoot!
15. Do Not Skip on an External Hard Drive
As stated above, you’ll want a reliable external hard drive to take with you during your travels. Backing up your backups is a good habit to get into. We do it with our cards and we do it with our hard drives.
Personally, I save our images to my laptop and 2 separate external hard drives. A number of things can go wrong even though we all want to believe bad things won’t ever happen to us. Be aware of things like theft, water damage, drops, corruption, and internal failures.
Can you imagine coming home knowing you lost hundreds of irreplaceable memories? Ugh, neither can we and that’s why we double, triple back up.
We use a couple Western Digital WD 4TB Black My Passports.
If you’re hard on your gear or just want extra protection, then we’d recommend a couple of the Transcend Military Drop Tested 2 TB USB 3.0 H3 External Hard Drives.
16. Camera Backpack or Camera Insert Bag?
Okay, you now have a hefty investment in your travel photography equipment. As with many hobbies, the spending has snowballed and you need to protect your investments.
A dedicated camera backpack or camera insert is another invaluable part of your rig.
Depending on the type of travel you do and how much gear you plan to carry will decide which form of protection is best for you.
A dedicated camera backpack generally features full zippered access from the back of the backpack with several cushioned compartments paired with foam dividers to customize the fitting of your contents. This provides ultimate protection for your gear while you’re traveling.
When we travel we’re often hiking outdoors. I immediately knew that I needed a “backpacking” style camera backpack to accommodate my travel photography and videography along with other hiking essentials. This landed me on the Atlas Adventure Camera Backpack.
If this pack is too big for you (totally understandable) then you want to look at the smaller version called the Atlas Athlete Camera Pack.
Camera Insert Bag
If you already have a backpack you’re happy with, you could always just use a camera insert bag. A camera insert bag is just a rectangular shaped bag that holds your camera, lenses, and some accessories.
A camera insert bag can then be placed in an appropriately sized travel backpack or any other kind of travel bag. This is a more budget friendly option and gives you the ability to place your camera gear in virtually any kind of carry/travel option.
Our close friend and fellow photographer uses the well known Tenba BYOB 10 Camera Insert Bag.
This bad boy/girl/thing houses a camera body and 2-4 lenses, plus accessories.
16 Valuable Pieces of Camera Gear for Your Consideration
If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for reading! I’ve spent dozens of hours researching all of the pieces of gear on this list as I’ve grown in photography. I genuinely hope that this article has given you insights and provided you with new opinions as to how you approach travel photography.
Every item on this list has permanent residence in my travel photography work flow.
Efficiency, quality, and convenience are major considerations when traveling with camera gear.
Did I miss something on this list that is absolutely crucial for travel photography? Do you own any of the pieces of gear from above? I’d love to know in a comment below! Also, feel free to ask me any questions you may have. Always love a good gear chat!
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