I know it might feel comfortable or sound obvious to pack as much camera gear as possible for a photography trip. But I’m here to tell you that you do not need all of your gear.
In this article I am going to discuss strategic planning to bring as little camera equipment as possible for a trip.
For a recent trip to Seattle and Palouse, Washington, I didn’t want to carry my heavy 2.8 glass from Nikon. That includes the 24-70 and 70-200.
I could have easily packed both of those lenses and then my 1.7x extender for the 70-200 and I’d have a fantastic range of glass from wide to far. All with some of the best optical quality available from Nikon.
But I wanted to go a different route. Because I knew I would be doing a lot of walking, would need to carry rain gear, cold weather and warm weather gear and my heavy duty Really Right Stuff tripod (which isn’t heavy, but it is large and strong).
Knowing where I was going, and the potential photography plans, and weather, I had the ability to pre-plan what to bring. So what I packed was the following.
- MindShift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon 34L
- Waist bag
- Nikon D810 with L-Bracket
- Nikon 28-300 VRII
- Nikon 35mm
- Nikon 20mm
- CF/SD cards in storage wraps
- 5 batteries
- Large pocket
- WD My Passport Wireless
- Neutral Density and CPL filters in case
- Friend maker
- iPhone battery backups and cables
- Intervalometer / Trigger Trap Cable
- Bag and camera rain cover
- Really Right Stuff Pano Kit
- Rain jacket and sweatshirt
- Aquatech gloves
I know that might sounds like a lot of gear, but really it isn’t. Really I brought exactly what I needed for this trip. The. 28-300 is much lighter than the two 2.8 lenses from Nikon. The 2 prime lenses I packed weight practically nothing as well. So I barely feel the weight of the camera equipment. Most of the weight in this bag comes from the tripod itself and the pano gear.
The is another reason for taking the 28-300 aside from the weight. The other reason for taking the 28-300 rather than the other 2 lenses and extender is because the 70-200 with the extender is no longer a 2.8 lens. So why carry the extra weight and large lenses if the aperture gain isn’t large enough when compared to the other lens?
In fact, the 28-300 makes a fantastic travel lens. Usually I might have packed the 24-120. But the rolling hills in Palouse warrant a longer lens around the 300mm range or even longer.
Being that my trip was short I likely could have packed all of my clothes in the backpack as well. But I decided to check a bag instead. I didn’t want to add even more weight to the backpack than it already had. So in my checked bag I packed.
- Additional clothes like shirts and shorts and socks and underwear
- Battery chargers for camera batteries and plug for WD backup
- Flashlights for post-midnight photography
- Protein bars for when hungry out making photographs
So as you can see, not much was in that small suitcase. So I could have easily fit it in the backpack. But as I said earlier, why add the extra weight to carry on my back when I could just roll that bag to the hotel.
Overall Thoughts On The Mindshift Rotation 180
My friend Scott Starks had the Rotation 180 Professional, and was on the same trip as me. We compared bags and shared some thoughts. Then our friend Mark Garbowski, who was also on the trip and was intrigued by the bags, sent an email asking for some feedback. Here are Scott’s thoughts on the bag.
In general, I’m very happy with the Mindshift Rotation 180 Pro (the largest in the series). It did what I was really hoping it would do, allow me access to my most common gear (camera/lenses) without taking the bag off and putting it on the ground. This can also be a bit frustrating. If you aren’t wearing the bag, getting access to gear in the hip bag portion is now more difficult as sliding the bag out/in when it is not being worn is less convenient.
I chose the larger bag because I want to carry my 15″ laptop and the larger hip bag would fit more of my common lenses (28-300mm, 14-24mm, 15mm Fisheye) with my main camera body (Nikon D800). However, when traveling by plane, the bag works ok. It fits in standard overhead bins (e.g. 737), but probably won’t in regional prop planes (e.g. Bom 400). It does slide under the seat, but will stick out. I wasn’t flagged by anyone on this, but I could see that happening. Also, it may or may not fit in the bag sizers by gates. I planned ahead and I would have taken out the hip bag and my laptop and then the bag could be gate checked.
- Hip bag worked great (periodically got stuck on the flap, but with practice it became easier)
- I can also rotate around the entire bag and get access to the upper chamber
- Plenty of room for all the gear I wanted to bring
Things I wish it had:
- I wish it was a little taller (would affect under seat plane travel) so it would sit on my hips just a bit better (I’m 6’2″).
- Better handling of extra strap lengths. I seemed to be a flutter of straps.
- Documentation could be better (practically none) since it had many adjustment points that I had no idea how to use since I was migrating from a simpler camera bag.
Features that didn’t work well:
- I had hopes for the tripod suspension system (would allow for quick access to tripod without taking off bag). However, with rock feet on my tripod it was difficult to use without cutting up my hands. Since then I’ve had a few thoughts on how I might be able to use it and I’ll be trying it on my next trip.
And here are some of my thoughts specific to Mark’s questions.
- I wish it was lighter and had A LITTLE storage in the top compartment (without the extra insert)
- I think the size I got was just right. The bigger model (which Scott Starks has) would be too big for my liking. The size smaller wouldn’t hold my D810 with the lens attached.
- I wish the bag had more pockets, but other than that it’s pretty sweet!
- One feature I love about it, is that due to the hiking style design and adjustments, the backpack is extremely comfortable.
- The bag is packed with a bunch of cool features, like the rotating waist bag and the reservoir pocket. Although I didn’t use a reservoir, I did use the pocket for some accessories and a flashlight.
Summing It Up
Next time you are packing for a photo trip, whether long or short, think carefully about what to pack. Research the location(s) you will be photographing. Look into the weather ahead of time. Then check your equipment and lay it all out on a table.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- What is essential for the trip?
- What could I live without for this trip?
- What would be nice to bring and doesn’t weigh too much?
- Could a “travel” zoom perform as needed?
- Could I manage with just prime lenses?
I can’t share this article without stating something obvious to some and not so obvious to others. If you do not own specific equipment that could be better suited for your trip, then rent it. Checkout Borrow Lenses, Lens Rentals or Lens Pro To Go. Each can serve you well.
So pack well and safe travels.