A Pro’s Tips for How to Pack a Camera Bag

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by John Paul Caponigro

There’s an art to packing. Learning this art will help you make the most of any photographic expedition and enjoy it more.

Do pack the essentials. Don’t pack too much. Traveling with too much is hard to handle, tiring, and can be costly. Less is more – up to a point.


Pack light, washable, quick-drying, versatile clothing that’s comfortable for both walking and casual dinners out. Wear a good pair of light, waterproof hiking boots. Use sun protection: sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. Have waterproof rain shells (jacket and pants) on hand. Use light gloves, hat, long underwear, and a warm light sweater or pullover when it’s cold. Layers rule.


The right bags can make your journey easier. Wheels save you wear and tear. Make sure your camera and/or computer bag fits under an airplane seat or in overhead compartments. (I use LowePro Mini Trekker and Roadrunner bags.) Check your clothing but carry your gear on with you to protect it from being damaged or stolen. If you’re ever forced to check your gear, carry on one camera and lens around your neck.

Cameras and Lenses


Always carry a backup camera. If one is damaged or stolen, you’ll still be able to shoot with the other.

Choose the right lenses. I travel with lenses for three ranges – wide, medium, and long. I rarely walk with all three lenses. Lens shades are important. Polarizing filters are the most useful filters.

Dust and Moisture Protection

Protect your equipment from moisture and dust. I pack all of my lenses and cameras in sealable plastic bags. (I use Ziplocs.) Pack a small cloth to wipe down damp equipment. Consider using a rain cover for your camera. (I use Aquatech covers.) Bring a sensor cleaning system. (I use Visible Dust products.)

Image Storage

Invest in a few large-capacity media cards so you don’t have to stop shooting in the field. (I use SanDisk 16 gig CF cards).  Download onto one portable hard drive and backup to a second. (I use LaCie 500GB Rugged drives.) When you fly, carry one at all times.

Customs How-To

On the web, do a little research on traveling to your destination and determine if a carnet (an official government document proving ownership) is recommended. Even if it’s not, travel with a copy of the insurance policy that lists your equipment and serial numbers.

Before you travel, take the time to get organized and be prepared. You’ll make better photographs and enjoy traveling more, too.

One more note: Blurbarians, enter the South Africa Photo Safari Sweepstakes for a chance to go on a 10-day photo safari with John Paul Caponigro. You can’t win if you don’t enter, so give it a go!

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  1. You don’t mention that wether you win or not, if you are thinking of such a trip yourself you should find out what essential vacinations or other medical issues such as Malaria tablets are relevant…as these may need to be taken/obtained a while before any trip….

    By stuart bailey
      January 13, 2011 – 10:09 am   Permalink
  2. Thanks Stuart – good point.

      January 17, 2011 – 2:40 pm   Permalink

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