One of the most positive changes we have made to our traveling life is learning how to pack light. Here is a video overview and master list of gear I bring with me while I travel the world with my fiancée. All in one fits-under-the-seat-in-front-of-you bag.
My fiancée Diana and I have been traveling nearly full-time for the last few years. We’ve learned through a lot of trial-and-error the best way to pack for extended travel. Carrying too much stuff is one of the biggest problems with how most people pack for their vacation. We manage to each pack a medium sized backpack with everything we need (and a little more).
I’m currently writing this post while staying in an Airbnb just outside the castle walls of Edinburgh, Scotland. We have been traveling for about two weeks with a few more weeks of travel left and I haven’t once felt that I did not bring enough with me. In fact, I may have brought a little too much, even with this minimal list of gear. In the past, Diana and I have traveled in a very similar manner many times before, moving around Europe or Oceania for months on end with nothing but a modestly sized backpack each.
- Clear Plastic Toiletry Bag
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hot Sauce (Amazon)
- Filters and Holder
- Drawstring Pouches
- Camera Cleaning Tools
- Gaffer Tape (Amazon / B&H)
- Beard Trimmer
- Travel Power Plug Adapters
- Smartphone USB Charger +USB Cord
- 3.5mm (1/8″) Stereo Cable (Amazon)
- USB Battery + USB Cord
- Laptop Charger
- Computer Mouse
- Packing Cube
- Running Shorts
- Travel Safe
- Travel Insurance
- USB Hard Drives
Other Essentials Not Shown:
- Earphones with Mic
- Unlocked International Smartphone
- Credit Card
- Bank/Debit Card
- Driver’s License
- Packable Daypack
Optimizing for Your Needs
There were a few items I did not show in the video. My earphones were doubling as a lavalier mic, my smartphone was recording the actual video and my passport and wallet were in my pockets. I also failed to show our packable daypack, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack which was pulled out of my backpack at the time.
All of this stuff fits into a single medium size (approx. 20-35 Liter) backpack. Obviously, your packing list will probably differ a little bit from mine and there are areas that can be optimized even further, depending on your needs. Ultimately, I think it’s important that everything fit into a carry-on size bag that can fit underneath an airline seat. It differs by airline, but typically, if it’s roughly less than 20″ (50cm) tall, 13″ wide (35cm) and 9″ (25cm) deep, your back should fit underneath the seat in front of you. There are many many bags that will fit this profile. Just keep it small and pack from there.
If I were to trim down my already small packing list, there are a number of areas I would optimize: laptop, camera gear and clothes.
My laptop is not small. It’s an older generation 15-inch Macbook Pro. It’s still compact for a 15″ laptop but is overkill for most photographers’ needs. At the time, I bought it for the graphics card. With the latest generation of computing power, a much smaller laptop would suffice. My choice today would be something more like the new 12″ Macbook or Surface Laptop. Also, a computer gaming mouse is completely unnecessary unless you want to play computer games like me. Similarly, 3x USB hard drives is also likely unnecessary. I just have an active project where I actually need that much storage.
Ultimately, a laptop is not even necessary. I’ve traveled previously with just a tablet and portable keyboard instead. Many cameras like the X-T2 now support wireless transfer of files for quick sharing, USB OTG SD card readers are cheap, there’s an android app that converts RAW files to DNG and Snapseed (Android / iOS) supports DNG files. A laptop is now optional.
This is a blog about photography so I’m not going to suggest ditching a dedicated camera just yet. That said, I packed the Fujifilm X-T2 and Rokinon 35mm f/1.2 which makes for a medium to large sized mirrorless camera. One camera body and no more than two lenses is still my personal recommendation when traveling. I might suggest going even smaller if you can. I could have reduced even more weight by using a pancake lens or swapping the entire kit for a highly capable large sensor point and shoot like the RX100 series.
My tripod, the Sirui T-025X is about as small as it can be while still being a “full-size” tripod. If I wasn’t trying to do much night photography or long exposure work, I might opt for a smaller travel tripod like the Pedco UltraPod.
And finally, should I wish to reduce the load even more, I would travel with only 2x pairs of underwear and 2x t-shirts washing one set each night. I’d also consider swapping my shorts and jeans for a pair of synthetic convertible pants.
The idea of minimalism has completely changed our lives. Applying the concept to travel is a liberating and enabling experience. Less stuff makes it easier to concentrate on the place you are. It frees us from distraction and makes it easier to get up and go. I hope my packing list here can help you pare down your travel packing list before your next great adventure.
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12 Replies to “Traveling Photographer: One Bag Ultralight Minimalist Packing List”
thanks for your packaging list. I was wondering if you had any problems with taking your tripod on the plane as a carry-on.
I’ve carried tripods on planes for many years with no issues.
Nice video and article, I’m into minimalist traveling and wanted to reduce my items and weight. I’m wondering all the gears you have shown in the video what is the total weight?
Budget airlines nowadays have set very strict rules on the carry-on bag.
I don’t know the exact weight of my bag on the trip but it was under the 20kg limit of the airline I flew.
Have you considered putting this information into lighterpack.com?
It’s a wonderful tool for seeing weight breakdown of each category (as well as keeping track of prices) I’d be very interested to see what the base weight of this setup is. Originally designed for ultralight backpackers but very adaptable.
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