Traveling Photographer: One Bag Ultralight Minimalist Packing List

Traveling Photographer: One Bag Ultralight Minimalist Packing List

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.

The List

Other Essentials Not Shown:

 

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. 

Closing Thoughts

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.

Where to Buy

I personally buy almost all of my travel and photography gear through B&H or Amazon. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the B&H Affiliate Program, both are affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and B&H affiliated sites. As the largest online retailers in the US, they both have an excellent return policy and they usually have the lowest prices for camera gear anywhere online. If you are considering buying any equipment, consider buying through the affiliate links on this page. You won’t pay anything extra but Lonely Speck will receive a small commission (usually 2-4%) to help run the website.

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-Ian

7 Responses

  1. comprare le scarpe Salomon July 11, 2017 / 8:16 am

    Set your allowance for any feather boa. The amount are you willing to spend for a new feather boa? When you will only be while using feather boa for a couple of times, why not a cheap one is already okay. But if the celebration can be worthwhile a costly draw price tag, and then whether it is.
    comprare le scarpe Salomon

  2. sport shop July 6, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    Include a several various snack foods. Samples of good snack foods to incorporate are usually pretzels, biscuits, saltines, and so on. As you are not aware of when the hangover survival system will likely be essential, you should group snack foods will not get old. For example isolating a sizable footwear of pretzels straight into smaller scoot locking mechanism footwears and maybe even only buying goody dimension footwears.
    sport shop

  3. Jason Pitcher June 27, 2017 / 8:00 am

    Ian,
    Take a look at the Gnarbox. This has a built in GPU and processor, plus storage. You can drive it all from a tablet. I’m traveling at the moment with just my x100f kit, using the built in card reader to transfer the files to the on board memory. Then I copy it all to a 2tb mycloud drive using USB 3. This is fast! I’m editing raw files on my iPad mini in Lightroom, Jpegs in Snapseed and posting to social media direct. When I’m done editing, I back up my iPad images to the Gnarbox as well.
    This is a powerful and useful tool for the minimalist. I was skeptical and I don’t use the basic raw editor that’s included, but Lightroom mobile compensates well. This is my first time traveling laptop free. It’s liberating.

  4. Elgan Jones June 27, 2017 / 7:44 am

    Should have come over to Wales to say Hi! not exactly the best time of year to shoot Astro here in the UK at the moment though with it being the summer solstice. I could have borrowed you my Irix 15mm for testing.

  5. Mitchell Lunde June 18, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I find it interesting you included socks. Dry, comfortable feet make for a fun and relaxing time for any activity. I spent some time in the military and it wasn’t stressed enough about keeping feet dry. I’ve gone through more socks than I have shoes and for a good reason too! Thank you for the quick blog post and maintain the current course you’re leading.

  6. Hyeon yong June 10, 2017 / 5:45 pm

    Oh! i was very useful information! i will refer to this information for Switzerland trip
    Ian, can you recommend me the backpack that is under 100$? i’m searching but i can’t find good backpack. my camera is a6000 and lenses are two.
    i’m really looking forward to the milky way of alps

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