Exploring the natural and built environments through photography
As committed as I am to photography, the reality is that it still is often a secondary activity that I fit in while on another agenda. Whether I am on a family vacation, a business trip for an architecture client, or a personal outing, I usually need to find a way to travel relatively light. If you’ve read my post “Gear 2015”, you’ve seen what my “full” travel kit looks like, at least my camera bag. Even this bag is too much for many occasions. Weighing in at almost 15 lbs, it’s even quite a bit to carry over the shoulder for an all-day, dedicated photo walkabout.
Living in Colorado provides great access to beautiful outdoor environments. Getting into the outdoors for recreation in the form of hiking, mountain biking, snow shoeing, or some other adventure is usually my primary activity. For those occasions when I need the smallest and lightest camera kit possible, I mount a Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM “pancake” lens to my EOS 6D and stuff it in a thinkTANK “Slim Changer”. While this bag is really intended for a DSLR camera body only, the pancake lens is so small that the bag will accept the camera with this diminutive lens attached. This little bag can then be placed into whatever adventure backpack I’m using to support my day trip. If you’re willing to sacrifice quality slightly by going with a non full-frame sensor DSLR, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 with the pancake lens would provide a substantially smaller and lighter alternative. Someday I’d like to add that body to my kit just for the purpose of traveling light.
This lens/camera combination is also a great option when out and about and you want to be somewhat inconspicuous. Most people barely notice you when you’re using this little lens, yet it provides great quality images.
The next step up in my travel kit would be to add a second lens, typically either the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L, or the EF 24-105mm f/4.0L in their Canon “protective” pouch. Both the camera and extra lens in their respective bags can then be placed into my primary, multi-purpose bag. It would probably make sense for me to purchase a higher quality lens pack like the ones available from thinkTANK or LowePro, but for the time being, I just use the pouch from Canon, and make sure the lens is packed snugly among the “soft” contents in my bag. This setup with an extra lens, along with a compact tripod, is a great option for me when I’m traveling by air, but I know I won’t have enough time at my destination for any significant time spent shooting. In those situations, I like to have some options for different focal length beyond just the 40mm, but it’s not worth packing an entire kit and separate bag. These two little bags can be placed inside my roll-aboard luggage along with everything I need for a short trip.
For a compact travel tripod, my choice is the MeFoto “Daytrip”. It folds up to only about 9-1/2 inches and extends to a height of 24″, and includes a padded bag with shoulder strap. The bag is larger than it needs to be, so you can use it to stuff some additional small accessories (filters, cable release, etc.) if you want. My entire “light” travel kit with tripod when unpacked looks like this:
This kit can actually be carried comfortably in a day pack while hiking in the backcountry and provides a lot of performance. Ultimately for longer trips and when I have the ability to dedicate my back to carrying only camera gear, my complete, compact (relatively), kit consists of four lenses and body as described in my Gear 2015 post, all packed into a LowePro Slingshot 200 bag, with the MeFOTO tripod strapped to the outside. Other than a full-height tripod, this ultimate travel kit includes everything I need for just about any situation that presents itself while traveling.