The Essential Travel Kit for Backpackers

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Luckypenguin, Sep 16, 2013.

  1. On this forum I've read and sometimes answered many questions asking which cameras or which lenses a person should take travelling with them, with the key criteria usually being wanting to carry as little gear as possible. My opinion has always been to not skimp on what camera equipment you take with you since your rarely if ever going to be presented with as many diverse and interesting opportunities to take a photograph than when you are travelling (well, this may depend on how interesting your destination is of course :smile:).

    I've only just arrived home from overseas and I thought it was time to put my money where my mouth is and show the photography related equipment that I took with me. This was all used over the course of five and a half months from the United States to Chile and thirteen other countries in between. No suitcases with rollers, no hotel valets, from sea level to 4990m, from boiling hot to below freezing, and from sun to rain to snow. Planes, buses, vans, 4WDs, boats, mountain bikes, and trekking. I even credit carrying this gear around as part of the reason why I arrived home 12kg lighter than when I left!

    The contents of kit not including accessories (of which are shown below anyhow) is as follows:

    Olympus OM-D E-M5
    Panasonic Lumix GH1
    Samsung NX200
    Canon G1X

    Olympus M Zuiko 9-18mm f4-5.6
    Olympus M Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5-6.3
    Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5
    Panasonic Lumix G 14-140mm f4-5.8
    Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7
    Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f1.4
    Olympus M Zuiko 45mm f1.8
    Samsung NX 20mm f2.8
    Samsung NX 30mm f2

    Asus 10" Netbook Computer
    2x External Hard Drives

    <a href="" target="_blank">" border="0" alt=" photo IMG_4904-PR_zps211761d6.jpg"/></a>

    A bit excessive, maybe? Well the funny thing is that the last time I travelled overseas for a decent holiday was back in 2010 (for six weeks when I carried one DSLR and four lenses including three zooms no faster than f/4 and one smallish macro lens. The combined weight of those was within only a couple of hundred grams of the four cameras and nine lenses shown above! This time around I was able to use two cameras at once in a variety of lens and focal length combinations without frequent lens swaps, could pick and choose the right camera/s for the situation, and have cameras with the size, capability and feature sets to be used in ways that the old DSLR couldn't.

    So did I regret bringing or not bringing something? Yes. Three cameras would have been sufficient but I'd have struggled to decide upon which one. I do also wish that I'd had a dedicated, high quality telephoto lens. Not that I would have used it very much (which is the reason why I don't own one) but I would have like it regardless for the few opportunities where I used the superzoom at the telephoto end (not it's greatest strength). The two least used lenses were the Panasonic 14mm and 20mm pancakes. The 20mm is a great lens optically but it never really seemed the right time to use it on this trip. The 14mm has never been a favourite of mine but when not in use it sits so neatly inside the hood of my Oly 45mm when I am only carrying one camera and a lightweight three prime 14-25-45 kit.

    The problem that I am faced with now is to start sorting out the 10,000 or so photos that I took along the way...
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  2. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 23, 2010
    I dont know if its that mad going for a long trek to make sure you have a couple of backup options. I have travelled with 7 cameras before: EP1 EPL1 G1, Ricoh GX100, Fuji GS645, Oly µju 1 and Petri 35EE. All got used at points too, though it was mostly the G1 and EP-1 that were used, 5 days no chargers so I just used them till batteries ran out. I tend though now to take 3 cams 2 µ43 and the GX100 as it gives me a 24mm equivalent and its tiny.
  3. afrat

    afrat Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 21, 2013
    Los Angeles

    Did you find it necessary to carry so many cameras? I understand the use of multiple bodies with different lenses (fast prime on one, zoom on another perhaps), but I've only ever done that when shooting some sort of fast action. When traveling, especially with the small nature of m43, were you in situations where you couldn't just change the lens if need be? I would imagine an E-M5 with a couple lenses would suffice, no?
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    Luckily m43 makes it easier since you can sneak in a spare lens or two (or more) and still keep it lighter than a dSLR equivalent.

    My 3 prime kit is the 14/20/45 which goes everywhere. When I go hiking I add the 9-18 for landscapes, the 60 for macro and the 45-175 for critters and it all fits into my Mirrorless Mover 20 (with some creative packing) or the Hubba Hubba Hiney (with less creativity).
  5. battleaxe

    battleaxe Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Impressive that you were able to find a use for each camera and lens. Threads like this really have me thinking that if I do go on my next trip(I think it maybe Mardi Gras) maybe I should be brining both my cameras, instead of just my GF3.

    A bit off topic, but how do you find 12-50mm vs the standard kit zoom or the 14mm?
  6. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Interesting! I may also have brought this much. I know I brought way to much when I went to Epcot in January. One thing I would have had for hiking that you didn't is my trusty walking stick with thread mount on it{instant monopod!}. In fact after all these years{had it 25 years} I am finally updating it with a simple head and quick release.
  7. Yes, the idea of having a backup was definitely a consideration.
  8. Necessary: probably not, but two bodies would be my minimum. What I find with travel photography is that it is not one fixed style of photography. You may be wandering on your own with all the time in the world, you may be in a group on a tight schedule, you may be shooting landscapes, architecture, people, wildlife, action, etc. It is very easy to carry two bodies at the ready, with a 28 and a 50 prime, or an ultra-wide and a standard zoom, or any combination in between. I would usually carry multiple cameras on me even if I was going on a photowalk back and home
  9. Yes, it's amazing how small a package all that gear makes. It's even easy without carrying a dedicated bag just wrap a camera in a small microfibre cloth for protection and throw it in a backpack.
  10. The question that I always ask myself is: for what reason do I spend money on good quality camera gear including a variety of different gear if I'm not prepared to take it where I'm likely to find much more interesting varied photographic material then I would at home. I've got a bunch of large (up to 40") printed images hanging around my apartment and they were all taken while travelling. BTW, all the gear in the images above was insured over the duration of the trip.

    I bought the 12-50mm lens with my E-M5 because the camera was not available as a body only kit when I bought mine last year, but it has proved very useful in it's focal length range but I have kept it primarily because it is weather-sealed in combination with the E-M5. I don't choose to use it as my standard zoom since I would use the Panasonic 14-140mm or the old but still very good Panasonic 14-45mm if I wanted to keep things small and light. I'm still not where I want to be with zoom lenses in my Micro 4/3 kit and don't have anything with a fast aperture. If I was to get the new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 I wouldn't keep the 12-50mm. Incidentally, the reason why I am not totally enamoured by either the 12-50mm or the 14mm lens is because of their corner/edge performance. I also feel that the 12-50mm loses resolution at the telephoto end of it's range, an issue that I also noted when I had the collapsible Olympus 14-42mm MkII kit lens.
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  11. Good point, a monopod would make a great walking stick. I hired a stick to walk the Inca Trail in Peru but the only thing it had on the top of it was a compass that was of cosmetic value only! I've never travelled with a full-sized tripod or monopod before but I then I don't actually own a tripod besides the little fold-up model shown above.
  12. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Funny, now I don't feel quite so crazy for packing a complete m4/3 AND Fuji kit on our last trip :biggrin:

    My take was that I'm never again carrying two complete *systems* on a trip. I'm more than happy to take multiple camera bodies, both because I've been on a trip where I lost a camera to an accident, and because it's nice to be able to run two different lenses. But when it comes to carrying two interchangeable lens camera systems I don't think I'd do it again without a really good reason. I found it paralyzing having choices that overlapped. My wife on the other hand thought it was hilarious watching me pack and repack my bags as we went to different spots.

    In your case it looks like your only overlap with the Samsung kit happened to also be with the two m4/3 lenses you didn't use (Pana 20mm and 15mm). I'm curious, was that just coincidental or did you find yourself using the Samsung kit in place of the Panasonic lenses more often?

    Going forward my preference is to travel with 1 or 2 camera bodies for an ILC system, and frequently a fixed lens compact (X100S or RX1) as well. I tend to use the fixed lens camera when I'm not specifically sightseeing or expecting photo ops so it goes with me everywhere, and the rest of the kit would be in a backpack or shoulder bag at other times. The cool thing with mirrorless is you can carry a very complete kit in a reasonably sized small bag and even still have room for other essentials like a water bottle, jacket, etc. :2thumbs:
  13. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I wouldn't trust a monopod as a walking stick, at least not to put any weight against. What I have is a walking stick that has a camera mount bolt on the top{if you take the wood knob off that is}. The brand is Tracks but the model I have is no longer in production. The Sherlock is the closest to mine.

    I also have a set of Rammer hiking/ski poles for serious use but they do not have a camera mount{although they do connect together to form an avalanche probe}.
  14. nardoleo

    nardoleo Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 2, 2013
    Wow, that's a whole lit of gear! How do you manage them?

    I travelled with my m43 setup consisting of 3 primes and 2 zooms and find that too many to juggle with. Nowadays, i mostly just travel with the pana 12-35mm as my main lens and depending on the situation, bring either wide angle / telephoto / or fast prime along. sticking to a 2 lens setup.
  15. lakemcd

    lakemcd Mu-43 Regular

    May 27, 2013
    Wow. My initial reaction was amazement especially considering the title. But I imagine "backpacking" can have a variety of meanings throughout the world. Here in the states I embrace lightweight backpacking into the mountains. On my last trip a month ago my pack weight including water, food, fishing gear, camera gear, and everything needed to survive in the wilderness for 4 nights above 10,000 feet was 24lbs total. My camera kit was a minimal OMD with 12-50 and the 20 an extra battery and mini tripod. I'm curious the weight of the camera kit that you took on your trip.

    I know I probably put more importance on flyfishing any going lightweight and fast than photography. I once read that one paradigm of all this lightweight (backpacking) gear was not necessarily so that we can take more but the freedom it offers to carry less.

    Kudos to you for having your cake and eat it too.
  16. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 25, 2012
    wow that's a lot of gear for your travel kit! Props to you for taking it all.

    I feel my ideal travel kit would be two camera bodies of the same format, which share the same batteries and chargers. Telephoto zoom (upcoming 40-150 f2.8 would be ideal), wide angle zoom or wide-normal zoom, fast prime 17/20/25. If I got more room... a quality light weight tripod. Maybe a good small compact (such as rx100) for the wife to use.
  17. xdayv

    xdayv Color Blind

    Aug 26, 2011
    Tacloban City, Philippines
    Nice collection!

    That's the reason why I can't spring on to the RX1r for another camera, I know I would have to bring it plus the others :)43: and RF).

    So for now, it's :43: and RF for me.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Seoul, South Korea
    I too thought of the hiking form of backpacking and not the city travel variety, though it looks like he did a bit of both. I got into :43: with both city and wilderness travel in mind, and so far have been very happy. I've never thought of carrying two bodies, but I believe I've been fairly careful/lucky so far. I also usually run a 20lbs pack (- h2o weight) for a 3-4 day solo hike, so I feel you on the want to keep it light, not sure yet what my perfect hiking kit is yet, though I'm tempted to pick up the new smaller/lighter 14-140 from pany for a 2 lens kit w/ the 20mm.

    I also like fly fishing, but haven't had a chance to do much of it lately... something that's caught my eye here in Japan are Tenkara style fly rods. It's like fly fishing for ultra-lighters.

    For the trekking pole solution, I've got a pair of Trekmounts that I've been using with limited sucess. It can't replace a real tripod, but w/ a gorillapod and one of these tucked away, I can normally get by when I'm trying to save weight in the backcountry.
  19. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Yeah, different style of backpacking :smile:

    When I'm doing camping and hiking trips I pack differently than travel. For scenic day hikes I'll still carry 2-3 extra lenses (usually wide angle, normal and tele zooms) since I don't have a sleep system or overnight shelter to worry about. But for overnight trips I'm very likely to bring just 1 fast prime for the campfire and evening photos, and maybe one other lens like a zoom or wider angle prime.
  20. I don't really even have designs on owning two "complete" systems so no danger of me taking the same travelling! There was still some overlap involved in the case of the Samsung and Panasonic primes but they weren't a significant percentage of the total weight of the kit. I certainly had to sometimes stop and think about what I wanted to take on me at any given time but it became easier and easier to decide what to carry when.

    In the case where I used the two Samsung pancakes a lot and the two Panasonics hardly at all, I think that this is reflective of the fact that Micro 4/3 is still easily my primary camera system and I have gravitated towards two of the larger and more fully featured bodies in the E-M5 and GH1 and I don't rely on the system solely for it's compactness. The NX200 has a lot to recommend itself and works so well for me as a compact yet still ergonomic body that matches very well to the two Samsung pancake lenses, whereas the Panasonic pancakes don't really seem to suit either of my Micro 4/3 bodies for a number of reasons.
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