Category Archives: Packing

My current camera gear (for New Zealand trip)

I am about to leave on a two week trip to New Zealand with Paula, and thought I would post a quick summary of the camera gear I am taking, which is most of my camera gear (but not my new drone). As I’ve mentioned before, I am very into traveling light, and as usual I managed to fit everything for this trip, including photography gear and clothes, into a single carry on bag (my Tom Bihn Aeronaut). Okay, I cheated slightly in that we are going to a wedding at the end of the trip, and my suit for the wedding is in Paula’s suitcase which she is checking. Though when I went to Japan recently I did manage to fit a suit in my one bag, by wearing the jacket on the plane and packing the trousers.

Anyway, this is a picture of my photo gear (excluding computers, chargers and cables):

Camera gear

The equipment here is:

A Lumix GX8, my main camera, at the top. I love this – it’s at the top end of the Lumix micro four thirds camera range, and I’ve had a great experience with it. It is so much lighter and smaller than the Nikon D7000 I used previously, and has some great features. I will review it in more detail one of these days.

A Lumix 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (28-280mm equivalent) is on the GX8 camera. This is the lens I mainly use for landscape and travel photography, it is very versatile.

An Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (112-420mm equivalent in total) is at the top right. This is my big lens for wildlife photography, and it’s a fantastic lens, the sharpest I have ever owned.

Below this is a Lumix GX7, the predecessor to the GX8, which I still have for backup – it works with all the same lenses, though unfortunately not with the same batteries. In the end I decided not to take this to New Zealand, this is the only thing in the picture that got cut.I have taken the GX8 on quite a few trips now, including two to Iceland and one to Japan, and it hasn’t let me down yet! On this camera is a Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens, which I don’t use that often but it’s a very fast and sharp lens.

To the left of that is my Lumix LX7 (I’m a Lumix guy!), which is an all in one pocketable camera that is great in low light – its lens is f/1.4 at the widest zoom. This is the only camera that was also on my gear list two years ago. It has lasted really well, but Lumix has some newer cameras in a similar vein that I would look at if I was buying something like this today.

To the left of that is a headlamp for helping out with night photography, and then a Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens (28mm equivalent), which is the main lens I use for photographing the night sky. Apparently this has now been discontinued by Lumix. It’s an amazingly small and light lens – it weighs just under 2oz, or around 50g.

At the top left is a car cam that I just bought, the iTrue X3 dash cam. The idea of this is to record our road trips. It’s similar to a GoPro in some ways, but less expensive and the big plus is that it will run from an external power supply plugged into the car cigarette lighter, and also it automatically starts and stops when you turn the car ignition on and off. It will record video in a loop, overwriting the oldest files as the card fills up. We did a quick test on our recent trip to Telluride, and found that we will need two 32GB micro SD cards to record a whole day of driving – so we will generate a lot of data for our whole 12 day road trip!

Because of this I am also taking a G-Technology G-Drive 1TB mobile disk drive, which will plug into my MacBook Air via USB. I just got this, but have had good experience with similar G-Technology products in the past.

There is a new GoPro Hero4 Session in the middle near the left, which I just bought and I was very impressed with my initial tests while skiing. It is relatively inexpensive ($199) and has no screen and simple controls, but you can remotely control it and see what the camera sees using your smart phone with a WiFi connection. It is also waterproof without requiring a case. I am taking two connectors for it to New Zealand, one to mount it on a tripod (or selfie stick!), and a larger suction mount that I can use to mount it on a car, boat or helicopter!!

At the bottom right are two neutral density filters, an ND8 and an ND400, which I use for taking long exposures, especially of waterfalls or other water features, plus some spare batteries (three in total for the GX8, two for the LX7).

And finally three tripods, the main one is a MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod, made from titanium, which weighs just 2.6 pounds and folds up to be only 12.8″ long. I have been very pleased with this, it works very well for such a small and light tripod. I have two other mini tripods which I will mainly use with the LX7 or the GoPro.

And last but not least, not pictured is my iPhone 6S, which I used to take these pictures. So I will have five cameras in total including the iPhone.

The picture below shows the GX8 in a small packing cube with the three smaller lens – the 14-140mm, 14mm and 20mm. All this together weighs just 2.5 pounds!

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This is incredibly lightweight and compact compared to a traditional DSLR alternative, which is a great attraction of the micro four thirds system. My big lens with the teleconverter weighs 2.25 pounds, and the largest tripod weighs 2.6 pounds as mentioned previously.

My whole carry on bag including all the camera gear, my 11″ MacBook Air and iPad mini, plus all necessary chargers and cables etc, and my clothing, weighs in at 30 pounds. Here it is on my back:

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One final gear note – I decided not to take my Apple Watch on this trip. I’ve been underwhelmed with it in general, and really don’t want to have to recharge it every night when I have lots of other gear that also needs charging, with higher priority!

Instead I decided to take one of my classic watches, and went for this one with four time zones, since I always get confused with Australian and New Zealand times!  Clockwise from top left, the time in Denver, Auckland, Sydney and London.

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All packed now and ready to head out tomorrow – stay tuned for lots of pictures!

 

Introduction to traveling light

I am a huge fan of traveling light – this makes various aspects of travel easier and more enjoyable. For the past 4 years or so I have been a “one bag” traveler. On all except three of the hundred or so trips I’ve taken over that time, I have taken just a single carry on bag (with no additional bag for a laptop or other items). Two exceptions were when we were going to events where I had to wear a suit or tuxedo, when I carried an additional lightweight suit carrier (which I still carried on the plane). And the third was when I went on a winter bald eagle photography trip, for which I had to take lots of equipment and warm winter clothing! On most trips I use a bag that is smaller than the maximum carry on size, which will fit in the overhead bin even on a small regional jet, or underneath the seat if necessary. Even other seasoned traveler friends of mine are usually impressed at how little I travel with!

I use bags that can be carried as a backpack, rather than bags with wheels, as this gives you more flexibility in many situations, for example when navigating steps, bumpy streets or crowded spaces. I am fairly large and strong and have no problem with the weight of a backpack. My partner is more petite than me and has had occasional back problems, so she prefers to use a lightweight wheeled bag, and that works just fine on most trips.

Benefits of traveling light

It makes life much easier in many situations if you can easily walk carrying all your luggage. I use public transport quite a lot, and it’s generally much easier on buses and train if you are fairly mobile, and able to walk a reasonable distance when needed. I travel through London fairly often, and it’s a real pain to navigate the Underground with large or heavy bags.

Not having to check bags on planes eliminates the risk of the airline losing your bag, which isn’t common but does happen – it has happened to me several times in my pre-one-bag days. In the event of flights being canceled or delayed, you have a lot more flexibility to change plans and switch to a different itinerary if you don’t have any bags checked. In some cases the airline won’t re-route you unless your bags are on the same plane – rules tend to be strict about this on international flights in particular. And even if the airline does let you take a different route from your bags, you risk not being reunited with them in a timely fashion. You also save time when arriving at your destination if you don’t have to wait for bags to arrive at the baggage claim. On international flights, this often means you can get to customs ahead of the rest of your fellow passengers, which can save further time in some situations.

You run less risk of having a bag stolen if you only have a single bag to watch, and you can easily carry it around with you whenever needed, rather than having to leave it watched by someone else even for a brief time.

Packing and unpacking are quicker and simpler tasks if you have less stuff, and there is less chance of forgetting things. Additional techniques like using packing cubes, which I’ll talk more about in another post, can also help with this.

There’s something that’s just satisfying and enjoyable about reducing clutter, whether in your life in general or when traveling. Doing it when traveling is by far the simpler of the two to achieve, so it’s a good place to start! I’m a big believer in having less stuff and more experiences. Also, it’s not a primary reason for doing this, but it is fun to see other people’s reaction when they see you carrying one small carry on for a three week trip around Europe!

In upcoming posts I’ll talk a lot more about different aspects of traveling light. A few other good resources on this topic are One Bag, One Bag, One World and this article by Rick Steves.. There is a whole sub-culture out there around one bag travel!