Best Practices for Packing Your Gear

Think Tank Photo Airport Security Roller 2.0 with goodies

My Florida Birding photo safari is less than a week away. Two really good practices when you’re getting ready for any photo trip are to use a checklist and to start packing early. While I’m not going to be getting on the plane until later this week, I’ve already begun to pack. Here’s my ThinkTank Photo Airport Security Roller bag, loaded for birding. What’s inside?

In the bag:

  • Nikon D3s body
  • Nikon D300s body with MB-D10 grip
  • Nikon 300mm f/4 AFS Nikkor lens
  • Nikon 600mm f/4 AFS G VRII Nikkor lens
  • Nikon TC-14e teleconverter (1.4x)
  • Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with sync cord
  • Nikon FT1 adapter for Nikon 1 V1 body
  • Extra batteries (for cameras and flash)
  • Flash extender
  • Tripod wrenches
  • Drop-in polarizer for 600mm lens
  • Memory card wallet (in external pocket)
  • Wimberley flash bracket (in external pocket)
  • AquaTech Soft Hood for 600mm lens

Also shown:

  • Gitzo 5541LS Tripod
  • Wimberley Head

The tripod and head will be packed in my checked bag; I use a large rolling duffel and pack the tripod in the center.

Packing and Preparations

Initial Preparation

At least a month in advance of your trip, put together a basic list of what you’ll need to bring. This is the time to decide if you need to purchase anything new for the trip, so you can order it and test it before you go. A photo safari is no place to be fumbling through a camera manual while you try to figure out where the exposure compensation button is!

About two weeks before any trip, put together a checklist of items that you’ll need to pack. Making a checklist is a great way to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. One idea you can use on your checklist is to indicate where you’ll be packing each item (main bag, computer bag, checked bag) so that you’ll know where to look for it later.

Final Preparation

  • As the trip date approaches, consider performing the following tasks:
  • Charge batteries
  • Format memory cards
  • Update software applications on laptop (important if you don’t use your laptop as a primary computer)
  • Pack all cables & chargers
  • Clean camera/sensors
  • Clean lenses and rear lens caps
  • Test gear/check electrical contacts; clean if necessary
  • Double-check your checklist!


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4 thoughts on “Best Practices for Packing Your Gear”

  1. Great tips for packing gear, thanks for sharing them. I’ve always wanted to ask a pro: no qualms about checking your Gitzo and head? Mine isn’t nearly as expensive as yours, (3541LS), but still, with the head it’s over a grand which is a lot to me. I’ve always worried about theft. Am I being way too cautious? At any rate, thanks again for the article.

  2. Hi Jason, thanks for sharing! Impressive equipment, excellent bag, packing makes sense. Question on the gear: once on location do you put a specific body on a specific lens (with or without TC), or do you mix and match? I would assume with birding photography (given decent lighting conditions) the D300s gets the most use? With the “built-in 1,5x converter” (DX format) you can put more pixels on the subject than with the D3s. What’s your take?

  3. Peter, it all depends on the location and the distance to the birds. I generally prefer shooting with the D3s; it produces cleaner images and is more responsive than the D300s. However, if the target is at distance or I’m going for very small birds, then the D300s is more convenient than a TC.

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