#511 Getting ready for a long one

By Paul Perton | How-To

Sep 13

I’m sure I’ve grumbled before about the difficulties of travelling as a photographer. Damn, it’s bad enough to just get on a plane to go from a to b. With bag of kit – now including lithium ion batteries in your carry-on, or pockets – it’s just a PITA.


We’re off on a lengthy trip at the end of the month. More about that soon, but in the interim, I’ve started prepping, especially what and how much photo kit I’ll be packing.


Once we arrive, our first destination involves a lengthy road trip and ideally, we want to drive and arrive at our overnight destination(s) and only have to haul an overnight bag into the hotel/inn/B&B. Suitcases should remain in the car and then only be accessed before setting-off the next morning, to stow worn clothing ready for the wash and replenish for the next day. Toiletries and other niceties can stay in the overnighter.


In the past, I’ve used my small Lowepro backpack very successfully on long trips. Trouble is, when it’s loaded with camera(s) and a laptop, there’s no space for a wet bag (toiletries) and barely room for a pair of clean kecks.


I won’t surprise any of you with a tale of how many camera bags I own and don’t need to; I’m certain you have just as many, maybe more. So, I went through all of mine, looking for a camera carrying/overnighter solution and found a couple of small (25litre-ish) backpacks that would fit the bill, but that left me carrying all of my camera kit in separate mitts, small pouches, or wrapped in clothing – a far from ideal solution. Your backpack becomes a bigger and bigger train smash the further you go and take out/replace cameras, clothes and the paraphernalia of everyday travel.


Some years ago, I discovered 4-clip lid food storage boxes. There are very rigid and I now use two – the smaller being 120mm x 85mm x 185mm deep and is large enough to hold 3 battery chargers, two mains cables, USB, Lightning, Thunderbolt and ‘phone charging cables, mains adaptor(s), a CF/SD card reader and a number of essential items like an Allen key, thumb drive, a wad of Velcro strips, small torch etc. Packed tightly, nothing rattles and to date, nothing has been broken, or lost.


Small box and payload

Small box and payload


The second and larger box (180mm sq x 160mm) offers almost double the capacity and in addition to everything above, also houses ND grads, a Cokin holder, several mounting rings, my laptop charger, a tiny Nakamichi speaker and a La Cie ruggedised 2Tb backup drive. I even have a small strip of adhesive tape inside the lid to hold my phone’s SIM card if I swap it out for a local service.


Large box and payload

Large box and payload


Which one I pack largely depends on how much I need to take and where I’m headed.


That’s the ancillaries taken care of, but what of the rag-tag collection of mitts, cases and clothing containing cameras and lenses? Off to the local plastic shop where I sourced my existing boxes. In my pocket, a Fuji X-Pro body.


Almost immediately, I discover a flat sandwich style box (220mm x 150mm x 60mm deep) which clearly will accommodate two X-Pro bodies. Alternatively, a single body like my Leica M9 might now find itself along for the ride, in it’s own box, together with a couple of lenses.


Back home with my purchases, I put a padded divider (from one of many, many camera bags) into the base, both X-Pro bodies and one of the jet black microfibre cloth bags Fuji kindly pop into every camera box, on top. Snap on the lid and I have two cameras unable to move around, securely stored and protected in a really strong box which demands significantly less space than a padded pouch.


Two X-Pros

Two X-Pros


Yes; M9 and three lenses

Yes; M9 and three lenses


On top - one M9 and three lenses. Two X-Pros beneath

On top – one M9 and three lenses. Two X-Pros beneath


Guddle, guddle, cuddle in the cupboard and out comes my favourite wheeled Crumpler Dry Red no. 9* carry on. It has a separate padded compartment for my laptop, lots of storage space for passports, paper and documents and I check – it’s main maw easily swallows my two new plastic camera/lens boxes, a couple of lenses in separate mitts, a small flat case containing all the spare camera batteries and some SD cards and I still have space for my wet bag and those clean kecks.




The Crumpler's Dry Red no. 9 maw - still lots of space despite there being three cameras and six lenses in there already

The Crumpler’s Dry Red no. 9 maw – still lots of space despite there being three cameras and six lenses in there already


Now, All I have to do is get this lot on the plane (never easy wherever you choose to fly) and smile my way past those nice Homeland Security folk when we arrive…


* Crumpler is an Australian company which makes and sells brilliant bags. I’ve been using one of their messenger bags for years – it’ll hold a full-on D800e and 24-70 zoom and still not look like a camera bag. The downside is that inexplicably, Crumpler only sells some of its products outside Oz, including the Dry Red no. 9, so getting one could be a real challenge. YHBW!

  • pascaljappy says:

    Paul, very neat indeed ! I’m a big fan of Crumpler too. My everyday bag is a 4-million dollar home that feels utterly unburstable and will hold the Sony and 3 M-mount lenses, plus a couple of batteries. Of all my bags (ThinkTank, Lowepro, …) this is my fave by a long shot.

    The lunchbox system is very clever. Any risk of moisture building up in there ?

    That said, my packing organisation is abysmal and I always end up calling someone to the rescue for spare batteries or empty cards. Ahem … Seeing your organised setup has me feeling all inadequate 😉

    Have great time on your coming journey !

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Why do we laugh when our wives empty out a handbag, to get a key or a lipstick or something?

  • Brian Patterson says:

    Still packing my gear in compact Lowepro backpacks which are secure but testy in actual use. Rather hang my gear on my body or in a fanny pack for quicker access and walkability whole hiking/strolling.

    Will mount a body/lens onto a monopod for a longer hike and belt pack a lens or two. Mobility is what I look for…

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