Travelling Stuff

In GEAR, Travel by David21 Comments

I should be recording my podcast right now, but after over a dozen false starts and too many mid-sentence brain-farts, I’ve given up for now, grabbed a bottle of Stella Artois and am moving on to something infinitely easier – writing. And probably a nap. The jet-lag’s still kicking my mind awake in the early hours. The way-too-early hours.

Last week’s travel to Ethiopia and back is still fresh in my mind, so I’m doing a quick review of some of my favourite, and new-favourite, travel gear.

scottevestThis is the first trip I’ve used my ScottEVest. I packed it in my duffle in case I needed it, and with the intention of using it on the field once I arrived. I got to Addis Ababa, put it on and only took it off to sleep. I loved it. For travel and working, it’s a dream. It’s got enough well placed pockets to keep my money, passport, sunglasses, snacks, boarding passes, Moleskine notebook, pens, and assorted other goodies easily at hand for travelling through airports and in transit. Once working it also holds lens cloths, Hoodman loupe, cf cards, spare batteries, model releases, lens caps and all that other junk you want on hand. The fit is great, it’s very comfortable, and it’s got enough room in it that I know I can load it up with stuff at the airport if the gate agent decides to weight my carry on. It was a little warm for Ethiopia, but that’s not the fault of the vest – it was perfect in the highlands but once we got south to the lowlands I was wishing I had bought the tropical vest instead. Either way, this one will go with me any time I travel in moderate temperatures.

eaglecreekIt’s a small thing but one of my must-haves for travel is the Eagle Creek Travel Agent, a bi-fold, zippable organizer for passports, cash, cards, etc. You can find them HERE. I can’t explain why I’m so loyal to this one but it’s gone around the world a couple times now and each time I take it out I think, boy am I glad I have one of these.

In Vietnam this January I bought my second silk bed liner, a simple black silk sleeping sac, for something like $5. You can buy them at MEC or REI for closer to $40. The silk is lighter, more comfortable, and more compressible than the cotton ones. Makes dodgy accomodations a little more endurable.

pacsafeMy PacSafe 85. I can leave anything I want in a vehicle or hotel room with peace of mind. I never travel without it. A really determined thief with the right tools and some time on their hands could still get your stuff, but most theives don’t want to stick around to cut through steel mesh. I own the 55 and the 85, as well as their WrapSafe which stays in my large Stormcase for chaining my stuff to furniture.

blundstoneMy Blundstone 510 boots. These boots are incredible, fit like slippers once they’re broken in, and with a polish at the airport on the way home look brand new. They’ve been all over the world, been beaten to death, and they’re better than ever. The fact that I can kick them off at airport security or the door of a mosque or temple, and pull them back on just as easily makes me never want to look at another pair of lace-up boots or shoes ever again. Is it wierd for one man to love a pair of boot so much?

boseBose Quiet Comfort 2 Noise-cancelling headphones. My wife bought me these for Christmas about 6 years ago and for a while I didn’t travel with them because of the bulk but now I make space for them everytime. The flights are just too long to put up with the drone of the engines. Must be getting old. I’ve worn out the vinyl earcushions once already, replaced them for $40 and aim to get another 6 years out of these babies. Love them.

Other must haves? A couple large bandanas I got from a cooperative in India, my Serengeti sunglasses, earplugs, and still my two favourite carry-on bags, the Think Tank Airport Acceleration 2, and the Urban Disguise 60.Also:  a box of matches and some mosquito coils, a 1L Nalgene bottle stuffed with Wethers caramels, a small compass, AA Maglight, and my Leatherman. What’s on your list of favourite, pry-it-from-my-dead-hands travel gear?


  1. Oooh I love me some travel gear!!

    I got my ScottEVest last month and LOVE it. Haven’t had the chance to travel with it yet, but I wear it out and about all the time now. My keys, cash, cards and ipod have found a permanent home in it. It’s like a wearable wallet. Did I mention I LOVE this vest?

    Another travel item I love is the Pacsafe Cashsafe Travel Belt Wallet: Basically a black nylon belt with zip-up hidden compartment on the inside for stashing cash.

  2. David,
    My go every trip item is a Petzl Tikka head torch. It’s small and lightweight and not only does it act as an emergency light for when there is a power cuts at the hotel etc, I also use it for night shoots when I want may hands free. And when I am trekking on trails in the dark it comes into play again.

    I also carry a couple of small fibre trek towels (mine is a Lifeventure model) one is in my hold luggage for showers etc in lodges with no towels. The other stays in my camera bag and is useful to wipe away moisture on my camera gear in adverse weather conditions. The beauty is that they dry really quickly and are small and light to carry.

    Clothing wise, my favourite trousers are Rohan Bags – tough durable but lightweight and quick drying. Good for walking on the trail, secure pockets to prevent pickpockets, and smart enough to wear in hotels. They pack small too – you can role them up if necessary.

    On the luggage front – I love the Eagle Creek pack it system – the cubes are so easy to use and the shirt folder is brilliant. I can pack my shirts and trousers and be confident they will stay smart enough to wear after a long haul trip. Hey they even make these packing things in different colours so someone who is fanatical about packing order -I read of a photographer who is 😉 – can really have a ball here.


  3. lol. great post. We too have those bose headphones. Also I just bought a scottvest for travelling thru the airport with. I think I’m going to have to cut out the magnets though, dont want any of my cards being wiped 😐

    Are the PacSafe/wrap safe heavy? They look great but steel chains sound heavy & as underwater photographers we are always over the weight limit.

    The I love my new ebook reader. Also, we take a 200gb vosonic drive that has a CF slot, if my laptop cant be used for any reason I can still back up my images straight from the CF cards and the battery lasts quite a while if you are constantly looking thru your photos. Other than that, plasters and a spare hair tie are essential.

  4. Have wanted a decent vest, but here in Japan, every old retired guy—and only old retired guys—wear vests. Not really camera vests, but look about the same. Good for the cigarettes and maybe if he’s very hip a cell phone. Nah, not me.

    My favorite piece of gear is an LLBean waist pack. Can carry a Nikon D300-size DSLR and a couple of spare lenses very comfortably. I’ve used it around the city, hiking, and some pretty tough treks in the mountains. It’s not even designed for cameras. Never again a backpack nor a shoulder bag except for transport by vehicle.

  5. Some things that come to mind:

    • LowePro “Off Road” camera bag. Probably other better options out there but I’ve used mine daily for years and still holding up strong. Padded belt + shoulder strap for additional support and worn in front or back. Versitle with removable side modules that hold lens, flash, or water bottles.
    My view toward camera bags is the same as panniers for my bike or backpack when traveling. If you have the space, you will fill it. So, I get the size I’m willing to lug around.

    •”Steripen” for making safe drinking water.

    • Packs of “wet wipes” are an absolute must. They are used for hand cleaning before eating, my only source of TP in many countries and in some cases becomes my only form of fresh’ning up.

    • 101 uses of old 35mm film containers.

    • a “dumby” wallet with the important wallet kept elsewhere on my person. Sounds silly but, hey, it works!

    • Anything made with “ginger root” – the stronger the better (homemade or bought chew candies). Works great to reduce the effects of motion sickness, especially on long flights, day long drives on unpaved roads, etc. I also use it kayaking and it does the trick.

    • other things: bandana, nylon cord wrapped around pen for instant laundry line and doubles as spare writing tool!; small container of detergent and fabric softener in certain countries (stored in my film containers!).

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  7. Hyperdrive just introduced the Hypermac, a slim portable battery that significantly extends the battery life of the MacBook family of laptops.

  8. I’ve been carrying that heavy PacSafe 85 with me on most of my trips.. always thinking it might be useful but so far I have never used it. But I guess you travel with a lot more gear than I do. If I leave the laptop or maybe a lens behind at the hotel during the day I rather stuff it in some stinking clothes inside a bag than ad this shiny net around it that draws attention.

    That west looks really nice though.

    For money and passport and stuff I always use a waistbelt that I can stuff inside my trousers. And then I have just some spare money for the day in a normal wallet somewhere. I’ve had my wallet stolen twice but never really cared about it since it wasn’t that much money anyway.

    It scares the shit out of people sometimes though when I’m at a retsturant or something and realize I dont have any money in my wallet and need to get my hand inside the trousers to get some 🙂

  9. Author

    Thanks Claude – I’ve got one of these ( the 100watt version) on order. Was really excited when I saw them a couple weeks ago – now just have to wait for it to arrive 🙂

  10. I thought I was the only one putting half of my carry-on weight in my fleece jacket and my Fjällraven trousers before takeoff:-)
    I put everything in waterproof Ortlieb bicycle bags, as most of my travels are done on two wheels.
    I also carry a Polaroid Pogo printer and was pleased to read in your book that you do the same… It is one of the best accessories one can have in the field (that and a Hoodman Loupe).
    I have – off topic – a question to you David regarding model releases… You say you carry them with you. But do you use them all the time or only for specific assignments. Like the pictures in your ‘Within The Frame Book’… It’s hard to imagine that every person portrayed in there has signed a model release. Or have they?

  11. My Eagle Travel thing a ma jiggy has been around the world too!
    My iPhone with extra griffin battery power, a few hours of podcast or a movie or 2 is nice for those 14hr flights.
    nothing like heavy duty glad freezer bags and some electrical tape.
    Good post

  12. I have to agree with Piet Van den Eynde (also a Dutchman I presume?); Fjällraven trousers are great.

    Would really accomodate your ScottEVest very well 🙂

  13. I was actually thinking of mentioning how much I also love my Fjällräven trousers when I’m travelling but thought no-one outside of Sweden (or scandinavia at least) would know about them anyway, but apparently I was wrong 🙂

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  15. Granted I’m not carrying close to the amount of gear David is (and they wouldn’t be appropriate for wet season in Delhi), but switched over to flip-flops for footgear a long time ago. Between looking at what the locals are wearing, the health benefits of thin sole and barefoot, and the comfort and convenience factor, I haven’t looked back yet.

  16. David

    Based on your Blog comment I purchased the ScottEVest and look forward to trying it out on my next trip. The pocket space is incredible and I hope I don’t forget where I put things. Easy to lose stuff in that maze. Keep up the travel gear recommendations. Great Blog and great book.

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