Packed: Mongolia

In GEAR, Travel by David47 Comments

I’m flying to Mongolia tonight. I have two carry-ons; a Kiboko bag and a Think Tank Retro 30. And I have one checked piece, my dented but beloved Rimowa Topaz. For the curious, here’s what I’m packing. And man am I happy to be going in the summer! Last time it was February and much colder than this Canuck likes. We’ll be there for Nadaam, but not in Ulaanbator, out in the country. And we’ll spend time in the Gobi desert. Can’t wait. And when I come home – 16 weeks without getting on a scheduled flight. Excited about that.

In the Kiboko, pictured above (1):

Nikon D3s x 2 (2)
Batteries x 4 (8)
SanDisk CF card 64GB x 4
Hasselblad 500CM, Zeiss 85/2.8 (3)
20 rolls of assorted 120 film (4)
Sekonic Light Meter (8)
Nikon 16-35/4.0 (5)
Nikon 85/1.8 (6)
Nikon 70-200/2.8  (7)
Remote trigger (8)
Lens cloths and Buffs (9)
Singh Ray Grad and Polarizing filters (10)
Moleskine Notebook, pen (11)
Iridium Sat Phone (12)

In the Retro 30:

11″ MacBook Air
500 GB Harddrive x 2
Chargers, cables, plug adaptors, CF reader
iPhone, headphones, Kindle
Passports x 2
Documents re. U.S. Border (connecting through LAX)
Emergency cash in Euro, Mongolian currency
All documents printed, and in duplicate on Dropbox

In the Rimowa:

Gitzo Systematic tripod, ballhead
Patagonia Rain jacket/pants
2 pants
4 shirts
4 T-shirts
4 Icebreaker underwear
4 Icebreaker socks
Icebreaker wool sweater
Toiletries, Insect Repellent, Sunscreen
Silk sleeping sac
Small medical kit
Spare prescription glasses
Bag of snacks
Small daypack
Swiss Army Knife
Flask for Mongolian Vodka
1 LED light bank, extra batteries


  1. Ben

    Thanks for the list! Very thorough and great to have insight into everything you take on trips.
    Also, how often do you use your Hasselblad?

    Have a great trip!

  2. liisa

    Have you ever encountered problems taking on 2 carry-on bags? What about the weight? I’ve had some airlines make me weigh the carry on, but luckily I’ve been wearing a Scottevest so dispersal was relatively painless.

  3. Author

    Ben, this’ll be the second time I’ve taken the Hasselblad on a trip. The last time was a trip to Italy and I didn’t use it much. I want it there for a portrait project I want to play around with. Not a fan of traveling with film, but I think this’ll be worth it.

  4. Author

    Liisa – There’s always a chance. So far I’ve had no issues. Fingers crossed!

  5. Terry Wheeler

    Hey David,
    Great list of stuff! Cool to see the best in digital (D3’s) and the best in film (H. 500CM) both being packed! Which do you enjoy shooting most?

  6. Author

    Terry, I like them both for different things. I get a lot of pleasure from the slow, tactility of the Hassie, but sometimes you just need to stop messing with film and light meters and get the shot. Best of both worlds! :-)

  7. Rob

    Nice easy packing and very simple in what you’re bringing. What size is the Rimowa?

    Have a great trip.

  8. Anne

    It’s interesting to see that your lens coverage skips right over the 35 to 70mm range — do you ever miss having a mid-range walk around lens on a trip like this?

  9. Author

    Anne – I usually pack a 50/1.4 but to be honest it rarely gets the use I expect. I prefer to get wider and closer, so the 35 gives me that.

    Rob, the Rimowa is standard checked suitcase size, not too big, but I don’t recall the exact dimensions.

  10. Author

    Dina – It’ll be a short trip. I leave today (4th) and return on 16th.

  11. Adair Dammann

    David – curious – I am going to travel to Africa, have serious weight limits, don’t currently have a small laptop, so am grappling with the ageold backup question. Options: netbook+ redundant hardrive, or ColorSpace+redundant harddrive. Do you still have opinions on Colorspace? Thanks for all the wisdom you share!

  12. LyB

    MacGyver would be proud, including a Swiss Army Knife in that kit. 😉 Have a fun (and safe) trip!

  13. Michael Flaherty

    Awesome, Mongolia! Love to go to a dinosaur quarry there and just ride horses as much as possible. Last time I paid much attention to you it was Canon. Why’d you switch? Sponsorship or preference? For e.g., that 16-35 is slower than the Canon version. Reason I’m asking is I’ve been having MUCH trouble with one of my Canon bodies, and would switch tomorrow if it wasn’t for the lens factor – I like ’em and have lots.

  14. Suzanne

    Besides restating the above comments, I like the detail of ‘flask… For Mongolian vodka’ 😉

    Save flight and good ‘shooting’!

  15. carla

    enjoy! looking forward seeing your photos. you always inspire me to make better photos. safe travels.

  16. Author

    Mike – I do indeed, but it never comes on international travels with me – just too heavy.

  17. RadaZ

    I did wait quite a time for a post like this but in the end the “flask for Mongolian vodka” made my day. ;D
    And taking Air, leaving iPad? No printer?

  18. Wayne

    I don’t see any Sigma lenses…are you not using them any longer?

  19. Chris

    Interested to hear why you chose the 16-35 f/4 instead of the 14-24 (probably the front element) and the 17-35 f/2.8? Have fun!

  20. Chris MacDonald

    I just don’t know how you travel with only two pairs of extra pants. Are you ripe by the end of the trip or do you do laundry in the sink?

  21. Glenn

    I see you have gone to Nikon cameras. In your books you have Canon gear. I missed any blog post about when you changed over or why. I have a few thoughts on it. That a lot of gear . No Holga ? i want to travel photo. Godd luck on your trip – Best

  22. Janine Fugere

    What, no “Ex-Officios: 7 days, 7 continents, 1 pair of underwear” ?!?!? Just kidding! And while I loved learning what and how you manage to pack so efficiently, totally the part about the flask for Mongolian Vodka was my favorite detail! Have a fantastic trip and be well.

  23. Pingback: Packed: Mongolia « National-Express2011

  24. Naomi

    David, Thanks for sharing! This was super helpful, and I’m definitely bookmarking it for the future (hoping there will be a trip for me in October to Guatemala!). Have a safe trip!

  25. Maïeva Voyage

    Lucky you! I don’t have the same amount of photo material as you have but now, as a photo addict, I take more time to prepare my camera bag than my clothes bag…

  26. Leonie

    The second-to-last item is my favourite


    Safe travels friend

  27. Corwin Hiebert

    No, no. You go ahead. You have fun in the Gobi desert with your friends. I’ll stay back and drink coffee; don’t you worry about me.

  28. Foued

    do you worry about the film going bad in airport security scanners ? do you use a special type of pouch ?


  29. Justin

    I do not have loyalty to Canon or Nikon. Gear is just gear. However, underwear is different. Icebreaker is the key to any good trip abroad. NZ Merino rocks.

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