See The World Packing List

In Travel by David17 Comments


On February 11 we’re releasing SEE THE WORLD: 20 Lessons for Stronger Travel Photographs. As I gear up for it, and start packing for the trip to Kenya that follows hot on its heels (I leave February 15), I thought I’d give you a copy of my own packing list. I’ll drop it down at the bottom of this post so those of you not using Evernote can copy/paste it and adopt it to your own needs. But for those using Evernote, you can download the list and take advantage of the check boxes, etc. I use a new copy each time I travel, spend a moment deleting what I don’t need, and adding a few things I do, and then I’m ready to pack.

The book itself  is mostly not logistics stuff – it’s about making compelling photographs of the places we experience, and experiencing those places more deeply in order to do so. But some of the more frequently asked stuff made it in there too – stuff about carry on bags and tripods, for example. It’s a meaty book, free of platitudes, and – I hope – refreshingly honest about the stuff that actually makes for stronger photographs, and it’ll be out soon. If you get it during the first week of release you’ll save 20% and your name will be put in the hat for a new Fuji XE-2 and 18-55mm lens. In the mean time, get packing!

Download the Evernote Note here. (It’ll download as a zip file because WordPress didn’t like the Evernote .enex file) Below you will find the complete list and notes in text format. Feel free to copy/paste. Any questions about the list or the way I travel, feel free to drop them in the comments. The formatting went a little weird and WordPress isn’t playing nice, so you just might want to download Evernote. It’s free.

This is my own packing list which you can adapt to your needs. I use a new one for each trip, renaming it – for example – KENYA 2014. It allows me to see what I brought on each previous trip and make notes about things I might have forgotten or could have left at home.
Where I have my own brand preference or recommendation I note it in a parenthetical or italicized comment. (Feel free to delete anything in italics to begin your own list.) These are based purely on my own preferences in terms of fit, budget, and quality, preferring to buy quality that I can rely on once rather than something I have to replace more often)
This list assumes a 7-14 day trip. It assumes I can buy the odd thing if I need to, and get laundry done at some point, even if just in the sink. 
This list also assumes my own preference in shooting, so if you can’t work without, for example, strobes and soft boxes, be sure to add those. 
This list does not assume specialist activities, like photographing wildlife, but those needs should be obvious – adding things like long lenses and gimbal heads as you need. 
Add to this list, or delete from it, I hope it helps as you prepare for your own adventures.
1 or 2 Camera Bodies
Camera Batteries (minimum 3 for each – one in camera, one in pocket, one charging)
Wide lens  (16-35mm)
Standard lens  (50mm)
Longer lens (85mm or 70-200mm)
SD or CF cards      (I use 64GB cards, and pack 4-10 of them depending on duration of trip, and never format them until I am home)
2-3 Micro fiber lens cloths
Sensor clean kit – swabs, brush, and one of these:
If I anticipate landscape opportunities:
Cable Release
Lee Filter Holder and adaptor rings
Polarizing Filter
ND Filter
Graduated ND Filter
If I anticipate heavy inclement weather:
Think Tank Hydrophobia rain covers
Small kitchen-sized garbage bags  (I bring a couple and use them to prevent condensation when moving from very cold into very warm)
Extra lens cloths, small dish towel or bandana to dry gear.
Small travel umbrella
Laptop   (11” MacBook Air)
Laptop charge cable
Small SSD drive
iPhone, and charge cable
Headphones (Bose earbuds. I like the ones with built-in microphone so I can Skype or podcast if needed)
Local plug adaptor if needed (How do you know if you need one? Check this site: )
Small multi-outlet power strip (so I only need one adaptor and can charge multiple devices/batteries at once.)
Small flashlight or headlamp, fresh batteries
* I put all my cables and chargers into one pouch. GuraGear makes some nice ones. 
Spare eyeglasses
Small first aid kit
Small repair kit – duct tape, crazy glue, knife / multi-plier, small screwdriver, tripod wrench
Meal bars   ( I usually have a handful. I’m diabetic, so this might be more important to me than you)
Personal Toiletries (including CampSuds or something environmentally friendly with which I can wash underwear and socks)
Medication  (All important meds stay in carry-on luggage, and bring more than you need)
Wallet  (I leave unnecessary ID at home. For money I bring some local cash, and rely on my ATM card or VISA. The more remote I am, the more local cash I bring and less I rely on the cards. )
Passport (copies of passports and important documents all sitting on my Dropbox as well.
Travel Medical Policy card
Medical Evacuation Policy card (US and Canadian residents, consider MedJet Assist. I will never leave home without this policy.)
4 shirts       (I prefer long sleeve button up shirts made of cotton (Filson makes great shirts from something they call Feather cloth) but some of the synthetic options are nice and they dry quickly. I almost always keep one folded and in reserve in case i need something sharp-looking or want a clean shirt for the flight home. Lighter colours get dirty faster, so most of my shirts are navy blue. )
4 pairs underwear      I use merino wool, which wash and dry easily and retain no odour (Icebreaker)
4 pairs socks       (see note above, re. merino wool)
2 pairs of jeans or khaki pants      (Nice jeans are almost universally acceptable now, and with a clean shirt they can dress up nicely.)
1 pair comfortable boots or shoes     (I prefer Blundstone leather boots, without laces, for easy slide on, slide off at airports, churches, mosques, shrines, etc.)
1 sweater      (cashmere or merino, the latter being from Icebreaker)
1 baseball hat to keep off sun and rain
1 jacket      (Filson Guide Work Jacket or Patagonia)
1 light rain jacket      (Patagonia)
Clothing – Cold
If the weather is going to be (very) cold I will add:
Warmer sweater (Patagonia, wool or fleece)
Warmer socks  (Icebreaker, merino wool)
2 light wool t-shirts  (Icebreaker, merino wool)
Long underwear  (2 pairs, tops and bottoms, Icebreaker, merino wool)
Thin gloves, something I can shoot in   (I have a pair of Lowe Pro gloves I like)
Thicker gloves (Patagonia)
Warm hat  (Icebreaker, merino wool)
Warm jacket  (Patagonia or Canada Goose)
Warm boots (Keen)
Rain pants  (Patagonia H2No)
Clothing – Tropical
1-2 pairs shorts, 1 doubles as swimsuit
Swap 2 long-sleeve shirts for 2 short sleeves
Sun block
Water housing for camera, mask and snorkel if applicable
I have a Filson Guide Work Jacket that I love – lots of pockets, great for travel, and if you use smaller systems, the pockets are great for a lens or two.
I also have a couple ScotteVest products – My first choice is their original Travel Vest. Their Puffer Jacket is great in the cold, and their QUEST vest is excellent too.
I have used Gura Gear bags for several years and been very happy with them. Think Tank Photo also makes excellent bags I still use. My current favourite for small gear travel is the Think Tank Airport Essentials – it won’t hold much in the way of pro-sized gear but for a couple mirrorless cameras, 3 lenses and all the trimmings, it’s perfect, and it’ll hold a laptop.
For urban travel, my checked luggage is Rimowa. For adventure travel it’s North Face’s Base Camp Duffles.
For security products, check out PacSafe’s full range of lockable products. I no longer travel with any of these, but that might be over-confidence. I prefer vigilance to carrying more stuff. But a couple luggage locks isn’t a bad idea.
If you plan to be remote, power becomes an issue. Consider something like the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 kit, which comes with solar panels, power pack, and inverter, and weighs about 5 lbs. You can add to this various cables to charge from vehicle 12v sockets and straight off battery terminals. This kit will allow you to keep charging laptops, cameras, and smart phones.
I often download a language app, city map, or other helpful apps specific to my destination, before I leave. A couple minutes in the Apple App Store can be very helpful.
There’s a fine line between paranoid and well-prepared, but I keep copies of all my important documents on my Dropbox in case something goes wrong. This includes copies of my passports and tickets. If my laptop were stolen or died, I could access almost everything important. Before Dropbox I used to just email it to my Gmail account so I could log in from anywhere to get it.


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  3. Nice post, David, I’m using Evernote for this kind of thing, too, a good tool in an ever growing toolbox.


  4. David,

    Quick follow up on gloves. In the US the company I referred to is called Mechanix and they have a bunch of different sizes, colours, cuff lengths, fasteners etc. They are also, apparently quite by accident on the part of the designers, reactive to touch screens on phones etc so you don’t have to remove them to use your device.

    A few years back I had a nasty accident on a farm where I was installing a new milking parlour and I managed to very nearly kill myself and smash my left hand into a mess of small bits (16 bits of bone where there should have been only 4 so I sympathise with your Italian accident). My hand works fine but it reacts very badly to cold so I now own a completely ridiculous number of gloves!

    My wife, also called Cynthia, and I now live in Italy and have our own business here so if you ever want to revisit and come see us do get in touch.

    All the best and keep up the work you do.


  5. Dear David,

    Many thanks for many, many useful insights you share in your blogs and books.

    If I might make a suggestion/observation or two on your packing list; (I come from a farming background and a climate that was ALWAYS wet, as in it rained 320 days a year! The variation was in the temperature, could be warm, could be cool, could be cold. It made staying comfortable difficult when working outside all day doing a physical job.)

    One big myth – ”breathable’ ‘waterproof’ clothes keep you dry all the time’ Well, actually, no they don’t. They rely on it being dryer outside than in so, if you are exerting yourself while wearing them in a downpour you will get wet, albeit from your own perspiration. Also, they do not appreciate salt water as the crystals tend to block the micropores and prevent breathing.

    This second one is a generalisation but does still hold true: If you mix manmade and natural fibre layers of clothing they tend not to be as effective at keeping you warm and dry and comfortable (and this last is the important bit) across as wide a range of conditions as if you stay with a layering system of either manmade or natural. Short version – don’t mix. Best of all, use a system from one manufacturer for all layers as they will be designed to work as a system. Anyone who tries this may well be surprised how little clothing (in terms of bulk) one needs to wear.

    Third recommendation; try wearing mechanic’s gloves. More feel, less bulk, hard wearing and not too hard on the wallet. In the U.S. I believe there is a manufacturer called ‘Mechanics’

    Being creative when you are not comfortable gets difficult so wearing the right clothes for the conditions is pretty critical, especially when far from home.
    Old safety classes mantra ‘You can’t take care of nothing and nobody if you don’t take care of yourself first.’

    Thank you for your caring and sharing philosophy, David. A warm breath of fresh air in this world.

    All the best.


    1. Author

      Thanks, Will. I appreciate the time you took to give us those notes. I’ll look into the mechanic’s gloves – they might be just the thing I need.

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  7. I have tended to pack only what can be carried on the plane…what do you do to keep checked in equipment secure?

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  9. I’m leaving for Singapore/Thailand in a few days. Your post just reminded me of some things I still needed for the trip! (better headphones especially) Thanks ^^

  10. I am ever the sucker for packing lists. Thanks for sharing yours! I used to use Evernote, but switched over to Microsoft OneNote even though I don’t use a PC and am not a fan of MS.

  11. Hi David,

    Glad to see you’ve adopted Evernote as a tool. I still remember when I was trying to sell you on it at the Camera Store in Calgary a few years back 🙂 I hope my pitch was useful.

    Thanks for that list! I find the checkboxes to be a bit cumbersome when they first introduced it (esp. in the mobile app) so I never adopted it. I just simply add periods to the ends of my lists if they are done. I’ll have to try yours out.


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