MY TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR: WHAT’S IN MY BACKPACK

For the last three years, I have been traveling all around the world taking photographs and writing travel blogs and guides. Throughout this time I’ve tried a lot of different camera gear and also different backpacks and organization methods to keep it all sorted efficiently. In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through everything that’s in my backpack. I’ll always keep this blog post up to date, adding and removing gear as I upgrade or find better alternatives.

I’ve become a bit of an efficiency and practicality geek, which I’m sure my friends will tell you all about. I only use reliable products because I can’t afford things to go wrong when I’m in a place I’ll never come back to or I’m working on a project. All of the camera gear and equipment in this blog post are items that I have in my backpack as I travel around the world as a professional travel blogger.

I usually buy my camera gear from Amazon as it is cheaper than the stores but also has a high level of reliability.

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Mirrorless Camera: Sony A7iii

The most important piece of equipment for a travel blogger is a camera. The main things to consider about a camera is the weight and size of the camera because you’re going to be carrying it around on your back every day. Secondly, you want to make sure you buy a camera you are comfortable trekking with, taking on boats and into risky situations. If you purchase an expensive camera and are too afraid to take it on your adventures you are missing the shot. For me, the Sony A7 series is the best for combining performance and quality within a lightweight, mirrorless camera. 

I wanted a light camera, one that I would be able to carry on hikes and all of my travel adventures. The Sony A7 series does a great job at matching Canon and Nikon for quality while weighing half as much. Almost every single photo you see on this blog was shot with a Sony A7ii (for my first three years) and now a Sony A7iii

The Sony A7iii weighs less than 1 kilogram! It has 24.4 megapixels and is a full-frame camera with interchangeable lenses so you can change up your shooting style with a variety of lenses, which I will cover further on this blog post.

Here’s a photo of me cruising around Cappadocia with my Sony A7iii with my 24-105mm lens. Browse through any blog post of mine and you can see what type of photos I am creating with this camera over the past four years.

 

 

Camera Backpack: WANDRD PRVKE 31L Backpack

This bag has been a revelation for me. As many of you know I had my original backpack for the first three years of traveling and it served me well (I kept it in the section at the bottom of this blog post). However, I had to keep my drone in it’s pouch, it wasn’t waterproof and only lasted me a year.

Enter the WANDRD PRVKE 31L Backpack. I’d been looking to upgrade my bag for a while and finally settled on this bag that has everything I need. To make the cut it needed the following:

  • 13-Inch Laptop Pouch
  • Camera Body compartment
  • Side access to camera 
  • Padded area for 2-3 Lenses
  • Padded area for Dji Mavic Drone
  • Padded area for Dji Mavic Drone Batteries
  • At least a 1L external water bottle holder
  • Room for camera accessories, cords and hard drives
  • Extra room for clothes, jackets, and food for overnight hiking missions.

It ticked all of those boxes. It isn’t 100% waterproof but is a sleek canvas and does come with a rain cover to help out with that. I love that it’s extendable at the top so only when I need to shove in jackets and food for a big hike do I need to extend the top. It has a handy little side-access zip to my camera so I don’t need to take my bag off at all. 

After carrying a bag every single day for almost four years now, I’m a camera/laptop bag geek. I need all my valuables on me while I travel and with my WANDRD Backpack, I can do that with a bit of style and a whole lot of practicality. 

It isn’t super cheap at a bit more than $200 but they have a lifetime guarantee, which pretty much says it all about the quality. My friend had his strap break and it was sent in and replaced immediately, which is good to know. 

 

Landscape Lens: Sony F4 16-35MM

The Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar F4 Lens was on my camera 90% of the time in my first three years of travel blogging. It is my go-to lens for most hikes and for many of my Instagram posts. However, depending on the type of adventure, I now use my 24-105mm a lot aswell. I’d say it’s 50/50 splits between my F4 24-105mm and F4 16-35mm.

The focal length of 35mm is equivalent to what you see with a naked eye. A focal length of 16mm is much wider and enabled me to capture an entire scene, a vast range of mountains or an entire beach in one shot. The Sony F4 16-35mm is my primary lens and It enabled me to shoot some portraits but also the flexibility to fit an entire landscape into my frame. It’s perfect for travel photography for those who are outdoors a lot of shooting landscapes in the mountains or of beautiful beaches.

There is also a 16-35mm F2.8 model, which means you can create a little bit more depth of field. However, it is almost double the price, is heavier and shooting with a wide aperture of 2.8 isn’t that handy for the type of landscape photos I take so I stuck with the lighter, cheaper version.

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A volcano in Guatemala shot on my 16-35mm f4 with a Sony A7ii

Josh ridge running in Switzerland. Shot at 16mm on my 16-35 f4 on my Sony A7iii

 

Travel Blogging Lens: Sony F4 24-15mm 

For my first three years of blogging, I mainly used my F4 16-35mm but it was limiting at times and i didn’t enjoy changing lenses to throw a 70-200mm or 55mm on while I was on a boat, on a sweaty hike or other areas where dust and moisture would get inside my camera sensor.

At the start of 2019, I bought a Sony F4 24-105mm, and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I honestly don’t know why I wasn’t using this lens earlier. Having the ability to zoom in to 105mm and shoot details, compress backgrounds and target specific elements of a scene is a breath of fresh air for me and has reinvigorated my photography. I still love getting those wide-angle landscape shots but at 24mm, I can shoot most hiking scenes and adventure scenes while having the ability to quickly zoom in to 105mm a moment later. It has now become my most used lens just ahead of the F4 16-35mm.

Shot on my Sony F4 24-105mm at full zoom of 105mm while standing on a crowded viewpoint in Cappadocia.

 

Portrait Lens: 55mm f1.8 Sony- Zeiss

A prime lens has a fixed focal length and a much wider aperture, which enables low light shooting and a much smaller depth of field. I purchased the Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar T FE ZA Prime Lens. I ended up doing a few paid jobs and paying off this lens quickly. My favorite time with this lens was in Indonesia where I tried my hand at travel portrait photography for the first time, which turned out to be really fun especially with the small depth of field the Sony 55m F1.8 delivered. Taking portraits is something I do now in every country I visit and it is because of this lens.

 

Hoya Polarizer Filter

Almost all of my landscape photos involve the bright sun and the ocean. The harsh light from the sun often blows out the water with awful reflections. I bought a Hoya 72mm HRT Circular PL Polarizer for my Sony F4 16-35mm landscape lens and with a small twist before taking a photo I was now able to reduce or eliminate the reflections on the ocean. All of a sudden I could see the reef below the water and bring out the turquoise color of the Pacific Ocean. Even on hikes the polarizer really brings out the greens of the trees and is so handy when shooting a waterfall. My polarizer is on my camera 90% of the time and is one of my favorite accessories. It also protects your expensive lens glass from scratches.

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Dji Mavic 2 Drone

Buying a drone is the single best thing I’ve done during my travels. I absolutely love flying my drone at all of the amazing places I get to visit. The Dji Mavic Pro 2 is super compact and fits in my WANDRD Backpack quite easily. I love the idea that I get to have an aerial tour of each location I visit. It is like a free helicopter experience all around the world. The drone allows me to really show the landscape of a location to my blog readers in a way that a regular camera just can’t capture. I love getting to the top of a mountain on a solo hike, chilling out for a bit and then sending the drone up for an aerial view.

If you do purchase the Dji Mavic Pro 2, make sure you grab a set of polarizer/ND filters. Just like the polarizer I talked about earlier for the camera, the drone photos are ten times better when you use a polarizer. I’ve only ever used the Circular Polarizer from Polar Pro. To use the circular polarizer you just need to hold it up before you fly it and spin the polarizer to where it will work best depending on the position of the sun.

I always travel with three DJI Mavic pro 2 batteries because they only last for 25-minutes and if you are out all day island-hopping or hiking there maybe three or even more locations that will look great from the air so it’s best to carry three as they aren’t too heavy.

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Captured on my Dji Mavic 2 Drone with Polar Pro Circular Polarizer

 

GoPro Hero 7

The GoPro Hero 7 is serious bang for your buck. There is nothing else that compares to it on the market right now. It allows you to take amazing underwater photos at a very affordable price. Pair this with a selfie stick or a dome port and you’ll be able to capture some incredible angles. GoPros are also extremely durable, they’ll be able to take a lot more hits than you will so you don’t have to be afraid where you can and can’t take it.

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Moment Iphone Case and Wide-Angle Lens

An addition to the gear in 2019 was a Moment wide-angle lens and Moment iPhone case, which it screws onto.. The company is called Moment Lenses and they create lenses such as a 58mm, wide and super-wide angle. How it works is that you have to use their iPhone case and then you just screw the lens on and off you go. I often screw it on as I start a hike and use it to take secondary photos of the hike for times when my camera is packed away. It is super, super wide, which makes it awesome on a tight trail. Here are a few examples:

 

Sandmarc Extra Long Selfie Pole

Don’t be ashamed of using your selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles. I use the Sandmarc GoPro pole because of a couple of reasons. The Sandmarc pole is longer than the default stick GoPro sells and it also doesn’t have the three-arm bend. It is for holding out during a cliff jump, on a moped. It doesn’t bend or need adjusting just whip it out, get the shot and put it away before anyone notices!!

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Lifeproof Phone Case

Whether you’re island hopping or tip-toeing behind enormous waterfalls, it’s a wise investment to get yourself a waterproof phone cover. I use a Lifeproof Waterproof Case, so I never have to worry about dust, water, sand and scratching my phone. It also handles being dropped all the time. Not only do they keep your phone safe from water damage, you’ll be able to take photos on the move too. If you want to use your phone near water a cheap phone pouch or case will do the job, but one of them is a definite must.

Peak Design Camera Strap

I often got sick of having a camera strap attached to my camera 24/7, so I finally purchased the Peak Design clip-on strap, which lets me clip it and unclip the camera strap when I don’t want it on. I don’t really use it when I’m hiking, I just hold my camera steady and prefer not to have the strap swinging around but sometimes you want the strap for safety. With the Peak Design clips, you don’t need to undo the whole thing you can just unclip it in seconds. Practicality!

GorillaPod

I quickly figured out that carrying a tripod everywhere was not fun at all. In fact, I often left it at the hostel because I didn’t want to hike with it. So when I did need a tripod I didn’t even have one. I decided to buy myself a GorillaPod, which is super small, lightweight and fits inside my backpack easily. It is bendable and you can attach it to almost anything. Unlike the tripod, which has a maximum height, you can attach the camera to poles, tree branches or street signs to grab a steady shot. It’s perfect for vlogging and setting up photos of yourself if no-one else is around.

 

Anker Powerbank

A few hours on Google Maps is a sure way to drain your phone battery, alas, a power bank is a necessity for me. This year I started using an Anker Powerbank and it was a life-changer. It stays charged when I’ve charged it, is super reliable and gives me 3-4 cycles of phone charge or camera battery charge. It guarantees I always have the battery charged on my phone, plus it has another USB point for other electronics like your GoPro. If you are a photographer, digital nomad or just love your tech this is a necessity.

 

Worldwide Power Adapter

Charging all your gear can be difficult enough in the Philippines, it pays to get yourself a good quality adapter that will plug into any wall without fail. If you get yourself a worldwide adapter, it will come in handy for the rest of your travels too. There’s nothing worse than traveling around Southeast Asia and having to buy a new adaptor for every single country. Get a universal adaptor and simplify your travels.

 

Memory Cards

I have two SanDisk Extreme PRO SD cards, which has worked perfectly for me. They come in different storage amounts but the 64gb or 128gb means you will literally never run out unless you are shooting insane amounts of video.

 

EarthPak Waterproof Dry Bag

You got it, another tropical essential. When you’ve seen as many people lose their phones or camera gear to water damage as I have, you’ll understand why I place so much importance on a waterproof dry bag. A quality dry bag will do as it suggests by keeping your belongings air-tight even if the bag happens to become fully immersed in water during snorkeling, a boat trip or waterfall adventures.

the lost waterfalls boquete

 

Victoria Tourist Camera Backpack (My old backpack)

This was my backpack for the first three years of traveling. It’s much cheaper than the Wandrd at less than $100 but it doesn’t quite live up to the Wandrd PRVKE either. For my first three years, I used a VictoriaTourist backpack and I have used this bag for the last 3 years. It can fit a laptop, clothes, water, drone, GoPro and DSLR with lenses all for a day of adventures. It is one of the only bags in the world that fits a laptop, 3 liters of water and has your DSLR camera and lenses in a zippable front pocket rather than in compartments inside the bag. I always used to watch other photographers take their bag off or to get their camera out and shake my head. It also has a rain cover, which saved me multiple times. I could go on forever about this bag as it has been through so much with me. From the top of Everest Base Camp to the waterfalls of the Philippines! It’s pictured below on my back as I did an overnight trek in Panama.

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6 Discussion to this post

  1. […] what Camera and Photography Gear I take all my photos with while traveling around the world?  Click Here to view […]

  2. Kunjan says:

    Great insight. I own some of them. I think Sony cameras have come long way with their mirrorless technology.

  3. Hi, I tend to agree with your combo 16-35 + 55 but don’t you ever miss a longer focal?

  4. Thank you for sharing this blog post. It is exciting to read how travel bloggers like yourself can capture and create such mesmerising photos.

  5. Jackson says:

    Hey John,

    I’ve had my lenses and my gear for 2.5 years. I had to have the body fixed a couple of times due to a camera error (mirrorless system downfall) but other than that the lenses and everything work fine. From Everest Base camp to the jungles of Panama.

  6. John says:

    Thanks for the insights! I’d love to hear what your impressions are after 6 months of traveling with the A7ii and your lenses – are they holding up despite the humidity / rain / dirt of travel?
    I live in Indonesia, and I’ve had a difficult time with some of my lenses getting moldy due to the humidity, lens blades locking up and bodies failing. It’s been a rough road, and I’m looking to upgrade my gear with something that is going to be more durable.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I really dig your photography!

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