Everyone has a pocket or two in their camera bag filled with odds and ends that they might find useful. If you’re the type of photographer that travels a lot or is often on-location you’ve probably developed a list of non-photographic items for various scenarios, based on your own experiences. Here is a list of all the things that can be found in my camera bags. Some of these things you probably already carry and hopefully others inspire you to add them. Depending on how much time you spend away from your home or studio will determine just how useful some items might be. At least 90% of my photography is either on location or traveling so everything on this list has been useful one time or another. This is not a list of things every photographer needs to carry but more a list of ideas that different photographers might find useful depending on the type of work they do.
If you have read any of my camera bag reviews you’ll know I believe in the right bag for the job. So I rotate through at least 5 main bags depending on the type of work and environment I’ll be in. So as not to be constantly moving small items between bags I have put most of these items in each of my main camera bags so I know I’ll always have what I need. Whenever possible I try to buy multiples or in bulk to save a few dollars and keep a bin full of extras for restocking. This article came about from me reorganizing all my bags, cleaning out the clutter, and making sure I had one of everything in each. Luckily most of the items are low-cost and lightweight so buying multiples is pretty easy. You may have one bag to rule them all so this will be easier for you.
Disclaimer: I have listed the items with links to Amazon and B&H Photo to make it easier. I own all of these items and have tried to recommend some of the brands I trust as well as cheaper alternatives when possible. However, these links are Fstoppers affiliate links. A lot of this can also be found at your local big-box store.
A small first Aid kit should be in everyone's bag. In my opinion, they take up very little space, weigh nothing, and we all need a Bandaid, safety pin, Neosporin, or Tylenol at one time or another. I have a more robust kit for my outdoor adventure work and a travel kit for when I’m abroad, but there is at least a small basic kit in every bag I own. They come in all sorts of mini containers and you can even make your own in an Altoids tin. I always use the kit as a cheap starting point and add the things I find most useful to me in extra.
Another photographer turned me on to Ben’s insect repellent wipes which have become the only repellant I use. Ticks and Lyme disease are a big concern here in the North East and I’ve spent a lot of time in Malaria risk countries on assignment. Individually wrapped wipes make it super easy to stick them everywhere just in case and I have unexpectedly needed them on so many random jobs. They have 30% DEET so if that is a concern for you the parent company also makes another identical product called Natrapel wipes with 20% Picaridin as its active ingredient.
- First Aid Kit:
- Ben’s Wipes / Natrapel Wipes
- Lip Balm
- Wet wipes
- Nuun electrolyte
Once you leave the studio you’re at the mercy of mother nature and she doesn't care about your photoshoot. A couple of lightweight accessories stuffed into a pocket can keep you shooting when you find yourself unprepared. Even in warmer months I often carry a wool beanie and a pair of gloves. I prefer wool because it is lightweight and easily stuffed into a small pocket, but also for its tendency to smell less over time. Sometimes I end up shooting later into the evening than planned or go shoot a nightscape after a job if the temps drop unexpectedly I'm prepared. I also take a thin neck gaiter everywhere, mostly for sun protection on my neck but it's also great for dusty environments and cooler windy days.
If I think there is a chance for rain I always pack my Marmot Precip which packs down into its own pocket for easy storage and ThinkTank rain cover. But for unexpected showers, I pack a small poncho and Op/Tech rain sleeve which take up no space and cost very little. Lastly, years ago I bought an 8 pack of Shamwow Chamois, cut them in half, and put one in each bag. You could also use any microfiber or Chamois cloth. They work great for cleaning water and mud off your gear or self. Sometimes in a light shower, I’ll just drape one over my camera if I think it will move past instead of using the rain sleeve.
- Wool beanie
- Neck gaiter
- Wool gloves
- Camera rain sleeve
- Waterproof jacket
Even before Covid, I carried a couple of pairs of Nitrile gloves and a sealed 3 pack of face masks. Obviously, it's become something we have to carry now but they both have tons of uses for why you should keep them in your bag long term. More than once I’ve found myself working in unpleasant-smelling locations. A nurse once told me the trick is to dab some lip balm or fragrance on the outside of a mask to make it bearable. Earplugs are a must for me, I go through them constantly while shooting or traveling. Between constant construction here in Boston or just unfamiliar sounds abroad I never forget to keep a couple in my bag.
Unfortunately, you can’t plan for every potential bad day but here are some tools I’ve found always come in handy either for myself or someone I’m working with. Some of these you probably always carry like a charger or battery pack but others I've found super useful over the year while working.
We all have lights on our phones but if you’ve ever dropped something at night or gone back to a location for something forgotten you’ll know the person who pulls out a real flashlight is always the hero. I have a bunch of tiny flashlights, they are cheap, well made, and use standard AAA batteries, but I also carry a medium-size penlight that takes 2 AAAs and has a rechargeable USB port. I started carrying this because it can charge AAAs in a pinch if I don't have a charger. Glow sticks are another great light source I stick in each bag, one green and one red. The green is good for lighting up a small area or marking a location at night. The red ones are great for nightscape and astrophotography so you don’t lose your night vision while working.
I clip a carabiner to every bag I own, not just my camera bags. As a rock climber, I can always find a use for it even if it's just something simple like clipping a water bottle to my bag. but I also carry a decent length of heavy-duty paracord in a quick deploy bundle. Combined I can clip my bag to my tripod to weigh it down or use them to pull my bag up a wall or small rock face that I’ve scrambled up. I’ve even improvised a camera strap. I always recommend spending a little extra for a real climbing carabiner but I also included a decent S-biner that is cheap but reliable.
- Anker Boulder Penlight
- ThruNite Mini 120 Lumens (also comes with belt clip and EDC tin)
- Lumintop Mini 120 Lumens
- 4L Waterproof bag
- Battery pack
- Carabiner / S-biner
- Multi tool
- Wet/Dry lens cloth
- Extra Earbuds
- Glow sticks
- Zip Ties
- Micro Gaffers tape
If you’re shooting any kind of portrait work most of these items can save you time in post. If you're a full-time portrait or wedding photographer you probably have a whole kit for this but I think all photographers can benefit from adding a couple into your bag. I found these great little basic sewing kits that are $12 for 100. I toss a couple in every bag and give them out all the time.
- Neutrogena Makeup Wipes
- Mini Lint Roller
- Sewing kit
- Shout wipes
- Mini A-clips
- Binder clips
- Dental floss picks
Here are few bonus items if you want to be that person who always saves the day.
- Extra USB Thumb drive
- Multi-port charging cable
- $100 in $20 Dollar bills
- Lighter & Glue Stick
- Precision Pen Screwdriver
- 3M Velcro
- Hair Ties
- Rubber Door Stop
Over the years I’ve added or removed things that didn’t get used and every photographer has their own list of items but I think this is a pretty good start for anyone to expand upon for their own needs.
What do you carry in your bags? Did I miss anything that you think should be included?
If your going to go to some wild places a PLB, very small, very long life and world coverage. https://oceansignal.com/products/plb1/
Nice, Ive used similar devices for more specific adventures like sailing or avalanches.
Thank you and thank you very much for suggesting a PLB! I think people should have one of these even if they are going out for a 30-minute hike even if there is good cell service. Many times cellphones have to work harder in remote places draining the battery faster than normal.
Oddly I don't have a paper clip or rubber band packed haha
Always have snacks. I also carry hard candies when traveling so I always have something sweet.
I think a space blanket is also useful.
I don't typically carry one traveling but I could see some use for it.
I have a small survival/aid kit for when I'm in the wilderness , that's a whole other kit that maybe I'll do a breakdown of if people have an interest.
I've always carried a decent (the super-thin ones rip too easy...spend a couple bucks more for security) space blanket in my truck glove box. It's pretty good $5 "insurance" and weighs almost nothing. Definitely worth having!
Yup, keeps you warm and in pinch, it can be a reflector..
Where do I put my camera and lenses? (humor)
At first, it does seem like a lot haha, but I always get the smallest version to keep it light. Surprisingly I get almost all of it into those smaller nearly useless pockets in camera bags.
There are times when I leave a lens behind, in order to have room for "other stuff".
And there are other times when I wear my camera with one mounted lens around my neck, via the neckstrap, so that I can fit more lenses and other gear in the camera bag.
Hence the reason why went out and bought a larger bag for longer outings or traveling to other countries. Funny thing just last night, I could not find my bottle opener in my apartment I just moved into. But I knew there was a multi-tool in my bag. Sometimes my camera bag helps me right here at home. :)
Fingernail polish remover pads! Especially useful for Seniors!
Cutex Care Swipe and Go Nail Polish Remover Pads, 10 Count https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073XXYBS8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_B8VVSE7...
A great suggestion I will definitely add it to my kit.
The Thrunite Mini has been a part of my EDC for a long time now. Great little light!
I have several power banks made by Anker of various sizes. They too are well made.
It's the best deal for the price for sure. Also, check out Omnicharge 20+ for an amazing do everything battery pack. It's my go-to.
Not a compartment but extra bag!!! But have most and will get some of the items for the scout I am. Eye Drops and a mirror, had a 1" hair under my eyeball one evening out shooting, lucky to have eye drops and mirror to see reflecting some light from headlamp. All the lights please use a green filter not red. Green is better to see and red just blinds other cameras..
I carry a small mirror too. I forgot to add that one thanks.
When photographing birds, an old cell phone, with the iBird Pro app installed, and a bluetooth speaker ... both fully charged. Also hand pruners and/or a Leatherman for cutting perches.
When photographing deer during the breeding season, a grunt call, a rattle pack, a small bottle of doe-in-heat urine, Q-tips, and extra ZipLoc bags to keep the urine smell from getting all over everything else.
If I do not have these things with me when photographing the respective species, then I am missing out on shots that can only be obtained with the use of said gear. Using this stuff gets me shots one simply cannot get without the use of this stuff, and I do not like to leave any potential opportunities on the table.
Great tips for wildlife work.
Can't count the number of times an Olfa knife saved my life. I've used a large Ziploc for a rain hood - put camera in bag, secure bag to lens with lens hood, CAREFULLY trim bag over lens with Olfa knife. I have a good quarter inch gap to work with on the lens so I'm not too worried about scratching it.
I'd also suggest pepper spray for those random robbers that run up on ya in San Francisco.
C Fisher wrote,
"Can't count the number of times an Olfa knife saved my life."
Saved your life? Do you mean that literally, or figuratively?
I have tromped all over the wilderness for years and years, many miles from roads or civilization, and cannot recall any time when my life was threatened, or in need of saving.
If you meant that statement literally, I would love to hear about some of the life-threatening situations you were in, and how the knife saved your life.
You are getting away from civilization that's why you don't have any stories, I've had my life threatened multiple times by other humans while working.
I always carry some kind of knife for sure but I didn't include one as a regular carry item because of travel restrictions and people often forget it's in a bag.
Lots of stories about journalists and news crews getting robbed in SF, you need that protection.
I get what you are saying, but never thought of a knife as something that could offer any actual protection against people who practice violence on a regular basis. I think if a thug tried to rob me or beat me and I pulled out a knife, he/she would just laugh and smash me in the head before I even made a defensive move. I will readily admit that, knife or not, I am no match whatsoever for anyone who would mean to do me harm. Just don't see how a knife would make any difference at all.
I agree and I do believe based on the kind of knife Fisher mentioned he meant figuratively. Also, I agree with his statement about pepper spray for protection in robbing situations I have never believed a knife was a good safety measure against being robbed unless in rare cases trained to use one.
I do believe a knife can save your life literally in so many other ways. I carry a dive knife when I'm in the water because I have had to use it to rescue someone whose gear got tangled. I carry a knife all the time because I do travel to places that bad things can happen and even if it's being mugged and left on the side of the road I know a knife will help keep me alive.
For landscape photography, or any other outdoor photography, mosquito/bug repellent is always in my bag, especially in the summer months.
Definitely, that's why I listed two different kinds I highly recommend. I stash them in everything from my wallet, jacket, and every camera bag. Between ticks in NE and Mosquitos in Africa, I don't leave home without them.
This isn't a list for a camera bag. It's a list for a camera trunk. :-)
I keep a small JBL Bluetooth speaker in my portrait bag. Music is many times helpful to relax a client.
We keep a small mirror, feminine items, and much of what you suggest in our wedding kit.
I also keep a small knife or multi tool in all of my bags, just don’t forget to remove them if you are flying. I have a multi tool that has no blade I bring on flights.
No Duct Tape ? Wow. That saved my friend's arse on an Everest trek when his boots split (I had it wrapped around my hiking sticks - you don't have hiking sticks ? Seriously?)! I also carry around a dozen zip ties which are fantastic - super strong, weigh nothing and take up zero room.
Space blanket and for me a Bivy (super light at around 8 oz and both can be lifesavers).
Couple of tiny power banks (each recharge my phone x3 times, sometimes just the one on a short trip).
Mini First Aid kit of course and a small powerful head torch (Black Diamond etc.) - though I always carry two.
Old DVD disk weighs next to nothing and is great for signaling.
Wired headphones (don't need recharging).
All these bits and pieces I built up from hiking in the high Himalayas over the past decade and even together weigh next to nothing (except the powerbank and the Sol bivy) but even together they take up virtually no room at all.
Hiking sticks are an absolute imperative too. I can't tell you how many times they have literally saved me and how many people I've seen slip over without them.
All great tips. I tried to keep the list to general items I think all photographers can use no matter the genre. When I'm in the wilderness I carry a lot of things not on the list depending on the trip.
thats allot of stuff, In 1976 I spent a year in nepal, india, afghanastan, burma, indonesia. I had a pocket knife, a flashlight, neosporin, 3 bandaids, Yak wool sweater, thin rain coat and 1 change of clothes. Travelers checks, passport. An OM1 and 2 lenses. No cell phone.
OMG how did we survive. Some of my best images. (now I carry a garmin) getting old.
I just returned from a month-long trip photographing reptiles in the Sonoran Desert. I used a small backpack as my camera bag, and along with my DSLR and lenses, I carried:
large canvas snake bag
snake handling gauntlets (kevlar-reinforced heavy leather gloves that extend past the elbow)
1,000 lumen headlamp with extra sets of AA batteries
a quart bottle of water and a 20 ounce bottle of water
a half dozen smallish zip ties (for securing the snake bag opening)
a spare pair of socks
I desperately wanted to include a heavy ground cloth, so that when lying on the desert floor to photograph the critters, I could spread it out to lay on while shooting, to keep the sand, miscellaneous desert debris, and cacti fragments from clinging to my clothes and arms. But with the aforementioned items and 3 kinda large lenses already in the pack, there just wasn't any room left for the small tarp. Would've been really nice to have. Wish there was a way to fit a larger backpack in my car the next time I roadtrip down there. I could really use the extra space.
Sounds like a great trip. I use the Shimoda bags so I can strap extra gear to the outside like a tent.
OK. Where do I put my gear?
In a better bag designed to hold more than just your gear. :) haha
Mosquito repellant is a big one for me shooting outdoors.