Photographers: Here’s How to Pack the Perfect Carry-On

As a photographer, packing a carry-on can be a bit of a challenge. I like to keep my gear close by, as opposed to packing it in a checked bag. This way I always know where it is, I know how it’s being handled, and if my bag gets lost or delayed I won’t be suffering without my beloved camera!

Here are my favorite tips and tricks I’ve gathered throughout the years, as well as items you want to make sure you have to maximize your travel photography experience!

Choose the right bag.

Photographer Backpack Langly Bag Co

Having the right bag is going to make your life a whole lot easier when trying to pack a carry-on full of fragile gear. Make sure your bag can also double as something you’ll be able to use on the go once you get to your destination. There’s nothing worse than having to pack an extra bag inside your carry-on, and then having to switch bag and forth all the time!
My favorite bag of all-time is the Alpha Pro Camera Bag from Langly Bag Co. It’s a little on the spendy side for a backpack ($249) but I bought mine a few years ago and not only is it still in perfect condition, but I’m obsessed with all of its features. It’s definitely worth the investment!

Not only is the bag waterproof, but it has three main compartments for packing different types of items. There’s a laptop slot underneath the top flap, an upper-half compartment that I use as a ‘purse’, and a lower-half compartment for all my camera gear (with removable dividers for your lenses).

Langly Bag Co.
Image Credit: Langly Bag Co.

There are also three zip-flap pouches along the outside and straps on the bottom of the bag to attach a full-size tripod. With all these different sections, you can pack a lotttt in this bag. Plus it has thick straps and the waterproof fabric makes it perfect for hiking through the elements without having to worry about your gear!

Pack for the shots you want to take.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but envisioning the kind of shots you want to take based on where you’re going will really help you in deciding what kind of gear you need to bring – and what you can leave behind.

As I’m writing this, I’m planning for my trip to Iceland. Because I’m doing so many different types of activities, and because the landscape is so diverse, I’m bringing a lot more gear than I normally do!

My cousin and I are going snorkeling through the Silfra Fissure, so I’m bringing my waterproof GoPro to film our dive. I also bought a head strap so I can swim without having to worry about holding (or dropping!) it, and a waterproof phone sleeve that hands around my neck. This way I can use my GoPro remote app to see what I’m filming, and also take a few Snapchats from my phone!

I normally would bring a full-size tripod, but since I’m trying to pack as light as I can to hike around, I bought a mini tripod with adapters for my GoPro, iPhone, and DSLR. This way Tess and I can take selfies without using a giant stick, and I can use a remote app with my DSLR to do long-exposure shots of all the different waterfalls we’ll be seeing!

Photographer backpack laptop slot

Normally I wouldn’t want to bring my laptop on a trip (just one more thing to carry around), but this time I opted to bring it since it fits so easily in my Langly bag. I brought a mini memory card reader with different size slots so I can dump my GoPro footage and backup all my photos without having to worry about running out of space. Usually I’d bring enough memory cards to where this wouldn’t be necessary, but I’d rather have the piece of mind knowing they are saved elsewhere. Plus I want to journal as much as I can about my travels! 🙂

Leave room for the essentials.

As a photographer, you main focus is going to be properly packing all of your equipment and making sure you can bring as much as you can. But don’t forget this carry-on has to get you through the plane ride too!

I love the top half of my Langly bag because it has enough space to where I can cram in everything I’d need on a long plane ride without having to bring an extra purse or bag. I always make sure I have a journal ready, a face mask, and my favorite protein bars.

Plus, when you get to your destination, you can throw all these items into your suitcase and use this top half to bring your daily essentials for whatever you’ll be seeing that day. There’s even enough room for a change of clothes if you need it!

Photographers Carry-On Items

I fit all of this inside my carry-on (my neck pillow I just snapped to the top handle), and still had a lot more room to throw things in last minute like my wallet and favorite waterbottle.

I removed the velcro dividers in the bottom half of the bag to give a size reference. There was still a ton of room on all sides to squeeze in more items, plus add an extra layer on top. In reality, I’ll put the dividers back in and pack my DSLR and various lenses in this section, but I couldn’t do that and take the photo at the same time :p

Packing a Carry-on for Photographers
I love R.M. Drake’s poetry – Broken Flowers is my favorite!

By bringing a bag that has tons of storage space that doubles as a carry-on, hiking backpack, and camera bag, you’ll save yourself a lot of fuss by streamlining the process of traveling vs. sightseeing. Having a waterproof bag also ensures you won’t have to worry about sneaky weather attacks, or about your equipment getting wet.

What are your favorite photography gear items that you can’t leave without?

11 thoughts on “Photographers: Here’s How to Pack the Perfect Carry-On

  1. Great post. There are so many great camera bags and so many great carry on packs but not many that do both. Hope you have a fantastic time in Iceland!

  2. Well as a fellow photographer, I fully support this guide. Literally looks like my carry-on, to a T! Even the fuji instax, though mine is sea foam green and pink haha. I even have a sony camera and lenses, and a go pro haha! Though my neck pillow is gone, I now carry an emoji pillow, not going to lie.

    1. Haha I totally have the unicorn emoji pillow! Glad to find someone who uses the same gear as I do 🙂

  3. I left my tripod at home last time and really regretted it! I need to get a more portable one I think that isn’t a pain to carry around! Thanks for this – really useful 🙂

  4. This is great! I needed this. Im traveling to Chile next week for two months and i have so many electronics to take! Beautiful bag!

  5. Such great info 😄! My partner and I travel with a Lowepro carry on bag for all our equipment and love it however I love this one that you have. Much more trendy ha ha.

  6. Although I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, I do travel with a lot of camera gear – my DSLR plus lens, Canon Powershot and Go Pro (and all chargers) – so it’s good to know that there’s a carry-on pack on the market that can safely accommodate all these (I love all the compartments!), as well as one that looks cool too. I also love the fact that it’s waterproof 🙂

Comments are closed.