It goes without saying that the most important tool in a photographer’s bag is the camera itself. Having the right camera and lens is crucial to capturing the scene the way you envisioned it. That being said, there are lots of non-photography products that every outdoor photographer should have with them. Here is a list of gear you won’t want to leave home without.
A good headlamp is perhaps the most important piece of non-camera gear that an outdoor photographer can carry. Since most of the time we are shooting at sunrise and sunset, we inevitably end up hiking in the dark. Having personally had to hike back to the truck without a headlamp, I can assure you this is something you will want with you. A headlamp can also help to illuminate a night scene or be used as a photo prop on a model.
Here is the Petzl headlamp I use.
This may seem like an obvious one, but having something to cover your camera during a rainstorm is invaluable. A compact umbrella can be a great option if you are shooting from a tripod. If you like to shoot handheld, or just don’t like the idea of messing with an umbrella, this lightweight camera cover is the option for you. This cover allows easy access the back of the camera so you can keep shooting even in the worst conditions.
Having a model or property release in your pack is always a good idea. You never know when you will make a commercially viable image and it would be a real shame not to be able to market it because you lack the proper releases. I always have a few paper copies in my pack, but also have the Easy Release app on my phone that makes model releases simple and easy.
While they don’t technically go in your camera bag, having a good pair of knee-high rubber boots is critical for photographing in wet conditions. Rubber boots allow you to walk right through small rivers, wet grasses, muddy trails and other environments that can hinder your creativity. No longer do I get my shoes wet from rogue waves at the beach when I am focused on my camera. These Xtratuf boots are warm, sturdy, and comfortable.
Gloves and a Red Shirt
I always keep a pair of gloves and a red shirt in my pack. I used to frequently forget my gloves as I raced out the door to shoot a frigid sunrise. After enough mornings of trying to painfully thaw out my fingers, my gloves now live in my camera bag. This pair from North Face is great since you can operate a touch screen with them on.
I also keep a generic red t-shirt in my pack, ready to throw on a model at a moments notice. Often I find myself in front a scene that would look great with a person in it, only to see that my friends are wearing an earth-toned shirt that camouflages them to the environment. Having a red (or other bright colored) shirt can really help your model stand out.
Small Backpacking Towel
In addition to carrying lots of microfiber lens cleaning cloths, I also keep a small lightweight and packable backpacking towel in my camera bag. These towels come in handy for keeping all your gear clean, dry, and functioning properly.
If you are going to be in remote places taking photos, it is a good idea to have some sort of emergency beacon with you. The Spot Beacon is a great option. This beacon acts as a safety net in case something goes wrong in the backcountry. It has buttons that will contact emergency services as well as a “check-in” feature that sends a message to loved ones to let them know you are all right and having fun.
National Park Pass
If you enjoy photographing in the National Parks (and who doesn’t?), the annual pass is a must have. For only $80 you get access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. With rising park entrance costs, this pass pays for itself almost immediately. Get the pass and go exploring!