I’m a full-time travel writer/blogger and whether I’m running around Barcelona writing and taking photos for my blog or hitting the road on press trips for Ryanair, this is the travel gear that I always pack…
If you’re a budding travel writer/blogger/photographer, this should help you travel lighter and longer.
From my preferred backpack brands to essential camera equipment, this is my personal travel blogging packing list.
My “One Bag” Travel Packing Ethos
You’ve heard it a million times but I can’t stress how true it is: less is definitely more when it comes to packing.
Whether I’m away for a weekend or a couple of weeks, I take everything I need to write and take photos (plus all of my clothes) in the backpack I’m wearing in the above photo. Yes, really!
Why Travel with One Bag
Travelling with one bag means you don’t have to hang around at airports waiting at the conveyor belt. It means you only have one bag to keep an eye when there are suspicious looking people around.
It means your hands are free to take photos and make notes, to eat and drink and touch and feel. It means you can pop into shops, markets, cafes and even fancy restaurants without standing out like a sore thumb, or hop on a bike without having to worry about where you’re going to leave your stuff.
My Backpack Obsession
I’ve been obsessed with backpacks since I was eight years old. I used to load up a pack with all my toys and take them on adventures into the woods. I was a strange kid.
Later in life I took huge 85-litre backpacks with me when I travelled around Asia and Australia, loaded up with my favourite books and various types of shoes. But one day I slipped a disk (true story) in my back and realised I needed to change my ways.
Slowly my backpacks got smaller and smaller, and soon I was travelling more frequently and more comfortably.
The Perfect Carry-on Backpack
I’m completely in love with North Face backpacks. I’ve been using (and abusing) my North Face Basecamp Hot Shot backpack for about three or four years now and it’s still in near-perfect condition. The quality really is outstanding and I can’t see me using anything else but North Face backpacks in the future (No, I’m not sponsored by them).
Size-wise I could go a little bigger and still get away with carry-on only, but I’ve always managed to fit everything I’ve needed into this little beauty.
Why I love my North Face backpack so much:
- I got mine in black and it looks slick. Slick enough to take with me when I’m reviewing fancy restaurants and bars. And it looks equally as cool halfway up a mountain. Versatility is key to travelling lightly.
- The side mesh pockets allow extremely quick access things that you need quick access to. I use them to carry a bottle of water and a flask full of coffee (I save a small fortune by not buying bottled water and expensive coffees when I’m travelling). Or sometimes I use one to carry my camera tripod.
- It has a padded laptop compartment with a “clip in” strap, which means I don’t worry about my laptop getting crushed or stolen.
- It’s almost waterproof. No, it’s not submersible, but I’ve been caught in the rain plenty of times and not a drop has ever got through to my clothes, camera or laptop.
- It’s adjustable and extremely comfortable.
- The two main compartments make it easy to separate clothes, which you don’t necessarily need quick and easy access to, from the camera gear and tech that I often need to access at the drop of a hat.
Shop for North Face backpacks on Amazon UK
My Camera Equipment ~ Travel Blogging Essentials
I’m not employed as a “photographer” per se, but I am expected to get great photos to accompany my articles. And when I was asked to write the Barcelona book for The HUNT Guides, it was on the basis that I could also supply quality photos. And whilst I’m passionate about photography, I consider myself to be a writer that takes photos, as opposed to a “travel writer ‘and’ photographer”.
In short, whether creating content for your own travel blog or for a client, there are a few photography essentials you’re going to need.
My Beloved Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
I didn’t want a full-on DSLR, but I wanted something with similar functionality and a serious zoom. This is where “bridge cameras” come into play – something between a full DSLR and a ‘point and shoot’ camera.
My Canon PowerShot SX510 HS has been the perfect camera for all of my blog trips. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take up a ton of room in my bag and it’s nice and light. I’ve used it on all sorts of press trips and also to take photos for the guide book I wrote for The HUNT Guides. The zoom is epic (see the moon photo below for proof).
Here are some sample images that I’ve take on-the-move and from-the-hip:
My *Essential* iPhone
I do a lot of restaurant and bar reviews and it’s not always polite to whap out a massive camera and start snapping away. More to the point, I don’t like to blow my cover as a mystery visitor. And then there are other times when I simply don’t want to carry my camera for whatever reason, perhaps because I’m cycling or hanging out with friends in the city.
Actually, when you see the quality of an iPhone 6 camera, you’ll wonder how much you really ‘need’ a camera at all. I’m currently with an iPhone 5, but the six is on my wish list!
I never used tripods because I thought they were too bulky and heavy. But then I started using the Gorillapod. It’s light and fits neatly in my bag, perfect for attaching to trees or to get great shots from creative angles.
My 11-inch Apple MacBook Air
I can’t express how life-changing my Mac has been. I spend about ten or twelve hours a day in front of my laptop, so it’s important to be happy with it. Yes the screen is small, but, no, it’s not too small, and its slimline design means it slides in and out of my bag without taking up much space at all. It’s so light that I frequently have to stop and unzip my bag to check no-one has stolen it. Love, no… I adore my Mac.
If you’re an aspiring travel writer/blogger or an experienced freelancer looking for a laptop that you can depend on 100%, I can’t emphasise how strongly I recommend the Apple MacBook Air.
If there’s one piece of advice I have for other aspiring travel writers, it’s this: read, read, read! Read as much as possible, read everything and anything. You’ll be amazed how much better your writing gets as you fill your mind with beautiful new words. It’s also a very civilised way to pass the time whilst waiting for delayed flights and trains.
And whilst I used to drag a bag full of books around the world with me, I’m glad to say those days are gone. The Kindle has changed everything.
Though I’m Tempted to Buy a Kindle Fire (8GB)
Aqua Vessel Filtering Water Bottles
I’m generally out and about for days at a time when I’m on a press trip and I go through a stupid amount of water. The water here in Spain isn’t the best tasting and I’m always happy to filter it. The Aqua Vessel is the king of water filtration bottles and although they’re not the cheapest travel water bottles on the market, I believe they offer outstanding value for money. Invest in the insulated version and your water/beer will stay ice-cold for days.
My Moleskin Diaries
Much of my travel writing is about capturing dialogue, remembering conversations. And whilst I’m confident with my recall ability, I often find myself running to the bathroom to jot down parts of conversations I like. You can see example here (from an experience in Paris) and here (from an experience in the arse-end England).