Over the years I have tried to streamline my luggage and its contents. Each time I return from a trip I delete things that I have not used or feel I can do without. For example, I used to carry a backpacker type water filtration system so I could make safe water from hotel tap water or other sources in the developing world. Well, times have changed and now safe bottled water is readily available everywhere (Sudan, Haiti, Cambodia…you name it…there is bottled drinking water in places you least expect it).

What you see in the photo below is what I take along and how I pack it. My Eagle Creek back pack is a bit old and the design has been updated, but it’s a medium size one which most airlines will allow as a carry on (however I have my camera bag and my cameras so generally speaking I check it rather than try to carry it on).

Packing cubes (made by Eagle Creek and others) are an excellent way to organize items in your luggage and they make it easier if customs people or airport screeners want to open up and look at the contents or your stuff. The cubes come in full size for shrits and pants, and half sizes, for other items.

I keep the toiletries and first aid bag on the top so it’s easily accessible, below that is clothing and at the bottom I put my shoes, rain jacket, Cocoon bed sack and mosquito net. If I’m going to a part of the world where it’s cold, my Marmot fleece jacket fits in easily since the bag is far from being full. (There is nothing worse than packing your bags to the limit and then trying to find something, or have a customs official mess it all up…you spend a lot of time cramming it all back in!)

Anyway, after it’s all packed I use a TSA approved luggage lock which can be opened by airport personnel in the event they need to look in your bag. Plastic zip ties are handy to have along more about that click here (coming soon)

When I get to my hotel I use my Pacsafe…more about that soon.

Here’s a photo of my bag ready to go (shoes shown for size reference) note the MedJet Assist emergency medical evacuation tag, the TSA approved lock and the bright yellow nylon strap for quick and easy identification at airport luggage collection areas. Some sort of bright colored item attached to your bag makes it easier for folks at the lost luggage counter to identify your bag and/or describe it totheir staff who might be trying to find it, among many similarly shaped and similarly colored bags. Some sort of bright identifying tag, ribbon or strap also helps keep folks with similar bags from grabbing yours accidentally !

In the event that this bag is lost, delayed a few days or at worst, stolen, there is nothing in this bag that is essential for me to do my job as a photojournalist. Sure it would be an inconvenience..but I could buy new cloths, get toiletries and in most places, purchase AA batteries. My small back pack (which has essential electrial stuff like camera battery chargers and computer) and my camera belt system are with me as carry-ons in the passenger compartment of the airplane. Those bags, which never leave my sight, contain everything I need to do my job. More about the camera bags click here, and details about what’s in my carry-on pack page, click here.

Weight of this bag is a maximum of 14 kilograms or about 31 lbs. (depending on the weight of any travel guide books I may be carrying along, and wether or not I am packed for a cold weather versus a hot weather location)

It’s good to have an idea of the weight of your bags and it’s essential to keep things as light as possible because some small airplanes and most helicopters have weight limits. My main luggage = 31 lbs, my cameras = 21 lbs and my computer and accessory pack = 16 lbs. I’m constantly trying to find ways to get reduce the overall weight. When I return from a trip I do an inventory…anything that wasn’t used probably won’t be taken on my next trip.

While covering the tsunami in Indonesia, I was flying from Banda Aceh to Meulaboh to photograph in areas which were cut off when roads and bridges were destroyed. Even at only 10 Kilograms I had to leave my bag behind because the rest of my stuff (my cameras and computer), took up all my allotted weight.

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