Efficiency, usefulness, functionality, convenience and comfort; all considerations before I pack anything in my bags. The following items make my job easier, more comfortable or more convenient, so perhaps they will be good gifts for friends, or even for yourself.

For carrying pocket cash and credit cards I use the “World’s Thinnest Wallet”, the bulk of my cash is concealed around my lower leg in the Eagle Creek Leg Stash.

ALL-ETT Billfolds is a family owned and operated company in Poway California, just down the street from where I live.  ALL-ETT was started in 1995 with the introduction of the World’s Thinnest Wallet. A wallet created specifically to prevent sciatic nerve damage and the back pain that comes with it. ALL-ETT has a line of excellent products which I have helped me in my day to day travels, including their ulta-thin rip-stop wallet, business card case and coin pouch. ALL-ETT prides themselves on magnificent customer service and I am proud to recommend their products to you.

Inside ID Wallet: This, in my opinion, is the best travel wallet available. It’s so thin you can carry it in your front pocket, therefore reducing the possibility of being pick-pocketed. It has an ID window for your driver’s license and holds up to 14 cards with divided pockets for cash & receipts. Slim down your bulky wallet with this amazing product. It’s available in a choice of either lightweight, water resistant, nylon; which is my choice, or recycled plastic canvas or soft leather with a nylon interior. If you’re looking for the thinnest of the thin, choose the nylon version.

Card Case: The nylon card case has capacity to hold up to 10 credit cards or 50 business cards. Like the nylon ID wallet; the card case is available in a choice of either lightweight, water resistant, nylon; recycled plastic canvas or soft, full grain leather. Again, I would choose the nylon version because it’s so thin.

Coin Purse: Another product that ALL-ETT makes, that I can’t live without  is the coin purse. With an internal flex spring for easy opening, it’s the perfect way to carry spare change or your iPhone earbud head-phones. I have three of these, one in full grain leather, the other two in their durable, recycled plastic canvas material.

The best electrical adapter that I have found was introduced to me by friends Nancy and Peter and it’s called the “Road Warrior”, made by a Japanese company the Go!conW2 Road Warrior features 8 most common plug adapter configurations in one compact unit. It’s kinda’ like a “transformer”, you pull it apart and re-assemble it into different configurations, depending on the electrical outlet that you are trying to plug into. In combination with the Go!conTap, which is essentially, a very compact universal 3-outlet power strip, these are the only two items you should ever need to plug in your computer, battery charger and iPhone or other device. Get the combo by ordering the Go!con2 plus Go!conTap. There’s now a knock off version available at The Container Store for under $10.00

MacBook Air: at less than an inch thin, MacBook Air sets a pretty high standard — by making flash storage standard. Flash chips are very small, allowing MacBook Air to be incredibly thin and light. Flash is also solid state, meaning there are no moving parts. Which makes it reliable, durable, and quiet.

Honestly, I was slow to pull the trigger on buying one of these because they are not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t regret my purchase at all because of the many advantages that the MacBook Air offers. The biggest advantage for me is the size. By moving to the MacBook Air, I was literally able to eliminate carrying my backpack! Now I’m down to traveling with just two bags; my carry-on approved 22 inch Eagle Creek Hovercraft luggage which I blogged about last Christmas, and my Think Tank holster bags. Travel is so much nicer when you carry less stuff!

The other big advantages of the MacBook Air is its use of flash storage. With flash, your computer starts up in almost no time and accesses data quickly, and you don’t have to worry about working on your computer while traveling on bumpy roads, because unlike spinning hard drives, Flash has no moving parts. Flash also gives MacBook Air the astonishing ability to remain in standby mode for up to 30 days.3 Which means your MacBook Air snaps to in an instant, whether you open it tomorrow, next week, or next month. I purchased mine from B&H B&H Photo has the MacBook Air in different configurations, and by ordering from  them you avoid sales tax if you live in most states other than NY.

Kuhl’s Revolvr Pants: Last year I also recommended Kuhl Pants in my “2010 gift ideas blog post”, about the Kuhl Jeans. Now, Kuhl has introduced the The Revolvr , it’s their upgraded version of Kuhl Jeans.  The Revolvr’s  upgraded features include scuff guards on the cuffs and pockets for incredible durability.  Pockets are now riveted, not just bar tacked. What makes these the perfect travel pant is the Uberkühl Ultralight Fabric Technology:   Kuhl has blended the strength of nylon into a cotton oxford weave. These pants feel like light weight cotton pair of Levi’s that wicks perspiration and will dry quickly. What makes them the perfect pants for photography, is a little bit of extra roominess, a gusseted crotch and articulated knees for flexibility and comfort, all of which allow me the freedom of movement needed to get into any position, in order to get the shot. Get your Kuhl Revolvr pants here.

Think Tank Digital Holsters and Steroid Speed Belt: For many years I have used Think Tank’s Digital Holster and Steroid Speed Belt combo to carry my cameras. It is the most comfortable and efficient way to transport your gear from point A to point B. Some folks like shoulder bags or back packs, but I’m not a fan of either of those methods. The waist belt- based system allows you to carry your cameras comfortably and if you need to “shoot out of your bags” it’s the most convenient method. My system, shown below is a combination of the Digital Holster 40, the Digital Holster 50 and the Steroid Speed Belt.

The Digital Holster 40 V2.0 and Digital Holster 50 V2.0 are designed for pro size DSLRs such as the Nikon D3 series or the Canon 1D/1Ds series. The shape of the bag conforms to the camera itself, with one straight side and one curved side. The Digital Holster 40 is for my Nikon D3s body with the 17-35 f2.8 and the Digital Holster 50 is for my Nikon D3s body with attached 70-200 f 2.8 lens. Both are attached to the Steroid Speed Belt, a fully padded 3.5” waist belt which allows you to “Rotate or Lock” Modular, Skin, and Multimedia components for even weight distribution HALF WAY around the belt on special rails. Especially designed for use with lots of gear.

I’ve done several reviews of this set up over the years, you can read an old review by clicking this link .

Think Tank bags are AWESOME, if you don’t own them already, get some, you won’t be disappointed!

The Spider Pro Dual Camera System: This is how I carry my cameras when I am shooting, and I suggest that you have a long, serious look at this amazing product. For me, it’s by far the most comfortable, efficient and practical way to work with two cameras.

At work in Manila, Philippines: Photos by Photojournalist, Red Santos

I have used the Spider Holster since Shai Eynav introduced it a few years back, please see the following reviews for my detailed descriptions and insights.

“2 month experience”

Go Strapless

 Spider Ambassador

The SpiderPro Dual Camera System from Spider Camera Holster is a unique way to have 2 professional DSLRs simultaneously at the ready. Designed to carry heavy-duty pro cameras, this is a serious hip-mounted belt/holster system that provides a way to wear 2 DSLRs on your waist. This gives you more freedom than you would have with 2 cameras dangling from your shoulders, and is more comfortable, especially over long periods of time.

The Spider Holster System is now available at B&H Photo, click this link for the B&H page showing the Spider Holster or get it directly from the Spider Holster website. You’ll get free shipping if you buy direct from the Spider Holster website using this special code that Shai Eynav gave me, for all of you to use  Coupon code – grobl 2011

iPhone Apps: These are my favorite, most used iPhone apps, they make my life easier, more efficient, and even more fun!


To be totally honest with you, I’ve never done HDR with a DSLR, but it’s easy and fun with your iPhone! With the Pro HDR app, you have two modes: automatic and manual. Tap automatic and let it snap a few pictures with various exposure settings. Now you get a preview of the HDR image. Below that you will have controls for brightness, contrast, tinting, and much more. You can fine tune exactly how your image looks to get that perfect shot. It’s just as easy as Apple’s method but with a bit more control. Advanced users can tap the manual button to fine tune the underexposed and overexposed images. Pro HDR truly gives you more control over your images than Apple’s HDR method. This app is just too much fun!

iPhone Pro HDR, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan India, November 2011


To be totally honest with you again, I’ve never done Panoramic photography with a DSLR either, but it’s also very easy and fun with your iPhone! Pano is an award-winning app that lets you take beautiful, seamless panoramic photos straight from your phone, no other software necessary. Selected by Apple as one of the “Best Apps of 2009”, Pano has gotten rave reviews from hundreds of thousands of users around the world! Pano is exclusively for iPhone. This is another app that’s just too much fun, not to have!

iPhone Pano, Shwedegon Pagoda, Yangon Myanmar, September 2011

Currency Converter

I use this app on a daily basis. I have all my most common currencies loaded up and can easily understand how much something costs in comparison to US Dollars. Currency Converter app provides up-to-date exchange rate information for over 100 currencies and countries! I couldn’t live without this app!


iTalk turns your iPhone into a high quality recording device. iTalk has a user friendly, simple and intuitive interface and it lets you to start/stop or view your recordings just in one fingertip. I use iTalk for all of my in-the-field interviews.  iTalk gives you an opportunity to record high-quality audio, send it via email or drag & drop wireless file transfers through iTalk sync and select 11.025 kHz, 22.025 kHz and 44.10 kHz sample rates. There are two versions available in App Store iTalk Premium and iTalk lite. You can try out iTalk lite to check out its features but in the lite version you will see an Ad bar instead of advanced playback controls and emailing recording is limited to 2mb in Lite version. I find iTalk to be superior to Apple’s recorder in many ways, mostly the user interface. It’s another app that I can’t live without.

The World Factbook

The complete CIA World Factbook at your fingertips, including extensive information on more than 250 countries and locations throughout the world. Whether you’re an avid traveler, a busy student, or someone who just likes to stay informed, this is the app for you! This app also has maps of every country in the World. It is, in my opinion, the best source of updated information about every single country in the world, and it WORKS OFFLINE – No internet access required; all content is contained locally within the application! and when you do connect to the internet, content updated at least once a month. If you travel extensively, get this app!

Lexar Echo MX 128GB flash drive: If you shoot jpeg, like I do, a few Lexar Echo MX 128GB flash drives are all you will need to back up your files while you are out on assignment; participating in my Angkor Photo Workshop, or taking a Jim Cline photo tour.

In my quest to miniaturize and “lighten my load” I’ve eliminated carrying mini hard drives to back up my photos. Now I carry two Lexar Echo MX 128GB flash drives. They are the easily-accessible, ultra-portable backup solution. At the end of every day, I plug one into each USB port of my MacBook Air and simultaneously make two back-up copies of my images, then I place one in my pocket, and the other in my Think Tank Camera bag. This means I have 3 copies of all of my photos and they never occupy the same bag! One copy of my photos is on my Macbook Air, which I keep inside my Eagle Creek Hovercraft 22 luggage, another copy is in my Think Tank Digital Holster camera bag, and the third copy is in my pocket. I can feel pretty safe that I’m not going to loose all three. The Lexar Echo MX is available at B&H for less than $150 and they have a five-year limited warranty.

Eagle Creek Packable Daypack: Since switching to the MacBook Air, I have eliminated carrying a backpack, but occasionally, I need to carry a few items somewhere. I found this Eagle Creek Packable Daypack to be the perfect day-pack for light loads (I often put my MacBook Air in here, along with some paperwork or other items. I have a black one, but Eagle Creek also offers a blue version, as seen below.

The Eagle Creek Packable Daypack has a zippered main compartment and a pack-in pocket which doubles as a front pocket. It has “substantial” and comfortable, breathable mesh shoulder straps. Here are the specs: Capacity 700 cu in / 11, Dimensions :   9.5 x 16.5 x 4.5 in / 24 x 42 x 11 cm Weight:  6 oz / 0.17 kg Fabric: 210D Poly Ripstop Nylon.

iPhone Accessory:

iPhone retractable cord:

I hate tangled cords and when I found this retractable iPod-iPhone retractable USB Charger & Sync Cable I was really pleased. No more tangled cables, it makes my life on the road quicker, easier and more convenient.  I got mine here for $4.99 each Don’t forget, to plug it into the wall, you will also need the white iPhone wall plug. Enjoy!

Well, that’s it for this year’s holiday gift ideas. If you have a favorite product, and would like to tell everyone about it, please leave a comment with a short description and link, in the comment section below. Happy holidays!

9 Responses to “Ten Holiday Gift Ideas For The Traveling Photographer” Subscribe

  1. Nancy Everds December 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Hi Karl–

    Glad you like the Road Warrior! We think it’s the best. It’s worked in every country in which we’ve tried it, and it’s SO much better than carrying around bulky adapters. I searched a bit, and it looks like it still might be only available through GolKon via ordering from Japan.

    I’ve seen a similar product (Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter) at stores and on line. I have no experience with it, but it looks like an exact copy, and may be cheaper than ordering from GolKon.

  2. DV Digvijay Singh December 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    your ideas rocks man……..

  3. Ursula December 25, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    Wish Wish Wish! 🙂

  4. Jesse January 10, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Great list Karl, thanks for sharing. Pretty much all of this stuff looks appealing to me!

  5. gary s. chapman January 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Ordered the Road Warrior from Japan. Looks great. Thanks for the idea.

  6. Karl Grobl January 11, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    Glad to be of help Gary! Take care and safe travels, Karl

  7. Patsy Birchfield January 30, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Do you have a best traveling tri pod to recommend capable of handling the Canon 70-200mm lens?

  8. Scott Mandl March 16, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    You can’t beat a Photon Freedom micro-lite for the ultimate in bright, reliable light in a package barley larger than of four or five quaters.

  9. Thea James March 19, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Hi Karl,

    Love your website-very, very unique! You’re such a great photographer, from talent to mission. Thank you for your contributions to the world.

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