The Traveling Photographer: How to Carry Two Cameras Around the World

In Cameras, Keep Things Running, Take Better Photos by Dustin Main7 Comments

Traveling with a couple of cameras isn’t for the faint of heart (and I’m not even counting my smartphone as a camera here). As you can imagine, it’s pretty much double the trouble.

Along the way, I’ve come up with a few ways to keep the size down, the weight low, and generally make it a bit easier to manage the difficulty of duplication.

For a little bit of background, I carry a pair of Nikon DSLRs around.

Memory Cards: Easy

Memory cards are essential for a camera, and fortunately, this has become easier over the years.  Both of my cameras use SD Cards which are by far the most common type around.

I carry a stack of high capacity cards with me for when I run out, so I’ll never be caught in a pinch, and since they both use the same cards, it reduces the hassle as I can pull from the same pile of cards for each.

Camera and SD card

If you’re buying a new camera, it’s worth checking to see what kind of memory card it requires.  Will your cameras be able to use the same type of cards?

Tip: Keep fewer, higher-capacity cards rather than a bunch of cheaper, slower and smaller cards.  This makes them easier to track, require less frequent changes, and have less time wasted checking to see which are already filled.

Choose cameras that use the same type of memory card if possible.

Card Reader / Cable: Easy

This is a pretty easy one, but something worth mentioning.  Chances are, you’re loading your photos on to a laptop during your travels.  Fortunately, most laptops have an SD Card reader built in so this makes things pretty easy.

It’s worth checking to make sure however.  The new Dell XPS 13 is an amazing notebook, but the lack of SD card reader was a deal breaker for me.  I already have too many adapters (hah) so I wasn’t interested in adding a couple of cables or a separate USB SD card reader to the mix.

If you happen to use one of the cameras using Micro SD (such as the GoPro), they can be used in a standard SD Card reader slot with a cheap (and often included) plastic adapter.

Tip: Use your built-in SD card reader if possible, and leave the USB cables and connectors at home.

Straps: Hard

image (2)If you haven’t already, it’s time to ditch the standard camera strap — we’ve talked about them before, and they’re awful.

With that out of the way, if you have a couple of cameras, I’d highly recommend a modular system like the one that BlackRapid uses.

I’ll often have one camera in hand, and another in my bag, and having the freedom to pick and choose which one to have, and how to carry it, is fantastic.

While the straps themselves are excellent, it’s the adapter (called the FastenR) that connects to the camera that makes their system so slick for managing multiple cameras.

Since the camera straps snap easily on and off with the carabiner-like “ConnectR,” it makes changes in the field slick and simple.

I carry a pair of straps.  The first is a more standard, cross-body strap.  It’s fast to shoot with, comfortable for medium to long-ish days in the field, and can be strapped down a bit for more active endeavors (my personal favorites).

The other strap I use is a wrist strap and it’s very packable.  I find this particularly handy if I’m out in the streets and want to keep the camera close at hand and a little less noticible.  I can also easily throw the camera in my bag with minimal bulk this way.

It’s worth mentioning that I did try a BlackRapid “Yeti” strap as a two camera solution.  Admittedly, it’s made for a DSLR & micro 4/3rds combo rather than two DSLRs, and it shows, particularly if you’re active like I am.  With both of my large cameras attached, the second one was just too prone to flopping around to make this strap ideal.

They also have another “strap” called the “Double” which is a beast, but doesn’t fit my style of travel.

Tip: Invest in a modular solution that makes shooting easier.

Packing: Medium

So you have a couple of cameras, and you want to keep them neat and tidy.  Here are my rules:

Always Carry-On

The camera bodies and (more expensive) lenses always travel next to me.  That means I never check them at the airport, and they never go under or on top of the bus.  These are as close to babies as I ever want to get, and I take care of them like that (most of the time).

IMG_20140423_181619

A Decent Bag

Everyone defines this differently, but at the end of the day it’s what works for you.  I personally prefer bags that don’t look like camera bags.

I have one Shan bag I bought in Myanmar that I had modified to add a pocket inside and padding at the bottom.  If I’m out in the streets with small lenses, this is the bag I carry.

I also have a little day-pack that goes with me when I travel from place to place, or for longer days.  This is what I stick my camera bodies and bigger lenses in on travel days as well.

Protect It

My biggest tip for this bag is to put a piece of clothing in the bottom as an extra cushion.  I use a Burmese longyi in there (like a sarong) that can double as a cushion, extra piece of clothing, or something to wrap your bloody arm up when you fall and smash your smartphone in a canyon.

Bigger lenses have their own carrying case, while smaller ones have a protective bag or I wrap them in clothes / spare longyi.

Tip: Think of your style, and choose bags that work best for what you do.

Batteries: Harder

While SD Cards have become almost an industry standard, batteries are near the opposite end of the scale.  Even within the same brand, series, or year, chances are that your batteries and chargers won’t match up.  This is a huge pain and one of the hardest to solve.

IMG_20140423_181403~2

Instead of carrying around a pair of bulky chargers, I found myself a smaller universal one to do the job of both.  While not quite as solidly built, the flexibility it offers (and the space / weight it saves) has been completely worth the $40 it cost me.

Tip: Minimize the amount of adapters and chargers with a universal option if you can find one.

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Lenses: Medium

Finally, lenses.  This is pretty self explanatory, but if you are using detachable-lens cameras of different formats or makes, you’re going to need to invest in a bunch of lenses that you may not be able to use with both.

If you have Nikon, buy another Nikon. Have Canon?  Buy another Canon.  Love the new Sony NEX series?  Stick with it.  If you don’t, you are likely buying glass that you can’t use between your cameras, and your shoulders & back will hate you for it.

This is the costliest mistake you can make, so plan ahead and do it right.

Tip: Choose cameras that use the same lenses.

Wrapup

So there you have it.  It’s possible to carry a couple of cameras without adding much bulk.  In the end I was able to save the space / weight / bulk by carrying the following:

  • 8x SD Cards
  • 2x USB cables
  • 1x Battery charger
  • 1x Camera Strap
  • 5x Lenses

Less stuff to break.  Less stuff to lose.  Less expensive physio bills down the line for my poor back.

Do you have any tips for minimizing the glut of adapters / cables in your luggage?  Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Dustin Main

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Dustin just can't get enough travel or technology, but when he's not directly feeding one of those insatiable habits, you can probably find him at some far away ice cream shop taking pictures of empty cups. That, or on top of a mountain somewhere shooting photos and finding adventures to share on his website "A Skinny Escape".

Comments

  1. “It’s possible to carry a couple of cameras without adding much bulk.”

    you don’t say exactly what bodies and lenses so I’ll make a guess.

    Bodies:

    D300S – 932g
    D7000 – 690g

    Lenses:

    35mm 1.8 – 305g
    85mm 1.8 – 350g
    17-55mm 2.8 – 755g
    70-200mm 2.8 – 1500g

    That adds up to about 4,5 kilos. And that doesnt include batteries and other gear. I’d say thats quite a bit of bulk to lug around when backpacking.

    How much stuff do you usually carry with you? Big rucksack and front daypack?

    1. Author

      More recently I’ve been carrying:

      Nikon D7000
      Nikon D90

      Nikon 35mm 1.8
      Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6
      Tokina 11-16 f2.8
      Lensbaby Composer Pro
      Lensbaby Muse

      I travel with a Gregory Z55 pack, a small day pack I bought at a Burmese market, and that blue Shan bag above. Day to day, I’ll typically head out with just the day pack and/or Shan bag, and I won’t necessarily take all of my gear out all the time.

      Weighing my Z55 (last guess when I checked it) was about 14kg (inc tripod), and the day pack would be maybe 7kg (just a guess). That’s everything (clothes, laptop, etc) I take for 8-10 months at a time.

      Hope that helps clear it up a bit.

    1. Author

      I travel with a Velbon UT 43D., and I’m due for a review of it 🙂

  2. Hi Dustin. Very timely article. I have just started some long term travel and I am carying two cameras. However instead of lugging my Canon 5DM3 I opted to buy the Sony A7Rii. The second camera is the Fujifilm X100T. See how I sneakily got away from having to carry two brands of lenses?

    Right now I have an 15-27mm (equivalent) lens on the Sony. The fuji is fixed at 35 (equivalent), however even having the second body has become annoying and just too bulky. I really like that the Fuji looks like an old camera and is less likely to be stolen, but I am just about to send it back home, and buy a second lens for the Sony.

    After lugging DSLR’s around I can’t image carrying two of them!

  3. Hi Dustin,

    Good article! even i see you already switch to mirorless. I already have 5d III and 16-35 2.8, 70-200 2.8 lenses so to sell everything for better price and buy new equipment and learn how to use will take some time… So I decide to get second body 7D II and another zoom lens 100-400 II . I did check on B&P that Sony zoom lenses in the same range weight similar to Canon or Nikon . So if need to use zoom lens the weight savings will be on bodies only right ? I plan to travel for about 1 or 2 years and at some point visit Africa for few months and I know that there for sure I will need zoom lens .

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