170923 Packing List - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Photography is great, but really, it's just an excuse for me to plan and create packing lists.

This is my core kit for the Great Lakes Water Walk that I'm going to be joining on Sunday. It's not a particularly photographic event for me – I want to do it to do it, not to photograph it – so the kit is pretty simple. I thought it might be fun to go through it.

My total packed weight for the day is 16.2 pounds.

The mainstay is my Fujifilm X100F. I've had it since the end of March – but never felt the need to mention it until now – and while I've used a dozen cameras since I bought it, the F has taken over half of my photos. Normally it wears the leather half-case, but for the walk I'm leaving it in the RRS plat-grip combo that I had it on for an extended outing last night. Because the walk isn't supposed to be heavily photographic I'm only carrying one spare battery, for about 700 shots, and a spare SD card in case something goes wrong with the one in the camera. That has only happened to me once, but it has happened.

I geotag my photos, so my Bad Elf GPS logger in the top-left of this photo comes with me for almost every outing. I also have a Garmin hiking GPS which weighs five times as much with half the battery life, worse reception, and less accurate tracking, but for obvious reasons I prefer the Elf most of the time. 

The top right of the knolling photo is my Ricoh Theta and a small selection of the supports I use for it. The selfie stick is great for crowd scenes and unusual perspectives, and also functions as a stand when I attach the ground spike to the bottom of it. If the ground won't hold that kind of height then I have the short knurled extension that's next to the Joby Micro800 pocket tripod. It's not very tall, but that extra little bit of altitude can make a huge difference in the results. The Joby and extension also make a great handle for the Theta when I actually do want to take a 360-selfie.

The Komperdell hiking pole has a tripod thread hidden under its pommel, so that gives even more reach for the Theta as well as a solid monopod for the X100F. I dislike taking photos that show identifiable people, so I may try to use the monopod and 6-stop ND filter that's on the front of the F to let motion blur a little. We'll see how that works in practice. But the other truth is that, after fifteen or twenty kilometres of walking on city streets – or half as much for hiking or on the Spit – my right knee in particular really needs the help that the walking stick can provide. 

Below the walking stick are a few of the non-photographic items that I'll be carrying. I'm not a fan of hand sanitizer, but sometimes it's the only option; having a little pack towel at the end of a long day can make the difference between looking and feeling human and, well, not. The blister cushions are just prudent, and are shown here because I had to restock the simple hiking first aid kit that I'm bringing with me. That kit also contains: a tensor bandage, gauze, scissors, electrical tape, tick tweezers, advil, bandryl, and a foil space blanket. (They're neat and someone might want one after falling in a creek.) I never expect to need any of it, but never pick and choose fewer thematically-appropriate items to carry, because the one time I do will be when I need something else.

The other thing I don't expect to need is the electrical first-aid kit in the lower-right. That's my largest USB booster battery with a cable that can charge everything that isn't an old iPod. I could get away with a smaller and lighter battery – I almost certainly won't need it at all, but somebody else might. It's good to be able to make friends.


But wait – there's more! 

There are some obvious other non-pictured things that I'll be bringing: phone, wallet, keys. But there's also the two other things that I rarely specify when I tweet my camera bag contents for the day: water and snacks.

The walk will be about twenty kilometres on a hot day, so I'll be bringing my plastic camelback bike bottle, one half-litre and two one-litre platypus bag-bottles – baggles – for about three litres to get me through the day. One of those baggles is frozen solid, making it into an ice pack to keep my sandwich and cut veggies cool until lunch. One of my hiking books recommended snap peas as a snack, and when I've been out for a few hours they're about all I'll want to eat. I'll also be carrying a mix of various nuts, raisins, and banana chips, but no chocolate since the temperature tomorrow will melt it. I learned that one the hard way.

What else? I always make sure that I have a tube of my favourite lip stuff, currently Burt's Bees peppermint, and a few cleaning cloths in my pocket. I'll also have my tiny leatherman multitool that has pliers and scissors but no knife blade. All of this will fit in a little backpack, with small items grouped in nylon drawstring sacks, and the camera and cold water bottle wrapped in toques for a little protection and insulation, respectively. 


And the post-walk update:

I've started trying to complete the circle with my packing lists by going back and noting what I actually used, and what to do differently next time. So this is that.

I left the house with my pack weighing sixteen pounds, and returned with it weighing nine. The walk, with trips to and from transit tacked on, added up to about twenty-eight kilometres on a sunny thirty-degree day. My pack included about three litres of water, which I drank along the way, and then had another three litres during the hour of ceremonies and talks at the end. To carry that much myself would have meant packing my big 3L reservoir, or a couple of 2L reservoirs, along with the rest of what I had carried. That would mean a bigger bag and a lot more weight. Maybe I got lucky with the support that the walk provided, and shouldn't count on it next time, but this time it worked out.

Since this wasn't really a photographic event I probably could have made do with my phone, but I still like to have a 'real camera' along. A few photos benefited from the X100, but no Theta photos turned out, and when I used it I just attached it to my hiking pole. So at least some of its kit, and probably the Theta itself, could have stayed home. But that's often the case, and it's small, so it was worth a shot.

I never used the power booster or cables, but someone else did need the blister bandages, so that was a win. Of course they were packed in the kit at the very bottom of my bag; for some reason I had assumed that first aid supplies would be used when we had stopped walking. That's not the way it happened, but it still worked out. 

The next time around I'll carry more water and less gear, but then again, I say that every time.


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