Do you carry light or just bring everything and put the rest in the hotel and carry out those you need? Was it safe to put in hotel?

  • 2
    Get a reputable hotel which offers a safe in each room. You can store valuables there while not using them. Oct 28, 2010 at 10:55
  • FYI, I happily discovered that it can be rather cheap to insure your photography equipment from loss, theft, and damage. The catch is that the insurance company will replace the item, not hand you cash. Fair enough. Oct 28, 2010 at 19:37

7 Answers 7


I try to travel ultralight, and for me, working with limited gear is a form of challenge too.

My typical setup is my SLR body, a fast prime lens, an all-purpose zoom which offers a decent wide-angle, and a truckload of memory cards. I leave all other lenses, flash, tripod and other gizmos at home.

When I'm getting ready for the day, I choose one lens to travel with, and leave the other in the hotel. Sometimes, I'll carry both if I know in advance that I'll need both, or if I don't trust the hotel with my lenses.

I'd rather spend my photography time looking for things to photograph, than fiddling with gear. And with a small camera bag that looks like a very-battered purse, and a smaller unimpressive lens, I'm not a magnet for pickpockets.


It really depends on so many factors but I'll start by saying that it is not really feasible to carry all my gear on a trip, my backers don't have that much funds! Although I know some people count their photo gear in 'numbers of suitcases'.

I try to anticipate the trip and bring a flexible set that covers the needs I am likely to encounter. It may happen that I don't have the right lens or camera for a particular shot but it's not like I'm about to run out of pictures to take with whatever I have.

As a base, I start with 2 or 3 camera bodies and one wide-angle, one medium and one longer lens, plus one tripod. I rarely carry two longs, so either I go with a bright but shorter like my 50-135mm F2.8 or the longer 60-250mm F/4. The third camera is usually an ultra-compact for family vacations, or an ultra-zoom for other trips. That gives a lot of flexibility and backup in the event that a lens fails rather than a camera. Never happened to me so far, but I've seen people only shooting using a 300mm lens because their general purpose zoom failed, usually by falling of from a certain height.

I fill the rest such as prime lenses, a second tripod, etc based on specific needs that I can anticipate. I usually try to slip in one macro lens, but from experience it rarely gets used.

From there, most days I carry all ONE set around: One body, matching lenses and tripods. I avoid as much as possible to carry my primary and backup together. When going out even to dinner, I'll leave on set in the hotel and one comes with me. Who knows what might get robbed? The hotel or me first? If there is a safe big enough, the the hotel gear does in. Most time it is not. So I attach my hard suitcase using a special metal cable and lock to a permanent fixture of the hotel. Or, if I am using a soft one, like a backpack, then I put it in a metal mesh which is attached to a hotel fixture as well.

Nothing here is everything-proof but every bit we make it harder to be taken away reduces the chances of it disappearing.

Whether hotels are safe or not depends on so many factors. So you won't get a useful answer. I've been to places where people leave their laptops unattended in the lobby and nothing happens... and I've also seen police investigating items which disappeared from under the dining table while people were dining! In some restaurants, they give you twist ties so that you can attach your bag to the table or chair!

  • Wow, I'm trusting - on my last trip, I was only hiding a stockpile of coffee in the safe, as they never give enough. Camera gear was being carried with me most of the time. Oct 28, 2010 at 14:15

Well, having just got back from a 2 week trip to Italy (2 days ago), I can give you my completely honest answer! I took the vast majority of my portable gear, which included flashes, 6 lenses, tripod, etc. It also included a little netbook computer and two USB drives for backup. This all managed to, tightly, fit into my Think Tank Airport Antidote bag and weighed a ton. I also packed a very small canvas camera bag, not really designed for SLRs, which can hold two lenses and a few smaller items (such as SD cards) for the actual day-to-day trips out.

With all that, each morning as we headed out for the planned excursion, I would pick the lenses I thought I might want and headed out. The interesting thing is that, by and large, I generally used one lens (a 28-105) and carried an 18-55 and 70-300. However, a number times there were things where I quickly switched to one or the other and I was glad I had them. Even the tripod got some use, mostly at night.

I never actually worried about issues in hotels, in Italy, but having done the same in Mexico I was a little more cautious and used the hotel room safe for the most important gear (e.g. camera, SD cards, irreplacable lenses). I never had a problem there either and I've done that a few times as well. I think it's just being aware of the place and the risks.

Anyways, that's my experience and it's been working for me. That's my disclaimer! ;)

  • Caution in such places would be advised. When we were last in Mexico, some passports and a digital camera went missing from our 'safe'. Oct 28, 2010 at 10:56
  • @Winston: hence the disclaimer. It's worked for me, but that doesn't mean it's assured. It may also depend where in Mexico, I've been sticking to the Mayan Riviera.
    – Joanne C
    Oct 28, 2010 at 13:58
  • @John It's only to be expected in Tijuana ;-) Oct 28, 2010 at 16:25
  • I think I better bring all my expensive stuff out... so I guess passport is important too. okay noted... Oct 29, 2010 at 0:57

I am quite new to photography - however I do travel a fair amount.

I try and travel ultralight, I will typically take:

  • Body (obviously)
  • 50mm 1.4
  • 10-20mm wide
  • 70mm-300mm

That seems to cover most of my needs.


I own a lot of nice Canon lenses/bodies/gear (partner in a gear rental business) so having literally anything you want at your fingertips forces you to really think about what you're actually going to bring. Something I read in a Large Format photography book a while back has really helped me out, it came down to :

"Your average 35mm photographer is carrying as much gear as they can because each piece is relatively light (2 bodies, 5 lenses a flash etc) but you see a Large Format photographer and they're carrying what they have to because each piece is so heavy"

What helps is to pre-visualize what you want to take pictures of, if you're going out to shoot landscapes bring only the gear you would use to shoot landscapes, same for macro or architecture or birds whatever. Not only does this allow you to cut down on weight and move more but it forces you to only photograph what you intended to photograph. Which ultimately can lead to better more thought out pictures because you're not distracted by trying to photograph everything.

Though I will say I always bring 2 bodies along on a trip though not to every session, one might fail.

Pre-visualize :)


It depends on where you are travelling. I have left gear in the hotel room before, but I usually travel to relatively safe areas like Taiwan and Hong Kong. I tend to travel light as well, usually packing only 1 DSLR body, 1 zoom, 1 fast prime, and 1 compact camera (which the wife carries with her), along with lots of memory cards. I would bring the zoom out during the day, and the prime comes out to play at night, unless we have a full day planned.

For photographic trips this can be a little tricky, as I still shoot film. The last trip I had was a short one, 2 days, but I brought 1 digital and 1 film body, 2 zooms, 3 primes, tripod, and a ton of film and memory cards. Still not a lot compared to my friends!


To start, "What is safe to put in a hotel?". The simple answer is: Nothing. Camera gear is fairly expensive, especially if you have high quality lenses. There is zero reason to trust anyone with your equipment, even in a hotel. As others have stated, if they offer a safe, and you can't bring all your equipment out with you, put the rest in a safe. Otherwise, take it with you, and keep it locked and hidden in your car or in your possession at all times. If someone knows you have valuable equipment, and is willing to steal, they will.

As for how much to bring, thats a tough call. It would really be dependent on what your trip is all about, and what kind of shots you a) want to get, and b) think you'll actually be able to get. If it is a family trip, a nice point and shoot is probably a must. Nice thing about a P&S though is they are small, light, and easy to pack away, hide away, or carry with you regardless.

The more important questions are what kind of photographs you want to capture and the kind of photographs you think you'll be able to capture. Those two are rarely the same unless the trip is specifically about your photographic goals. Its a bit of a catch-22 as well. You often can't get exactly the kind of shots you want without the proper gear, and yet you probably don't want to haul around equipment that you don't think you'll use. You kind of have to decide whether you want photographic options (and therefor more gear), or photographic simplicity (and likely less gear). One thing I've learned is that on trips with family and/or friends, you usually have a variety of competing forces pulling at you. Wife needs, kid needs, friend needs, trip needs, all counteracting your ability to explore and find that perfect shot. I would opt for less gear, and go for the simple shots. In some cases, you may be able to get away with both...on longer trips where you have the option of more personal time, or solo trips. In such cases, I would bring whatever gear you think would be necessary to photograph the way you want to.

Another factor that plays a role in how much gear you bring is the style of photography. If your interests are broad, then you probably need a broader set of gear. If your interests are narrow, its probably safe to stick with the basics. It is possible to optimize as well. Between three zoom lenses, I cover the focal range from 16mm through 400mm with Canon lenses: EF 16-35mm L II, (borrowed) EF 24-105mm L, EF 100-400mm L. In addition to this set of zoom lenses, I also carry the EF 100mm Macro lens, and a 50mm lens. This set of lenses leaves a fair amount of extra space in my relatively small camera bag as well, and I could probably pack in an extra camera body and lens, or a couple extra lenses as well. Weight wise, fully packed, the bag is a good weight when hauled around solo. If I needed to bring an extra bag of stuff for other purposes, I would leave the extra body and lenses at home, and stick with my core set of gear: one body, the three zooms, the 100mm macro and 50mm.

  • Corollary: If you're in a place where you can't trust the hotel, you can trust parking attendants either or anything left in a car can disappear faster than the car itself.
    – Itai
    Oct 29, 2010 at 4:56
  • @Itai: Indeed. That kind of falls under "There is zero reason to trust anyone with your equipment...".
    – jrista
    Oct 29, 2010 at 5:11

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