What’s in my Travel Grab Bag

Following on from the post on my Lighting Kit Bag I thought I would also give a little tour of my travel 'Grab Bag'. This bag is something I always travel with when on assignment - it always goes with me and contains many travel essentials that I have put together over the years. Having a bag like this is great because it automatically goes in my suitcase and with it I know straightaway I have a lot of the essentials covered. Now obviously it is more relevant to photographers or people working in a similar industry, but it also has elements that are just useful in standard travel.

If you are interested in purchasing any of  the items mentioned  I've created links to most of them over at my Amazon storefront

So first of all in here I have my:

1. Passport wallet. This obviously goes in my carry on - but I leave it with my travel bag when I’m not transiting. This is RFID wallet and contains obviously my passport.

However it also contains a few other useful things:

Paperclip. The humble paperclip. This isn’t for some kind of OCD need to organise papers, I have this in here for if I need to swap SIM cards - the paperclip allows me to open the port on my phone.

Passport Photos. I always carry spare passport photos as in some countries you may need them if you have to apply for any official paperwork or permits. It useful just to travel with a few spares. I tend to shoot my own in the studio and then print multiples out on 10 x 8 prints - this works out far cheaper than getting them from a booth.

Yellow Fever certificate. Some countries you travel to you need this on entry, especially in Africa or Asia - so it’s always worth keeping it somewhere safe and accessible. I also carry a photocopy of this.

Inoculations history. This document helps you know what you’ve had and when you’ve had it - it will have a date and signature next to each vaccine you’ve had. It’s worth keeping close just so you can check if anything will need topping up before you travel, but also should something happen whilst you are away it is good to know when you last had your tetanus jab etc.

Laminated card with Emergency Contacts. Worth just having numbers written down in a non electronic format. Sometimes I will travel with numbers for local hospitals, contacts, embassy etc; all depends on the risk factor involved in the job.

Travel Insurance card (with your reference and relevant contact numbers)

Frequent Flyer cards - not that I'm any good at this game. I also keep all the numbers saved on my phone for quick access a the gate.

Spare Credit Cards - following on from above it is worth looking into cards the reward you with airmiles.

Business Cards - Just as leave behinds after meetings etc

Copies of your passport - I keep other copies elsewhere, but always useful to have something in case your actual passport goes walkies.

Currencies - I normally always have dollars in my wallet as they are easy to exchange. Best to have new notes and higher denominations. However small bills are always handy for tips etc if you need them.

USB Stick - on this I can store any electronic data I need - so it’s worth password protecting. It's the size of a credit card so pretty ideal.

One other thing I do is to have a coloured sticker on the spine of my passport - this just helps me to spot it in a pile and stops it getting mixed up with others if I’m traveling with colleague or in a team. I can always keep an eye on where it is in a situation where it might get mixed up with others. 

Along with the passport wallet I carry a number of items in the ‘grab bag’ that I find I nearly always need when traveling. 

2. Velcro zip ties - these are just generally really useful things to have and they are reusable and have a multitude of uses.

3. Carabiners - I have standard ones and also a hero clip. The hero clip allows me to hang things off the floor if I need to, but also works as a standard carabiner.

4. Head Torch - I use a Olight H2R. I like this because it can be clipped onto things, has a magnetic bottom, and it also fits in a harness to be used as a head torch - so it doubles up as normal flashlight and a head torch which is ace. It’s USB charged which has its upsides and downsides. 

5. Leatherman - I use the Leatherman Wave because it works with their ‘bit kit’. This gives me all sorts of tools (screwdrivers, allen keys etc) in a small package. I also have a small Ferrocerium rod and a knife steel to sharpen the blade, which all sits in the same pouch. 

6. Cabling - the unfortunate flip side of an increasingly digital world. I always carry spares of everything I might need.

7. 2 x SSD 1TB hard drives - These Samsung T5 1TB Solid State Drives (SSD) are excellent and really small. I carry two so that I can back up the shoot and always have one on me if I go out in the evenings etc. That way I usually have three copies - one on each drive and one on my laptop.

8. Spare camera cleaning kit - cloth and lens pen

9. SD and CF card reader - Back up for my main kit

10. Lighter and matches - I don’t smoke but it’s always worth having a lighter. My one also has tape for visibility (if camping) and also because the tape can be used as a form of tinder. That and it's a good place to store tape.

11. Pain killers - back ache can be a crippling problem when you have a shoot to get on with

12. Cork Ball and Tiger balm - I use these as a prevention and a cure for the above.

13. Electrical Tape - Electrical tape is great because it is small and relatively waterproof. It’s also tough wearing and can be used on electrics, so all round a good compromise.

14. Pegs and Paracord - You never know when you might want to rig up a washing line in your hotel room.

15. Waterproof bag with copy of passport - Is have small Craghoppers waterproof bags that I use for this

16. International Driving License - This is worth looking into as some countries it is required if you are planning to rent or drive a vehicle and it can be an easy thing to overlook.

17. Travel Adapters - I have two, one of which contains USB outputs

18. Camera Chargers - Depending on what camera system I am using. If I travel with the Fujis then I use the battery grip charger as it means I can charge two batteries at a time with one charging kit. 

19. Pro Plus - Very rarely use this, but good to have the option if you need to be alert.

Nytol - If you are going to take uppers you might as well have downers!

20. Chewing Gum- Proven to release stress and probably a good idea after a long flight.

21. Snack bars - No one likes getting the hungry grumps. Often on shoots and assignments this can overrun so having your own supply of your favourite snacks is a good idea to keep you fuelled.

22. Hand Sanitiser and Bio-degradable wet wipes - if you are traveling somewhere remote these are a lifesaver to make you feel a little more human and maintain your personal hygiene which can be very important.

23. Tissues - Good on flights and in 'emergencies'.

24. Emergency Sewing Kit - just worth having, a split pair of trousers isn’t a good look.

25. Spare Phone (Nokia 225) - I carry a spare cheap (non-smart) mobile phone because the battery last for ages and it will normally work with any local SIM you can find. Also if I am out and about in an area with a high risk of mugging I might not want to be out with my own phone.

26. Bottle Opener - I once got to my hotel and found a bottle of complimentary wine but no opener, I had to use a technique using a shoe and the wall. I probably could have just called down to reception.

27. Envelopes - I like to have these just in case I send postcards, keeps them a little more private!

28. Mosquito bands- keeps the critters away.

29. Q-tips - these are useful for cleaning cameras, especially the viewfinder.

30. Padlocks - useful to have for my camera bags etc - not going to stop someone who is determined but more of a deterrent.

31. Power Gang Plug - Doesn’t quite fit in the bag itself but this is also a useful bit of kit to travel with. I once was working on assignment in the Congo (DRC) and the only power outlet in my room that worked was bizarrely in the bathroom. I had to balance my battery charges on the soap dish!

32. Bungee Cords - Multitude of uses

34. Spare Cash - Stashed cash

35. Spare Batteries - AAA and AA 


So that is a run down of my kit. If you have any suggestions of things you use or things that would be worth having in the kit, I am keen to hear them. As I mentioned at the top of the article if you are interested in purchasing any of  the items mentioned  I've created links to most of them over at my Amazon storefront.

My hotel bathroom in the DRC - complete with the only working plug placed right under the shower head.