Be prepared for every eventuality with these essential non-photographic accessories that could save the day when you’re out shooting
As an outdoor or landscape photographer, you’ll naturally find yourself alone in locations far away from civilisation. And while it’s easy to make sure you have plenty of memory cards, fully charged batteries and outdoor clothing to keep you warm and dry in any weather, making sure you have everything you need in the event of an emergency or problem can be more of a minefield.
One of the biggest hurdles for outdoor photographers is weight and the ability to carry an array of essential non-photographic accessories that take up valuable space in your camera bag. But it’s often best to have something you don’t need than to not have something you do. And this is especially salient when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need a specific item or need to fix something.
Photography accessories often span far beyond the photographic realm to include household, DIY, hiking and many other items. And although outdoor photographers need to be careful about what they carry, there are some things you simply shouldn’t avoid depending on your needs. So, we’ve compiled a list of seven essential non-photographic accessories that every outdoor photographer should consider carrying on shoots...
1 First aid kit
You never know when you’ll have a minor medical emergency, whether that’s a cut, insect sting or suffering from pain, so carrying a first aid kit is essential whether you’re shooting alone or with other people. A first aid kit won’t take up much space in your camera bag and certainly won’t weigh you down. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use it often, if at all, but it’s always best to carry one just in case.
Most first aid kits come with everything you need for basic first aid and the Lifesystems Trek First Aid Kit is perfect. It’s also worth buying a tick remover, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines, and possibly some diarrhoea relief tablets that will fit in the tough and lightweight case alongside the stock items.
2 Survival bivi
A survival bivi may sound excessive, but if you’re up a mountain or on the hills and fells it’s an item that you shouldn’t be without. Even if you have your phone with you and it has a great signal so you can easily call for help in an emergency, it can still take time for rescuers to locate you. During this time, you could easily get cold or worse – cold and wet if the weather turns. So a survival bivi will help to keep you both warm and dry.
The Light & Dry Lifesystems Survival Bivi weighs just 110g and packs down into a small carry bag. It’s made of tough metalised low-density polyethylene with taped seams and is windproof and waterproof with an unpacked size of 210x90cm. Another item you’re unlikely to need often, if at all, but invaluable in an emergency and even useful in bad weather if there’s no shelter nearby.
3 Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock
Whether you’re shooting waterfalls inland wearing walking boots or shooting at the coast wearing wellies, there’s always a chance the water will breach your boots and make your feet wet as you push for better compositions. Walking around with wet feet in wet boots is never fun and is far from ideal, especially during the colder months.
When out shooting it can be useful to carry a pair of waterproof socks like the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Mid Length Sock. These can be put on and then wet boots won’t be able to make your feet wet before the boots can be dried out. Carrying them in your camera bag is useful, but if this feels slightly overindulgent you could keep a pair in the boot of your car for emergencies.
4 Fine microfibre cloths
Microfibre cloths may be great for cleaning jobs around the house, but they also make a great addition to any camera bag because of all their different uses. It’s also worth carrying a couple in your bag because you’ll have a backup if the first gets wet and/or dirty.
Drying a wet camera and lenses before putting them back into the camera bag, keeping filters dry when attached to the lens when it’s raining, using them as a rain cover for your camera, using them to wipe away water spots from filters and to generally wipe gear clean are just a few of the uses for large fine microfibre cloths. Microfibre cloths are available at lots of different prices and pack sizes, but just make sure you opt for the type with the fine weave in a large size, such as the MR.SIGA Ultra Fine Microfibre cloths that are 40x35cm and come in a pack of six.
Carrying a torch is pretty much a no-brainer, especially when you need to walk to a location in the dark before sunrise or back from a location after sunset. A head torch is perfect because they allow you to keep your hands free while providing light in the direction you’re looking. What’s more, many head torches from better-known brands also include a red light which is perfect for being able to see camera settings while not illuminating the scene in front of the camera.
Headtorches can cost as little as a few pounds/dollars, while more expensive models can cost hundreds. The Petzl Tikka Headlamp is a good quality budget option that can run on three AAA batteries or the Petzl Core Rechargeable battery. It offers three power settings along with a low-powered red light. Just remember to carry spare batteries in case you need them out in the field.
Carrying tools is a hindrance, but what happens if your tripod or tripod head needs to be tightened when on location? The list of possible uses for tools goes on, so having a range of tools available can be a real lifesaver if you need to fix or adjust something. Multitools are perfect in this situation because they offer many useful tools in a single lightweight device.
The Bibury Multi-Tool features 21 tools including a knife, saw, pliers, screwdrivers and much more. It weighs 400g and comes in a case that can be attached to your belt if you like to keep items like this close to hand. It’s not the best multitool available and it certainly isn’t the worst, but it’s a popular product with great reviews and comes in at a reasonable price.
7 USB power bank
Even when you’ve charged your camera batteries and smartphone, being out for the day and using these devices continuously can easily end in empty batteries. Many mirrorless cameras support USB-C charging, so you can charge your camera battery as you walk and shoot. And if you’re using your phone for navigation, even if you have a traditional map and compass for backup, you’ll use up your phone’s charge in no time, so a power bank is a great addition to your camera bag.
There are many options available but small 10,000 mAh power banks provide a great balance between size, weight and capacity. The Sabrent 10000 mAh USB C PD Power Bank Portable Charger features fast charging with the ability to charge up to three devices at once, making it a versatile option for charging on location.
James is a freelance photographer and journalist producing content for photography magazines and websites and is a former deputy editor of Practical Photography magazine. He’s also the author of The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing.View all articles