Kit Blog - Caron Steele

Kit Blog

Non Camera Kit that I find Essential on my Photographic Adventures

October 2019


I thought I’d give you a list of some of the “essentials” that I carry with me when I go on my photography expeditions. I’m not talking about camera gear just clothing and other items that make life easier.

In no particular order, I have made a list of some of the things that I find really useful, (I have also added shopping links, in italics, where available, they are not necessarily the best deals but they are a good starting point)

I hope this helps x

• I have a homemade apron that slips into the front of my camera bag made from lightweight waterproof fabric. It is in essence like a large pillowcase or sack with 2 ties on it.

It is really easy to make. Buy a length of material, fold it in half so that doubled-up it hangs from your waist to your shins, sew up each side, highlighted in yellow and sew across the bottom 2 corners so that you have enough room to pop an eyelet in or sew on a Velcro tab.

To make the ties I used an old football boot shoelace cut in half - you just need something lightweight that will tie and untie easily.

I find this very useful as I often lie on the ground to get good eye-level shots. Tie this around you and you have something to lie on or protect your legs when its lashing down with rain. I also tie it round my neck if I’m walking and it’s particularly wet and I’m carrying my rucksack. I often find even in the best wet weather gear after a while I get damp patches on my shoulders where my ruck sack straps create pressure points. Wearing this as a cape and loosely securing the corners to your rucksack using the eyelets or Velcro straps creates a loose tent over you that is slightly flappy. The flappy bit is good as it keeps shaking the water off. Also handy for covering rucksack when I pop it on the ground as my rucksack cover only does one side. If I lie on it and it gets muddy I simply turn the bag inside out to carry it home. I have also used it as a quick impromptu cover for camera and tripod if I’m waiting for a particularly bad shower to pass. And to carry grubby kit home in. It weighs very little folds up to virtually nothing and is really useful.

Travelling with a Small Luggage Allowance.

• I travel with a neck travel pillow like this one

The cover is zip off so you can open it up and at a squeeze stuff in an extra puffa jacket. Air lines never seem to count this as luggage so it’s helpful when you are tight on space. Also buying one like this means I can wrap it around the end of my 500mm prime lens and it doubles up as a bean bag. Being attached to the lens means it’s easy to reposition yourself in a vehicle or boat without risking the bag falling off. Not perfect but it does work.

• Talking of travelling, Kenya is one of my favourite travel destinations. The only problem is you get about a 32kg luggage allowance when you fly out to Kenya and then only 15kgs on the small transfer planes. Again if you wear it, it doesn’t count as luggage! I realise this is not strictly playing fair, but I’m fed up with being charged a fortune for the weight of excess camera gear and then sitting next to someone who is clearly twice my weight.

So, my solution is a lightweight safari vest with big pockets on the outside, preferably gusseted pockets so they expand. Put your heavy batteries and camera body or spare lens in these.

I have also sewn in a secret pocket inside the back of the vest to slip my laptop in. Not practical to wear or carry over any distance as you have to be careful not to damage your laptop, but it does make you stand up straight!! As soon as you are through customs or on the plane take it off and stow in the overhead locker. I’ve also added a second internal pocket where I pop a camera body or lens. If buying a jacket from new get a slightly larger one than normal to allow for these adaptations.

• Finally wear a camera around your neck on a strap. That way you can save yourself a good 5kg plus! When airlines charge us by our weight and luggage combined, as a fair reflection of the fuel costs to fly us, then I’ll start behaving myself – enough said!

• I always carry dry bags, they are light, strong and can protect your camera from dust as well as water.

I like this one from North Coast Wetsuits, because it comes with carry straps, but the quality is not quite as good as the Karrimor bags.

North Coast Wetsuits Dry Bag

I also like the Karrimor dry bags as they are a lightweight non rubberised fabric so not bulky but still strong and waterproof

Karrimor Dry Bag

On Safari

• Hotel shower caps are great for covering the end of your lens in dusty conditions, like in an open safari vehicle– just be careful they don’t blow off and litter the place.

• I love buffs to protect my head and neck from insects and the sun and or cold and I have sometimes popped one on the end of my big lens as a dust protector.

I have an old one with a foldable neoprene peak which is excellent as it does not blow off in the wind and the peak is soft & flaps back easily when I take a photo.

You can see the gentle battering it is getting in this short video clip, I would have lost a cap instantly and can't photograph whilst wearing a cap as the peak gets in the way. This is the ideal solution and stops the back of my neck from burning.

I think they are currently discontinued by Buff at the moment. Brink them back Buff!!! or will someone else please take the idea and run with it??

Peaked Buff on windy Chobe River

• I love Think Tank gear  and I am particularly fond of their digital holsters

There is a great video on here that shows the versatility of these bags whatever size you go for.

In addition I also carry extra Velcro straps with me so that using the d-rings on the bag I insert the straps through and attach them to the metal bars inside my safari vehicle, so I can hang my cameras in front of me for easy access.

Usually in a safari vehicle you get bars like the ones highlighted by the red arrows below, that are about 70mm in diameter.

Using Velcro straps like these

I attach my bag via the d-rings to the bar.

That way my spare camera and lens set up is always accessible and the holster flap keeps the dust off.  If I can get out of the vehicle and roam around, the holsters slip neatly onto a belt so I can carry a spare camera leaving my hands free with nothing flapping around when I get down low to get that all important eye-level shot.

Kit for Colder & Wetter Climates

• In cold, wet or snowy climates I recommend Neos Overshoes. They are like waterproof canvas welly boots that you can roll up to get in your bag.  I favour the River Trekker. They are totally waterproof and you can wear warm boots inside them,  and when you have finished standing in that river or stream or wading through deep snow, you can slip them off to make your hike more comfortable. In addition to the thigh-high river trekker overshoes they also do Neos 15" Adventurer All Season Overshoes, which are also great if you are only in shallow water plus they are lighter to pack and easier to walk in - I have a pair of these too!

• As for warm boots. The best I have tried are Baffin boots. They are warm and comfortable and if you somehow get them wet, the inners come out and are easy to dry. I have tried lots of other makes and these beat them hands down for warmth and practicality. They kept me warm when I was out for 6+ hours at -24°C just standing around. This is no mean feat (excuse the pun!) often we test boots when we are out walking generating heat but standing relatively still & silently on snow for hours trying to get that tricky wildlife shot is a real challenge for any gear.

I have women’s Baffin Icefield boots, I really wanted the women’s Baffin Impact boots but they had sold out. Having said that they are nearly identical and the Icefield are great. The male equivalents are Icebreaker and Impact.

Baffin Impact Boot

Baffin Icefield Boot

• I am also a huge fan of Thermacare backwraps – they really do last up to 16 hours and are lightweight and easy to wear. I usually wear them over 1 thin layer such as t-shirt or thermal vest. I buy mine in bulk off amazon. When you are standing still in the field and contorting yourself into strange positions to get “that” shot, they really save your back and keep you warm.

• As for gloves I recommend the Heat Company Shell Gloves with separate liners

They are really warm shells that have a pocket  for hand-warmers, on the back of your fingers so it doesn't hinder your grip.

They zip open so you can use your hands for photography. The inner gloves have touch screen fingertips.

The mittens fold open & stay open with magnetic clips here so no flapping.

I also have a pair of Heat Smart 3 which have integral inners and are also very good but on balance I think I prefer the shells and separate inners as if I get the inners wet or dirty I can wash and dry them easily.

• I almost forgot to mention the items I use the most - gardening knee pads. I like the type with 2 velcro straps on the back so I can pop them on and off easily. They are a lifesaver if you are constantly on the ground like I am all the time!

I also use judo or goal keeping elbow pads sometimes, if I know I'm going to be on very rough terrain, for example when I'm visiting the rocky volcanic Galapagos Islands.

That's it for now but I'm sure I will add to this so stay tuned!!

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