We already know we overload the heck out of our travel gear bags with the “minimum” viable photoshoot kit of way more than we need, but what do you need. We know to bring power bricks, portable battery chargers and strips, but some things we don’t think about or we do bring but should upgrade. I really think we should consider some things that are also just a luxury that will combat fatigue and just make us feel/recover better. You could of course go get a cheap massage too. These links are visually easy to skim through with the added benefit of going to out Amazon Affiliate links to get us a few pennies.
So when travelling any distance a good set of headphones, not cheesy earbuds or airpods, help seal out the world, listen to good tunes in a fuller audio range, last longer and noise cancelling helps with fatigue. This is simple but the first thing for a good reason. I wear V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless. You can get very expensive earbuds often called IEMs (in ear monitors) but you need real power to drive them. That brings up the next thing if you car about quality or outside noise.
Pro tip is a corded or bluetooth set with a Digital-Analog converter aka: DAC and amp combo in a device like a Fiio M5. More power and higher bitrates means hearing better audio and not distorted sound because your micro-circuitry is not stressed out enough to barely move the speakers. The Fiio I linked above also can act as an HQ audio recorder like a lavalier microphone. These are far better than iPods and if you love music, especially live audio, you already know about this type of device. I go with the M11 personally because I am an audio nerd.
On the audio front a good bluetooth speaker for the room and mood is great too. JBL makes speakers that can go into a grouped “party” mode. If you have a couple at the shoot, or just in a hotel room, it is nice. In a hotel room, some white noise over a speaker helps a lot unlike losing an earbud or painfully crushed ears because you wore headphones to bed. I also suggest that the clip-on one with a carabiner to attach to camera bags while hiking or able to put on a stand is a good idea.
Yoga mat. It serves for so many purposes from a comfy place to nap to not having to use knee pads and look like a goober. If you are standing a lot, anti-fatigue mats instead of hard floors are the norm in situations where people stand all day, so a little foam here makes great sense. Goes well with the necks next item.
An inflatable neck pillow is useful to relax. You may be in a seat for a long time, in a location where you can’t lay down for a nap, but a little neck pillow to just lean into a corner without getting a kink in your neck or snapping awake and hurting your neck.
You may bring some toiletries, but I strongly suggest baby wipes, usually for freshening up but nerves can play havoc on your digestive system so aside from makeup cleanup, a little pack of these can freshen up stinky underarms, and your behind. Of course hand sanitizer is the norm now, but it also helps clean grime off your hands and can take Sharpie off of glass and plastic. On this topic a little spritz of your cologne as an air freshener goes a long way to relaxing.
Water bottles, do I need to say more? Get a Hydroflask to look like the cool kids. But seriously a candybar and a water bottle or maybe something sugary or caffeinated or Mio flavored water enhancer. You need something in your stomach and you will dehydrate and run low on energy so a bump of sugar does something. I like getting Chili Quaker rice cake bags to fill up and maybe an iced tea. You’ll need it as the day goes long but not to start the day with a sugar spike to crash hard later. Not to mention your mouth drying out from talking to talent or crew.
I am not exactly a gamer, but I’ll tell you that having mental distractions totally unrelated to my shoots are key for survival. Maybe for you it is Netflix, maybe it is Candy Crush, or a deck of cards for solitaire, the mental fatigue of a shoot should not be the only thing on your mind and it needs to be more than just music because you can still work with a soundtrack. I have been known to play charades in airports during delays and flight cancellations. If all you want to do is close your eyes and listen, try a comedy podcast, something with a low cognitive load.
I wear a Garmin Vivosmart 4 fitness tracker for sleep tracking as well as stress. It warns me if I am under stress and it also has modes that I can use to calm down with some simple breathing exercises. It is mainly inhale, hold, exhale, hold at 5 second intervals. During the inhale and exhale you should be doing that for 5 seconds. I usually do the full cycle 30 times, and then pause at the end, maybe a little stretch. In one or two instances I actually got those hikers bottles of air that are flavored/scented when working at altitude. Kind of the same result.
This brings me to another point, USB charging. Yes, I mentioned bricks before, but when you can charge your camera over USB, I say go for it. A specialized wall wart to charge your batteries outside of the body is just another thing rolling around. Yeah, probably faster than USB, but if you are cruising around a lot you can find a single socket open or even a USB port at a coffee shop to your liking. I have some high power multi-port USB chargers to do a few things at once. You could daisychain a small powerstrip with bricks on it, but the size-benefit analysis is not great. My Fuji and Sony cameras can charge over USB, so there is that. I have a USB powered AAA/AA charger that works alright as well as batteries themselves that are directly USB rechargeable. Duracell (from my experience) makes the most reliable high amperage rechargeables, you should get some for flash units that have a lot of cycle/draw. Ikea’s Lada brand followed by Enloop are the next best in my experience.
Cables are interesting, getting good cables that have the ability for better current or data rates is really important. Sure you can buy a few cheap cables repeatedly or one good cable once. I really believe in Tethertools. Their cables can be pricey, but I have spent hundreds of dollars on cables that are slower to charge and transfer images to laptop, phone or tablet at a glacial pace. On a side note, for Android users there are USB-C to HDMI cables so you can plug in to a TV or monitor for large previews and charge at the same time.
We forget about all the convenient or comfort items, and we probably shouldn’t. After all recovery after a shoot is a bad hangover physically and emotionally.