Travel Clothing for Photographers


What does clothing have to do with photography?  Plenty.  If you’re not comfortable when you travel, it’s harder to focus on your photography.  So, while you still have time to deliver a hint to Santa, let’s review some travel clothing recommendations.


1. Crushable and Washable Hat


Personally, I like a wide brim hat but it’s probably more important to find one you will wear.  Other than the obvious protection from the sun, a hat is your first protection when it starts raining and you still want to take pictures.  A hat makes a pretty good sun block for your camera too.  I recommend a crushable hat because it is easier to put in your pocket or backpack when you don’t want to or are not allowed to wear it.  You can rinse out a lightweight, washable hat and it will be dry by the morning.  My favorite brand is Tilly.  They sell hats that are sized so they stay on better in the wind.


2. Clothing that wicks away moisture


There is a wide variety of shirts, pants, socks and even underwear available today that will pull moisture away from your skin to keep you drier.  Companies like Patagonia, ExOfficio and North Face, just to mention a few, sell a wide range of these products.  Wicking properties are most important for the clothes that touch your skin.


3. Lightweight Clothing


The less your clothes weigh, the more weight you can allocate for camera equipment.  Leave the jeans and heavy cotton shirts at home and pack lightweight pants and shirts.  Lightweight clothes dry faster too so you can rinse them out or scrub out a spot and they will usually dry overnight.  Look for quick drying garments and they will probably be lightweight too.


4. Convertible Pants


If you’re traveling to a destination where you want both long and short pants, consider taking convertible pants.  Like the name suggests, these pants convert from long to short by zipping off the lower portion of each pant leg.  They are especially useful in hot destinations where you must occasionally cover your legs to enter a temple or church.


5. Sandals


Sandals aren’t just for beaches.  If you are traveling in warm areas where you take your shoes off and on a lot, they are just as practical.  For example, if you are traveling in Asia where it is customary to remove shoes when you enter most buildings, sandals are the perfect footwear.  But they have another use too.  If you have been wearing boots or shoes all day, changing to sandals at the end of the day can give you feet (and your shoes) the break they need.


6. Insect repellent clothing


You can buy clothes today that have been treated to repel insects.  This is important when you are wearing lightweight clothes because bugs can often bite through them.  The treatment lasts through numerous washings.  But if your favorite lightweight shirt is not treated, don’t worry.  You can treat it yourself with Permethrin.   Buy a spray can of Permethrin at a camping supply store and spray all of your unprotected outerwear garments – pants, shirts, hat and especially socks.  You still need bug spray for exposed skin but, if the clothing is protected too, you stand a much better chance of enjoying a photo shoot in the early morning or evening when the bugs are out.


7. Micro fleece jacket


A micro fleece jacket is a lightweight version of a fleece jacket and many of them are just as warm.  The weave is tighter and most provide some wind resistance.  I find that this is the only jacket I need unless temperatures dip below 40 degrees F.  I carry it on the plane for cold flights and I throw it in my backpack even when it’s warm.  It’s not heavy and it provides cushioning against my back when hard items like lenses or filters are stored there.  It also makes a great pillow for a long drive or flight.


8. Waterproof shell


A waterproof shell is a lightweight raincoat (detecting a trend yet?)  It is designed to be worn with warm layers underneath when the weather is also cold.  I recommend a shell with a hood, large pockets and extra roomy size (preferably big enough to put your camera inside and still zip up the jacket).  By choosing a shell instead of a raincoat, you will stay cooler in hot weather.


9. Silk long underwear


When weather does turn cold and you need extra warmth, it’s hard to beat silk long underwear.  It’s lightweight, comfortable and doesn’t take up much space in your luggage.  It also fits under any type of clothing and provides remarkable warmth considering the weight of the fabric.


10. Layers


Let’s put it all together now.  Everything in the list above can be worn at the same time (but you probably don’t want to wear sandals if it’s cold outside).  The point is to dress in layers.  A combination of silk long underwear, convertible pants, wicking t shirt, lightweight long sleeve shirt, micro fleece jacket and waterproof shell will keep you comfortable in 20 degree F weather if you add a warm hat and gloves.  And it provides 5 different layers that can be removed as it warms up.  With this type of layering you can handle big swings in temperature and weather.


Regardless of your desired look or style, it is possible to travel light with a flexible combination of clothing that will keep you comfortable and let you concentrate on your photography.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


   Roger Nelson