Over the years we all end up gathering gear that may seem pointless to others but ends up being completely essential to us.  I have quite a bit of gear like that and I’m sure you do as well – stuff that may have little use for other people but has proven very useful to us.  Beyond the moleskin, extra batteries, or extra memory cards – these are items that have won a place in our packs and proven very useful.  This Tech Tuesday is dedicated to such items.

Main computer HD backup
I’m a backup freak.  I’m constantly backing up my hard drives.  Lose all your data once and you will understand.  This backup drive is not my photo library – it’s a backup of my main computers hard drive – I carry it with me everywhere.  Why?  I’ve had to replace my hard drive on my MBP twice in two years already.  When my drive goes down I take out my backup drive and simply stick it in my computer.  The whole process takes less than 10 minutes.  Lose your hard drive while you’re on the field or on assignment and that can spell disaster – being able to replace it and be back up and running in no time is just smart.

Small box
I apologize for the nondescript title, but it is was it is – a small boxish…thing.  I often times carry a small box/tin with me that contains things that I don’t want to get smashed.  For example I have a few gels in this one that I’d rather they not get folded and ripped to pieces, though it really doesn’t matter.  A button that came off my pants that I didn’t want to lose and a tripod reducer bushing made it into the ‘small box’ as well.  The uses are many. I’ve found carrying a small box is helpful for storing small things that need that extra bit of protection that stuffing it in a pocket might not provide.

Extra Phone
There’s nothing like being in the middle of nowhere and realizing your power-hungry iPhone is out of juice.  I always carry a simple phone backup just in case.  It’s preferable to bring a phone that does doesn’t do much other than make calls and holds a battery for a long time.  This phone holds a charge for an extremely long time.  In fact, when I took this picture I estimated that I hadn’t turned it off in over 40 days.  A phone backup is smart to have when the ability to charge mobile devices isn’t always a guaranteed.

Lighter + Tea light
This one won’t ring as true for many of you as it does for me, but I always carry a lighter.  It’s probably a carry over from my younger days of hiking and camping – and my secret chain smoking addiction.  Not only is it good for starting fires but it’s always good for building relationships with locals when you’re the first person to pull out a ligher and help someone light their cigarette.  Call me crazy but it’s opened doors for me and those open doors have occasionally led to a better shot.  Why the tea light though?  Where I live it’s extremely cold nine months out of the year.  I’ve stayed in places where building a fire in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night has been made easier by a tea light.  Every time I don’t bring it I always end up in situation where I wish I had.  Maybe not necessary unless you are a photographer working in the third-world where being warm can be the difference between life and death and electricity is all but guaranteed.

Small Bungee
I travel with these small bungee cords everywhere I go – even on business trips.  I use them for everything.  In fact one of these same cords (bought here) is holding my shower together right now.  I use them for tons of things on the field:  Mount radio receivers to flashes.  Hold a light stand together. Lash a tripod onto a pack.  Mount a hot shoe flash to something weird.  I’ve even used them to hold my clothes together.  These things are absolutely indispensable.  I heard about the idea from another photographer who used them the same way I do now.  You never know what you will use them for and packing them is no problem.

Battery Backup
If I were going to write this list in some particular order of importance, I think this would be high on the list.  Lighter than an iPhone and thinner than a hard drive, this small battery pack can recharge my iPhone completely up to 3 times.  In fact, it charges just about anything that has a USB port.  I even throw this battery pack into my bag when just around town.  The benefit is obvious.  It’s extremely light and extremely useful.  In fact, I’m thinking about buying more…

Blank cards
This one might just be me, but small blank cards have proven to be a great thing to throw in my pack.  While travelling I run across people all the time that want one bit of information and not the entire business card.  In fact, you probably run into people all the time that you dont want to give an entire business card to.  Many people only care about my phone number, email address, where I live, my name, etc – Honestly I don’t want them to have a whole business card.  Furthermore we all run into people all the time that don’t have a business card and this allows them to give you whatever information they want to give you.  Small blank index cards provide that flexibility in these kinds of situations.  Furthermore, it’s a simple white card – you can write anything you want to on it and give it to people (or just make notes).  Furthermore it saves you from ripping out pages in your notebook.

Why not take velcro with me? I have clothes that are held together with velcro.  It’s completely unoticable to pack and has a billion different uses.  I carry a small strip with me always.  Most of my gear has velcro already on it, so an extra strip incase I need it only makes sense.

Zip Ties
If it’s good enough for MacGyver, it’s good enough for me.  I’ve held broken equipment together on the field with these – equipment I wouldn’t be able to use otherwise.  Much like the velcro, these are tiny and the upside is absolutely obvious.  I threw a dozen in with me every time I travel.

Extra Lens base and body cap
Dust is our enemy and losing one of these bad boys with out a replacement on the field is bad.  Having extras can save your equipment while you are on the field in the rare case that you lose one.  Furthermore, since I’m often shooting out of my backpack, I find it extremely helpful to have a few extra of these laying around to grab when Im quickly changing a lens.  A worse case scenario idea with lots of extra convenience – I’ve personally found that I use the extra base and cap almost every time I’m out.

Add to the conversation.  What do you take with you when shooting that may not be an obvious addition?