What’s in your bag?

Posted by Justin Franz
on Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What's in your bag? Photo by Justin Franz.
A few weeks ago, I was preparing for a trip to British Columbia when I decided it would be a good opportunity to clean out my camera bag. I frequently reorganize and repack my camera bag because it almost always becomes a disorganized mess over the course of a trip (I purchased a mid-priced camera bag on Amazon a few years ago and, well, I got what I paid for).

However, the exercise of unloading and loading my camera bag got me thinking about a conversation I had recently had with Assistant Editor Brian Schmidt about what we carry when we go railfanning. Everyone has a camera and some lenses in their bag, he said, but what else do you find essential when heading trackside?

Aside from a pair of Canon DSLRs, a roster of lenses and an assortment of accessories (cable release, a flashlight, neutral density filters I keep telling myself I’ll use), I also have a few other must-have items. Since the vast majority of my railfanning happens here in the Northwest, I never leave home without a copy of the Altamont Press Northwest Timetable, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as the Bytown Railway Society’s invaluable Canadian Trackside Guide for frequent adventures north of the border. I also have a copy of Altamont Press’ Rocky Mountain Region Timetable in the bag just in case I take a wrong turn and end up in Utah, Colorado or Nevada. Another item I always keep in my camera bag: bear spray for when I’m shooting BNSF Railway’s route along Glacier National Park. Lastly, although it’s not in my camera bag, I’ve recently discovered a few helpful phone apps, including PhotoPills, which lets you plan shots and calculate where the sun will be at any given moment.

An informal poll of frequent Trains Magazine contributors revealed many of the same items. Robert Scott rarely leaves home without SPV Railroad Atlases and various DeLorme Maps (a very used copy of the Montana atlas that is covered in location notes has a permanent home in my car). George Hamlin brings extra batteries, notebooks and ear plugs whenever he’s trackside. And Hayley Enoch uses a big metal box for her camera gear, which keeps it organized and safe from the elements.

What’s in your bag?

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