The Gear I Won’t Leave Home Without

best travel and photography items sony a5000 rokinon 12mm wide lens polarizer lens darkening filters tripod

Almost daily I get questions on my Instagram account asking what type of camera gear I use for my photos, what my favorite brands are for clothing and other similar questions on items that I use for my trips.

For this post, I wanted to share with you all of my favorite travel items and answer all of those frequently asked questions.

No matter if I am going on a short day hike, a week long road trip or flying abroad, these are the must have items I always bring with me everywhere I go:


Favorite Travel Camera

For the last two years, I have brought my Sony Alpha a5000 Mirrorless Camera on countless trips. Whether I am going on a 3-day backpacking trip, kayaking in the ocean or traveling through Europe, this camera is always with me to capture my favorite moments. Unlike most Instagram photographers who travel with multiple cameras, my motto is “Less is more”. I love the Sony a5000 camera because it’s lightweight, small and easy to carry. I can pack it into any bag but most of the time I carry it around my neck.


Comparison of a typical DSLR camera to Sony a5000


My favorite part about the Sony a5000 camera is how beginner friendly it is. Functions such as “Intelligent Auto” will select the best settings for the scene such as portrait, landscape or macro. The flip-up LCD screen makes it super easy to set up shots on a tripod when you’re out by yourself and all photos can be transferred wirelessly to a phone immediately for editing and social media posting.  Not only does this camera take great photos, but it is also excellent for videography as well. All in all, it is one of the best beginner cameras at a price that won’t break the bank.

Sony Alpha a5000 on Amazon


Other Camera Gear

Sometimes a simple camera might not be enough to capture the perfect photo. In those situations, additional camera gear might be required such as different camera lenses, tripod, sun filters or polarizer lens.


Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens is great for outdoor photography because this type of lens can capture a wider scene which means better composition and detail. A smaller lens might cut off a part of a waterfall, lake or a mountain which could look less appealing in the final photo. In many of my outdoors shots, I use the Rokinon 12mm Ultra Wide Angle Lens along with my Sony a5000 camera. This lens will capture all the scenery in one shot with high quality and detail. Not only it’s great for day shots, but this lens is also highly used for night astrophotography as well.


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Rokinon 12mm Ultra Wide Angle Lens on Amazon



As a waterfall lover, I tend to carry a lightweight tripod in my bag whenever I go hiking. A good tripod is a must to capture flowy waterfall photos by using camera’s shutter speed function. Without a tripod and stabilization, the photos might come out blurry which is any photographer’s nightmare.



Tripods are also great for solo hikers who want to capture themselves in their photos. All you need is a tripod, a self-timer function and you’re all set. Like I mentioned earlier, the flip-up LCD screen on the Sony A5000 comes in super handy for this.

Lightweight Tripod on Amazon


Neutral Density Filters

Often times, the lighting conditions in the outdoors are less than ideal for photography. One of the worst conditions to shoot outdoors photography is in bright light because this will cause parts of the photo to be washed out and other parts to be overly shadowed. Mid-day sun is especially bright but there are some tricks photographers can do to help prevent this.  One of my favorite add-ons for my Rikon 12mm lens are the Neutral Density Filters because these filters will darken the scenery and even out the highlights in the photos.


abalone cove without filter
Photo taken mid-day without the neutral density filter


abalone cove with filter
Photo taken mid-day with the neutral density filter


These filters are also great for waterfall photography. In order to capture a flowy waterfall, the shutter speed needs to be slowed down but the result of that is a bright photo that can often look washed out. By placing a darkening filter on the lens the shutter speed can be reduced without washing out the photo.

Neutral Density Filters on Amazon


Polarized Lens

Similar to darkening filters, a polarizer lens can improve the look of the photo in bright conditions when there is a lot of sunlight being reflected. Using a polarizer lens will help eliminate sun glare and create better colors in the photos. I use my polarizer lens when I am shooting water photography such as ocean or lakes and I want to create deeper looking blues and greens.


lake diablo washington without polarizer lense
Photo of Diablo Lake without using polarizer lens


lake diablo washington with polarizer lense
Photo of Diablo Lake with polarizer lens


Polarizer lens on Amazon


Most Comfortable Hiking Shoes

If you are an avid hiker and backpacker like me, the number #1 item on your “must have” list is probably a pair of comfortable and durable hiking shoes. After trying a variety of different brands over the years, I have finally found a pair that I absolutely love by Vasque Footwear. The Vasque Grand Traverse hiking shoes have been the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn since day 1. They are waterproof, durable and very light, making it super easy to wear these shoes for days without making my feet feel tired or heavy.


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Vasque Grand Traverse hiking shoes on Amazon


Best Jacket

If you live somewhere cold and rainy like I did in Oregon, having a good jacket is the key to staying warm and dry while hiking outdoors. One of my favorite jackets is my yellow rain jacket by The North Face. It’s perfect for the cold, wet days of the Pacific Northwest but also has an inner liner that can be removed when you’re in warmer locations. This rain jacket is made of high-quality materials and has a pleasing fit that is not bulky like most other rain jackets. If the warmth and fit weren’t enough, it also comes in awesome bright colors that are perfect for outdoors photography.


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The North Face yellow rain jacket on Amazon


Coziest Travel Blanket

When I say I bring this blanket with me everywhere, I really mean EVERYWHERE. Sackcloth & Ashes blankets are the perfect blankets for all uses whether it’s laying on the beach, having a picnic, snuggling with on long road trips, or hanging by a camp fire.


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It’s made of a soft but durable wool that will keep you warm at any temperatures, yet is light and small enough to fit in a backpack and bring along everywhere. Best of all: The Sackcloth & Ashes blankets come in a variety of colors and patterns that will look great in any Instagram photo.


Best Backpacking Pack

When I first started backpacking couple years ago, I had no clue what backpacking and hiking gear is good or bad. Now, a few years later, I have learned a thing or two and good gear comes down to durability and weight. One of my favorite backpacking packs is a REI Ridgeline 65 that I use for longer backpacking trips. It is super light which is very important for long day hikes and helps prevent sore back and exhaustion from carrying a heavy weight on the back. This backpack fits well around the body with back straps and waist straps that wrap around perfectly and can be adjusted. My favorite part of this backpack is that it can be opened from top and bottom which is very convenient if you don’t want to take out all the gear looking for one item on the bottom. It also has a slip cover on top so if it rains, your clothing and gear inside the pack won’t get wet.


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Similar backpacks on Amazon


Favorite Day Hiking Backpack

When it comes to day hikes, any backpack will usually do it. My favorite pack that I bring on short hikes is my Madden Girl backpack . Besides the cute look, it is also very comfortable and has multiple storage pockets that help me stay organized. This backpack fits all of my camera gear, lunch, water, snacks and anything else I need to bring along. The bag itself is light which is important when hiking and the straps fit very comfortably.


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Madden Girl backpack on Amazon


My Must Have Travel Hats

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my travel hats! I bring a hat on almost every trip I take because let’s face it- after a few days of traveling, anyone’s hair is starting to look a little shabby. This is when I start reaching out for my travel hat to cover up the mess of a hair that I usually have by then. They are especially handy when showers are not easily available like camping and hiking trips. My absolutely favorite hat is a black RVCA hat that I usually bring with me on longer trips. It looks cute in photos and makes for a great accessory on any trip.


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RVCA travel hat on Amazon


One of my favorite summer hats is my Lack of Color straw hat. I usually wear this hat when I want to go for more of a summer look in my photos.


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Lack of Color straw hat on Amazon


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