#1 headlamp

DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ONE! Anyone who's been an outdoor adventurer or nature photographer has likely made the mistake of not having one of these on them when the sun is setting and you're miles away from a vehicle. I've learned this lesson the hard way WAY too many times to count. On the trail, on the water, on the side of the road, power goes out during a storm in your home. You name it, and I've likely been in the situation without light to see. Sure, we often have our phones which is fine in a short pinch, but you probably don't want to be wasting battery power. Now there are headlamps that "live" in my suitcases, backpacks, laptop bags, vehicles, nightstands, office desk, and of course the kitchen "junk drawer", so I'm never without. There are a bazillion options and brands out there to choose from, but two of my favorites are...

Energizer these are the best for the price IMO and in my experience last longer than that "high end" brands

Black Diamond These have some added features like a battery metered and "PowerTap" which is convenient, but I'm still a bigger fan of of the first one b/c of price.

I can't stress #1 enough. Seriously one of the most important items in your kit.

#2 "knee or butt pad"

Laugh if you want to, but this little handy device has kept me warm, dry and comfortable countless times on my adventures. Kneeling for long periods on photoshoots, taking a break on a damp trailside, changing a tire on the side of the road are just a few examples of when I was happy to have these close at hand.

Therm-a-rest Z Pad is one of the simplest yet handiest tools in my "kit" This thing will keep your be-hind warm and dry. I keep one in my vehicle and my hiking kit. Don't cheap out on this one. My therm-a-rest has lasted for many years and MANY miles.

Foam Mat When I am looking for something "cheap" I buy something like this an cut it to a specific size.

Alex Kent, pro photographer sits at this laptop with his Sony shirt and gear beside him.

Even at full day workshops I keep my "Z-Pad" close by for those uncomfortable folding chairs! Haha! Image by Madelyn Amacher

#3 "Lifestraw" water filtration

More of a travel survival tool than a piece of gear for my photo kit, but water filtration is one I think is important to mention. Most of us can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without drinking water, so water filtration is something I carry with me all the time when traveling, hiking, and on river trips. I use various methods and devices depending on the situation and number of people I'm traveling with, but below are a few I own and use most often. Always feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Lifestraw easy to use and effective. These go in my suitcase, in my hiking packs, and in my vehicle. With these you do drink directly from the water source. I've tried this is questionable stagnant water it comes out clean tasting.

Sawyer These are great because you can attach them directly to plastic water bottles and they are small and lightweight.

My plan is write an in-depth post on my backpacking gear someday. Sign up here if you want to be updated when I publish new posts

#4 multi-tool and/or pocket knife

Full disclosure I carry a pocket knife nearly everywhere I go. Following in the footsteps of my grandfathers, a knife is one of those no-brainer essential tools that comes in handy more often than you'd think. Expensive knives are great and you get what you pay for, but I lose stuff too often to go overboard. As far as multi-tools, I've had much less need for them than a standard pocket knife, but regardless a mini one stays in my first aid kit and a larger one in my vehicle. A few good choices:

Gerber For the $ this cheap little guy does the trip. I've used one of these for year and it's held up well. If I buy an expensive one they end of missing. Haha. If you need one a little thinner to fit more streamline in the pocket, then check this one out.

Sog is another brand I like without breaking the bank. That one linked is more tactical and multi use.

Speaking of multi-use, it hard to go wrong with Leatherman for the larger version or the Gerber Mini for the small kit.

view from the yellow raft with the Colorado river in the background in the Grand Canyon. An ammo can with "Shit Happens"

Just remember! LOL Being prepared helps when sh*t happens b/c it inevitably will.

#5 Power backup

Something you likely won't need often, but when you do it can be a lifesaver. If you're an "ultralighter", this might not be for you because they can be heavy, but I like to have one with me on multi-day trips and on long jobs where I'm on the move a lot. Here is my go to.

Anker Portable Battery Charger this is the exact one I've used the most and longest. It can generally get two full phone charges (mine is less now b/c they do have a lifespan and I've had mine for several years) I think it's a good blend of capacity and size/weight.

Anker Large Portable Battery Charger If you're traveling with family or multiple devices you might want something with more capacity, but I personally wound't want to backpack with this one.

Anker Wireless Charging they even make a wireless version, but I personally haven't tried this one.

That's just my "top 5" - more to come

You don't HAVE to learn the hard way like most of us. Take my advice from above and get ready for that next adventure. I plan on writing more detailed blog posts for the gear I use on specific types of trips, adventure, workshops, and photo projects.

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