The final category includes items that aren't essential, but they'll sure help in certain situations. This isn't an exhaustive listall photographers have favorite items to fill the nooks and crannies of their luggagebut these are some of the stalwart heroes.
In most of the modern world, these items can be left behind and purchased as needed at a local grocery, pharmacy, or hardware store.
Zip-lock bags: No better thing has been invented, except maybe duct tape. Pack a variety of sizes in order to keep gear dry and protected from the elements. You can even take a zip-lock bag and fill it with sand to make a great camera support, or tripod weight.
What's a tripod weight? It's a tool to make a shaky tripod more stable. Hang a bag full of sand (or some other weight) from the legs of the tripod to increase stability.
Garbage bags: These are for you and your gear. Cut a hole in the bottom of one to make a poncho, or hold it over your camera and tripod when you shoot on a rainy day.
Zip ties: These are perfect for securing items together and they're lightweight. Just be sure to bring something you can use to cut them off when you need to (such as the multitool mentioned above).
Sensor cleaner: The imaging sensor in a digital SLR gets dirty from time to time. Bring a small squeeze bottle of sensor cleaner (available at good camera stores) or pick up a baby nasal aspirator at the pharmacy (Figure 2.8).
Figure 2.8. Keeping the sensor clean is a must, and a simple blower bulb (which can be purchased at a drugstore) is a good, fast method for blowing off dust. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)
Be sure you read your camera's manual before you clean your sensor, and make sure you don't scratch the sensor while cleaning it. If you do, you'll turn your camera into an instant paperweight.
Reflectors: Bouncing a bit of light onto a subject can help lighten shadows and brighten the subject (Figure 2.9). A number of companies, such as Lumiquest and Photoflex, make reflectors that fold up into a tiny lightweight shell. You can always use aluminum foil taped to a piece of cardboard.
Figure 2.9. Reflectors fold up into small packages, and can be used to block sunlight as well as reflect light into shadowed areas. (Photo by Mirjam Evers)
Lens cleaners: Rubbing your lens with a T-shirt will work (unless your T-shirt is polyester), but it's better to pack lens-cleaning tissues.
Towel: A small towel will help if you get drenched or if it's humid.
Navigation gear: Never travel abroad without a compass and a map. When you're lost and you don't speak the language, being able to point to your destination on a map to ask a local for help can be the difference between making it to your hotel and sleeping in a field. I pack a sophisticated Global Positioning System (GPS), which requires more batteries, but I always carry a compass and map too (Figure 2.10).
Figure 2.10. If your travels will take you off the beaten path, a map and compass, and perhaps even a GPS, might be necessary. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)
A GPS is a handheld device, about the size of an MP3 player, that receives signals from a fleet of orbiting satellites that ituses to pinpoint your exact location, anywhere on earth. The GPS displays a map of the area and enables you to plot your travels, mark points to return to, and find nearby landmarks.
Thanks to GPS software for the PC programs, like Microsoft's "Streets and Trips," and those offered by the GPS manufacturers, you can even download custom maps of your travel destination, complete with local points of interest, such as museums, scenic overlooks, gas stations, ATM machines, and more.
Two-way radios: In the United States, Family Radio Service walkie-talkies are quite popular, thanks to being both cheap and relatively powerful. Not every country allows their use (check the manufacturers Web site for more information), but it doesn't hurt to carry them anyhow; they're very helpful when traveling with other people. Having a way to stay in touch with someone, even if up to a mile apart, enables you to wander around an area alone, without getting totally separated.
One person could explore the base of an Aztec ruin, for example, while another climbs to its summit. They can use the radio to reconnect after the excursion. These are also handy any time you're photographing in the wild, where natural features often separate travelers.