And we bringeth ….ummm… how do you pack for the Galapagos?
First off, it is best to know the rules and the dynamics for those rules. The Galapagos is a group of islands off the Western coast of Ecuador that contain the most diverse ecosystem for such a small area. That statement includes what’s above and below the water. In order to preserve this amazing fluke on earth there is a balance of tourism and preservation. The locals can prosper on the tourism industry, instead of pillaging the wildlife; while, tourism caps are in place to make sure things aren’t stressed too far.
Most travelers fly from Ecuador to the islands and there are different weight restrictions on those flights compared to other international flights. These planes carry supplies, so the tourists are limited to a 14lb carryon and a 44lb checked bag. Fortunately, one does not need to pack heavy clothing on the equator. If you’re an avid photographer, this does begin to hinder some packing desires. More on that later.
Speaking of photography, the Galapagos might have the most diverse photogenic subjects on earth. It is a mecca for any wildlife photographer, cited by many as a bucket list destination. There is one rule: no flashing the wildlife. Sure, the kind of flashing one does with a long jacket is totally fine, but just don’t hit an animal with a quick beam of light off your camera. Fortunately, the sun is fairly abundant on the equator.
With weight and flashing out of the way, there are only a few other considerations left. The first is the room size on your boat (assuming you’re cruising). If two of you are using a tiny room, your usual roller bag can be quite the navigable nightmare when you’re running to the bathroom at 2:00 AM. It might be better to enlist a foldable duffel that can be stowed out of the way.
Your shipmates should also be a consideration. If you’re booking passage with a photography group, or National Geographic, people are more considerate of you doing what you need to for getting that amazing shot. This includes lugging a big white gun onto the beach with it’s huge carbon fiber tripod and gimbal head. It also means people expect to be glowing from laptop screens, in the evening, processing their images from the day. If you’re not doing that, then you should expect your shipmates to have little patience for you lingering on a landing or lugging a computer into the dining area.
We’re traveling on the latter. And we chose this route to optimize the budget on luxury vs. the prices of the photography tours. We figured companies like Linblad/Nat Geo should be chosen exclusively for seeing polar bears and antarctic penguins, while there is a ton of choice to explore the Galapagos. This means I’m packing our photography gear for mobility and taking enough memory cards to go a few days without offloading photos from the camera to the computer.
- Canon 1Ds Mark III (3 lbs)
Canon 7D Mark II (2 lbs)
Canon 400mm f4DO IS + 1.4x teleconverter (5 lbs)
Canon 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS Mark II (3.75 lbs)
Canon 24-70mm f4L IS (1 lb)
Filters, batteries, memory cards, cleaning supplies, etc
I think a combination of the Think Tank belt system, BlackRapid Yeti camera strap, and dry bags could be the lightest way to move around on the islands. If not, I’ll fall back on the F-Stop backpack. I will slip the Gitzo GT1514T and Markins Q3 into a clothes bag, so getting some good landscape shots is on the agenda!
I’ll have 24 to 400mm of range to throw on the full frame 1Ds while the 7DII will have essentially 800mm (1.4x + 1.7 crop factor + 400mm lens) to get in tight with. I can’t think of a more light-weight way to get incredible image quality and such a wide range of focal lengths into a hand-holdable package… based on the gear I own.
My girlfriend plans to use a smaller LowePro bag with:
- Canon Rebel SL1 (0.9 lbs)
Canon 24-105mm f4L IS (1.5 lbs)
Canon 70-300mm f3.5-5.6L IS (2.5 lbs)
For underwater photography we will have a GoPro and the Olympus TG-3.
With a laptop and travel essentials, concerns about tipping the carry-on scales, with the big camera bag, are high. Fortunately Jess has volunteered to be the backup-transfer-gear mule if we meet a nasty gate agent! I’ll report back if we have any issues getting this gear on the plane. Although we upgraded all flights to first class to help make the flight crew a little nicer. I like to think of it as insurance for the camera gear while we get the bonus of putting our noses in the air to all the peasants in economy seating. Just kidding…. although it is 18 hours of travel time for us, so some luxury will be quite welcome.
Outside of photography equipment, we’ll take a very light load of quick-drying clothes and three types of shoes: flops, Keens, and hiking shoes. We are also taking our own snorkeling masks and breathers even though the boat supplies them. We’ll grab some rash guards in case the water is warm enough to not need to use one of the ship’s wetsuits. We’re some pale white people going to the burn capital of the planet… yeah… long sleeve rash guards should help block some rays while we’re snorkeling.
Bugs suck. We’re bringing the deet!
I think that just about covers it.
- Casual quick-drying clothes that we sourced mostly from Eddie Bauer, Dicks, and Zappos.
- A “light-weight camera load” for serious photographers with some backups
- Shoes for hiking/flying, on the boat, and for wet landings
- Collapsable luggage
- Stuff to block the bugs and sun
- Snorkel equipment to wrap your mouth on that someone else hasn’t wrapped their gums around
- Enough cash to pay park fees, tips, satiate any of Jess’ shopping, or to bribe our way out of some unforeseen trouble (so, roughly $2 million in cash ….just kidding again)
- Obviously passports and print outs of all the junk the travel agent has been sending