What to pack for North America

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    Telephoto Equipment (not just photography)

    by glabah Updated Feb 5, 2012

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    Miscellaneous: Unlike the way these tips are designed to be used, this tip is about telephoto equipment. Not being able to write a general equipment tip for all locations, I've put this here as the equipment is available in North America, but may not be available elsewhere.

    With all lenses, it should be noted that the larger diameter of the lens on the end of the device (camera, scope, binoculars, etc.) the more light it captures. The greater the magnification, the morelight is required to actually see what you are looking at, and small diameter lenses at large magnification become difficult to use in anything but the absolutely best lighting conditions.

    This is what I have been using, and found useful:


    Vortex Viper 10x42: these may be used with or without eye glasses. Generally, writers of optical reviews insist that you don't want magnification above 8x in binoculars, but I have found that the Vortex Viper 10x is just fine. They are just heavy enough to keep slight movements from bouncing them. Your results may vary, of course. These also come with a method of attaching them to a tripod, though I have never actually tried doing this.

    Nothing makes up for good optics or not having good optics though. The Vortex Viper series deliver amazing clarity, and I find they may be better than a cheap scope with good magnification.

    The Vortex Viper also has really good resistance to fogging and other problems with moisture, and this is an important feature when you travel in damp climates or are near water.

    Photo 1: note that the binoculars have one eye lens inward, and one eye lens outward. The inward position (top of photo) is for those who wear glasses. If you don't wear glasses, you snap the lens out, as seen in the bottom photo. This is a huge advantage to those who wear glasses, as it keeps us from having to constantly remove and put back on our eye glasses.


    (see photo 2)

    "Spotting Scope" is what most people call these, as they are designed for use in wildlife identification, hunting, spotting, etc. where you need the details of the animal you are looking at.

    I currently have a Tasco zoom scope, which is one of the less expensive scopes on the market (I paid all of $99 for mine). To work well, you really need a good tripod for use with a spotting scope. The Tasco 20 to 60 zoom works OK up to about 45x or 50x, but at 60x magnification it is very difficult to get accurate focus on objects in the scope. You can tell they are there, but it is very difficult to get details. As it was sold in a local retail store hunting department, it apparently fits into the stereotype that people who hunt don't care that much what they are shooting at, they just need something to shoot at. There is no way to really identify what is being seen that well through this scope at 60x magnification, and it is somewhat scary that someone would use such a hazy image to shoot at something.

    However, for basic wildlife viewing at a distance, this works fairly well, especially at the lower magnifications.

    I selected the scope I did because
    1) I really don't need a huge expensive spotting scope for my hobby
    2) The scope fits a standard camera tripod, so that I would not have to purchase a second tripod for use with this scope.

    There are several spotting scopes that I have seen that use a different type of mounting system on them, and unless you want to carry around both a camera tripod and a spotting scope tripod, I highly suggest getting a spotting scope that will fit a camera tripod.

    The Tripod

    is a fairly cheap thing, and of course the more money you spend generally the better the tripod. There are some amazing lightweight and when folded very compact tripods out there. However, be aware of tripods that gain height by using an extending rod down the center, as shown in photo 3. The problem with the tripod is this extended post is not very stable, and you will find that the object on the tripod moves somewhat due to the stability of the long rod just not being the same as with the three legs doing all the supporting. This is not as much of an issue with a camera (which takes a single moment in time) as it is with video or spotting scopes, which look at continuous time, but either way the motion that happens when this is extended on some tripods can be quite annoying if, for example, your camera takes the photo and causes the tripod to move due to the very slight camera operation.

    The more stable position for the tripod is shown in photo 2, with the spotting scope: the single rod is collapsed as far as it will go, and the legs are doing all the supporting. This provides a much more stable platform, and may be necessary in high wind or if looking at objects that are extremely far away.

    Keep in mind the adjustable height when you purchase your tripod. Your tallest traveling companion is likely going to want to see through the scope as well as the shortest, and you are going to want something that will go to the height of your tallest likely traveling companion.

    The Strap:

    (see photo 4)

    The strap is designed for use with either heavy cameras or binoculars, and is designed to go around your back and shoulders and support the heavy glass instruments with a cross pattern on the back. This really helps support the weight of such things as cameras with large telephoto lenses and binoculars with large diameter lenses. You will notice a huge improvement over a neck strap with these.

    The ones (yes, I have two - one for the binoculars and the other for the camera) I have were purchased from the store operated by the Audubon Society of Portland, and is made by OP/Tech USA. However, I am fairly certain many brands are available.

    These are equipped with snap latches on the ends, so that it is fast and easy to disconnect the binoculars from the strap and pass them to someone else, and then reconnect them. The strap does suffer from being fairly easy to get twisted, and to solve that you are supposed to clip the two ends together while the camera / binoculars are disconnected from them.

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching

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  • mafootje's Profile Photo

    Get a cooler

    by mafootje Written Jun 22, 2003

    Miscellaneous: If you are going to drive around in the US it's always smart to have something to drink with you, especially if you're going to drive in the heat in not so populated area's.

    If your car breaks down, the airco does so to and your bound to get thirsty then. It can be smart to buy a cooler, you can get the simple styrofoam ones for about $ 2,00 if you fill this with ice cubes at the hotel or buy a bag at a grocery store you could keep you drinks cool up to two days, even the melted ice keeps your drinks cool.

    We always carry one or two gallons of water (about $0,60 cents a gallon) and a small refilled bottle in the front of the car.

    It's much cheaper as buying bottles and as i said earlier you can keep your drinks cool when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

    Oh and another tip don't drop a gallon of water in the elevator, you and the elevator will get soaked :-).

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Adventure Travel
    • Desert

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  • Packing List

    by Luthorkeeper Written Sep 8, 2002

    Luggage and bags: Carry on bags are a good idea in this day and age . You can buy ANYTHING you need here .

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Again you can buy ANYHTING you need here . If you can't buy all new clothes , be aware , we have SEVERE variances in weather here , Again , do your homework ( no shorts in Michigan in February ) . Any and all styles of clothing and shoes are fair game here . We midwesterners can spot a euorpean from a mile away .

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Many medical supplies are available by prescription only , so bring what you need , or be prepared to go to Mexico or Canada .If you have a specific medical issue , you should call ahead . All hotels and motels are fully stocked with a bewildering supply of toiletries . We never neglect our asses here . Most all showers are first rate . We do like to bathe . Often .

    Photo Equipment: Again you can buy ANYTHING you want . The whole country is wired for 110 volt service . So bring converters if you need them . Power is extremly reliable . Outages are rare .

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Know where you are going . The entire country is full of great campsites , we cherish our woodlands ( most of us ) . Most campsites have adequate supplies of gear and foodstuffs nearby.

    Miscellaneous: money and a sense of humor

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  • Packing List

    by Gehrman1 Written Sep 7, 2002

    Luggage and bags: Food, sodas, snak, sandewis,

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: shorts, sandas, tshorts

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: 1 ID, asspin, bandis, diarea medicin, alcohol, 1.00$ cash.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: GO get somes clams,fishing, pot crab esleping in tents when is very cool,

    Miscellaneous: blankest,(mantas) eliping bag, (bolsas de dormir) air matters,Jakets (abrigos)

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  • mongooser's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by mongooser Written Sep 7, 2002

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Luggage and bags: Ok none of the categories really apply.

    i prefer softish luggage as there is some conpressability to them. Be sensible - back potentially fragile stuff in the centre and dont be too fussed about everything being neat when you get there - just iron it again ok?
    If you can't fit it in a small backpack DONT take it as walk on luggage. In economy there isnt much room.
    Notebook computers just annoy other economy class passengers - there ISNT enough room ok.. get back to business class where you belong.
    Don't try to pack for every emergency - stuff is cheap enough in USa that you can buy what you need if caught out

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: For LA..
    Its warm most of the time. The heat isnt as muggy as,say, Sydney or Brisbane. So dress pretty much like you expect it to be hot because even when it isnt you wont be too bothered.
    shoes.. nikes etc - you're gonna be doing a lot of walking so be comfortable FIRST not stylish - those patent leather shoes are delightful for an evening at the Opera but suck walking round Seaworld. unless you are in the VERY wealthy category most restaurants in LA dont require a tie and jacket nice casual is fine, and comfortable for the weather.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: DONT take electric razors etc the power is wrong. Just do it the old fashioned way. If you have a favourite toothpaste/cigarette/painkiller/sleeping tablet etc take some with you because the branding is all different. If you are Asthmatic or diabetic TAKE YOUR MEDICATION WITH YOU and take spares. You DON'T want to be worrying about this when you get there.

    Photo Equipment: bah those disposable ones are FINE unless you are a professional - face it, it DOESN'T matter how good your camera is if you have no idea how to use it - and most of us don't - be honest. Keep it simple then you wont cry if/when your Nikon/canon etc gets stolen by the rollerblade dudes on Venice Beach boardwalk - cuz you didn't bring it.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: keep food a LONG way from where your tent is - bears are inquisitive and not shy about looking for food and they WILL find it - just deal with it. Better it ISN'T in your tent with you. Grizzly Vs half naked sleepy camper = grizzly EVERY TIME

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  • aveloy's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by aveloy Written Sep 2, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: The plane took six and a half hours Iwent on air Canada so take things to occupy the kids also wet wipes to freshen up in your hand luggage

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Comfortable shoes a light maybe fold away mac if it rains

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: If you like your own brand of anything take it with you British items imported tend to be rather expensive if you go self catering and like H.P sauce take one with you it costs out there

    Photo Equipment: It;s cheaper to get your fims done at home

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  • Packing List

    by kb0wzh Written Aug 26, 2002

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: All weather is possable. Bring close for what you want to do.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Once again bring what you need. The west and S. West does have some of the best doctors in the USA, but have health insurance.

    Photo Equipment: This is a must. Don't over do it but good photo equip. is a must.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Once More, pack for what you want to do.

    Miscellaneous: HAVE FUN!!

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  • Packing List

    by DCgirl Written Aug 26, 2002

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If you plan to visit the nicer bars and clubs in the city, whether its in Georgetown or downtown, pack a few nice clothes and shoes- nothing too dressy, but leave the sneakers in the hotel. Black always works, ladies - it isn't Manhattan here, and there won't be as many velvet-rope establishments with a diva-at-the-door checking out if your ensemble is worthy of admission before turning you back to T-Neck New Jersey, but its still nice to look stylish.

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  • Packing List

    by voodoochild6 Written Aug 26, 2002

    Luggage and bags: back pack

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: tough clothes nothing nice unless you want to go somewere nice

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: tiolet paper and first aid kit i guess

    Photo Equipment: camera and lots and lots of film. america is beutiful most every where. except for in the city so in other words the less the population the prettier it is.well i gess some citys are cool lookin but think what you like dont listen to me.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: towels, sun block or tan lotion and, tents, rain proof tents

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    Packing List

    by laylaune Written Aug 26, 2002

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: COTTON CLOTHING AND NOTHING HEAVY TO CARRY in the Summer, as it is HOT! Wear good sturdy comfy sandals that are broken in. Closed in sneakers are ok, but HOT. Bring a visor or a ball cap and .... A WIDE BRIMMED HAT.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: WEAR SUNSCREEN, bring also a hand towel and towelettes if you have them, as it is HOT in the summer and you will chafe from the sweat. I purchased a portable water bottle that is insulated that has a strap to carry like a purse/bag. It was a MUST.


    Miscellaneous: PURCHASE A CAR REFLECTOR/SCREEN and crack the windows.... THE SUN in the SUMMER IS HELL! ALSO, remember the song? ITS WINDY at times!!!

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  • Packing List

    by Heleyna Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Rain gear is always a good idea. Athletic shoes will do for most activities. We are becoming a more casual place everyday.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: We are fanatical about personal hygiene. You will offend the natives if you are not fanatical about it too. Deodorant is a must!

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: There is camping in everywhere in North America, including Alaska! Find out if there are bear problems where you plan to camp. And watch for snakes in the outdoors. A good insect repellant is absolutely necessary for Spring and Summer. Don't forget the sunscreen!

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  • Packing List

    by spicy_apple Written Aug 26, 2002

    Luggage and bags: I suggest that you pack light. My rental car did not have too much space so I packed only essential things. Don't forget the camera!

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: During the summer months it is hot in the Southwest. I recommend shorts, t-shirts, running shoes, and a hat of some sort because of the sun. Be sure to have sunglasses and sunscreen because the sun and heat can be brutal. Summer storms did occur during my trip, so have a light sweater/coat handy.

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  • Packing List

    by margrose Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: Big suitcase to take home souvenirs

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: always have a light sweater or scarf, since most places have air conditioning. And change of shoes for bad weather time or good weather, you will find that after all that sightseeing your comfortable sneakers are pinching, tight or just hot for your feet. Take some open shoes or nice sandals.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: small bag with band aids and antibiotic ointment.

    Photo Equipment: good land camera or water camera and best of all a camcorder

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Sunscreen, Sunscreen, and more Sunscreen and good eyewear, a hat.

    Miscellaneous: overnight bag, with one change of clothes to go from day to night. Take some baby wipes to wipe face for a refreshing pickup and some alcohol germ killer to clean hands for eating all those finger foods.

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  • casperblack's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by casperblack Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: bring all the basics but also tones of film boston is known for its sightseeing, and if you get to the suburbs where i grew up like concord mass this is were it gets really beautiful from the houses (3million $) to the tree covered roads. just breathtaking

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: winters cold as canada but summer is perfect

    Photo Equipment: bring it all and there is no worries when it comes to stealing its quite a safe town but do be careful.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: there are great beaches in mass i would say that the south of boston the water is warmer but the north beaches are much more beautiful!

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  • Packing List

    by Probot Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: Rolling luggage is always nice and saves your arms and back from wear and tear at all stages of your trip. You might want to get a fanny pack or some other type of small daypack for your daily jaunts.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Tennis shoes are great for general sightseeing in America. If you plan on going to the beach then sandals are the way to go. Our weather is so diverse here in the U.S. that you should check Fodors or Frommers to get a better idea of whether you will need an umbrella or not.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: There are great drug stores and grocery stores that are plentiful throughout the U.S. Some are even open 24 hours a day. It would be better to buy those things you will need there than at a hotel lobby shop or airport store.

    Photo Equipment: All grocery stores and drug stores in the U.S. will carry film and batteries for cameras. Prices on film are pretty good here. You can generally get a four pack of 100 exposure film for around $7 at the grocery store. Generally you can get up to 800 exposure film at the grocery store. Anything higher and you will need to visit a camera shop.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: We have great camping spots here in the U.S. and I will only mention a few here in California. Yosemite is absolutely gorgeous whenever you visit. Lake Tahoe is great for summer and winter sports. California's beaches are warmest from Santa Barbara south to the Mexican border just about year round. San Francisco to the Oregon border is best from about August to September. Be prepared for fog!

    Miscellaneous: The States on the Eastern seaboard are much smaller than those in the western part of the U.S., so travelling across them will take much less time. It will take approximately 12-15 hours to drive from the southern border to the northern border up Highway 5 in California whereas to go from the the southern to northern border of Massachusetts might only take 2 hours, if that. You might want to go to www.mapquest.com and enter your starting and ending points to where you want to go to get an idea of how long a journey might take. It will also give you detailed instructions on what streets and turns you should take to get you where you want to go. Just be certain you have exact addresses when you enter in your information.

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