What to pack for North America

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  • glabah's Profile Photo

    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:

    Binoculars:

    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.

    Scope:

    (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.

    vortex viper 10x42 binoculars Tasco Spotting Scope on Tripod TriPod vibrates with extension up strap supports in back in cross fashion
    Related to:
    • Birdwatching

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  • venusdmoon72's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by venusdmoon72 Written Aug 26, 2002

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Luggage and bags: Don't carry so much stuff, there is sufficient shopping to do there! Try to travel there as light as possible, but bring enough bags, but you could buy a suitcase or two from there! Kill two birds with one stone.
    If worst comes to worst, just ship the extra stuff back home. You may opt for them to come by ship, and it takes longer, but it's worth it!

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If it's around summer, light clothes, nothing too heavy or even too dressy. Smart casual is the way to go.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Again, just the essentials. Carry loads of deodorant though, all the walking can really bring up a sweat.

    Photo Equipment: Camera, digital camera (with enough fild and batteries, in case not digital) Small compact type camera, you don't want to flash it around too much.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Comfortable shoes and your bathing suit and spare towel should be handy. You never know if you drive through one of Cali's beautiful beach spots and there are lots of those!

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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 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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  • hansash's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by hansash Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: Keep it under 50 pounds! Try carrying it for 1 day in hometown,and then just think of how long you'll be gone!

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Wear most of it all the time! Check out the local weather on the internet...It may be hot during the day but,freezing at night! Buy clothing at a local thrift store when you get to 'wear' you're going!

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sinus pills...Elevation changes can be a pain. Bandaids! BabyPowder for between showers! If you're roughing it forget Hair Supplies;shampoo maybe but,gel,hairspray and krap....NOT!!!!

    Photo Equipment: Disposable camera with flash! works for me...Purchase postcards...but,don't send them! Keep them for yourself! They make a nice album. Have someone take a few pics of Y-O-U!!!! Be careful if you got an expensive camera,It could get stolen. It happened to me in Washington D.C. !!!

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: two pairs of shoes: a pair of boots and some light pair of converse 'chuck Taylor' all-stars tennis shoes...their light and comfortable...and they dry quick.

    Miscellaneous: Water purification system the 2 liter ones are better...Remember H2O weighes about 8 lbs. per gallon! I can go through that pretty quick! carry both...if you can! they Iodine pills are supossed to work fine too! Duct Tape!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Packing List

    by Probot Written Aug 26, 2002

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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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  • MargotB's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by MargotB Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: I don't carry any luggage because then I would be delayed at the airport and border interminably.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Take a sweater anytime you go the desert area of California, because in the hot season [most of the year] everything is air-conditioned and cold.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Have medical insurance because if you should have a prolonged stay in a hospital, your bill could run to over a million dollars.

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  • tmmcgrath's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by tmmcgrath Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: backpack (mid-size), one or two small duffles

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: ...for Glacier National Park...I carry rain/snow gear in my trails pack when setting out on a hot July morning. The layer system...build up (or down) from shorts and a t-shirt, solid boots in summer. This busy summer tourist town hibernates come winter...if you are one of the very-very few who come to see the splendid, sometimes surreal winter in these mountains, bring all of your warmest clothes. However, the Chinook winds of January (especially) can bring temperatures up from well below freezing to 60 degrees F. Be prepared for wind on the east side of the park, rain on the west side...prepare for everything, always. And enjoy this landscape that cannot be fully explored/comprehended in a lifetime.

    Photo Equipment: I carry about 10 to 25 pounds of it...but then, I make part of my living from photographs. If you travel...anywhere, it is worth have quality, though a modest amount of camera gear. You get whatcha pay for.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Camping in Glacier...I always set up a tent, but often sleep beneath the sky if the weather is clear. Again, on the east side of the park, stake your tent well against the frequent winds blowing down from the Divide.

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  • Aragina's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by Aragina Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: take what you can carry

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: With such a vast land area. I suggest you check out the area you want to go to and check out the members pages who live or who have been there.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: As far as Canada ans the USA are concerned you can get all you need in those countries.

    Photo Equipment: As far as Canada ans the USA are concerned you can get all you need in those countries

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  • emankinen's Profile Photo

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    by emankinen Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Luggage and bags: Depending on where you are going...and the time of year...sometimes just a backpack full of a couples days worth of clothing (including a swimsuit) is enough. If you are travelling by car...there are plenty of rest stops, parks with shower facilities, along the road restaurants, etc..to keep you from having to lug too many suitcases around. You can usually find shopping malls everywhere, so you can buy what you didn't bring.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: During the warm months in CA shorts, tank tops, swim suits, sandals, tennis shoes/sneakers and a sweatshirt or lightweight jacket should suffice.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: First Aid kit with stuff for insect bites, stings; make sure you have shampoo and soap to wash the saltwater and sand off yourself at the beaches, keep some anti itch lotion/cream handy in case you run into some poison oak/ivy.

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  • Packing List

    by Hope_angel13 Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: No matter where you go, always take your swimwear. From Canada to Mexico, you never know where you'll find somewhere to swim, plus they're easy to pack.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Always carry antibacterial, extra t.p., and asprin.

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  • mongooser's Profile Photo

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    by mongooser Written Sep 7, 2002

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    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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  • pamelajoy's Profile Photo

    Packing List

    by pamelajoy Updated Aug 25, 2002

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    Luggage and bags:
    Pack light. You can always pick up what you need along the way.
    I prefer the luggage that doubles as a closet. You hang it and then the clothes hang inside the bag. I have a Samsonite set purchased in 1999 that has so many compartments that I rarely need to take any other bag with me.
    Except my purse which doubles as a dayplanner.
    A collapsible bag to put in my luggage to bring home all the stuff I buy on the trip.


    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear:
    One windbreakerone sweatshirtone dressy sweaterPant suit with a matching skirtSeveral T-shirts and sweat pants that can double as sleeping and swim cover-ups
    Scarves and jewelry to make the outfits look different.If you are traveling in the winter time, you may have to take along a heavier coat.

    I have a down parka that works great in all weather and is also water resistant. I've worn it in Florida at Walt Disney World when they have had unseasonably cool weather and I was never too hot.
    Choose comfortable shoes.
    Save fashion for home. I like runner's athletic shoes the best, and my favorite brands are Nike and Adidas.


    Toiletries and Medical Supplies:
    If you have medication you take regularly, always carry it on your person.
    I've made up a special plastic zippered case with everything I need for every trip. I use it at home, too. That way I know that it has everything I need when I go on a trip. I keep a one month supply in this case at all times. So I'm ready to go on a moment's notice.
    The same goes for my toiletries. If you use your travel bag as a daily make up kit, then you know you have everything you need.

    I keep an extra set of my basic toiletries in another bag, so that I can refill my travel bag without going to the store if I have an unexpected trip and I need to leave quickly. However, like I said before, you can always pick up what you need along the way.
    Carry an extra prescription for your glasses and your medications just in case.


    Photo Equipment: I carry two cameras.
    I have a Nikon that I use for most of my pictures. It's heavy, though.
    So I bought a pocket Olympus that I can carry in the smallest pocket.
    I also bring along a flash
    extra film and
    batteries.


    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Always bring along a swimming suit. You never know when the hotel will have an indoor heated pool. My sister has a pool and a hot tub so I never want to visit her without my suit.


    Miscellaneous: I usually have a book that I've been wanting to read that I save just for traveling. It's great to fill in those moments when there's waiting or just nothing else to do.
    Travel journal
    Stamps for postcards.
    Sometimes it's hard to find a post office when you need one, and who wants to get a postcard that you mailed after you got home?
    Address book that I keep in my dayplanner.  See item 3.

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  • casperblack's Profile Photo

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    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 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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North America What to Pack

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