Traveling Naked

My Fuji X-T10 on a recent trip to Montréal

My Fuji X-T10 on a recent trip to Montréal

I’ve long been an advocate for traveling light.  I’ve been a follower of, 1bag1world, and others. I’ve learned an affinity for Tom Bihn bags that rivals my allegiance for much more meaningful causes.  Today, I’m not only comfortable traveling with only a carry on, I prefer it.

However, my last two journeys, to Chicago and Montréal were very different.  I’m traveling naked.


Well, not exactly – but it feels like it.  Ask anyone who knows me, “what comes to mind when you think of Dan Gaken?”  The response is the same (although their attitude towards it certainly varies): he never goes anywhere without that camera!  (Or, alternatively, “he always has his damn camera in my face!”)

It’s true.  When I customize a packing list for a trip my tech items are the first I consider.  And, for the past decade, at the top of that list has been a DSLR with pro-size body and my lens trinity, batteries, filters, and accessories.

Moving through airports (or in my case, train stations), my Tom Bihn Aeronaut allows me to weave through crowds or make a quick trip out and about during a layover and still carry everything I need for a week or longer.*

The asterisk: I always have a dedicated camera bag in addition to my clothing and toiletries.  While I’ve grown as a photographer to know that I don’t need my entire kit, I still find myself carrying in excess of 20lbs of gear on many trip.  This is not conducive to the urban exploring that I love (in fact, it was this drive to explore America’s cities and see its rail network that got me interested in photography to begin with).  It’s a complex problem: my camera gear was now making me not want to explore new places to get images.

I recently (after a thorough period of reading reviews, examining my needs, testing gear at camera stores) bought into a mirror less camera system.  I bought the Fuji X-T10 with lenses that (I thought) would be a wonderful compliment to my main subjects (street photography, railroads, and architecture).  Everything people love about Fuji, the wonderful color rendering of JPEGs, the build quality, and response time, have made the camera fun.  But would fun be a suitable replacement for a DSLR system?

About a month ago I made a quick two-day trip aboard Amtrak to Chicago.  This was a test.  I did not bring my DSLR.  I felt naked.  However, I left the city with a number of images with great color, sharp focus, and that were great captures of the spaces I visited over those two days.

Can this little Fuji do everything that my Canon (and its accompanying collection of 10+ lenses and accessories, collected over more than ten years)?  No.  But it has earned a permanent place in my camera bag.  When I’m traveling for work, or want to be mobile.  When my wife and I are bringing our 2 ½ month old and all the equipment she requires.  When I want to move freely about a new city without cutting my day short from walking with 20lbs of gear.  I am confident that I can still get wonderful memories captured.  Certainly more than I would if I had stayed home.



Dan Gaken is a student affairs administrator, author, and leadership trainer with 10 years of professional experience, primarily in the field of student leadership development. Dan builds environments where others are able to create something that excites them.

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