I've been planning on writing a post on this for a while now, however this excellent post at NYCAviation.com has left me wanting to respond with what I do. For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to leave the camera and lenses out, as they are pretty much a given on any particular trip.
First off, lets discuss radio communications. I prefer to use an actual radio scanner over a smartphone app for a few reasons, and this was the one place that I found myself disagreeing with Jason's article. First off, and probably the most important to me, is that I can listen in real--time and not worry about the cellular signal cutting out on me. Second, with an actual scanner I can control exactly which mix of frequencies I am listening to instead of pre-determined blocks. And finally, my scanner is louder than my phone's speaker and it doesn't draw down the battery in my phone. I will discuss my scanner setup in a future post. I also always have my iPhone with me and usually my iPad and its SD reader. I will discuss the actual apps that I use in the forthcoming "software" post, but in general i use the iPhone for tracking and research and the iPad for file backup and processing. Finally, I keep an eternal USB battery pack with me along with the necessary cables for my iPhone and iPad.
Aside from the usual spare batteries (two) and memory cards (2-4), I try to limit what I carry with me to what I think I am going to use. One necessity for me is a LensPen which I can use to quickly clean off any smudges or specks of dust. I also keep a microfiber cloth in a pouch for cleaning larger areas. Another item that I have is a battery grip for my camera, which I keep with a set of AA rechargeable batteries as a backup in case I should have a problem with my 2 main batteries. However I prefer to keep the grip off my camera unless I am using the batteries. Finally, I keep a tripod and monopod in my car in case I need them.
When I was first starting out last summer, I quickly learned that i had to be sure to take care of myself while out shooting. In the warm months, a good sunscreen is absolutely vital since I am often standing out in the sun all day. Another necessity is bug repellant, since many of the locations I use are near water and some are prone to ticks. I keep a couple of granola bars with me in case I don't have easy access to food, along with an ample supply of cold water. I do tend to have a pair of sunglasses with me, though I find them hard to shoot with and so I normally only wear them driving around or if I'm not going to be shooting for a while. Finally, I usually keep a folding camp chair in my trunk so so that I have a comfortable place to sit, or at least a place off of the ground to stash my gear on.
Carrying it all Around
I typically have 2 bags with me when I go out, a shoulder camera bag and a Camelback Cypher backpack. My camera bag holds my body and lenses along with whatever bits I want close at hand such as batteries and memory cards. My scanner usually gets clipped to the outside and the antennas fit into a narrow pouch. My camera bag comes with me wherever I go, be it lunch, or a quick stop for a couple shots, or a place I intend to stay for a few hours The Camelback is a great bag with 2 purposes. First, it has a large insulated water reservoir that typically holds enough ice and water to last me the whole day. After finding myself somewhat dehydrated on a few occasions last summer, this has become an essential item. The nice thing about the Cypher is that it has room to store a fair amount of gear as well as the water, so it holds anything that I don"t need quick access to such as my battery grip, cables, and sunscreen. I also keep a planespotting guide in there just in case I have an interested onlooker or child. If I'm planning on spending an extended amount of time, the camelback comes with me, though I won;t necessarily keep in on me. If I am going for a quick couple of shots, it usually stays in the car.