Gearing up for the Faroe Islands requires that you be ready for pretty much anything. You’re out in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, so the climate, while temperate, can careen wildly from hour to hour, ranging from sunny and warm to driving rain to cold wind on any single day. So your gear needs to be durable and waterproof, or at least water resistant. Go with natural fibers for your breathable base layers, including wool but definitely not cotton, and more technical outerwear to stay warm and dry.
Yes, you’ll need separate rain pants and a hooded rain jacket to put over your regular clothes. You also will want to bring the right photo gear, regardless of whether you’re a pro shooter or a recreational Instagram junkie. Come equipped with wide-angle lenses for the stunning vistas and a zoom for the beautiful puffins, and be ready to shoot in all kinds of terrain, from craggy cliffs and mountainsides to quaint villages by the sea. Bring backup batteries for all your gear, and try to go as light as you can with each item selection. The gear below went with me on my travels there and every piece proved invaluable.
Because you’re not there just to watch.
LowePro Pro Trekker 450 AW
This enormous bag has many tricks. The main compartment holds one or two camera bodies and three or four lenses, including some big glass if you’re willing to leave a few others behind. It has an adjustable ActivLift harness to fine-tune the fit (it seriously made my 35 pounds of gear feel like half that), a detachable lid that doubles as a fanny pack, a hydration-reservoir-ready side pocket and a sleeve for tablets and/or laptops that’s easily removable in airport security lines. It’s airline carry-on compliant, which is a very big deal for photographers, and also packs an all-weather cover that you can deploy when the rains come.
Nikon D610 with 80-400mm and 24-70mm lenses
Nikon’s D610 is its most economical full-frame DSLR. Full-frame sensors, the size of traditional 35mm film, are more sensitive to light and color than the cropped sensors found in the vast majority of digital cameras. This means the photos can be tuned more precisely in editing, and in general they’re richer and more lush. The D610 has all the features a good shooter will need, without the pricier add-ons that pro shooters want, like larger battery packs, mic inputs, etc. Pair it with lenses that match the quality of the sensor, in this case a workhorse 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor wide angle zoom lens and an 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S Nikkor zoom. The latter has image stabilization, which helps guarantee sharp images even when handheld.
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Lens
Prime lenses — that is, those with fixed focal lengths that don’t zoom — allow faster focal ratios, and therefore pull in more light. Bring one of these along for your more carefully composed shots or for a more compact always ready option. This Sigma invariably gave me some of the most beautiful images of my trip, reflecting its well-earned status as an “art lens”.
Sony FDR-X1000V/W 4K Action Cam
This versatile 4K action camera is giving GoPro a run for its money. It’s easier to use and shoots at a vivid 4K resolution (four times that of 1080p HD). I set it up to capture a solar eclipse and even though the camera’s field of view is huge, I still scored tremendous detail in the distant event.
Rainbow Symphony Solar Filters
Given that my goal for the Faroe Islands trip was seeing a total solar eclipse, I needed proper eye protection. Rainbow Symphony makes a variety of solar filters for both eclipses and general sun viewing. I brought some to place over binoculars and camera lenses, and also to wear over my eyes between shots.
For reporting back to the motherboard.
iPhone 6 Plus + Olloclip + Merit Case
The iPhone 6 Plus is a sensational travel companion, especially when equipped with a waterproof case and a lens attachment that expands your photography options. The Merit case is economical and effective — I never once hesitated to have my phone out in the rain or while stream-hopping on a hike. The Olloclip fits snugly onto the bare phone (you’ll have to pop the phone off the case to use it) and provides a greatly expanded set of options from wide angle to close-up macro. Just remember to keep all your glass clean — wipe smudges off the lenses or the optical glass in the waterproof case before you start snapping.
iPad Air 2
As close as the iPhone 6 Plus comes to being a tablet replacement, I still wouldn’t travel without my iPad Air 2. Its larger screen makes photo editing on Snapseed or Lightroom a pleasure, and it more easily imports photos from your camera, thanks to the SD card reader in the camera adapter kit. (The reader doesn’t work with iPhones, for whatever reason.) Also, having much of your entertainment life on iPads — videos, books, etc. — makes this a no-brainer.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Yes, I travel with what amounts to two tablets — but the Surface Pro 3 is much more, of course. With the durable, magnetically attached keyboard, the tablet is a fully functioning laptop, which permits writing and emailing with far greater ease than a tablet, even one with a Bluetooth keyboard of its own. It also has an astoundingly good screen, so video editing is also a joy. Finally, its adjustable kickstand is genius, and conforms to any crazy sitting position you can come up with in hotel rooms and airport lounges.
You need more than those solar glasses.
Eddie Bauer First Ascent Rain Gear
Given that the weather situation on Faroe changes by the second and is often severe, an umbrella simply doesn’t cut it. You need both a waterproof jacket and pants to change into at a moment’s notice. I brought along the BC Ultralight Jacket and the Rainier Storm Shell Pants. They’re roomy and breathable, yet will keep you bone dry during the most ridiculous downpours.
Icebreaker Sierra Sleeve Equinox
Icebreaker Sierra Wool is the go-to material for places like the Faroe Islands. It’s warm, insulating, and naturally quick-drying. Icebreaker makes some of the best wool gear in the world, and a zip jacket from them is mandatory for expeditions to pretty much any climate on earth.
Eddie Bauer MicroTherm StormDown Hooded Jacket
This great, terrifically warm down jacket can stay compressed into its built-in zippered bag for when you don’t need it, but then spring out when the chill sets in. It’s snug and makes efficient use of the down insulation inside its ribbed channels.
Bellroy Men’s Elements Travel Wallet
This travel wallet — with room for passport, slots for cash and credit cards, and space for receipts and business cards — has become my non-travel wallet, as well. It’s water resistant, with durable leather and a tight zipper that keeps everything protected. It’ll even fit most smartphones — as long as they’re smaller than 6 inches.
Hanwag Tatra Boots
You need seriously good boots in the Faroe Islands; the terrain is rough and often damp and slippery. The Hanwag Tatra boots from this Norwegian outdoor footwear manufacturer proved the perfect companion — supremely stable and trustworthy. You know they won’t slip on the rocks or bend in the wrong place while you’re scrambling up a hillside for a great shot.
MSR Swift 3 Trekking Poles
Hiking poles boost your stability, particularly when you’re humping a heavy camera bag across treacherous terrain. These lightweight poles collapse easily and will help you both up and down any mountainside.