After I traveled west of India and Sri Lanka for four weeks with only a carry-on bag, I fell in love with the art of travelling light. That particularly trip made me start thinking about how much we all are in the middle of a consumerism hysteria and are just digging deeper and deeper into the dirt.
It is usually not until you arrive home, to everything that you left behind, that you realize that the sensation of freedom that you had and how little you needed all the materialistic things that you now have to tend to and be responsible for again.
That special trip made me feel amazing! With just one small bag (whereof half of the content was my camera gear and computer) I felt free, mobile and crashingly unscripted. I wanted to experience the same sensation throughout every part of my life. On the turbulence dense flight home I decided to start peeling of as many layers of possessions as I possibly could.
If I can travel professionally with only a carry-on bag, so can you.
Start with a clean slate
It is harder to take something away than it is not putting it in there in the first place. Start out by deciding what bag you are bringing. For every piece of equipment you are putting in it, ask yourself you're really going to use this or are bringing it "just in case"? I brought my on-camera flash for years. Then I tried to think about one occasion when I'd actually used it. I couldn't remember even one. When you've finished packing, go through everything again and see if you can live without something.
Be aware that they DO have stores in most parts of the world
"What if I run out of toothpaste? I better bring a spare tube". Instead of planning for every possible outcome and possibility, fix it as you go. If you run out of toothpaste, buy a new one in the next city. If you feel that you really need that cheese-slicer when you've arrived, just buy one. Budget for some unforeseen expenses instead of bringing it all on the plane, otherwise you might have to budget for a chiropractor to straighten out your back from carrying that over-sized backpack everywhere.
Use multi-functional items
The item that help me the most with lightening my backpack recently is my Kindle. Before I brought books, magazines and my iPad along for long flights and bumpy bus rides. Now, I can fit all that I need in my inside pocket of my jacket. Go through your cords and try to leave behind those that you do not need or can combine with others. A lot of equipment use the same mini-USB, so you won't need five. Pack things that can do more than on thing. Same goes with clothes, more about that in the next point.
Build a smart closet
When it comes to apparels you need to think functionalism. I use clothes made of wool or/and cotton. Cool when warm and warm when cool. There is no problem finding those kind of clothes, they're in every outdoor store you'll find. The problem is finding the apparels that is good looking too. I want to be able to trek in the mountains between India and Nepal, but weeks later walk into a irish pub in Bankok without feeling like a 18-year old, misplaced backpacker. If you put a little effort into it, you'll be able to switch all of your clothing that gigantic travel-trunk to maybe three pikés (looks more dressed than a soggy t-shirt), two pair of pants and a pair of comfortable leather boots. I was struggling with finding a good-looking pair of hiking boots, they where all to big and clumsy. After more offensive search, I found a pair of really great ones from Timberland. Buy clothes that can fit most occasions.
Trim your gear
Camera gear is heavy. Put all of your equipment that you usually carry in your bag on a table. Every part, from the housing to the smallest color-filter. Then put together the smallest possible equipment that you could get by with. Mine would be my D800 and the 50mm 1.4 lens. I'd do perfectly fine with that. After you've decided on your minimal equipment, go through every other piece and decide if the pros of bringing it would outweigh the hassle to dragging it around. Trust me on this, more equipment does NOT equals better pictures. As a travel photographer you want to be mobile and flexible.