I have a thing for organization—my chaotic brain needs a calm, orderly environment to function well—so for me, bins, bags, and pouches are nearly as addictive as art supplies. I’m always looking for new and better ways to transport and carry my travel and field sketching tools.
About a year ago, I began searching for a pack that could easily transport sketching supplies but was also large enough to fit a water bottle (nondisposable, of course!), binoculars, and a few other things that I liked to have while traveling or sketching for extended periods.
Through my search, I discovered Tom Bihn travel bags. I immediately fell in love with this company and their highly rated, made-in-USA goods. Though their products are pricey, I bit the bullet, and ordered a Daylight Backpack along with a medium Freudian Slip plus a few small accessories like extra key straps and organizer pouches.
Nearly a year later, I can honestly say that this pack has been worth every single penny.
It has traveled with me to beaches and mountains, big cities and cow pastures, on 10-hour car trips and daylong hikes. It has been dropped in mud, had food spilled onto it and into it, has sat with me in car shops, hair saloons, and veterinarian offices. It has been beside me through countless late night sea turtle watches, cleaning-up-our-land bonfires, and surprise rainstorms and snowy walks in the woods.
Through all of this, my Daylight backpack has never complained. Not once. In fact, it nearly, sort of, almost looks brand new. If you ignore the bonfire smoke smell. And that mustard spot. And let me just brush off the dust, pet hair, and grass…
This pack is so lightweight, functional, and durable, it has pretty much replaced my minimalist watercolor field kit. Of course, the best stuff is what's inside my pack... my lovely little sketching kit that is a field sketcher's BFF.
Field Sketching Kit Contents
Not only have I loved my Tom Bihn backpack, I highly, highly recommend their Freudian Slips. In the past, I've had trouble with art supplies falling out of pockets and getting damaged in my pack or even lost, but not with this organizer. It holds all of my things tightly in place, yet it's easily pulled from the pack whenever I want to use it.
I hate searching through pockets or pouches for sketching tools, so the transparent, mesh fabric is great. The finger loop is super spiffy and allows me to hang supplies from a restaurant chair, fence post, or tree limb.
Below are the sketching supplies I carry with me and what I keep tucked inside each pocket.
[My honest & hopefully helpful list below links to affiliate products— thanks!]
Sketching supplies, counterclockwise from top left:
- Pentel Aquash water brushes - nice to have on hand for quick watercolor sketches
- Stiff-bristled paintbrush (aka chip brush) with trimmed handle - for brushing away eraser dust; doing so prevents smears and keeps skin oils off paper; Wooster makes a more expensive one but the handle is already shortened
- No. 2 pencils (quantity 2) - I recently learned that only carrying one is a mistake
- Clear 6-inch ruler - indispensable in the field for measuring everything from bugs to mushrooms; also useful for evaluating angles and perspectives and as a drawing tool, etc
- Pocket Palette & Pocket Mister OR Woodward & Father palette (pictured at link) - I have two travel palettes that I swap between and highly recommend either... or both!
- Nichiban masking tape - love this stuff for taping off borders; to avoid damaging paper, stick it to your shirt first
- Washi tape - pretty tape for placing keepsakes into my sketchbook; look for it at dollar stores!
- Metal mint tin - contains a pencil sharpener, binder clips, and a lightweight loupe
- Staedler Mars Plastic Eraser - this is my go-to eraser; I also like the Factis black
- Handful of fountain pens - follow the link to learn why I use fountain pens; more on these below
Though this side of the Freudian Slip contains most of my supplies, the other side is where I stash my pocket brushes (attached to the slip by a strap so I don't lose them), a few handy field reference guides (see here and here), and paper towels for watercolor.
A note on fountain pens...
The top three fountain pens in the photo are my beloved Lamy Al-Stars. These fountain pens are affordable workhorses that require very little upkeep, and the weight and size is perfect for me. In the past, these have been all I have used.
Recently while out field sketching, I nearly lost a special edition (aka irreplaceable) Al-Star. I did eventually find it, but I'm debating whether or not to keep my Al-Stars at home. I'm currently trying out the Platinum Preppy (the three fountain pens below the Al-Stars) as a much more affordable alternative. So far, I've been very pleased with this pen and also find myself reaching for them at my desk.
More Favorite Field Supplies
The Daylight is a slim backpack. When it first arrived, I was concerned because the slip seemed to take up most of the space inside, but I've been amazed at the amount of stuff I can fit into this pack. Along with the slip, I have plenty of room for a few other constant companions.
Other handy things in my pack, from left:
- binoculars & a pocket knife
- one or two favorite sketchbooks, currently a Pentalic Aqua Journal and a Strathmore Watercolor Visual Journal (a sketchbook will fit in the Freudian Slip, but why weigh it down?)
- a Tom Bihn clear organizer pouch that I use as a combo wallet and phone case
- a nondisposable, nearly indestructible, Kleen Kanteen water bottle for drinking
- an 8-oz Kleen Kanteen container for watercolor water
Hope this helps you build your own portable sketching pack. If you have a field sketching kit that you love, I'd love to see it! Leave me a comment (and a photo, if you can) below. And I hope to see you in the field.
P.S. I received no discounts, commissions, rewards, products, hugs, or even homemade cookies for sharing my experiences regarding Tom Bihn's products. In fact, I doubt they even know I exist. If I ever do receive any sort of discount or free product for anything I share or promote, I promise to always reveal that in my post. Every word I write is my honest opinion, and I only write it to help you choose the best stuff for you. You can read more about my disclosure commitment here.
P.S.S. Much thanks to my sweet friend's beautiful daughter and budding photographer, Livia, who took the lead photo for this post. Last fall we were out with a group of friends, and I didn't realize she took this photo until she sent it to me. I'm grateful to have a memorable shot of this fun day!