Transporting Your Gear

One of the thorniest challenges for professional and advanced amateur photographers alike is packing for a trip. Every year the situation seems to worsen. Airlines are not only more restrictive than ever, they are also arbitrary and capricious. One time I’ll be let through and on a different leg of the same trip I’ll be stopped and told I cannot take my bag onto the plane. Or I’ll be in a remote location where a bush pilot will severely limit my carry-on bag.

One not-so-humorous incident (at the time) happened on an Air Canada flight to Yukon Territory. I was told my wheel-on camera bag was too heavy. I’m used to that by now, so I always stuff my camera vest into the outside pocket of my bag. With a line of impatient people behind me, I unloaded a few heavy lenses and stuffed them into my vest pockets and strung my DSLR with a 70-200 attached around my neck. The ticket counter woman was pissed, but she reluctantly accepted defeat.

Off I went to the gate. I was still 90 minutes early, so I repacked all my equipment back into my bag. When they finally called my row, I wheeled up to board. Then I saw her! The ticket agent at the gate, you guessed it, was the same woman who had been at the counter. She pulled me aside and actually made me do the whole unpacking shtick all over again! Once aboard some unhappy fliers watched me repack again as they waited to pass up the aisle.

As an aside I have to tell you that I weigh 163 pounds soaking wet. With my wheel-on, I would clock in at under 200, max. The man who sat next to me weighed a conservative 240-260 pounds AND he carried a computer bag AND an overnighter. Does this airline weight regulation make any sense… at all?

Anyway, what is a serious photographer to do? First a deep, dark secret. I probably have more photo bags in my office than my wife has pocketbooks! Seriously, over the years I have accumulated more over-the-shoulder, around-the-waist, wheeling, backpacking and sling photography bags than Imelda Marcus has shoes. But, if my wife is reading this, I swear I need them all, Hon!

I very regularly use the following:

  • Think Tank Airport International V2.0 Rolling Bag
  • Think Tank Rotation 360 backpack
  • Think Tank Speed Demon
  • Think Tank Speed Freak
  • Think Tank Airport Check-In
  • Lowe Pro Nature Trekker

Along with these basics, I have an assortment of dedicated side packs, pouches and lens cases that fasten to the sides of the bags.

Obviously, I single-handedly keep Think Tank’s business in the black. But, although their products are expensive, to me they are worth every penny. They are incredibly rugged and ingeniously well thought out, probably because their designers are also professional photographers. They also have some of the best security features in the industry. Go to www.thinktankphoto.com for more info. While at their site, be sure to download a copy of their free helpful publication on how to travel with camera equipment and tips on how to get through airport security.

My Lowepro (www.lowepro.com) is my go-to bag for backpacking into rough terrain, where I may have to bring several days of equipment. It never ceases to amaze me how much cra… I mean, gear I can pack into that thing. I usually add a side pouch for water and another for snacks.

I always pack my tripod in my checked luggage and pad it well. Since I exclusively use rugged Eagle Creek luggage (www.eaglecreek.com), with their roomy interiors, I always take one of my Think Tank waist packs with me, place it in the luggage and pack it tight with my clothes and some other camera accessories. Then, when I get to my photo location, I have a daypack to use as needed.

Let me know your photo equipment travel tips. In a later blog I’ll share with you what I carry in my backpack for remote shooting.

Lester Picker is a Maryland-based wildlife and landscape photographer. He welcomes photography questions to his blog. Visit his website at: www.lesterpickerphoto.com

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