How to Pack Photography Gear

November 15, 2018

 

 

 

Please note the photos in this article are for illustration purposes only and do not represent the author's typical work. 

 

Traveling with photography gear is always a process. Be it by car or by plane, domestic or international, the idea of something happening to our very important investment can make us a bit hesitant to go very far.  As workshops and adventure tours become more popular, more and more photographers are finding it necessary to carry a full range of equipment with them when traveling. This article aims to help alleviate some of the pain and confusion surrounding traveling with a photographic gear set. 

 

What is in my kit

 

First, let me first start off by giving you a bit of an insider look at what I personally carry so you have a better idea of how my packing is influenced. I have three typical kits that I carry depending on mode of transportation and type of photographic event at my destination.

 

          Kit One: Car Kit

 

This is where I will carry pretty much everything I have photography gear wise. I have the space and don't have to worry about checkpoints, transfers, or anything besides the potential for break-ins and auto accidents. In those events, there is insurance. 

 

Don't have insurance on your gear or don't know what your current homeowner/renter's policy would cover in this type of situation? Talk to your insurance agent today! Don't wait for something to happen as it can be a very expensive mistake in this field.

 

So, with that said, I carry the following in my car kit.

 

 My current set of wheels but, don't worry, you don't need this much space to carry the kit I'm outlining.

 

          - ClickElite Pro Express with 10-24mm, 16-85mm, 70-300mm, 105 macro, 2 Nikon pro bodies, battery grip, multiple filters for the first three lenses (16-85mm and 70-300mm share as they are the same thread size), extra memory cards in weather proof case, first aid kit, lens cloths, lens blower, small microfiber towel, rain pants, light weight rain jacket, and tripod with ball head attached

          - Clik Elite Telephoto SLR Chest Carrier with 150-600mm

 

 

 

          - Computer bag with laptop, dedicated travel portable hard drive, extra camera batteries, battery chargers, various plug-in adapters for car outlets

 

Now, if its just a day trip or one or two nights I may opt not to bring the computer bag depending on if I'm going strictly for shooting or if I'm doing a mix of shooting and writing while on the road. Longer car trips I always take the computer bag so I can back up images as I go.

 

          Kit Two: Solo Kit

 

This is the kit I typically carry whenever I am flying to a destination specifically to shoot and I am not participating in any sort of workshop or tour. This is by far the most common kit for me to carry. 

 

         - Pelican Air 1535 with two Nikon pro bodies, 10-24mm, 16-85mm, 70-300mm, 150-600mm

 

 

         - ClickElite Jetpack backpack with battery grip, multiple filters for the first three lenses (16-85mm and 70-300mm share as they are the same thread size), extra extra memory cards in weather proof case, first aid kit, lens cloths, lens blower, extra camera batteries, battery chargers, various plug-in adapters for car outlets and country outlets if traveling internationally

 

 

          - Checked bag includes one of two camera bags, either the ClickElite Pro Express or ClickElite Obscura, packed with clothing, and tripod with ball head packed inside the backpack, this is then put inside an REI Pack Duffel 

 

          Kit Three: Workshop Kit

 

For those trips I do to either a conference, workshop, or tour where I have to have my laptop with me but I'm flying, this is the break down.

 

          - Pelican Air 1535 with 10-24mm, 16-85mm, 70-300mm, 2 Nikon pro bodies, battery grip, multiple filters for the first three lenses (16-85mm and 70-300mm share as they are the same thread size), lens cloths, camera battery charger

(see picture above, where 150-600mm sits is where accessories go if using this kit)

          - Targus computer bag with laptop, dedicated travel portable hard drive, extra camera batteries, various plug-in adapters for car outlets and country outlets if traveling internationally

          - Checked bag includes one of two camera bags, either the ClickElite Pro Express or ClickElite Obscura, packed with clothing, and tripod with ball head packed inside the backpack, this is then put inside an REI Pack Duffel 

 

The Hows and Whys

 

This is the system I have developed after much trial and error. The biggest difference between the kits is whether or not I carry the laptop. I really try not to carry it if at all possible and I stick to Kit Two most frequently. A laptop adds liability and creates more work when going through airport security. By leaving the laptop at home, I can travel lighter and devote more time to shooting  instead of sitting behind a screen as we all too often do in our daily lives.

 

When it comes to the bags I use, the ClickElite Pro Express bag does qualify as a carry-on in most situations, even with a travel tripod attached on the side. But it can be awkward and heavy to carry it and a computer/personal bag through airport crowds.  On top of that there were two coinciding events that pushed me to invest in the Pelican Air 1535.

 

 

The first was I was scheduled to fly on an airline known to be sticklers on weighing carry-on bags. I did not want to chance getting to the airport only to have to check all my gear in a simple backpack! I lost many a night's sleep over this issue.

The second was TSA recently increased scanning measures to include all electronics larger than a cell phone. I had read reports and heard stories from fellow photographers traveling through the United States about having to pull all their cameras and lens out of their bags. This opened them up to loosing equipment through theft and damage from rolling around in unprotected bins. 

 

The Pelican Air 1535 solves all these problems. Not only does it have wheels, making it much easier to travel with, but it is sized to fit even the most scrutinizing of airline carry-on policies (always double check your airlines requirements as those standards may change). However, as a member of the Pelican case family, if I do ever have to check it due to weight or on a very small regional aircraft, my gear is protected against weight, impact, water, and dust.

 

The other really nice aspect of the Pelican Air 1535 that I did not know before purchasing the case is that the ClickElite Pro Express actually fits inside the case if you take the foam insert out and don't pack anything in the front pockets. This comes in handy if you are only taking a small kit and want to take a regular suitcase as your checked item.

 

Since using the Pelican Air 1535 I have not been required to remove my gear for scanning. There is no clutter or additional layers obscuring the items from scanning as those with traditional camera bags often have making TSA's job harder, thus the update in scanning techniques.  And yes, you can get TSA pre-check to help streamline the security process for flights in and out of the US, but more and more, other countries are also increasing screening measures, thus this investment helps ensure safe passage through security regardless of location.

 

It is never with a lightness that I check gear, but choices have to be made as airlines become increasingly "short" on in-cabin space. By opting to check only the camera bag and tripod, I am able to limit my losses in the event my bag is misplaced or damaged. Now many would argue that a tripod is an essential part of any kit, and I agree. However, the particular one I use is under $100 on Amazon so, if something were to happen, I would be able to order it and have it within a day or two in most locations. Knowing your gear and how you might be able to able to replace it quickly is key to making the best decision for what gear to check.

 

Never check lithium-ion batteries! If asked to turn in carry-on baggage, make sure the cabin crew and handlers know that there are lithium-ion batteries in your case. They are considered hazardous cargo when in the hold of an aircraft due to the fire risks they pose.

 

A Note on Personal Item Packing

 

Obviously clothing choice is a personal decision and your location has a ton to do with how much you need to bring with you. I have found, if I am concerned about weight or space, I will opt to leave things like toiletries at home. Almost everywhere you will go will have these items either supplied or for purchase. This is also great as it limits even further what you have to pull out for security if traveling with a checked bag only and keeps you from worrying if your shampoo is going to ooze all over your clothing if in checked luggage. 

 

If traveling frequently, invest in lightweight, quick dry clothing as well. This will help you reduce the weight, space, and number of clothing items you have to bring on top of your camera equipment. Going some place cold? Invest in merino wool base layers. They are usually very thin while retaining a good bit of body heat and they are smell resistant (meaning you can wear them several times between washes if need be).

 

A final tip on packing clothing. If going to colder climates, wear your bulky jacket and heavy boots the day of your flight. This will cut down on the weight of your pack plus it will allow you to have those two important items at hand when you land at your destination. Don't be like the couple I saw in Iceland, getting off the plane in sneakers and T-shirts when it was raining and in the low 40s (F) with high winds and they had to cross a good bit of tarmac between the plane and the terminal.  No one wants to start a trip off like that!

 

Overall, I feel that these kits have served me well with very few instances of me wishing I had brought this or that. At the time of this writing, I have not lost a piece of gear during transportation. In the end, it is up to you to find what works best for you and that you re comfortable with, but I hope this has given you some insight as to what, how, and why I carry what I do when traveling.

 

Please feel free to comment or post to the Photographer's Cooperative Facebook group if you have any further questions on this topic. Happy travels!

 

 

Often the solo adventuress, Alyce Bender roams the globe, exploring Earth's natural beauty. Her images have been featured in galleries from New York to Florida, while her work as an international artist has been recognized from Japan to the U.K. 

 

Bender is happiest in the field and passionate about sharing unique animals and environments from around the world in hopes of connecting people to the planet through imagery. She believes that connection is key to promoting environmental awareness and protecting vulnerable species and their habitats.

 

To see more of her work and articles, please visit: www.abenderphotography.com

Or follow her on social media at: Instagram - @abenderphoto; Facebook - www.facebook.com/abenderphoto

Share on Facebook
Please reload

© 2017-2018 by Photographers' Cooperative.

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon