5 Tips for Traveling with Photo Equipment

5 Tips for Traveling with Photo Equipment


I’ve been working on c018_IMG_3925reating some photo books for myself and recently came across a couple of photos I thought would be great inspiration/education for anyone traveling on a “photo expedition.”  I’ve been on many such trips – and what I mean by that is the fact that the primary reason for the trip is to see incredible things and to photograph them.

I’m not a great photographer by any means, but I enjoy giving it my best shot (no pun intended) and trying to capture personal experiences that won’t be found in a commercial book or someone else’s account of the trip…just in my own book I’ll look through down the years as I reminisce about the experience.

CAMERA EQUIP FOR TRIP crop Camera equipment for Rwanda trip

I’ve had some real challenges as I’ve learned my way; so, running across a few photos from my Rwanda trip reminded me that I might help others who are embarking on a photographic journey to faraway places (i.e., requiring air travel).   The reason I say “far away” is because if you’re in a car, you can pack lots of goodies and spread out and take all but the kitchen sink (well, it seems I do anyway), but when it comes to flights to distant lands, many of the legs are taken on smaller and smaller aircraft…and smaller means less room for baggage.

So, here’s my 5 quick tips:

  1. Find out weight limits for the smallest aircraft you’ll be on. Weight limits can be per bag or total per person. Know what the rules are so you can follow them.  In some cases, when you’re in a group, they weigh the group’s luggage and simply divide by the total number of passengers, so as long as everyone as a whole is within the limits, you’re fine.  But you’ll only be able to manage your own bags, so stay within the per-person or per-bag limits to be safe.
  2. Make a packing list of all the items you MUST have as well as the items you’d LIKE to have.  You’ll also want to designate if the items need to be carried on or can be checked.  In the case of camera equipment, hard drives, etc., it’s safest to carry it on to prevent damage.
  3. Weigh your luggage. (Buy lighter luggage if you need to.) Roller bags weigh a lot, and in many cases if you’re going to smaller aircraft, it’s better to have a couple of smaller bags than to have one large one…and they weigh less, leaving you more room for contents.
  4. Weigh your “must have” items, and see if the luggage plus the must haves is within the weight restrictions. Once you’re within limits, now look at the items you need to carry on the plane.  If you place them in a bag, are they within any restrictions regarding carry-on baggage?  In the case of our Rwanda trip, we had so much equipment, we had very little in the way of items to be checked, and we were allowed only one bag per person, so we had to pack carefully to carry on all breakable items, and that’s where the challenge began.  We couldn’t fit all the breakable items into one bag per person.  We weren’t over “weight limits” with what we needed to carry on, but simply the number of bags that would hold those items.  For that reason, we decided we needed to carry on the electronics “on our person” rather than in a bag.
  5. Play the “Can I Wear It?” Game. First, place all the small items together which might fit into a pocket or a fanny pack.  Those breakable items can be worn on your body, and then you’ll only need to pack the larger items in the actual carry-on bag.  Once you  have all the small items, figure out what pocket or fanny pack they’ll fit into, and gear up!

Details on how to wear your most important gear: First, I recommend having a jacket with many pockets. It’s always good to have a jacket on a trip anyway, and now it will serve as my “pack coat.”  travel jacket for blog I also don’t like to worry about checked luggage not arriving, so I prefer wearing two days’ worth of clothes to be safe in the event bags are wandering the airports just days behind us.  In this photo I’m wearing pretty much two of everything:  underwear, shirts, socks. I have on two pairs of pants, too! I even have a fleece jacket tied around my waist hanging down the back. You can see I have a fanny pack at my hip and a backpack on the couch next to me. Fanny pack contains documents, passports, essential lip balm and maps. Big backpack contains lenses and other camera equipment I’d not want to check.

The fun is now filling the pockets with all the electronics (they weigh a lot)…so, in this photo I have in my jacket pockets two external hard drives, battery packs for my cameras, chargers, USB cables, my phone and a small pocket/underwater camera for taking pics during the travel – as we’re on the runway, in the plane, in the airport. Don’t want to have to open the big bag to take a quick photo (and of course now with phones having good cameras, you may not need this pocket camera anymore.)

Voila! You, your clothing and your gear all arrive together ready for creating great photo memories like these of some Silverback Gorillas up close and personal in the wild!blog gorillas

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