Travelling With Your Photography Equipment

posted in: Tips | 3

Packing all your camera equipment for a diving holiday can be quite daunting and rather stressful.

Anyone who’s travelled before will know how roughly checked in luggage is handled.  Just look at the scratches, scrapes and bumps (and heaven forbid, cracks in hard shell cases) that are waiting to surprise you on the carousel upon arrival.

And if you watch carefully, you will see how the baggage handlers throw the suitcases into the aeroplane and if you’re really lucky you’ll also get to see when the piles of luggage fall off the cart en route to the aeroplane.  That’s really fun to see, especially when one of the suitcases is your unmistakable orange hard shell with the stripey band around it that your granny made for you so that you’d know it was yours…

I’ve even heard it said that if you have a fragile sticker on your case, the bag handlers entertain themselves by seeing how heavily they can throw it…. Just for fun…

travelling with photo equipment
It’s a lot of stuff to pack!

And why does the person at the check in counter ask if you have anything valuable in your suitcase as it’s being checked in?   OK, I do have a bit of an imagination, but when someone asks me that, I wonder why they need to know.  Does a special message get passed down to the baggage staff that this suitcase is ripe for the plundering??

So, needless to say NONE of my camera equipment goes into my check in luggage.  And that includes batteries which have to go into the hand luggage and every battery needs to be individually packed / sealed or at least have its terminals insulated.  NB for Egypt!!

This leads me to packing my expensive, valuable, fragile camera equipment into my hand luggage. Now, most airlines only allow 8kg hand luggage (Kulula is 7kg) like a laptop bag / rucksack of a specific size (in the region of 56 x 36 x 23cm) and one personal item (hand bag).  But check on their website before you travel so you know what you’re aiming for.

I pack all my camera equipment into my ThinkTank Streetwalker Hard Drive backpack and my housing into my handbag (a soft material shoulder bag).  You can also just carry your housing as your personal item although I’ve not tried that before.  I also wrap everything in bubble wrap…

It's almost all packed!
It’s almost all packed!

I’ve heard you shouldn’t put your camera into the housing (something to do with the bumping / vibrations etc) and another thing you should definitely not do is leave the o-rings in the ports or door.  Pressure in the plane will cause problems… always take the o-ring out before you fly – never fly with a sealed camera housing.

Be friendly at the check-in counter.  Make your bag look light, hang it on one shoulder, don’t struggle with it…  If they want to weigh your hand luggage, do so in a friendly way – don’t get defensive.

I’m certainly not advocating that you go over your 8kg allowance …  However, if you do and you get caught out, pay the excess … this is far preferable than arriving at your destination with lost, stolen or broken equipment.

I’ve even heard stories of people wearing those camera jackets with all the pockets and taking things out of their hand luggage and shoving them in their pockets if there is a problem with their hand luggage being overweight…

3 Responses

  1. john Vowles

    Hello Ken,
    Yes, it is a big problem as the camera is fragile and it is heavy. Marking it ‘fragile’ does not make a difference. I prefer to carry my camera with me as hand luggage. This way I am able to make sure that it is safe – my housing is wrapped and placed in the stow away. I have been around on a few trips and it is working for me. Allen Walker does the same. I still got my 8kg bag with batteries, strobes etc and my camera in housing is in my hand. If any one asks I just say its my hand bag. I take the ‘O’ ring out and secure the camera and I wrap a sponge around housing with tape – all good ” If my woman can carry a Louis vuitton hand bag then I can carry a housing with a camera in it.”

  2. David Kessel

    I have a think tank airport international wheelie bag which is really compact and holds most of my gear but weighs a ton – about 18kg loaded and I cannot fit the dome port. The dome travels in a cake box wrapped in wetsuit. Was stopped and weighed last time and had to redistribute to family then reload airside. I take a photographers vest which can hold about 8kg of gear at a push. Guess the backpack is lighter. I might try having the camera/housing/dome on a shoulder strap next time but there never seems to be space in the overhead locker. Failing that I will get a handbag

  3. Hi John – thank you for your feedback. Carrying your camera in your housing as your “hand bag” is really useful information – and something I’m going to try on my next trip. Just be careful not to knock or bump those dome port shades against anything (I’ve seen it happen!). Happy flying 😀

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