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What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

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  • What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

    OK so everyone seems to be creating "What's in My Camera Bag" vids. Sometimes they are fun to watch, but for someone like me who finds little interest in showcasing or bragging about what gear a photographer has - - - I have refrained from making such a video.

    However reflecting on the subject of "The Best Way to Fly With Camera Gear", I decided to create my own "What's in My Camera Bag" video on Youtube - - - but not with the purpose of displaying what specific gear or brand that I own, but to allow those who love photography and love to travel and are worried about what they can take with them and maybe have some fears about the safety of their gear - to hopefully find a tip or two from my experiences of traveling abroad over the past 8-1/2 years to destinations where I stay for extended periods of time.

    The full video is on my Youtube Channel :

    Because we travel and live on a limited budget, my wife Anne and I always choose the cheapest flights possible to travel on. For us over the past 8 1/2 years, this has been primarily Spirit (economy airline) and a few times American Airlines and Delta.

    Firstly - I personally would never allow my gear to be stored as Checked In Luggage that is placed in the cargo bay underneath the passenger area. It simply is not worth the potential loss of very expensive gear. Let's face it - even a basic camera and lens have a value of $600 or $700 with tax. But generally there is a lot more potential financial loss than that.

    So over the years traveling, I have had several situations with my general Checked In luggage that has been stored in the cargo area and is the reason that nothing goes in that luggage that I can't easily replace or do without for a week or two:

    1 - Luggage bags have been thrown around and smashed up.
    2 - Luggage bags have not been misplaced and after the hassle of signing papers and providing locations to the airline - received them a couple weeks later - unfortunately on one occasion I had camera and computer charging cables in that bag which created issues for a couple of weeks.
    3 - Luggage bags have been unzipped and remained that way when picking up on the conveyer belt.
    4 - Twice items have been missing from our luggage. Sending in complaint emails to the airline resulted in no response.
    5 - On one occasion my luggage bag was soaking wet right to the centre of my tightly rolled clothes - just as if the bag had been sitting in a swimming pool for a day.

    I just can't imagine how furious I would be if I had decided to take a chance and place some of my gear in those bags when those situations arose.

    On any of these airlines that I have chosen to fly on, I am always allowed to take on to the airplane, one Carry On (goes in the overhead bin) and one Personal Item that goes under the seat in front on me. A little secret that I have found that many people who take camera gear with them, aren't necessarily aware of or don't think to take advantage of - is that it is possible and in my mind actually preferable to use the bag containing your camera gear, as your Personal Item.

    There are actually many advantages to using that approach. One important one being that it doesn't seem to matter what is in the bag considered a Personal Item (as long as the items comply with TSA standards) - as long as it fits under the seat, there are no hassles with the airline attendants bothering you or even really having to worry about weight from my experience. I have never been asked.

    Here are a few things to consider with using overhead storage (Carry On) for your photography equipment:

    1 - What if the airline is full and you can't find a space to fit your bag. It will have to go underneath with your Checked In luggage.
    2 - With some of the Boeing jets we have flown on, my overhead suitcase will only fit in the right side overhead compartment. My Checked In bag fits the required dimensions, but is a tad too long for the left side compartment. So what if there were no spaces left on the right side - I would be required to have my bag Checked in and into the cargo hold. Actually you will probably run into this situation at some point so it is a good tidbit to know. If you can't fit your bag in the overhead bin because it is a little too long, try the compartment on the otherside of the plane.
    3 - What about if you have to take a connecting flight along the way? Generally they are smaller planes with tighter size restrictions.


    On this trip to Guatemala, boarding the plane in Dallas with a long line of people behind us - we were told the flight was full and that my overhead luggage bag had to go into checked. I had no recourse and was worried enough because even though my camera gear was safe in front of my feet - my Zoom5 audio recorder, microphone, and my wife's 17" PC were in that overhead bag and not really packed for abuse. Fortunately all came through unscathed. As well, our first flight from Canada to Chicago was with American Eagle on a 50 seat Embraer jet.. The overhead compartments were too small for the standard overhead size. I had no choice but to concede my overhead luggage to checked.


    I really find value in my Lowpro Mini Trekker backpack and use it as my Personal item. It slides under the seat of every plane I have been on. I purchased it 9 years ago, specifically to fit under an airplane seat - knowing the maximum dimmensions allowed. As for weight limitations? I have never been asked. I make good use of the sternum strap when walking distances. That totally takes the weight off my 60 year old body and allows me to bend and pick up things and even sit in a chair without the straps falling off.

    Within that Camera Bag, I have more space to pack all that I need for my extended trips. Currently I am packing inside the main compartment Olympus EM-1 with grip, EM-10, and because I had the space EPL-1 with Holga lens - 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses and 45 f1.8 - Youngnuo flash - a set of wireless flash triggers - Bose Bluetooth speaker, 4 - 2TB usb3 Hard Drives (I store all data files on external drives - only apps on Macbook) - card reader, glasses, 2 camera battery chargers (I got rid of the cords) - 4 extra camera batteries and a stack of AA's, cables for cameras and HDMI cable with macbook adaptor - my Samsung phone and iPad 4. My 13 inch Macbook Air slips in the back outside pocket and computer power cords and camera manual go in front outside pocket.

    The only thing I can't fit in is my recording gear - so I have a small zippered bag that I put in the overhead Checked In luggage bag, that holds my Zoom5 Recorder and large diaphram condensor mic and shock mount. I want anything valuable, with me at all times. I fill this bag up with underwear, socks, set of clothes and anything to get me by if my big luggage bag doesn't show up for some reason.

    Hope this has some value to you. Happy travels.

    Last edited by Robert Watcher; 13th August 2016, 05:19 PM.
    INSTAGRAM - @rswpix

  • #2
    Re: What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

    One note that I should make here - is that while I use this Lowepro backpack for my professional work because I need much more gear with me - - - for my travel work, this camera bag is only used to get the equipment to the destination and store the extra equipment and then to fly it back home.

    On a daily basis where I only take one camera and an extra longer focal length lens with me, I have a simple shoulder bag (I picked it up for $5.00 at Staples years ago) that I take empty in my luggage bag. With it I can walk around without having to hold my camera and can also carry a bottle of water for refreshing me and if Anne has me stop at a grocery store for a bag of needs - I can pack quite a bit in the big pouch for an easier walk home.

    I always wear this shoulder bag to the front as shown on the photo. Both for ease of access and for security where everything is in front of me and within my grasp.

    I used to use this same Shoulder Bag before I shot with small Micro 4/3 cameras and had big SLR's and Lenses:

    Travel and Street Photography in Costa Rica (at 10,000 feet) with my shoulder bag

    Travel and Street Photography in Nicaragua with my shoulder bag

    INSTAGRAM - @rswpix


    • #3
      Re: What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly


      My camera bag measurements are a bit under 17" long, a bit under 13" wide and around 9 inches in depth. Those measurements fit under any airplane seat that I have flown on so far. The weight of the empty bag is quite light at only around 2-1/2 pounds when empty.

      I just weighed my camera bag full of what I take as shown in the video. It weighs just under 20 pounds in total. I have never once been questioned about the measurements or weight of my camera bag when I am claiming it as my personal item. But if that is a concern or if claiming it as your Carry On luggage and you are worried about having the measurements and weight questioned at the airport - by as an example taking out 3 of the external hard drives, my heavy Bose bluetooth speaker, my 3'rd camera and the Olympus E-M1's vertical battery grip, and the big flash - - - I am down to around 12 pounds. That's still got my 2 cameras, 3 lenses, iPad and Macbook Air, same number of batteries and other goodies. I don't think that it should be too difficult to stay within just about any of the airlines guidelines. I know that some restrict Carry On luggage that goes into the overhead bin, at 15 pounds.

      Anne and I have a portable scale that we purchased cheaply at Walmart - that we always carry with us. If you are worried about keeping within airplane guidelines when making decisions on what to take with you or what camera bag to use, my best advice is to get one of those scales and put all of the gear that you have and want to take with you, gently into a bag and hook the fishhook on a knot at the top and find out what everything weighs. And then you could start taking items out or adding items as needed.
      INSTAGRAM - @rswpix


      • #4
        Re: What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

        Hi Robert -

        Thanks for a very detailed overview of your photographic travel needs re equipment. I found it quite informative.

        Regards. Barr1e


        • #5
          Re: What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

          "Luggage bags have been thrown around and smashed up"

          Several years ago, before we converted from apartments to our B&B, we had a tenant that was filling in for a guitar professor, at the university, who was taking a sabbatical. He was a very well-known guitarist from Venezuala and was taking this gig so that he could obtain U.S. currency to purchase insurance for his guitar. He packed it in double soft-cases as he couldn't afford a hard case. Needless to say, his 30-yr old, $35,000 guitar was destroyed and was compensated the maximum of less than $1500. One must be very careful what is allowed to go underneath.
          My grandson, Ian (not our own FTU Ian), calls me "Tata", so I am...

          Ian's Tata

          Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Dragons...
          For you are crunchy and good with ketchup.

 2014, 2015, & 2016 TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence


          • #6
            Re: What's In My Camera Bag and How to Fly

            I hacked my full length What's in My Camera Bag video up this morning in hopes of making a more entertaining one minute Youtube video of me packing my camera bag for travel. Probably just as lacking in usefulness as the full length - - - so a minute gets it over with more quickly. LOL.

            Whats in My Camera Bag in One Minute :

            INSTAGRAM - @rswpix