flying with camera gear

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jimoo742
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flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 12th, 2014, 10:01 am

So I'm about to embark on a nature photography trip to Malaysia in a couple of weeks. I have a Fstop Loka bag which I take as a carry on. I've not had any problems so far, but I'm a bit concerned with the weight. I've never had my carry on weighed in the U.S. when flying, but this will have a connection (two actually) and I'm concerned that it might happen at some point. Undoubtedly I will be over the limits.

I obviously have no desire to check my camera gear. I can't see how I can reduce the weight much and bring what I need.

If challenged on the weight, what would you do or say to get around it?

Any advice? Or am I just worrying about nothing?

Thanks.

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Scott Waters
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by Scott Waters » November 13th, 2014, 1:20 pm

You most likely will not be able to talk your way around it, unless you're just a pound or two over the limit. That said, you should get a plan together to safely pack up fragile (and least expensive) stuff in a checked bag. Good luck.

scott

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chrish
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by chrish » November 13th, 2014, 5:07 pm

I frequently run into this issue when I travel internationally with my camera in my carry on.

The international weight limits on most carryon bags is usually 7.5kg. My camera bag with my "standard" gear list weighs almost twice this amount.

Here are a couple of suggestions I have used:

1. Most places don't actually weigh every carryon, but they often spot check people as they go through security (New Zealand is bad for this!). The way I avoid being spot checked is by only carrying my camera bag with no other carry on. I also make sure it is slung casually over one shoulder when I go through the screening area. If it is all the way on your back or worse, on rollers, it seems to "look" heavy to them and gets checked more often.

2. Make sure your camera bag isn't bulging. If you have something soft to carry on (sweater, jacket, pillow, etc), carry it separately in your hand. A bulging bag looks heavy.

3. If you are traveling with someone else, see if they will "carry" some stuff for you, at least through the checkpoints.

4. Put your heaviest lens on your camera. That way if you are challenged, you can usually take your camera out of your bag and carry it as a "personal item" and this may get you bag down below weight. As soon as you get past the checkpoint, you can put it back in the bag. Usually the act of just taking something out of your bag that looks like the source of the "overweight" will satisfy the inspector and they don't even bother reweighing.

5. Check as much of your gear as you can. I will often put a lens or two in my suitcase covered in a sock or two. I wouldn't put a crucial lens in there, but extra lenses you could live without if they were lost or damaged. I will sometimes put a less expensive spare body in the checked baggage if I am taking one. Also think about checking your flash heads in your luggage. I put them in my extra shoes or at least pull socks over them so they aren't obvious if someone opens the bag.

6. Batteries are heavy. Don't carry extra batteries in your camera bag. However, it is prohibited to carry Li batteries in your checked bag. I will generally carry two batteries for the camera and a charger and buy AA and AAA batteries at my destination for other stuff. I have checked Li Ion batteries, but it is prohibited.

7. Bring a flashlight that takes normal batteries, not some specialized battery. You want something you can get in a major city anywhere in the world. If you want to carry a flashlight in your carry on (I do), I suggest bringing a small headlamp that takes AA/AAA batteries.

8. Don't put books in your carry on. Use ebooks or just copy the pages you might need on the plane.

9. Be conservative with your electronics in your carry on. Do you really need your laptop, tablet, phone and photo wallet on your trip? Could you get by with just one?

In regard to checking gear, just be aware that the airlines/airports assume no responsibility if stuff is stolen from your suitcase while it is in their care. I have only had this happen twice in spite of traveling all over the world. Both times it happened during a layover in San Francisco. It was obviously a TSA agent or someone else with security access since it happened in a secure area while my bags were being transferred to my international flight. I use fluorescent cable ties to "lock" my suitcases so that at least I can tell if my case has been opened. It also makes it easier to spot your case on the carousel at your destination.

However, one of the times I had stuff stolen, the thief took a sealed box of perfume (a gift) and a sealed version of MS Office Student Version (also a gift). They ignored my $1000+ 300 f/4 lens which was wrapped in a sock right next to that stuff. They wanted stuff they could easily resell. So don't make your stuff look valuable.

jimoo742
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 13th, 2014, 5:40 pm

Thank you for those tips. I guess all the double As will go in the checked luggage. Its just so hard. I put my back up body, lenses, tripod, flash, cables in the checked bag... but I want the ball head, two bodies, 200mm macro, 400mm tele, and 85mm macro in the bag. Plus, 48 rolls of film, I can't check those. I guess I could always replace the batteries, but they're often expensive and poor quality I find in other countries. Still, it will be my only carry on, and I'll just "casually" carry it on my shoulder.

I wont be brining any phone, laptop, or tablet, or any of that junk. Just the camera gear: filters, cords, a flashlight, etc, and the head lamp, in addition to the camera gear.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by Antonsrkn » November 13th, 2014, 8:41 pm

I guess I could always replace the batteries, but they're often expensive and poor quality I find in other countries.
You said you're going to Malaysia, in borneo I was infinitly frustrated at the quality of the only batteries around. My headlamp burned through them at ridiculous rates. If you can bring rechargables, you'll save on room bringing them down and in the long run way cheaper too.
Plus, 48 rolls of film, I can't check those.
Whoa thats alot of film, one thing that i love about digital is that I have enough room for over 10,000 shots that fits in a case the size of my wallet.

What airline are you flying? I have flown a decent amount around asia, have flown into and out of borneo a few times and I have never had my carry on weighed. its where I keep all my camera, lenses, several flashes, headlamps, batteries, etc... In other words it weighs a ton, but it all fits in a backpack, doesn't bulge too much. I have seen some places where theres a little crate that you have to be able to fit your carry on into but no scale, my backpack fits in the crate and thats been enough. Been traveling around with the same pack stuffed to the gills with camera gear for a while now (something like 15 countries and alot of flights and never had it weighed yet). However i have had them lose my checked bag for days at a time on several occasions, I wouldn't put anything valuable in there.

I wouldn't worry too much about it in Asia, but then again you never know.

jimoo742
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 14th, 2014, 6:06 am

It comes to about 4 rolls a day, which I think is modest for a trip like this. I won't do digital, its a personal thing. Though the elimination of Provia 400 makes it harder, its harder every year.

I'm doing Turkish Air and then Malaysian Air, and probably a MA Swings in the country.

Yeah, I'll check the batteries, or may stuff a ton in my rain coat pockets!!

Maybe I should get some rechargeables, but I don't know where when I'll be on cots in the national parks where I might recharge them. I guess it couldn't hurt to get a set. With the power winder (which I don't "need") and the flash, flashlight, and head lamp that can burn a lot of batteries.

Thank you for the comforting words though.

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Martti Niskanen
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by Martti Niskanen » November 14th, 2014, 6:35 am

jimoo742 wrote: I'm doing Turkish Air and then Malaysian Air, and probably a MA Swings in the country.
Greetings from sunny Johannesburg. Just flew here yesterday with my camera gear. Flew from Finland via Heathrow on Finnair and BA. The camera gear were in a large MilTec backpack and weighed at least 10kg.

Both Turkish Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are companies investing heavily into their public images, and MA has laxed the weight restrictions on lots of their flights. Don't know how this works in the US, but I doubt you'll have any problems with the airlines themselves.

Also, there's a possibility that the airline is only interested in the total weight of your checked in and carry-on luggage and may weigh it together.

jimoo742
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 14th, 2014, 6:55 am

Martti Niskanen wrote:
jimoo742 wrote: I'm doing Turkish Air and then Malaysian Air, and probably a MA Swings in the country.
Greetings from sunny Johannesburg. Just flew here yesterday with my camera gear. Flew from Finland via Heathrow on Finnair and BA. The camera gear were in a large MilTec backpack and weighed at least 10kg.

Both Turkish Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are companies investing heavily into their public images, and MA has laxed the weight restrictions on lots of their flights. Don't know how this works in the US, but I doubt you'll have any problems with the airlines themselves.

Also, there's a possibility that the airline is only interested in the total weight of your checked in and carry-on luggage and may weigh it together.

Thank you. I really appreciate this.

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chrish
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by chrish » November 15th, 2014, 11:40 am

Obviously, the take home message here is :

Load your camera gear in your carryon, but have a plan B if it should get weighed.

The only places I have ever had mine weighed were when flying to/from New Zealand, in a domestic flight in China and flying to the Cook Islands. I think every else assumes if you can carry it, it should be light enough?

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Antonsrkn
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by Antonsrkn » November 16th, 2014, 2:57 am

Sending this from an airport right now (have to spend the night at Lima), again no problems with a big carry on. After this post I was paying more attention to the size of my backpack when compared to other peoples carry on, id say it takes up less space but is probably heavier than the majority of other peoples stuff. was aon a few planes today and no problems! But yeah what Chris is saying is good advice, a plan B is always important, mine was to redistribute some lenses to my laptop bag if there was a problem other than that I had have no idea, probably should have thought about it a little more.

jimoo742
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 16th, 2014, 2:41 pm

Maybe I'll wear two thin coats, a light jacket and a rain coat so I'll have four back up pockets.

Thanks again.

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jason folt
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jason folt » November 21st, 2014, 11:55 am

I enjoy UW photography a bit on the side. My carryon with my housing, ports, strobes, etc ends up way heavier than my backpack with cameras and lens. As you can imagine, diving takes you all over the world on small puddle jumpers, and this exact question comes up a bunch. A common theme for the camera gear is to wear an extra coat, with a plan to ditch a couple lenses into your pockets and hold your camera in your hand. Reportedly this will work the majority of the time. I also make sure I can ditch gear into my wife's carryon bag. I haven't had a problem personally yet with a backpack. My roller carryon with the housing unfortunately almost always gets gate checked on the smaller flights. I prefer to keep it with me as much as possible and never let it leave my sight. Gate checking is about as good as I can hope for as you usually walk up to the smaller plane and I can personally hand it to a guy and watch him load it. I use a small, carryon sized, hard side roller. I pad the shitballs out of it and lock it after I get through security. If it gets checked, at least it is pretty darn tough to damage. While I swear by the backpack for my cameras and lens, if I knew something was inevitably going to be checked, I would prefer this to the backpack.

Don't know if any of this helps. There are a couple threads on wetpixel.com about traveling and international airlines that have more stringent weight policies.

Jason

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Rothdigga
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by Rothdigga » November 21st, 2014, 3:11 pm

Like it's been said before on here, as long as it's on your back (or shoulder), they barely ever look at it. I travel with my wife sometimes on long trips and if she sees that I'm stressing about them checking bags, when we walk on the plane to board, I'll have my bag slung over one shoulder away from the person checking the tickets and next to my wife who walks in front of me. I've never been stopped for any bag on my shoulder but anyone who has a roller is fair game to them.
Good luck! I actually always used to do film as well but had to abandon it in 2009 after coming back from Australia and having all my film ruined when they made me scan it. I was so over at after that.

jimoo742
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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » November 24th, 2014, 6:03 am

Rothdigga wrote: I actually always used to do film as well but had to abandon it in 2009 after coming back from Australia and having all my film ruined when they made me scan it.

Thanks for giving me something else to worry about! I try to get hand checks, but I've put film through multiple xrays before and not yet had a problem. This one might be a challenge with likely 2-3 checks each way. Fingers crossed.

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Re: flying with camera gear

Post by jimoo742 » December 16th, 2014, 11:06 am

Thanks for the advice again. Things weren't bad at all. I had 9 flights on the trip and could avoid film going through the xray machine all but two of those flights. Interestingly, my carry on was only weighed at the beginning in Logan Airport / Boston.

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