Photography, Q&A, Tips

Q&A – Travel with Photo Gear

19 Comments 23 September 2010

Travel with excessive photo gear!

This week a friend and I are actually traveling on a ‘hi-speed’ roadtrip through the National Parks of the Southwest. We are stopping at major photography sites such as Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Hoover Dam, and Antelope Canyon to name a few. My friend is a photography enthusiast so as you can guess our rental car is full of photography gear!

Doing a simple one week road trip with camera gear is pretty easy compared to how I normally travel (remote countries on a tight budget). When traveling by rental car, I always have a place to lock away my equipment, I don’t have to carry it all with me and only take what I need at a particular site.

A couple of months ago I had a question from a reader of Ottsworld about how I travel with my photography gear. It was a great question and I’m guessing more of you out there may want to know the answer – so in honor of my National Parks photography road trip, I thought I’d feature it in Q&A this week!

Q: From Jason
I’m a newcomer to the career break world, I’ve wanted to do this for many years, but it wasn’t until now that it became a real possibility. I’m very excited about it. Like you, I have a passion for photography. I plan on taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy this photo hobby of mine as much as possible, of course.

My question is: how do you transport your photo gear? I know you use a backpack for all else; but do you typically carry a separate day-pack/bag for your camera and lenses / tripod / whatever?

Basically, I’d hate the chance of being forced to check in my photo gear on a flight! But at the same time, I’m thinking it may be difficult to move around with a big back, plus another smaller backpack with photo gear.

As for transporting my gear – my gear consists of my DSLR, 3 lenses, cards, battery recharger, sometimes a flash, sometimes filters, and a point and shoot camera that does video. Plus my macbook, iphone, and a card reader and backup 500 G drive.
I NEVER check any of this stuff- I always carry it on – I’m way too paranoid!

Carrying everything and still a hand free for a cup of coffee

I have a couple of different methods depending on how long I’m traveling for. On an around the world trip for a year – I have a rolling suitcase for my clothes, a daypack for my laptop/books/etc, and my camera case that I sling across my chest. That way I can carry everything. I always carry-on the backpack and the camera case on the plane.

My backpack (daypack) is AWESOME – great for the techie gear – It’s a Brenthaven Expandable Trek Laptop Backpack

It actually will fit my laptop plus my camera and lenses (in their cases) if I want – it still has room for a couple of books and other small travel stuff though.  When I do fill it up and carry it on, it is most certainly over weight restrictions – but I’ve never been asked to weight it!

My camera case is very simple – like this one – Tamrac 515 Compact Zoom Pack (Black) Then I simply hang my lenses (or flash or filters) off the sides of this holster and remove then when I don’t want to take them with me. I love this holster concept and just add the pieces you want to the sides – it’s perfect for me when I don’t want to take everything, but at the same time it can easily accommodate a camera and 2 lenses off the sides.

No airline has ever stopped me for taking a backpack and the camera case as a carry on – not sure why – but it has worked for 4 years!

How do other people out there carry their photo equipment?

Camera Gear

Getting the shot at Horseshoe bend this week!

To view the shot of Horseshoe bend that I was risking my life for…check out my Photo of the Week!

Please send more questions that you want to ask me about my travels or living abroad – I’m always happy to answer them!

Your Comments

19 Comments so far

  1. Laura says:

    I’m distracted by the photo at Horseshoe Bend. I have to go there!

  2. Donna Hull says:

    First, great photo of Horseshoe Bend. I have fond memories of crawling on my belly, way before it was necessary, to reach the ledge and actually take a photograph.

    Thanks for showing us how you carry your camera equipment on trips. I especially like the camera bag you are using and the idea of lenses in holsters. Alan just may be getting a Christmas present he didn’t request :-).

    • admin says:

      The holster bag is really great – I just like the fact that I can take what I want and leave the rest behind and it’s not super bulky.

  3. Brian says:

    Thanks for this post Sherry! Its always nice to hear what other people are using.

    I have been using my Crumpler camera bag for a while now. Its a bit bigger than your tamrac but also accommodates the lens holster setup. I bought one of those side mounting holsters based on your advice by the way and really like it.

    Its good to hear that the airlines never bother you with having the carryon backpack and a separate camera bag, I’ve been stuffing my camera bag into my big PacSafe pack for the flight, but I’ve been unhappy with the bulkiness of this pack as my standard daypack (a good reason why I will always try out new packs before buying online from now on).

    Very jealous of your road trip, sounds like a lot of fun!

  4. Ni Post, Sherry!
    A note about the weight restrictions. At least with New Zealand Air, I found they ignore it if you tell them you have a laptop and camera inside as there is some exception for ‘precision equipment’. My personal item (a bag like yours) has often outweighed my carry-on!

  5. islandmomma says:

    This is such useful information! I’m planning to get away next year for a while, so great ideas here when people ask me what I want for Christmas!

    Did you ever come across an aiport that restricted you to only one piece of carry on? It happened to me in London (but can’t remember if Gatwick or Heathrow) a couple of years ago. My second piece of “carry on” was simply a large wallet with all my paperwork etc, but it had a shoulder strap, so whilst I checked in etc I kept it on my shoulder, but was made to squeeze it into my already bulging backpack (no idea how I did that, I’d just raided WH Smith’s!).

  6. Hey Sherry: This post reminded me that you asked what kind of tripod I finally settled on. When I was in NYC for TBEX I checked ut the lightweight one at B&H, but they wanted $30-400 for one, and since it’s something that would have to be packed in my 22″ rolling case, I just could not justify that. I finally found one in Atlanta, for $79. It’a a Manfrotto 785B, fairly lightweight and full size in height. I love it!

  7. Anil says:

    I’m with you on that – *never* check your pricey equipment. Learned that the hard way!

  8. I found this post really interesting…I’m often struggling with how much equipment to take, both on the overall trip and then on hiking or day trips when I know I’m likely to be clinging to a rock face or slipping around on ice. I haven’t found the perfect solution yet – but will look into your suggestions!
    As for a tripod, I’ve found the Gorillapod tripod to be flexible & lightweight and it can handle ALMOST every situation.
    As for one bag carry on – Ryanair (a budget airline in Europe) is militant about this. London airports used to be quite strict, too, but I’ve noticed that they’ve started to relax this one recently…

  9. Great tips on traveling with photo equipment. Still looking for a good day pack, will have to check out your suggestion.

  10. jessiev says:

    i am distracted by that photo, too – you’re BRAVE! YIKES!

    i like the crumpler 8 million dollar bag – it’s a messenger, and holds a laptop, too. but for just small trips, i have a small separate bag just for my dslr. it’s all hard, isn’t it?

    i can’t blv you can carry all that and not tip over. LOL.

  11. Jen Laceda says:

    Those are crazy beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your expert / insider tips! You’re a soldier for carrying all that equipment. It’s like carrying a baby!

    • admin says:

      Ha! I’ve never carried a baby…but I think I treat my camera equipment as if it were a baby – I’m always afraid of dropping it or falling and breaking it!
      I consider photography a sport…it’s my main exercise these days!

  12. Sam says:

    I love my Lowepro PhotoSport 100, although am considering the newer 200 beacause the ‘sling’ style (while incredibly handy) doesn’t suit my curves very well whereas the 200 has a normal 2 shoulder strap design. I tested it while taking photos in Western Australia’s remote north Kimberly region and it was amazing. Plenty of room for a full day’s activities, my netbook, lots of organizational pockets and it is super light too.
    When traveling overseas I always take my photo gear in my back pack as hand luggage although my Cannon 7D gets a little heavy – I am considering investing in one of the compact cameras with inter-changable lenses, anyone got any recommendations?

  13. Filly says:

    Any suggestions of what’s a good dslr camera for an average user. thank you

    • Sherry says:

      Hi Filly,
      I am not really an expert on what’s the latest and greatest as my SLR is about 3 years old now! I use a canon 40D and prior to that I was using a Canon Rebel – so I can’t speak for other brands as I”ve been a Canon person during all of my travels. I would suggest getting one that does video. For more overall advice on cameras that are out now – I would suggest contacting Peter West Carey – he’s a professional photographer in the Seattle area whom I know well and he is always testing out equipment. He also does photo workshops around the west coast. Here’s a few ways to get a hold of him – website – Twitter – @pwcarey Facebook –

      Let me know what you end up with!

  14. Majida says:

    First things first: Beautiful pictures! And do take care, not to get a sunburn!! :)

    Camera Gear: I never check it in either. I bought myself a camera backpack, however not sure, if I am really comfy with it yet. I’d love it to have a slot for my net-book as well. I know, there are some around. I carry camera and 3 lenses

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Where am I and Where am I going?

Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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