I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several different countries on humanitarian photography assignments. On long trips I bring a large camera backpack and a laptop backpack. On each trip I make little refinements to what I pack in each bag. I also take a smaller “on location” camera bag, but that gets packed in checked baggage. In this article I’ll tell you about my current configuration of my camera backpack I carry on the plane.
Choosing the right bag
Your ‘walking around’ or location camera bag, if you use one, may not be the best for travel on a plane. I have the largest bag or backpack possible that will fit under a seat. I say under the seat because many US domestic planes overhead bins are pretty small. International flights usually have larger overhead bins that will usually hold your ‘legal size’ camera backback. If you do have a domestic flight before an international, yes you may be cramped for an hour or two, but it’s better to cram as much of your gear into that bag rather than it disappear under the plane.
I use the Lowepro CompuTrekker Plus AW to carry my gear on the plane. I can fit a Nikon D700, Canon HD
video camera, shotgun mic, a smaller video camera, video and camera batteries, and a camera battery charger. I also carry memory cards and MiniDV tapes in the pouches. I use a pair of socks to carry the video batteries and protect the shotgun mic. I do not carry a video battery charger in this bag because I can charge straight from the camera.
Basically if my luggage is lost or late I can still shoot and have an extra pair of socks!
The CompuTrekker AW does not have wheels so it’s pretty heavy to carry through airports but I found the wheeled version is a bit larger and would be tough to fit under the seat.
Guess what? At some point you will probably have to pull out all your gear at a security checkpoint so be ready. I pack my camera backpack the same way every time, and, make it easy to see items in my pack by just unzipping. Most of the time they leave the cameras alone and have a look at the video batteries in the sock. Anyway, the point I am stressing here is make sure you can pack and unpack quickly. Practice it a few times at home before leaving, you will thank yourself.
I mentioned that I also bring a laptop backpack on the plane as well which I will cover in the next article. I will point out though that I pack my camera backpack so that I do not have to get to it on the plane. I store it and leave it until the flight is over. You might ask why would you want to get in either bag. Well on a 14 hour flight I do cram a few things in my laptop bag to make the flight….uh…. manageable.
Get a system down and refine it on each trip. My system certainly changes. If you are serious about your photography when traveling make sure you have everything you need to shoot in your carry-on camera bag.
Feel free to leave any travel tips you’ve come up with in the comment section.