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Transporting our DSLR Equipment with new restrictions


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#1 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 11:23 AM

I think its time for a new thread on this subject. The conversation and many of the recommendations in the older pegged thread in many cases no longer applies.

If we are to comply with the current carry on restrictions now in place it appears that our standard practice of carrying on our rigs is going to be impossible. Id like to know what you folks are thinking.

Id like to understand our options and see if we can come up with a recommended approach that would allow us to protect the gear, continue to do what we do with as few hassles as possible and not have to cheat our way on board.

My first assumption is that were limited to two 23kg (50 lb) checked bags. More critically one carry-on bag seems to be the wave of the future. A quick check of some of the typical airlines we fly shows they are grouping around a single 7kg (15lbs) bag that meets the international size requirement. (Total measurement of 115cm/45" or about 56 x 36 x 23 (22 x 14 X 9). Some airlines are slightly more accommodating at 10kg (22lbs) up to 18kg (40lbs).

For those that can swing it flying business class can help a lot. Cathay Pacific goes to a 10kg (22lbs) carry on and 70lbs checked bag limit if you upgrade. (Save those miles ;) ). They also define an additional personal item (laptop?) of 9 lbs.

My Sea& Sea 40D rigged up and ready to go in the water, weighs in at 28lbs. I have always carried on the camera bodies, lenses, housing, ports, strobes, laptop, portable hard drive, and associated cables and paraphernalia. Easily 50 lbs total. My dive gear bag seemingly always weighs in at 50 lbs with some spare arms and tools/o-rings thrown in. So my two bags are filled with dive gear and rig.

My initial thought to pack the housing, ports and strobes in a nice Storm case (IM2750?)to go as baggage seems to fall apart when you note that the case weighs 22 lbs with the padding. Not to mention the box seems to scream steal me.

So heres my plan, carry on my camera and lenses in a paper bag (to save weight). Pack the rig in a ultra light suitcase with helium filled bubble plastic. Dive naked and buy a couple of tee shirts when I get there.

Anybody else have a better idea?

Cheers,
Steve

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#2 Timmoranuk

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 11:40 AM

My dilema too Steve...

In the UK the charter airlines serving Red Sea desinations seem to be rigidly imposing a 5kg (10.2 lbs) carry-on. As divers we are 'so generously' allowed an additional 5 kgs checked baggage on top of our standard allowance of 20 kgs. But here's the rub... The maximum bag weigh allowed is 23 kgs so to take full advantage of the extra 5 kgs means another bag!

On the flip side, we can buy an extra 20 kgs 'watersport' bag so the odd 2 kgs could be allocated to that I guess. But a Peli is going to eat half of that before any goodies get stuffed inside.

Anyone done any research on determining the lightest variant of checked camera luggage?
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#3 DrFiscus

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:01 PM

My dilema too Steve...

In the UK the charter airlines serving Red Sea desinations seem to be rigidly imposing a 5kg (10.2 lbs) carry-on. As divers we are 'so generously' allowed an additional 5 kgs checked baggage on top of our standard allowance of 20 kgs. But here's the rub... The maximum bag weigh allowed is 23 kgs so to take full advantage of the extra 5 kgs means another bag!

On the flip side, we can buy an extra 20 kgs 'watersport' bag so the odd 2 kgs could be allocated to that I guess. But a Peli is going to eat half of that before any goodies get stuffed inside.

Anyone done any research on determining the lightest variant of checked camera luggage?

Get a photographers vest and stuff anything you can in it and wear your BC and maybe 3 or 4 t-shirts and pairs of shorts in layers!!!!
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#4 limeyx

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:07 PM

I think its time for a new thread on this subject. The conversation and many of the recommendations in the older pegged thread in many cases no longer applies.


Cheers,
Steve


Most of my overseas trips are LAX-Cancun. For a while now, I have been saving up the airmiles and flying mexicana business which is 3bags of I think 70 pounds each checked ?

I think most of the carryon restrictions for most countries are being relaxed a bit since the recent "events"

I know domestic is getting ever and ever tougher with employees roaming the airport sizing up carryons and making you check them, and all the fees of course (worse for me as I fly american but go to seattle a lot and have to fly alaska air so I have to pay for checked bags)

realistically I have to carry the video housing (L&M Blufin HD or pay ridiculous fees).
I check the HID lights

For stills, the camera body, lenses and domes are whatr I want to carry, and I am willing to check the strobes and housing body

#5 TomR1

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:14 PM

I have a LowePro camera bag that was recommended to me. It is a padded roller bag that came with padded dividers. The closest match I can get on the lowePro site is the x300

I am able to get two complete setups, sans camera and lenses in at 50 pounds. In addition to the supplied padded dividers, I use foam padding around the cases. It would be no problem to get a complete setup in but I prefer to carry-on the cameras and lenses.

I carry the cameras in a very light backpack. I don't fill it so full that it bulges. Nobody ever bothers with it. I have a very light roller bag <5 pounds that I carry my laptop, mask and reg set. Total weight is below 15 pounds because I have a 5 pound laptop and a T2 reg set.

Regards,

#6 TomR1

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:19 PM

I might add that the LowePro x300 is 14.6 pounds and is airline compatible if you don't use the big front pocket. The padding is less than 5 pounds That gives one over 30 pounds of housing, strobe, arms, ports etc.

http://products.lowe...300,2164,16.htm

#7 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:41 PM

For stills, the camera body, lenses and domes are whatr I want to carry, and I am willing to check the strobes and housing body


What bags are you guys using to check the housings etc.? The old standby Samsonite Flite that the pelican foam would fit in is too big now. I found a lightweight carbon fiber Zero Haliburton but $2500 seems a bit steep. ;)

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#8 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:43 PM

Tom,
Do you check the Lowepro?

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#9 Tom_Kline

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:45 PM

On my last dive trip (Alaska to BC (Vancouver, Victoria and Barkley Sound) via Seattle) I used this f64 backpack (minus the side pockets) to carry my D2X Seacam housing, two ports (one was mounted), and two strobes. http://www.bhphotovi...ack_Black_.html This was a carry-on.

Some small items went into the lid pockets and small spaces between larger items.

My 17" Mac laptop went in a separate bag, my 'personal item'. In it was a 2nd body (other body was in the housing), lenses, external HD, various power adapters and cords. I have since replaced this bag (5 years old) with an f-stop Maverick (using it at the moment as I am on a non-diving trip). The Maverick will easily fit a full sized 35mm form factor camera along with the laptop.

Either bag fits under a window 737 seat.

I had two 50# check-in bags. As I was doing dry suit diving they were full as my gear is XL sized.

I have an XXL Domke vest that I might bring on my next trip as a bag BU!

Edited by Tom_Kline, 05 January 2010 - 12:53 PM.

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#10 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:48 PM

Tom,
I hate to think about trying to get a dry suit in under the weight limit. Doesn't your carry on break the 15lb limit?

Steve

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#11 Tom_Kline

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:57 PM

Tom,
I hate to think about trying to get a dry suit in under the weight limit. Doesn't your carry on break the 15lb limit?

Steve



Probably. I have never had my carry-ons weighed. Being rather large (> 100 kg), they look small on me. Picking bags up with one finger helps as well!! ;)

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Lens focal lengths ranging from 8 to 200mm for UW use. Seacam housings and remote control gear. Seacam 60D, 150D, and 250D, Sea&Sea YS250, and Inon Z220 strobes.

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#12 cor

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:58 PM

Julie and I seem to be the odd ones out. We check our housings, ports, strobes, etc. Only the camera body and lenses go with us. Also, I think paying for an extra bag is just the way it is, and should be calculated into the price of a trip. We always assume we have to pay, and if we dont, thats money saved.
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#13 MIKE POWELL

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 01:50 PM

Good thread Steve!

On my next trip shooting sailfish in Mexico I plan to carry-on only one bag with the bare necessities for shallow wide angle shooting (camera, housing, dome, 16-35mm, 15mm, charger, laptop).
I'll carry a second bag to the check-in counter with the rest of the high dollar equip. in case they allow a second bag....If they limit to one bag I'll save room in one of my checked bags to put those non-essentials and hope they don't get stolen....if they do it's insured and I'm not without a rig to shoot.

I'm not sure if any bag/case even with TSA locks will deter thieves since they are probably in business with the folks x-raying the bags.

Oh and Steve, please don't dive naked!

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#14 TomR1

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 02:21 PM

I check the LowePro every time. It is WAY to big for carry-on.

When it came I measured it and, by my measurements, it was slightly over the airline size limits. I removed everything from the outside. It had tripod holders and other stuff. Once I did that it was within airline size limits.

The inside dividers were more setup for cameras and lenses, not housings and strobes. I carefully packed the bag and setup a compartment for everything that I wanted to carry. I get an Ikelite case, a seatool case and a olympus case in the bag plus three Inon Z-240 strobes plus various other stuff. (I can't get the Ikelite strobes in).

Looking at the packed bag I felt that the sides and back were strong enough to resist crushing but I was concerned about the top where the zipper is. I purchased some foam and put it inside the bag so that the shock from a piece of luggage thrown on top would be attenuated.

Originally I did not use the outside compartment. Then I experimented and found that nobody cares if the outside compartment doesn't bulge. I pack clothes that will lay flat in the outside compartment. This also provides a cushon for the top.

I will post a few pictures if people want to look.

Regards,

#15 Stewart L. Sy

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 02:34 PM

Have always checked in Housing, 6" Dome, Flat Ports, Arms and strobes in a 1520 Pelican case. Pelican fits inside a hard sided suitcase, padding is a partially inflated BC on one side, a cheap (and light) Ikea pillow on the other. Ikea sells a nice plastic cover that fits over the Aquatica 8" Dome and Dome shade and that goes in the suitcase as well. I use the Thinktank Streetwalker Hard Drive backpack (4.5lbs empty) and that holds 2 bodies with grip, 5 lenses, 1 Speedlight and a Dell Studio laptop. Comes in at around 45lbs.

I leave my wetsuit & fins in the Philippines (yes, nice to have that luxury) ;) . Chargers, batteries etc go in 2nd checked bag with clothing. Another solution for me is to fly on Philippine Airlines (since YVR is only port of Entry into Canada) as they have the Sportsman's package where a $100/year membership allows you an extra checked bag for the duration. They do fly to other parts of Asia so it's not limited to PI trips. Traveling with my wife (diver but P&S photographer, not DSLR) helps distribute the weight as well.

All these new restrictions have certainly made changes in my travel plans, mainly to avoid flying to the US, will rather drive to Bellingham or Seattle and fly out from there, actually my wife and I are now planning on driving down instead of flying to see my sis-in-law in Napa....nice excuse to drive the 101.


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Edited by scubastu, 05 January 2010 - 02:36 PM.

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#16 limeyx

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 03:47 PM

What bags are you guys using to check the housings etc.? The old standby Samsonite Flite that the pelican foam would fit in is too big now. I found a lightweight carbon fiber Zero Haliburton but $2500 seems a bit steep. ;)

Steve


You might not want to read the rest of this :)

I generally shove the halves (thirds) into my regular luggage with drysuit, regs etc. etc. wrapped in towels/clths/underwear !

#17 cor

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 03:51 PM

I have fitted a standard hardcase samsonite with foam. It has survived over 5 years of traveling so far, and so have our housings/strobes/dome/flatports.
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#18 Steve Williams

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 04:46 PM

Is this the big Lowepro your describing Tom? http://products.lowe...300,2164,16.htm

Cor, I guess a third bag is the simplest way to go but how do you transport/ pack your gear to fly in the belly of the plane?

Your right of course Mike, I can probably find room for a speedo. Don't want to scare the fish ;)

Stu leaving half your stuff in the Philippines is cheating but a great answer for you.

Thanks to Jen and Joel, a Scottevest is definitely a good option to consider. I checked out the website and it looks very interesting.

My baseline assumption is that it is possible to do what we do and still comply with all the regs. A bunch of us have been working at the edges and just getting by on our good looks and smiling faces. I'm thinking that this latest attempt to bring down a plane is going to result in much more restriction and monitoring. The folks flying international today are getting patted down at least once if not twice. I'm afraid more scrutiny is in our future. On top of that, Janet Napolitano the head of the DHS here in the US said that the goal will be to make the security system more unpredictable. (Ouch!)

The answer is out there somewhere, lighter suitcases, carbon fiber tripods, ditch the heavy fins, etc. My main concern is still how to get the housing and ports there safely.

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#19 dhaas

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 05:39 PM

For over 5 years I have packed dSLR systems in a plain jane Samsonite Oyster case with a Pelican 1620 Padded Diver Set inside. (pics below)

I make it look ugly as hell even putting duct tape on the latches. I tape extra duct tape inside the lid avoiding having to carry a roll too.

It's been inspected but nothing has ever gone missing. I lay a paper with my itinerary inside, too.

The rounded corners smush the edges a bit but here's the max I have shipped in it all over the world.

* Multiple versions dSLR housing (Ikelite with dual handle and tray)

* At least 2-3 ports / domes including 8"

* Two DS125 (now DS161) units with arms, 2 dual cords, 1-2 single cords, 2 chargers, huge plastic bag with parts to totally replace every single o-ring on my housing (and fellow Ikelite shooters)

* Double AA chargers if needed plus some NiMH AA batteries. Avg. 8 with 8 more in my carry on.

* Swim suits, flip slops microfiber towels, even some shirts.

Max weight this case has ever been when checked - 48 lbs. The case itself maybe weights 8-9 lbs. compared to what my actual Pelican 1620 started out at!

I carry on lenses, cameras, flash units, iPhone / iPod etc. in small padded cases thrown into the lightest backpack I own. Frees up my hands for the Samsonite and a roller dive bag that also has my clothes. The dive / clothes bag has never been over 50 lbs. either. And yes, I take a couple of nice shirts for dinners, one pair of slacks plus maybe wear a pair of jeans flying, etc.

Like Cor said I always figure in the cost of checking 2 bags if the airline I'm flying charges for them. Just the the cost of travel.....

I also NEVER schedule connections very tight plus allow some slop time upon arriving if a bag goes missing on the outbound leg. Coming home I don't care as I carry my images home with me and the UW stuff is insured anyway....

One last thing, no laptop these days. iPhone gets Wifi for the limited amount of emailing I want to do. I have contemplated getting a used older MacBook but so far haven't felt the need to. Multiple memory cards at today's low prices work fine.

I carry the cord to connect my cameras to a TV and do a purge each day or so of the obvious crap shots. Then work on them once home when I can use a bigger screen and be comfortable ;)

YMMV

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#20 TomR1

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 05:49 PM

Is this the big Lowepro your describing Tom? http://products.lowe...300,2164,16.htm
Steve


Jep, that's it. Works great. You just have to carefully set it up.