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Traveling with underwater camera to international destination - packing tips and advise

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#1 DivingMeCrazy

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 09:23 AM

I just read this article The Packing Guide for Underwater Photographers|Underwater Photography Guide and was wondering what other underwater photographers do. I will be traveling from the US to Bali later this year for the first time, so the timing of this article was perfect.  Currently I use a Porter hard case (44lbs loaded), and this works great traveling to the Caribbean since it fits nicely in the overhead bin. When reading about airlines weighing this bag/ case that has me worried. I did see that the airline has clear weight limitations for carry-on bags.  I use a Olympus E-M1 with a Nauticam housing, 2 ports, 2 strobes, 2 SOLA lights, and arms. So my question is, do you agree with the article, or do you have different recommendations?  I am looking forward to your feedback!

 

Here is a link to the case I currently use http://portercase.com/main/product_info.php?products_id=73 


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Camera: Olympus E-M1, Nauticam Housing, 2 x Sea&Sea D1's, Nauticam float arms, Saga 67mm flip, Subsee +10


#2 kc_moses

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 11:05 AM

Ditch the porter hard case, for many reasons. It's heavy, expensive, and it just scream "steal me!!!!". You can get similar protection without all the thick padding. From my experience (mostly Singapore Airline), they weight the obviously big carry on bag, so try not to make your carry on bag look very stuffed like it's going to burst and explode. In this case, something like a duffle bag would do, the duffle bag with rolling wheel could be hard to find though.

 

Long story short, this is what work for me:

Most of the time, they don't weight your laptop bag, so keep all the heavy stuffs like regulator (I have a $1500 regulator that I wouldn't feel comfortable check in), batteries, camera, tablet/laptop in your laptop bag. If there is more room in your laptop bag, stuff it with all the arms, clamp etc that can go into small nook and corner in your laptop bag and they can take all the abuse. The laptop bag will be carried on your shoulder weight is not an issue, you just can't run with it.

 

As for the overhead bag, get one of these to go into the duffle bag (remove the caddy tray of the toolbox):

http://www.homedepot...09267/203668044

 

The toolbox is use to keep your housing (make sure to not latch the housing), strobe, light and other delicate stuffs. I put my housing into a zip lock bag so there won't be any dirt to get on the o-ring. wrap everything with a microfiber napkin size tower to act as buffer so they don't scratch each other. The microfiber tower come in handy when you need to dry your gear when you're at the resort. The toolbox can act as double duty to bring onto the boat to keep your wallet, keys, sunglasses, defogger etc.

 

Anyway, stick the toolbox into the duffle bag along with some loose items like laptop charger, snack, magazine etc. In the case where the plane is too small and you have to gate check, the toolbox will protect your equipment, as long as they don't drop from a 5 ft height or have anything more than 50lb of stuff lay on top of it, the toolbox is adequate.

 

Some people use the photography's vest, which I haven't had the need to go that route. Gate check is not the end of the world. One time I got weight by Singapore Airline, they gate check my carry on so I just bring the laptop bag with me to my seats. After 13 hours of flight, we transit in Moscow, and I didn't have to carry my 40lb+ carry on to go through all the security scanning in Moscow, just me and my laptop bag. 



#3 MikeVeitch

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 05:06 PM

I put my camera in the housing and take out one o-ring.  Then I hand carry the housing.  I put my strobes in my laptop bag.  Arms and synch cords go in check in.

Never had an issue with any airline, I put the housing under the seat in front of me, don't ask for emergency aisle though as you tend to not be able to put things under the seat in emergency...


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#4 okuma

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 05:52 PM

1. Business class is much more liberal with carry ons.

2. Recent domestic carry on size restrictions have been reduced to 14"


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If it is so easy every one would be doing it!

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#5 kc_moses

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 07:16 AM

Print out the carry on size measurement from the airline website, and bring a small retractable measuring tape if you think you might get into trouble. Make sure to measure your carry on up to the wheel, and handle, not just the actual storage area.

 

Also, since you're getting on international from US domestic, they might just let it go. Just smile and be nice, it did make a different for me, unless you're unlucky to encounter a super bitchy gate staff who just got dump or something  :lol2:



#6 divengolf

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 08:05 AM

I recently went to Bali from US (IAD) via Qatar airlines. Did not see anything weighed at any point in the trip.

I take a somewhat different tact from above. I check two bags at 23 kg each, one with mostly dive gear and clothes, the other is a carry-on size bag inside a large rolling duffle. The second bag has my housing, strobes, and all accessories except cameras and lenses. I pack wetsuits around the carry-on for added protection. Since it's not an obvious high value bag, I.e. Pelican, I've never had a problem with it. Even TSA doesn't go into it anymore.

I carry on all my cameras, lenses, chips and other similar stuff. I also have a high value reg that I carry on as well. Put all your heavy carry on stuff in your reg bag. It looks like a computer bag and never gets questioned. Mine weighs about 35#. Plus my backpack weighs about 30#, but I don't overload it, so it never gets attention as well.

I have all risk insurance on all of my photo gear, so losing it isn't a financial worry. But that would make for a lousy dive trip. Maybe I've been fortunate, but have never lost a bag and have only had bags delayed on the way home.

I used to carry on a Pelican with all the essentials, but age (now 68) and back injury now makes that less of a option.

#7 tdpriest

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 11:01 AM

Just remember :bananashark:  : Americans get more luggage :evilgrin:  and can afford the seats that Europeans can't*...

... are allowed two  :deadhorse:  bags in the cabin, and no American has ever  :evilgrin2: had their carry-on weighed (or a 12lb limit), as as is all too common on this side of the Atlantic  :diablo: !

 

Our guide has to be "take less stuff", or "get someone else to carry it".

 

 

* I can't afford 5% of my net income to fly out for a single dive trip, you see.

 

 

PS If you want an early myocardial infarction, get stung for excess baggage by Singapore Airlines...



#8 DivingMeCrazy

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 12:08 PM

Funny tdpriest :)  We are going to pay close attention to the weight for sure.  We booked Cathay Pacific, so we'll see how it goes.  My wife is a diver but does shoot underwater, so we are going to spread the gear around a bit.  Thanks for all the hints and comments so far.  Looking forward to other comments and feedback.


DivingMeCrazy http://www.divingmecrazy.com

Camera: Olympus E-M1, Nauticam Housing, 2 x Sea&Sea D1's, Nauticam float arms, Saga 67mm flip, Subsee +10


#9 jplaurel

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 01:58 PM

I made a long post here, but here are the basics of what I do. This is the exact setup I used on my last trip to Wakatobi 2 years ago. In fact, we have used the same setup for years to Yap, Palau, Philippines, Caribbean, etc.

 

We are heading back to Bali in a couple of months and I will use this arrangement again, except that I will probably take the Porter Case as a carry-on, since I will be taking an extra housing (Nauticam NA-GH4 for video).

 

- Large Eagle Creek duffel: BCD, fins, wetsuits, booties, all clothes in 2 or 3 Eagle Creek packing cubes

- Pelican 1560 or 1620: Camera housing, strobes, ports, batteries, chargers, cables, tools, etc.

- Carry on: Backpack containing laptop, backup drives, cables, iDevices, dive computer, Nautilus Lifeline and regulator, . Nowadays, I'm using a Booq Boa Flow. This pack has a padded bottom compartment intended for a DSLR that I use to carry my regulator.

- Camera bag: We use Domke bags due to their light weight and capacity. Two camera bodies each in case we flood one. For lenses, we each carry a fisheye, a ~100 mm macro, an all-around lens for topside such as a 24-70 equivalent, and at least one high speed (f.95 - f1.4) prime in the 35-50mm range.



#10 jplaurel

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 02:12 PM

One word about the Porter Case as a carry-on. It's true that it will be over the line for some planes, but then again, so will pretty much any carry-on. The biggest risk with putting anything fragile (like housings and ports) in a soft-sided carry-on, is that you may be made to gate check it. If you use a soft-sided carry-on, be prepared to remove anything fragile like your housing. With a Porter Case, you can just check it in, since the Porter offers some structural rigidity.

 

Like tdpriest says, if you're flying from the USA, the rules are more liberal. You really have to check the rules for your particular airline to see what your limit will be. We try to fly on carriers where I have some status, so the luggage usually works out with no extra charges. But once you start flying in regional airlines in Europe or Asia, luggage limits get a lot stricter, so you should have a contingency plan. In the Philippines, the airlines get pretty strict about luggage and we usually get dinged for a little extra, but that's just part of the price of the trip. We are usually over the carry-on limit as well, so that means some arguing with the ticketing and/or gate agents. I often end up showing them my carry-on stuff. Put a pair of 5dMK3 bodies, a 8-15mm, 16-35mm, and 100mm macro plus chargers and batteries in a light Domke bag and you'll be overweight. A macbook pro with backup drives, your dive computer, Nautilus and regulator in your backpack are over the limit. So you argue with the agents. "How do you expect me to check in this stuff? This regulator costs $1800. This is $10k worth of camera gear, $6k of computer gear, etc., etc. Do you really expect me to check any of this stuff in? And when it goes missing, who will be responsible for it? You? What is your manager's name? I want to make sure I know who will be responsible." Eventually, they always relent and just wave you through. Sad, but that is the game nowadays.



#11 Jamesknox

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 11:52 PM

Recently back from a trip from UK to North Sulawesi via Hong Kong and Bali. The ONLY flights where my carry on was NOT weighed were the internal Indonesian flights - the international legs were particularly diligent, weighed and tagged everything. It's a problem but I'm resigned to having to put some camera gear through the checked in baggage and pay the excess where necessary, writing it off as the price of enjoying my hobby. The thing I fear most is not being allowed to take my carry on bag into the cabin and being obliged to put it in the hold, unprotected for that type of journey. With a strictly enforced 7 or 10Kg limit , there isn't much I can take into the cabin, SLR camera, maybe a lens, housing an a port. All else will have to make its way through the checked route. It IS well insured but especially on the outward leg, that really isn't the issue! Not an encouraging view I'm afraid but it reflects my most recent experience.



#12 DivingMeCrazy

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 04:47 PM

Great advice so far.  So nobody has had a chance to pay a little extra for the weight on the carry-on if it was questioned?  I like hints jplaurel gave to challenge the gate person.   I agree it is a risk that is part of the hobby, and I do have my gear insured.  


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Camera: Olympus E-M1, Nauticam Housing, 2 x Sea&Sea D1's, Nauticam float arms, Saga 67mm flip, Subsee +10


#13 eyu

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 05:05 AM

I don't believe you have the option to just pay for overweight carry-on's.  Either you make your bag comply with the weight requirement or it is shipped in the hole as checked baggage.  

If you fly on an US airline overseas you are allowed two carry-on's and the weight is usually not an issue.  

If caught at check-in or at the screen point,  international airlines like Cathay Pacific or Singapore Air will make you ship your second carry-on as checked baggage, regardless of the weight, even if you are flying business class.


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#14 reubencahn

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 02:38 PM

Have had good luck with ThinkTank Airport International, http://www.thinktank...camera-bag.aspx, with camera and lenses in a small Lowepro backpack.  Only ever had problems with Qantas out of Cairns.



#15 Gary.Makai

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 03:11 PM

I used to use 2 carryons, a thinktank security and a thinktank airport accelerator backpack. I now have a shoulder problem and am unable to lift the 35+pound bags into the overhead. I purchased a thinktank logistics manager bag to be checked with my housing, ports, strobes and clamps, plus other necessities (weight is 50 pounds loaded). I will carryon my backpack with my computer, dslr and lenses.

 

I have flown business class into the pacific on singapore, continental, cathay without problems with the 2 carryons, except that the TSA guys at hong kong refused to let me pass with 2 carryons.



#16 DivingMeCrazy

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 05:09 AM

I will be flying through Hong Kong, so thanks for that hint.  I will reach out to Cathay Pacific to make sure 2 carry-ons are accepted.


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Camera: Olympus E-M1, Nauticam Housing, 2 x Sea&Sea D1's, Nauticam float arms, Saga 67mm flip, Subsee +10


#17 thetrickster

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 05:21 AM

Anybody got/tried a 'ThinkTank Security' Roller bag? Looking at replacing my Peli 1550 (which is too heavy to carry around airports)


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#18 eyu

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 06:47 AM

I will be flying through Hong Kong, so thanks for that hint.  I will reach out to Cathay Pacific to make sure 2 carry-ons are accepted.

The way make it through HKG is to stay in the transit area, that way you do not need to pass security with two carry-on's.


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#19 kc_moses

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 07:39 AM

"Two carry on" is misleading. Almost all airlines specify ONE Carry on and ONE personal item, the personal item MUST be able to fit under the seat in front of you. If you put two carry on in the overhead bin, I'm going to give you that disapprove stare! Besides, you can't pass the boarding gate with two carry on because there would be at least 2 stewards there to check ticket and eye ball oversize carry on. The personal item would be your laptop bag so overload it with heavy stuffs because they tend to not get weight, especially its size is small that can fit under the seat.

 

I asked Singapore Airline steward why the weight limit in the carry on and they said because it's a hazard for their steward to help lift the carry on bag 5 foots off the ground into the overhead bin. If you see those Singapore airline stewards, you could feel their pain.

 

One thing I learn in my travel last year from a fellow diver: If during the domestic flight you have to gate check your carry on because the domestic US flight is too small, and they say your gate check carry on will be transfer all the way to your final destination just like regular luggage. Don't trust them and quadruple check. Gate check is different from luggage check at the counter. You have to retrieve your luggage when deplane if you gate check. The fellow diver was told her gate check bag would go all the way to Indonesia, and it never arrive until 2 days later.



#20 reubencahn

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 07:46 AM

Airport Security is a domestic sized rollaboard.  It will attract attention on international flights.  I would stick with the Airport International.

 

If you are flying business class with Cathay, ticket agents (airport counter) will give you a tag to get an oversized bag through security.  This is only an issue if you have left the airport and have to clear security.  If you're just transiting in HKG, it's not a problem.