Airline travel with underwater camera equipment is becoming increasingly difficult. The airlines themselves are tightening hold baggage weight restrictions and carry on limits, while customs and security officials have targeted image-makers for tariffs and duties.
There are numerous strategies to deal with this. One of these involves using hold baggage allowances that are offered for dive gear as additional capacity for cameras and accessories. This inevitably means that the camera gear will travel alongside diving gear and will be handled by the ground staff at airports, both of which present risks of damage.
Think Tank Photo has introduced the Stash Master 13. This is a padded travel cube, with a zippered entry pointer and internal high density velex internal dividers.
These are attached via hook and loop, so they can be repositioned to cater for different items. It has two “grab” handles along with two attachment points to allow a shoulder strap to be fitted.
The outer fabric has a durable waterproof coating with a polyurethane coating backing. This does not render the Stash Master waterproof but will repel some dampness.
It measures (externally) 12.2” W x 12.2” H x 7.5” D (31 x 31 x 19 cm) and weighs only 0.9 lbs. (0.4 kg). Its internal volume is 13 liters or, in more practical terms, it is designed to accommodate one gripped DSLR with lenses attached up to a 70–200mm f/2.8 plus, 2–3 standard zoom lenses and a flash, or two ungripped DSLRs with lenses attached up to a 70–200mm f/2.8 and 1–2 standard zoom lenses, or two gripped mirrorless bodies with lenses attached up to a 70–200mm f/2.8 plus 3–5 additional lenses.
Perhaps more practically for us underwater photographers, it will accommodate a regular-sized SLR housing on its side. It can also be carried vertically, although the flash housing sticks up somewhat.
Although the pictures show otherwise, I would typically remove the handles as these are vulnerable to damage, and removing them reduces the size of the housing.
Along with a housing, it will accommodate large strobes, macro ports and extensions, and many other items. Its shape means that it is perhaps not ideal for carrying dome ports (check out the bespoke options from Cinebags).
The lid has a removable foam pad, and when it is removed, the top lid can be furled out of the way to allow easy access.
I have now used the Stash Master on several trips. It has been used inside a soft-sided wheeled dive bag and in a soft gear bag. In every instance, the gear inside the Stash Master has been protected, and gas arrived without damage.
When it was in the soft gear bag, it was surrounded by diving gear, including regulators and a helmet.
My feeling is that it is ideal for carrying strobes, housings, cables, clamps, and accessories in a soft-sided bag, but I would worry about camera bodies or lenses. Typically, I feel that these need to travel in carry-on anyway.
I would be more comfortable putting cameras and lenses in the Stash Master in a hard-sided suitcase and am investigating this option. I know of several photographers that pack their photographic gear in “bubble wrap” and carry it into a standard suitcase. The Stash Master offers a more convenient and efficient way of doing this.
I have also found the cube an excellent tool for carrying ancillary gear on and off boats or to and from dive sites. It is a convenient padded bag for the times when a complete photo backpack would be overkill.
After 5 big trips and a fair ammonite of use at home, the Stash Master 13 has no signs of wear whatsoever. I expect that it will last for a long time.
Flexibility in how we carry our underwater imaging gear is increasingly essential. The Think Tank Stash Master 13 is an excellent and handy tool. Highly recommended.
The Stash Master 13 is available from Think Tank Photo or many of our wonderful Wetpixel advertisers, priced at $59.99.
The Stash Master 13 was supplied by Think Tank Photo free of charge for the review.