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mark.b.hatter

Gram shaving for travel

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Underwater kit weight and volume add up.  Especially if you choose to bring your own dive gear to a destination.  Adding spare equipment and/or specialty gear to your packing for your kit becomes a higher math problem to meet airline baggage restrictions.  I used to pack a complete separate camera system in a Pelican 1560 case (19x15x9 inches internal space, raw weight 14.3 pounds) and carry-on a second complete camera system including 230mm dome port and macro port complete with lenses.  The carry-on system became a nightmare, from getting through security to trying to find overhead space on some airlines.  In addition, many airlines have moved to strict 7 kilo max (15.4 ponds) for carry-on luggage.  My kit was more than double that weight limit!  While airlines offer incentives to check one bag free (associated often with using their credit card or frequent flyer mileage) our checked UW cameras and dive gear necessitate 2, and sometimes more checked bags.  Interestingly, after deciding to check almost everything now, it is sometime cheaper to buy overweight luggage vs buying a third checked bag.  So “gram shaving” becomes critical to optzimumize  packing.  To this end, I have moved to a Pelican 1615 Air which weights just 0.3 pounds more than my 1560 case but is 29.6x15.5x9.4 inches internal space.  I can now easily fit two complete SLR systems (Subal ND850), 4 Inon Z240 strobes with flotation arms, 230mm dome, macro port plus extensions plus extras into the Pelican Air.  I don’t use foam cutouts, for protection or the padded liners as the liners add weight.  Rather, I use copious amounts of bubble wrap (I learned this from my colleague and diving buddy Mark Strickland who is an expert on travel packing!) which weighs nothing and is extremely effective in padding delicate equipment.  I have a spring scale to weight the completely packed kit and may move things to the dive bag or carry-on to meet the generally published 50 pound or 23 kilo weight limit for a standard checked bag.  If the case is overweight, it has been cheaper to pay for excess weight vs buying a third checked bag.  Check your airline’s baggage policy carefully and shave grams to meet your travel needs. I hope you find this is useful.

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Thanks for advice, Mark. I ordered the case you mentioned to finally give in to checking most photo gear. Stressing out over carry-ons at check-in is getting old!  I’m thinking of adding the wetsuit to the pelican case to help with shock absorbing for photo gear. also, prolly put regulators, camera and lens in backpack for carryon. 
Mike
 

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Wetsuits do work great to protect equipment, If I’m just over the maximum weight limit with the camera system case, I’ll pull something, like a focus light or a strobe, wrap it in my wetsuit and pack it with the dive gear in the 2nd checked bag which is typically under the weight limit.  That’s for your feedback and good luck!

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Good post! I'm curious how to use "copious amounts of bubble wrap" so the material doesn't get all loose to swing?

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I buy both bubble wrap in rolls and bubble wrap bags from Amazon. All reusable. Wrap housings & arms; bag strobes. Stick wads of wrap between rolled/bagged items in case. Every pack job looks a little different. Good luck!

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2 hours ago, mark.b.hatter said:

I buy both bubble wrap in rolls and bubble wrap bags from Amazon. All reusable. Wrap housings & arms; bag strobes. Stick wads of wrap between rolled/bagged items in case. Every pack job looks a little different. Good luck!

We need a video next pack job ahah! Looks great.

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I also travel with the Pelican Air 1615 except I bought the padded liners with it. 

059F7220-65BA-48AB-8E7F-A2A087C9BCEA.jpeg

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Thanks for the advice on the travel cases, as I will be purchasing one soon.

One thing I do... perhaps this is just me... I fill every space so nothing can possibly move around... with clothing.  Boxers, socks, t-shirts, etc.  Its coming with me and gotta get packed... may as well make it dual purpose.  Sure things get a bit wrinkled, but on dive boats fashion is overrated.

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On 4/19/2022 at 12:10 PM, WannaDive said:

Thanks for the advice on the travel cases, as I will be purchasing one soon.

One thing I do... perhaps this is just me... I fill every space so nothing can possibly move around... with clothing.  Boxers, socks, t-shirts, etc.  Its coming with me and gotta get packed... may as well make it dual purpose.  Sure things get a bit wrinkled, but on dive boats fashion is overrated.

I would caution you about this. I packed my gear in clothing in my luggage on an international flight and TSA tore it apart and randomly threw everything back in. By the time I unpacked at my destination the equipment was destroyed!  TSA left a notification card that my luggage had been searched, but I had no recourse. I have used dedicated Pelican cases specifically designed to transport camera equipment since then (see my earlier post).

I also have insurance on all my gear as I travel extensively.  

Larry

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Sorry to jump on the thread but for those who travel with Pelican cases, has anyone had items go missing? I'm a bit nervous about them attracting unwanted attention. I have seen suggestions to place them inside a duffel

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Travel loss is always a risk when you check bags or cases. I would argue that a pelican case is actually safer than a duffle, especially when locked. It’s is obviously holding something expensive and fragile but that marks it as a risk for someone to break into, especially if locked. I also use a plastic tie down in addition to the lock with spares inside my case. Knowing that TSA often checks inside these cases, I leave a “thank you for your service, please use spare tie downs to secure when your inspection is complete” note front and center in the box. Since I started doing this, TSA has been careful with my packed case and has used the spares to reseal, along with the lock, the box.  Hope this helps. 

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4 hours ago, mark.b.hatter said:

Travel loss is always a risk when you check bags or cases. I would argue that a pelican case is actually safer than a duffle, especially when locked. It’s is obviously holding something expensive and fragile but that marks it as a risk for someone to break into, especially if locked. I also use a plastic tie down in addition to the lock with spares inside my case. Knowing that TSA often checks inside these cases, I leave a “thank you for your service, please use spare tie downs to secure when your inspection is complete” note front and center in the box. Since I started doing this, TSA has been careful with my packed case and has used the spares to reseal, along with the lock, the box.  Hope this helps. 

The question I believe is around placing the entire pelican case inside a duffle so it looks more anonymous.  I seem to remember bags being sold specifically for this purpose some yeas back.  This post talks about it.  https://flyingwithfish.boardingarea.com/2009/11/04/protecting-you-baggage-from-theft-1000-bags-stolen-from-phx/

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I have an Apple Air Tag hidden inside my Pelican 1615 Air case which would be impossible to find without emptying the entire case. In a crowded airport with lots of iPhones I can find the bag very quickly with “Find My” app if it is misplaced/stolen. I also have 2 TSA padlocks on the case. Finally, I have insurance through DAN for the equipment (up to 20,000US which is the limit). I have traveled regularly with a Pelican 1650 but it is too heavy for todays weight limits, and now I have the 1615 Air (see my previous post). I have had the airline put the case in the “oversized luggage” convair one time but found it quickly. Besides that, I am comfortable checking a Pelican case and the assurance that my gear isn’t going to get damaged when it is tossed around (literally). 

Edited by UWPics

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I've been looking for ways to reduce my carryon size/weight, but if anything, my carryons are getting bigger!

My main problem is transporting a 230mm dome port.    Everything packs around that, and ultimately I cannot fit it all into a single carryon.   My solution has been to end up putting the macro port and a 90mm extension (packed with 7 arm clamps) into my checked luggage along with all my dive gear.   Neoprene and other dive gear, and clothes, protect the macro port.

I looked at the Pelican cases with the idea of simply checking my carryon.   And I immediately run into issues.   First, I'm already checking two bags!   (Three rolling bags plus a waist bag make it a real struggle at the airports.)   If I check a pelican, I'd need to eliminate one entire suitcase by turning that into a carryon, so I have some clothes.   The idea would be to take a 35 pound carryon and turn that into a 15-pound carryon while maintaining (only) two pieces of checked luggage.

The math doesn't work for me.    I have one 49 pound bag carrying all my dive gear and some camera gear.   My second checked bag is smaller, and it mostly holds clothes, toiletries, etc, but it weighs over 35 pounds.   My rolling carryon holds housing, 230mm dome and everything else I can pack around them.  It weighs 35 pounds.   And I have a waist bag with more stuff that will remain unchanged, but it is where I carry all the lenses I will be using.

The Pelican case weighs 16 pounds!   Which means it can only hold 34 pounds.  The smaller checked bag I use weighs only about 6 pounds, so I'm carrying about 30 pounds in it.   Let's say I increase that to 49 pounds (leave weight room for slightly wet gear on return) - I simply can't pack as much weight into the Pelican as I potentially could in a light suitcase.

Which means if I use a Pelican case I have to eliminate about 15 pounds of gear total, all of it in a carryon.   

Stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I may ultimately need to check 3 bags.

 

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The Pelican Air Cases are going to save some weight over standard cases. The 1535 I use for camera is 8.69 empty, 11.91 with the TrekPak foam dividers.

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20 hours ago, RVbldr said:

The Pelican Air Cases are going to save some weight over standard cases. The 1535 I use for camera is 8.69 empty, 11.91 with the TrekPak foam dividers.

OK, not so bad - on par with a decent suitcase.  But still, if I put 35 pounds of carryon into checked, what happens to the 30 pounds I was checking before in another suitcase?

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One option is to go ahead and pay for overweight luggage. Most airlines will allow up to 30 kilos/70 pounds for an additional fee. I’ve done this to keep within the limit of 2 checked bags.  I’d check the airlines baggage policy to validate cost and max weight. Two overweight check bags can buy you an additional 22 kilos/50 pounds of kit. 

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Well, that had mixed results!  I'm recently back from a Alor Archipelago trip on Indo Sire. Four flights each way from LA, and the Pelican 1615 Air that Mark Hatter suggested worked wonderfully in protecting all photo gear. it was a relief to not stress about getting overweight carry-ons on the flights. However, when arriving in Bali on the way to Alor, customs' agents flagged me down for the large Pelican case. They only wanted to look at the Pelican and upon opening asked for a carnet. Since I had no carnet, they needed to evaluate cost of gear and charge an appropriate import tax. After a couple of hours of polite conversation, it came down to 'how much is it worth to have this camera gear on your diving trip?'  Hundreds of dollars later, I was able to continue travel in Indonesia with all my gear. So, it's not just Cabo that is looking for import duty/tax on UW cameras. 

Mike

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57 minutes ago, mchiado said:

Hundreds of dollars later, I was able to continue travel in Indonesia with all my gear. So, it's not just Cabo that is looking for import duty/tax on UW cameras. 

 

Wow, first time I have heard that in Indonesia and like many on the forum, I've been in and out of Indo many times. What a bummer, Mike

We'd be interested to hear of anyone else who has been hit by this.

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21 minutes ago, TimG said:

We'd be interested to hear of anyone else who has been hit by this.

First time Bluewater Travel has heard of, too. 

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So sorry to hear this. I was in Indo in September with all my kit and had no issues. But I flew into Jakarta and cleared customs there. Just yesterday arrived Cabo. I was lucky and hit “green” on the search/no search button at customs. My two buddies were not. They were hit with the bogus housing tax which started at hundreds but was negotiated to $50 and $45 respectively. 

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I just used a Thinktank Shape Shifter 17 v2 and two Calpak Hue Mini's (hard sided small carry ons) for travel to Philippines. Philippine Air is notorious for extra baggage fees and I did not have an issue. It helps traveling with a spouse that doesn't mind giving up a carry on bag to further the cause. The Thinktank weighed around 35 lbs and the two carry ons were right around 15 lbs. The 3 bags had all my camera gear, dive lights and computers. They only wanted to weigh the carry ons and didn't look at the backpacks we were wearing.

After traveling to the French Polynesia and paying a lot of money for extra weight, I needed to change what I was doing.

Next trip will be to Solomon Islands, will see if I have the same luck.

Not happy to hear about Indonesia tax. I've been wanting to go to Socorro, but have been boycotting due to the tax. Raj Ampat and Komodo have been on my upcoming list.

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On 11/9/2022 at 11:33 AM, TimG said:

Wow, first time I have heard that in Indonesia and like many on the forum, I've been in and out of Indo many times. What a bummer, Mike

We'd be interested to hear of anyone else who has been hit by this.

You know I believe this could happen in almost any country the way that customs laws are written,  it could happen to me on the way into Australia, though Australia customs allow you to submit a form listing all your serial numbers to prove you exported them.  Most countries have a duty free import allowance and if you exceed it you are liable for duty.  Many countries tend to ignore this for personal effects of course but the risk is always there. 

I would suggest obtaining a carnet but that seems to be one of those licence to print money businesses and the costs are not insignificant.

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During last 10 years or so, i have been to Indonesia approximately 35-40 times. I have never entered through Bali, always Jakarta/Manado/Makassar.

3 times i have been flagged down for customs check at Jakarta. They have gone through my equipment and their main concern was that i was importing unused equipment for sales purposes. I had all ports/gears/ect in their original Nauticam packaging so i had to show signs of wear on them. No money was exchanged and i was on my way always.

I try to be "just a normal tourist" with everything packed in normal Samsonite hard spinners. This has worked twice at Cabo airport also.

Edited by Sokrates

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