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  1. #1
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    Q&A about Camera Bags & Air Travel

    While I have been using digital cameras since about this time in 2001 (I now have about 50,000 photos in my iPhoto library) I have only recently joined the league of SLR owners. I received a Canon Digital Rebel T3 as a gift in the Fall of 2011.

    I love digital photography. On previous air flights and road trips, I took compact point-and-shoot digital cameras with me. To this day, I have never taken an SLR with me on a plane.

    I admit I am ignorant of how airlines and the TSA handle professional and/or prosumer-grade photography and video equipment. I heard once that airlines let you carry-on a camera bag. I have never confirmed this and do not pretend to understand what it means.

    I still own the Rebel T3, and am thinking about buying another Rebel so that one can use a wide-angle (18-55 kit) lens and the other can use my telephoto (75-300) lens. I am curious about methods to pack a pair of relatively small SLRs, with lenses, for travel. I took along my Canon with lenses in a Canon 2400 Gadget Bag (cheap, crummy padded shoulder bag) during a bus trip in Nov. of 2012. I hated it. It was a unique circumstance anyway. (I was part of a team that set up the trip, and I served as photographer, so I could carry what I wanted.

    I want to know what Tom Bihn owners who also own SLRs do to pack and carry their photo and/or video gear for air trips. How do you arrange your gear? How do you protect your gear? (I'm not asking about using socks or T-shirts in packing SLRs; I'm asking about dedicated packing and carrying arrangements.)

    Also: how do the airlines and TSA handle photography gear bags? What is the proper way to do it if you want all of your photo and non-photo stuff to be carry-on?
    Last edited by MtnMan; 11-28-2013 at 10:56 PM.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  2. #2
    Ken
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    How do airlines handle gear? IMHO, not very well. I would never check gear, and would sooner send it by UPS/FedEx if I could not carry it with me on the plane. I use a combination of Domke and Tom Bihn bags to carry my gear when I travel. Generally you are allowed one piece of carry-opn luggage and a personal bag when traveling in the US and are flying on a commercial jet. Padding is a personal call. I sometimes wrap my lenses in Domke wraps when they will be packed together, but otherwise, I prefer lightly padded bags like Domke. I have carried my Domke F-2 on many an occasion, and that bag can carry a lot of gear. Then again, we are talking bags and padding, so YMMV.

    Good luck,

    --Ken

  3. #3
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    I always carry on my camera gear, usually in a camera insert or bag, stuffed inside a backpack. TSA has never blinked at my gear, including the bottle of lens cleaner inside my little accessory pouch. I stopped putting it in my 311 bag a couple of years ago.

    For lots of gear, I do think the I/O bag with Brain Bag is top notch. There will still be room for any extra carry on items you may need. For my Canon D60, plus a couple I'd extra lenses and travel tripod, my Porteen Gear bag or an insert works well inside my Synapse.
    --Amanda

    Packing and gadget geek, collecting bags to disperse to my family.

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    I have used various inserts inside my Synapse but in general will take a Think Tank bag and the model and size depends upon how much gear I am taking which is different for each trip.
    The Synapse worked well for me and is very stealth which I like. It holds a lot more gear than I ever thought it could(as always!)and I have a post here showing just what I mean too.

    Synapse with Photo Insert-Here is 1 way!

    I also would never check the gear no matter what the TSA says at the gate and I have been told that I could not bring a Pelican Case that was carry on sized on the plane but I stood fast and ended up with it overhead.
    Pelican are really the safest from a crushproof perspective but a soft bag is easier to keep personal control over the whole time too.

    It sounds like you are starting off with fairly minimal amounts of gear so I would try to find an insert for another bag so you can carry cameras and other stuff together in one bag and have it in your direct possession at all times.
    Last edited by AVService; 11-30-2013 at 06:36 PM.

  5. #5
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    AVService, your Synapse photos are amazing. Very illustrative and thought-provoking. Thank you for posting this. Also thank you to Toblerhaus and Ken for your responses as well.

    There are two separate issues on my mind: one is travel luggage packing considerations, the other is backpacking for hiking and other EDC scenarios.

    I still have not yet purchased a Tom Bihn backpack. While the Brain Bag with Camera I/O is at the top of my list, with luggage like an Aeronaut or Tri-Star not far behind, I'm also still thinking about the Smart Alec and the new Guide's Pack for hikes. Would a Mountainsmith insert work in either of those packs? I wonder...

    Last year at this time, I took a Lynda.com course by Ben Long titled "Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow". It was interesting because it covered a variety of situations an amateur or professional photographer might face, both in terms of air travel and just carrying gear near where one lives. Luggage and a variety of other carrying concerns were covered. I remember Mr. Long suggesting that photographer's bags were exempt from carry-on limitation rules. In Chapter 4 ("In the Field: Heavyweight Rig"), Section 1 ("Getting There"), Mr. Long cites a TSA exemption rule that allows an extra carry-on for photographers. However, the TSA has no authority to make airlines allow the extra carry-on, as pointed out by this article here. So, the whole thing is very confusing to me. How do airlines treat photographers? I never carried anything but a compact point-and-shoot on a flight with me in the past, so I don't know how they would handle anything more elaborate like an SLR rig.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  6. #6
    Registered User taminca's Avatar
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    Ditto on the thanks to AVService for the awesome photos that make me now want a Navy/Solar Synapse! MtnMan, I have had no trouble with the major airlines with carry-on SLR camera gear. I stash my tripod in my checked luggage but have always kept my camera bodies, lenses and filters with me. Last trip, I even put a monopod in my carry-on. Depending on the type of trip, I have used a backpack-with-insert setup, various sizes of camera-specific bags/backpacks (including a very large camera-laptop combo backpack), and even just putting camera bags inside a carry-on rolling luggage. Have flown on Southwest, United, Hawaiian, British, Singapore, and EVA without a hitch.

  7. #7
    Ken
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtnMan View Post
    How do airlines treat photographers? I never carried anything but a compact point-and-shoot on a flight with me in the past, so I don't know how they would handle anything more elaborate like an SLR rig.
    Every airline has its own policies, and it seems like every gate agent is prone to having a bad day at one time or another. As a general rule, most airlines allow you a carry-on and one personal bag. And, the general size limits hovers around 22x14x9. So, if you keep both bags under this size limit, you have a reasonable shot of getting both bags on the plane with you. I fit a Domke F-2 into a carry-on with a bit of room to spare, and it is usually packed with a lot of gear (but without a tripod). It does not sound like you are bringing that much gear, so I would try to find a working bag that you can carry on, or can tuck into a larger carry-on bag. And, you can always stuff your coat pockets with gear if your pockets allow. Just try not to bring three pieces with you, as that is usually a tough sell unless the fight is mostly empty.

    Good luck,

    --Ken


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