We all seem to be obsessed with gear these days … and let me introduce you to another obsession of mine: how to pack, travel and safeguard that gear.
In short: BAGs. I’m obsessed with camera bags and like David Allan Harvey have voluntarily committed myself to treatment for this obsession.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please feel for both of us and view the following video to learn about “bagology” as David calls it.
Given the amount of travel I do, packing is usually one of the first things that I have to face for any given project. What type of bags to take, how many I need, and can I get away with the fewest and lightest bags so that I can avoid additional baggage fees. Also: how can I best compartmentalize and organize the gear to keep it safe during transit, and easily accessible and well organized when I arrive on my shoot. These are all factors to consider.
Over the years, I’ve constantly come back to the Think Tank line up and I wanted to share thoughts on a few products I use almost religiously. Think Tank products have helped ensure that my gear is kept secured just as I need it, and it stays protected.
Basically my packing solutions fit into two categories: Think Tank and Pelican. Pelican cases are what I use when I know I plan on checking gear or when I’m going into an adverse environment (rain, snow etc) or when I know OTHER people will be handling my gear (such as a large crew) and stacking cases in cube trucks for example… More on Pelican products to come…
These are a few products that I have been using consistently and that I can recommend:
The new Video Workhorse Series are a great new addition to the line up, designed for the “working pro videographer” in mind.
What that means is a shoulder bag that isn’t just incredible durability, but provides the ability to distribute the gear in a way that allows you to keep a smaller camera system like a Canon C300 MKII or RED Epic rigged and ready to go out the bag. Perfect if you need to be able to shoot or run out of your place at a moment’s notice.
The Helipak for the DJI Inspire is a very cool backpack solution for those of you looking to transport your DJI Inspire drones safely and securely – with all of your accessories (that may not fit w/ the DJI case they provide/sell.)
My team has used drones since 2008 and while the Inspire is a great product, fitting it into a case with all the associated accessories, a laptop, and whatever else you might want to store with the drone when you travel can be challenging.
The Helipak has solved many of these issues, with a large front storage pocket (for up to a 17” laptop). Super durable against the elements and with the customizable dividers, we’ve carried the Inspire and a host of accessories out into some pretty remote places thanks to the Helipad. Definitely something worth looking into…
Another “staple” product for more than a decade for me, has been The Shape Shifter 17 v2.0. This backpack has the unique advantage of being able to be small and light, and to also expand (literally) to accept an insane amount of gear – as much as your back can take! The ability to have a backpack that can carry not just camera gear, but a laptop and other accessories, as well as expand and contract in size depending on how much gear you want to carry offers fantastic versatility. The bigger versions are able to expand and carry a ridiculous amount of gear if you have to, while still offering slim, customizable, sleek options no matter what you want to carry. The new “pouch” for your DSLR is a really nice function too!
Perhaps the gold standard for roller bags, The Airport Security v3.0 is the updated version of the Think Tank durable roller case which I’ve used for years. The Airport comes in both International version (complying with international carry on size requirements) and the Security version (which is sized for US domestic carry on size requirements) meaning you’ll never be in a position where the bag size prevents carry on of gear. Both versions offer the typical Airport quality we’ve come to expect, but now come with updated handles, greater durability and dedicated laptop/tablet compartments. I think it’s safe to say that 90%+ of news / sports and many other photographers in different genres us THIS bag as their MAIN travel bag for their critical gear that they take onboard with them. You can alternatively use the Pelican 1510 (I use the 1560 SC with the computer compartment on the top lid myself) but you’ll find you have 20% less space within the case, and that it’s a lot harder to travel with in general given it’s weight. However: if you’re FORCED to check it, the Pelican will protect your gear for sure, whereas the Airport Security was not designed to be checked (I’ve checked it and things have survived…but not recommended.)
Lastly: Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference, and the Cable Management 10 v2.0 pouches are a great example of a small and inexpensive solution to helping me manage my gear. I swear by these, and in fact I never leave home without it… it’s my go to, for all of my iPhone / iPad / laptop cables and power blocks.
I’ve been unable to work without these small gear pouches since I discovered them. We’ve all found that’s it’s unfortunately soeasy to lose cables (some of which might cost $70+ a pop!) and other accessories over the years, and this is the best solution that I’ve found to minimize lost accessories for years – I’ve come to rely on the Cable Management pouches as a way to not just minimize losing valuable accessories, but also as a way to keep different kits bundled together. The ability to keep kits bundled together is in fact one of the biggest time savers – and life savers! Having to track down accessories or cables before a trip can be harrying… keeping each of your “kits” in one of these bags that’s clearly labeled will save you from arriving half way across the globe and “missing” that key bolt or cable…
With this system, I can quickly just switch out the pouches into my bags/case for each job. Simply label the pouches with a piece of yellow gaffer tape and sharpie, and it will be ready to ‘grab and go’ when you need to turn around different kits quickly.
Think Tank makes a great line of different products based on the needs of professionals (because the founders are professional photographers themselves!) and if you’re not familiar with them, I’d definitely recommend checking them out before you begin your gear and logistics planning for your next shoot.