VettasM – Professional Photographer, Vlogger, Drone Operator » VettasM - Professional Photographer, Vlogger, Drone Operator

What to take … What not to take … take all the gear? and a few other tips

In less than a week I leave for 3 months away from home, as I write this I have already left home and am in Canberra, from here I fly to Europe for 31 days, I then fly back to Australia to Brisbane for a week of the ARC, from there I fly back to Europe for 45 days and then I finally fly home to Sydney the first week in August, it doesn’t stop there though, the very next day I fly to Alice Springs for 3 weeks, my point here is, I need to consider two important things, 1. all the flying I will be doing, in and out of planes, airports, taxis, airline staff I will have to deal with and the second, that I need to have everything for a 3+ month stint away from home.

Last year my problem areas were, I took to much stuff, I had to deal with airline staff, let me just say it is more often than not a real struggle, lastly my carry-on bags were just to heavy, so this year I have managed to condense most of my gear and go smaller with my carry-on baggage, the downside or upside depends on which way you look at it is that I have gained an extra checked bag, omg you are saying what about the fees, well here is the trick, all my flights except 2 internal European flights allow 30kg and multiple bags, as long as you keep under the 30kg limit, that’s easy and much easier when you can split it between two bags, for the two internal Europe flights, 1 I can leave a bag with some friends and pick up when I come back to that city and the 2nd its only 30EUR for an extra bag if I booked and paid for it at the time of buying the ticket, so much cheaper than if I get to the airport and so much safer than if they tried to make me check in my heavy backpack.

My other strategy this year which may seem silly but I think it will work in my favour, I have packed my new Mindshift Gear 180 Rotation PRO bag in my checked duffle, why? well it attracts attention, just like my Lowepro 400AW did last year, having the luxury of 30kg spread across 2 bags meant I could easily pack the backpack, which in turn meant I could take my small ThinkTankPhoto Airport Airstream roller bag, a winner for cramming a hell of a lot of gear in, a winner for looking a lot smaller, in fact looking quite a lot small than the carry-on bag limit and the saving my back from carrying around heavy bags at airports.

Now to the actual gear and some of my tricks.

Gear Tip

The age old question for photographers, take this, take that, remove this, remove that, add this, add that, hell with it I’ll just take it all. The problem with this is you just cant, when it comes to traveling with gear you rally have to take a different approach and its a new approach for me.

The first step is unconventional but I think it will pay off, just stick with me.

You need to jump on your computer and start looking at your images, actually lets lay it out step by step.

Open Adobe Lightroom (thats what I use), you can use whatever software you are comfortable with, it just needs to be able to sort by EXIF data, EXIF data? yes, so here goes.

  1. In Lightroom go to your Library Module, then click on the folder that has your images from your last trip, make sure they are all visible as thumbnails, if you had a big trip you might have thousands of images
  2. Click on the Filter title just above the thumbnails, you should see ‘Text | Attribute | Metadata | None’
  3. Click on the ‘metadata’ title, you will see a 4 tab section drop down
  4. Click on the right hand side of one of the tabs, there is a small arrow and it should bring up a set of camera settings, you need to choose ‘Lens’, what this does is filter all the images by Lens

The result? you guessed it, you can see which lenses you used the most on your trip, for me what this meant was I was able to eliminate the lenses I used very little or if at all, I removed 3 of the 6 lenses I was taking with me, 50mm 1.2L, 35mm 1.4L and the 300mm 2.8L, a saving of well over 3.5kg, for me that could be the difference between being harassed at an airport or not.

For anyone that has traveled with gear they can attest to this, its frustrating, annoying and downright nerve raking, you just don’t know if you are going to come up against someone who just wont let you on unless you check your bag and we don’t want to do that.

Clothes/Laundry Tip

That’s my main Gear Travel Tip, with everything else I have found the best thing to do is do a little research about where you are going and if there are any laundry services near you, if there are I can safely reduce the amount of clothes I take because I know I can get them cleaned, and in Europe its damn cheap, in Portugal last year I had from memory 6-7kg dry cleaned (I wasnt able to wash clothes for 2 weeks) and cost 15€, that’s less than 2€ per kg, try that here? crazy expensive.

Clothing Tip 2

Take a big jacket with you, even if you are traveling to somewhere hot, you are not bringing the the jacket  to wear, you will be using it as another carry-on item, yup, the perfect way to get your gear on if you have already been busted or you feel like you might be. You need to make sure the jacket either has a lot of deep pockets or in my case, my jacket has an internal zipper that gets in between the outer layer and inner lining layer, you know the next stop, load up that jacket with anything and everything, I preempted this action so I made sure the lenses that I was going to throw in were either in lens bags or in soft cases, all my external hard drives, cables, cords, Pocket Wizards, Go Pros, and any little heavy items, when I left Barcelona last year my jacket weighed almost 15kg, the airline staff so far haven’t said or done anything, it is essentially on your person and they can’t do much about it, of course if they want to they can but I know many photographers who do this.

Extra shoes

I wear my heavy hiking shoes, I also take a pair of athletic training shoes, grab a couple of carabiners place them between your laces and clip the shoes on to your bag, when I had trouble in Paris last year and the security weighed my bag I un-clipped the shoes to weigh it, security said nothing, a perfect way to carry an extra pair of shoes without it being counted in your checked luggage

“No you must check that bag sir it is to heavy’ – Tip

We have all seen videos of how baggage handlers handle some of our luggage, its not good, and when you know you have expensive gear being thrown around the way they do its a little scary, recently I found this video of the Airport Baggage automated system and its scary.

Scary right? there is also this video of the actual handlers, so here is my tip, I have transferred a few of these videos to my phone, its all well and good to tell the airline staff that you have expensive equipment in the bags but I feel if you show them these videos they may just step back and let you through, either that or make you pay a little for the extra baggage, if an airline asked me to pay an extra 50-100 per return flight (not each way) to allow me to have 20kg of hand luggage I would do it every single time, they dont want law suits, they dont want negative publicity because their baggage handlers mistreated your bags resulting in damaged goods, I know some people will argue that ‘them the rules’, give me a break, how can anyone take anything on as hand luggage with a weight restriction of 7 or 8kg? a laptop these days is close to 2kg, add an ipad, wallet, a camera body, and a lens and you are at 5 maybe 6kg? add a few misc items and you are over, and checking bags in is not worth the risk (refer videos above), anyway thats my tip and what I will do.

The Gear itself

➝ Canon 1DX (2) ➝ Eneloop AA Batteries (36) ➝ RRS – TA-3-LC-HK: Series 3 Leveling Base
➝ Canon 14mm F2.8L II ➝ AA Battery Charger ➝ RRS – MPR-192 & FAS Clamp
➝ Canon 16-35mm F4L ➝ Olympus Om-D EM-1 ➝ RRS – B1DX-L L-Plate for Canon EOS-1D X
➝ Canon 24-70mm F2.8L II ➝ Olympus  Om-D EM-5 MkII ➝ RRS – BOEM1-L Set: L-plate for OM-D E-M1
➝ Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS II ➝ Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 PRO ➝ RRS – TVC-34L Tripod
➝ Go Pro Hero 3+ Black ➝ Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO ➝ RRS – BH-55 LR Ballhead
➝ Apple MacBook Pro 15′ ➝ Olympus 12mm F2.0 ➝ RRS – TA-3-FS Foot Spikes
➝ Canon 600EX RT (2) ➝ Olympus 25mm F1.8 ➝ 3LeggedThing Brian Carbon Fibre Tripod
➝ Canon St-E3 ➝ Pocket Wizard III (3) ➝ Trigger Trap (Canon and Olympus triggers)
➝ Canon LP-E4 Battery (2) ➝ Pocket Wizard Remote Cable (2) ➝ K-Lite Selfie Stick
➝ RØDE Stereo Mic Pro ➝ LEE Filters (100mm/Seven5) ➝ Olympus RM-UC1 CABLE REMOTE
➝ RØDE smartLav+ ➝ LEE Neutral Density .3, .6, .9 (2) ➝ iPad Mini
➝ WD 2TB Portable Hard Drive (3) ➝ LEE Little Stopper (2) ➝ Garmin GPS
➝ Samsung SSD 850 PRO 1TB ➝ LEE Big Stopper (2) ➝ Ram Mounts
➝ Leatherman Multitool ➝ LEE Circular Polariser (2) ➝ Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80


Obviously some items are missing from these images, I wanted to keep them packed for now.

Now the important clothing

Clothing & Misc.

  • Freehands Fleece Silicone Screen Grip Palm-X
  • New Balance Runners
  • Merrell Moab Mid GTX
  • Jumpers (2)
  • Winter waterproof jacket
  • Kathmandu Long Johns
  • Northface cargo pants (3)
  • Kathmandu woolen (6)
  • Kathmandu ankle socks (6)
  • Underwaer (10)
  • T-Shirts (6)
  • Dress Shirts (2)
  • Rain Jacket
  • Aquatech Rain Jackets (3)
  • Aquatech Rain pants
  • Bathroom products
  • Various painkillers, health supplements.

All this, plus a few other items and the MindshiftGear bag all get crammed in to these two duffel bags, actually there is still plenty of room.

That’s what it takes for me to get my jobs done for 108 days around the world, for some its probably to much, for many probably not enough, you just have to make it work for yourself, keep your gear safe and make sure you can still do your job if your checked bags go missing.

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