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|| News Item: Posted 2008-12-21

Travel Smart: Suck Or Shine
Doug Murdoch compares Backpacks with Rollers.

By Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo

Photo by D. Ross Cameron

Photo by D. Ross Cameron

Lewis the cat thought that perhaps he could fool his caretakers into taking him along on a spring training shoot in Phoenix, Ariz. by pretending to be a piece of camera equipment.
I wanted to make some additional comments to Richard Favinger's post on the message board: Backpack or Roller?

I thought this SUCK or SHINE list might be useful:

Rollers SUCK when:
• You hit long stretches of gravel, grass, or sand and have to carry them.
• Have to walk up a long flight of stairs.
• You fly on small planes like CRJ's.
• There is no place to store the roller when shooting.
• You go to check in for your flight and they say it is too heavy.
• There is no room in the overhead of the plane.
• They don't fit under the seat in front of you.
• Navigating large crowds of people.
• When your cat likes to sleep inside (see photo).

Rollers SHINE when:
• You are transporting lots of heavy gear.
• You want to give your back a break.
• You are primarily going to be walking or working on pavement.
• Traveling on mid-size or larger planes.
• You have some place to put in when you are actively shooting.
• You need your gear well organized for quick access.
• A roller can carry a HUGE amount of gear.
• It is possible to have all your gear in one piece of luggage, as opposed to two.
• If you have to carry another piece of luggage like a briefcase, it can go on top of the roller.

Backpacks SUCK when:
• They're so heavy you develop back problems.
• There is no place to put it on the ground.
• You have to put it on the ground first to access your gear.
• If the backpack is too big, you can actually hit people with it in crowded areas.
• Photo backpacks normally don't fit as well as outdoor-specific backpacks like Gregory, Marmot, etc.
• If you also carry a briefcase, carrying both can be a challenge.

Backpacks SHINE when:
• You are working on mixed ground, such as grass, sand, or gravel.
• Traveling on small planes like CRJ's.
• Wearing a backpack is faster going up stairs, escalators, navigating crowds, and in general trying to get to point A to B as fast as possible.
• In general, your total bag weight will be less than a roller, which helps when traveling on airlines that weigh carry-on bags.
• If you have to keep the backpack on while shooting, and are moving from place to place.
• Someone else is willing to carry it for you.

From my perspective, it is not a question of a Roller OR a Backpack. Most photographers need both. You just need to choose which one is the best for the type of event you are going to.

(Doug Murdoch is the president and a designer at Think Tank Photo. You can also read his blog at His column "Travel Smart" discusses information and concerns for the traveling photographer.)

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