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|| News Item: Posted 2009-12-18

Travel Smart: Managing Your Weight
By Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo

Photo by Dave Cheung /

Photo by Dave Cheung /

Two Urban Disguise briefcases, fully loaded at the airport.
This article is about managing your weight... of your bags!

It is inevitable that if you’re traveling with most professional grade photography equipment you’re going to be over the normal 40-pound/18.14 kilograms carry on requirement of most USA airlines. It’s even worse with most non-USA carriers as they usually have a much lower carry on weight-- as low as 13 pounds/5.90 kilograms. (Need up-to-date help with airline requirements? Seat Guru,, is good for checking carry on requirements. Click on your airline first, and then click on “Baggage” and all the information will come up.)

One Bag or Two?

For justifiable reasons, many sports and other professional photographers like to fit ALL of their equipment into ONE bag, for example, Think Tank’s Airport Security™ roller. Using one bag means that when you unzip it open, everything is tightly organized and in it’s proper place in order to make maximum use of space.

The problem with the “one-bag” approach is that it is going to be extremely heavy. For sports photographers carrying a 400 2.8, for example, that means your rolling camera bag is going to be between 45-60 pounds/18.14-27.22 kilograms.

What many new photographers fail to realize is that it is more common to be challenged at the airport for the weight of their bag, and not the size. Often, if you are using a rolling bag or backpack that is the maximum carry-on size, this is a trigger to airline personnel that they should weigh your bag.

Two Bags

I normally recommend to photographers that if the airline has a two bag carry on allowance, meaning one carry on like a roller or a backpack, and one personal item like a briefcase, they should use two smaller bags to lower each bag’s weight.

For example, one combination of two smaller bags would be:
1.Think Tank’s Airport Take Off™ rolling backpack

2.An Urban Disguise® photo briefcase )

The Airport Take Off™ will carry your 400 2.8, but probably won’t hold everything you need to shoot sports when you travel. The advantage of the Airport Take Off™ is that it clearly looks like carry-on size, or even under sized. So, you’re less likely to be asked to weigh your bag.

You then you put your laptop into an Urban Disguise® briefcase, along with the other gear you were not able to fit in the Take Off. For example, “overflow” items in your briefcase could be your 70-200, a couple of strobes, all your cords, cables, and batteries, your second camera body, etc...

Using this technique, you now have two bags that clearly meet the carry-on size requirement. The disadvantage is that now you have your gear in two separate bags, which is not as convenient when you need to access it at your shooting venue.

Still, the inconvenience of the two bag approach is greatly made up by the reduced chance of being hassled at the airport or having to watch as your valuable and delicate gear is thrown into checked baggage.

Here is another example of a two bag configuration:
1.Glass Taxi™ ) This carries a 300 2.8, 400 2.8, or a 500 4. And, you can probably stuff your AC adaptor, batteries, and some other equipment into it.

2. Urban Disguise® 60 This will carry the follow items:
• Laptop
• Two pro size bodies
• 70-200 2.8
• One other lens like a 16-35 or a 24 -70.

The advantage to this set up is that no one will guess you have a 400 2.8 in the Glass Taxi since it looks so small. And the rest of your gear will it in the Urban Disguise® briefcase, which ironically enough, will probably weigh more than the Glass Taxi.

The key is to know the airlines’ requirements in advance and to figure out how you can use combinations of bags in order to keep your gear safely near you while flying.

(Doug Murdoch is president and lead designer of Think Tank Photo. You can see the full line of TTP products at the company website:

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