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|| News Item: Posted 1998-12-05

Travel Tips: A Photo Vest? Really? Yup
By Captain Ron

After perusing the previous articles, I'm sure you're all pretty depressed about the additional baggage restrictions and charges being imposed on us, by those greedy scum sucking money grubbing, airline weasels.

For the traveling photographer, the most ominous development has got to be those 9 x 14-inch metal sizing plates bolted to the front of the x-ray machines at United (soon to be implemented by other carriers). If your bag doesn't fit, you have to go back to the counter and check your bag! Coupled with the 2 pieces of carry on bag limit, your options for safely transporting your gear have been severely reduced.

The camera case manufactures are scrambling to reduce the size of their bags to meet the new restrictions, but now this will mean you'll have LESS space to pack your tools of the trade. Think about it, normally you're able to fit your 400mm, 80-200mm, 28-70mm, teleconverter, several camera bodies, speedlights, monopod, film, kneepads, and fanny pack, into your rollaboard case.

Well you can kiss that goodbye.

How do we make up the space we're going to loose, with the smaller redesigned bags?

Me thinks a revival is in order, I see the resurrection of the "photo vest".

Yeah, yeah I can hear it now, "I'm going to look like a dork" or "Only photo weenies wear vests" but I think for the time being it's a pretty practical solution. You can cram an awful lot of gear into a vest and just wear it on board. The airlines haven't gotten around to legislating what we wear, so for now we can get away with it.

Now a properly designed vest will hold at least (2) camera bodies, (1) 80-200 f2.8 zoom (1) 28-70 f2.8 (1) speedlight, film, sharpies, caption envelopes, and extra batteries. That's a lot of gear and that's a lot of weight. I've only found (2) vests that will hold this much gear.

The first is made by "Domke" (you can buy at almost any camera store) the pocket layout is clean and simple, and the material is cotton so it breathes pretty well. On the minus side, when fully loaded, ALL the weight is on your shoulders, and when you run, everything tends to flop around.

A better and more versatile vest is made by "Eagle industries" can be mail ordered through 800-US Calvary. There are several models to chose from, all based on the original military "load bearing" vest design. This style is unique because it utilizes a WIDE web belt attached to the bottom of the vest to help carry the weight on the hips. (It also gives you terrific back support) You can substantially increase the capacity of the vest by adding pockets to the web belt. Although you could use military "Alice clip" accessories (ammo pouches, MRE pockets, etc.) you will find that the accessory pockets from Tamrac, LowePro, Sundog, and LIGHTWARE, will adapt to fit the belt.

I am especially enamored of the LIGHTWARE (303-744-0202) "Grip strip" system pockets. There are dozens of different sizes, shapes, and styles to fit any photo component you can imagine. (Light meters, lenses, Polaroid backs, cell phones, etc.) The materials are first rate as is the construction.

I've been using a Harris model vest with several different accessory pocket configurations and when I have everything cinched down and tweaked, I find he support and comfort to be outstanding. Nothing flops around, the vest feels like a part of your body.

The only drawback to this rig is that it doesn't breath very well. It's black cordura nylon, so if you live or work in a hot climate, the vest tends to get a bit clammy.

(Capt. Ron is based in Southern California and travels extensively throughout the U.S.)

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