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I'm about to pack for an overseas trip soon and am looking for some advice on how to protect your gear, whether you take it as carry on or checked (or a combo) and what sort of gear you'd take.

I'll be looking to take one body, maybe one or two extra lenses, maybe a compact tripod (about a kilo), 430EXII flash, spare battery, charger and spare memory cards - oh wait, that's just about everything I own! I've got no idea if it will fit though may have to seriously edit my gear.

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1  
Watchout if your charger is compatible to 220-240V. There are still some older out there. (PS: I'd never check in the valuable/fragile equipment.) –  Leonidas Feb 11 '11 at 5:12
    
@leonidas thanks for the tip. Thankfully my charger checks out ok –  Mike Feb 11 '11 at 7:50
    
You might want to consider making your post-morten an actual answer to your own question. –  mattdm Mar 23 '11 at 23:41
    
@matt I didn't think it was worth it... but if you insist... ;-) –  Mike Mar 24 '11 at 22:39
    
I don't insist, I just suggest. :) –  mattdm Mar 25 '11 at 0:08

4 Answers 4

I recently spent two weeks in Italy and took a ton of gear with me (camera, 5 lenses, extra batteries, etc.). Most of the gear fit in my carry on using the Think Tank Airport Antidote which is designed to be used for carry on. I had no problems with it and it carried the camera, lenses, and other delicate items. I also packed a tripod, but that was tucked into my regular luggage and, again, no problems.

Basically, if it's the camera or lenses, it's carry on for me. Pretty much anything else can be tucked in the luggage. There's risk there, obviously, but the worst that has happened to me is a luggage delay, not lost, so it's worked out. Besides, you can't get it all into carry on, even in first class (which is what I flew in to Italy), so you have to make some decisions. I made my decisions on how delicate it was and how easy it was to replace.

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Thanks John. Did you take a full size tripod? –  Mike Feb 11 '11 at 7:52
    
Yep, it was a full-sized one. I don't trust my camera on a flimsy consumer grade tripod. –  John Cavan Feb 11 '11 at 11:29

On my trip abroad I carried all my photo related equipment except the tripod in my KATA 3N1-33 bag. That was the 7D body, 10-22, 28-135, 50, 70-200 lenses and the 580EXII flash. Additionally I put in the laptop, batteries, chargers, etc. Yes, it was heavy, but it all went on with me as a carry on. I just made sure to have the bag on my shoulders while checking in, so it will be less susceptible to questioning and weighing by the stewardess. The tripod was checked in the baggage.

The one very important thing is to have a customs release form prior to your flight, to avoid the possible duties upon return. This is CBP Form 4457. You should sign an individual copy for each one of the valuable items. You need to locate the CBP office, usually at the international terminal in your airport.

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Thanks for the help. I hadn't thought about getting slugged by customs coming back. I'm Australian so will have to go looking for info. –  Mike Feb 11 '11 at 7:56

As others have said, carry it on with you. If for some reason you cannot and you must take stuff with you - Storm cases look pretty tough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwnAMja6A_I

A storm is the first tested in this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-idxvKuBuY&NR=1

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I own the storm case that fits on in carry on, I love it, LOVE IT. It always fits, even under the seat if necessary. I can jam a 1D, 5D, 70-200, a 580ex and 2-3 prime lenses in there no problem. And its got rollers. –  Shizam Feb 11 '11 at 23:46
    
I have a smaller Pelican case (similar to the Storm cases) that I've previously used for carrying gear while canoeing. I just don't like the idea of looking like I'm carrying camera gear - I'd prefer to be able to hide it in something normal looking. –  Mike Feb 13 '11 at 22:51

Post Mortem...

I'm posting this in the hope that it helps someone else.

Thanks to all for your advice on this. In the end I took just the kit lens (Canon EFS 17 - 85mm), my Canon 430 EXII flash, a compact tripod and my netbook computer.

I was concerned about weight and in the end it was justified. Melbourne Airport (Australia) is really particular about weight.

I wish I had more reach as I've got lousy photos of the orang utans in Borneo, I used the external flash once, though I should have used it more, and I used the tripod once and want to replace the head with something more secure.

Occasionally, I struggled to keep my shutter speed up. The Canon 450D gives disappointing results at ISO 1600.

I didn't miss my ultra wide as I'm just photo stitching - the Canon supplied software is pretty good.

So some lessons for next time perhaps...

  • An 18 - 200+ might be nice
  • The 430 EXII flash was a bit of a waste of weight - with batteries, it had to be a good 500g. Perhaps something smaller but more powerful and flexible than the onboard flash would be more convenient.
  • If I insist on going without an external flash, better high ISO performance would be handy.
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As a fellow aussie, I am interested about customs. I never have done this when taking IT equipment out. Did you do anything? –  Wayne Mar 25 '11 at 1:11
    
I decided claiming was better than trying to get money back. The form for Australians is customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/b263gst1.pdf –  Wayne Mar 25 '11 at 1:31
    
Hey Wayne. My own issue wasn't with customs but with check-in. I had a look at buying some kit while I was in Malaysia and concluded that anything under $1000 AU was similarly priced here, while over $1000 AU was priced less. Once you paid import duty coming back in, the prices were going to be similar anyway. When taking out my netbook, there was nothing to do. Perhaps because it's only priced at about $500 AU. On checking the form you linked, I'd say there'd have to be some rule about value or what "exporting" means. I was never asked about any of my gear. Hope this helps. –  Mike Mar 25 '11 at 2:00

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