As a traveling filmmaker, I’m on the road for most of the year, so I’ve figured out a thing or two about traveling with gear. On my last big trip I had over seven hundred pounds of gear, so I’ve become an expert at keeping my gear both mobile and protected! One of the hardest things to do is to keep gear both safe and accessible when you’re on the go – good protection doesn’t necessarily mean accessibility. To combat the challenges of the road, I use a mix of hard and soft cases – soft cases can be packed in larger hard cases to give you a one-two punch that’s sure to keep you ready and protected no matter what the road throws at you. Here are my top five tips for managing gear on the road.
1. Lock It Up
Even though the TSA lock has officially been hacked, locking your bag with a simple lock can go a long way to providing some peace of mind – ever carry a backpack and wonder exactly how far closed you had left the zipper? I go a step further and equip all of my bags with a Tile, a small tracking device that uses its entire network of users to help locate each Tile device if it’s out of your personal range. There are a few other solutions on the market, most notably the Trackdot, which I haven’t used but is purpose-built for this task and requires an annual fee, that can help you keep track of your luggage. Even if it’s not a theft-deterrent, I like having the peace of mind a Tile brings. Sometimes things just get lost – when the inevitable happens, it pays to be prepared by arming yourself with location information.
2. Embrace Dividers
I’m constantly re-arranging my dividers to suit shifting needs. I had once thought that I’d dedicate any given bag I purchased for a specific purpose, for example, if I bought a camera bag, it would only ever be a camera bag; I quickly realized this wasn’t smart, because who knows what you might need to carry on any given day – it’s not only cameras that require careful packing. Today I reconfigure on-the-fly as needed to accomodate whatever I might be doing. The best part about reconfiguring dividers is that you can also reconfigure them to suit how you carry your bag – whether you’re operating off a table or off your shoulder, or in some other way completely. I’ll sometimes throw delicate items in small hard cases, like the Pelican 1060, inside a case with padded dividers, just for an extra layer of protection and organization. They’re particularly helpful for items with lots accessories, like GoPros or other small cameras.
3. Stay Light
If I’m driving somewhere instead of flying, or working on a local project, I’m often tempted to throw everything in the car, just in case. This more-often-than-not comes back to bite me – I end up with messes of tangled cables and can’t find the things I’m looking for. I’ve started to embrace the ‘KonMari’ method with my gear – does my gear “spark joy?” It ain’t comin’ if it doesn’t. Plus, it just sucks to carry around a lot of gear you don’t need, especially in a foreign country. You shouldn’t make yourself a more apparent target than you need to be – even industry pros sometimes get taken advantage of.
4. Awesome Organizers
There are a host of products out there that can help you organize things within your bags. My favorites are travel pouches, which can be used to help organize cables, bongo ties, Velcro cable ties, non-velcro cable ties, carabiners, and products like the Grid-It and the Cubik, which can help ease even the most stressful organization tasks. Simple items like rubber bands can go a long way in helping organize wayward cord nests – some people even use binder clips to help organize their cables. There are tons of organizational solutions on the market that are relatively easy to find, for example Amazon has an entire page dedicated to cord management.
At the end of the day, if your luggage is lost, it’s lost. Be prepared for such an event with a detailed compendium of what you packed, what you packed it in, and its value (note that most airlines use an item’s depreciated value, not its replacement value, when assessing claims). Adding photos to this list makes it even more helpful. Most airlines also require you to notify them if any single bag you’re checking is carrying excess of $10,000 in items – this is sometimes referred to as “Excess Valuation.” Use your inventory list to track item values so you know how much you’re putting where – you don’t want to surprise yourself when you find out a loss is much bigger than expected. Inventorying is absolutely necessary to determine an insurance claim, especially if you’re dealing with multiple parties. Of course, there are apps that can help make the inventory process a breeze.
As part of the packing process, it’s also very helpful to weigh your luggage before you head to the airport – there are few things worse than holding up a huge line because you’re doing an emergency re-pack at the check in desk. If you want to avoid checking all together, services like Luggage Forward can get your bags to your destination, fully insured, without much of a hassle. This can save you from wading through thousands of words worth of fine print as you attempt to assess who’s covering what between the airline, your insurance, your credit card carrier, and any other number of parties involved when there’s a claim to be made. Whatever you do, make sure you’re packing your gear well so – assuming everything gets to where you’re going – it gets there fully operable and in one piece.
Wherever your travel takes you, I hope these tips and products help you and your gear get there in one piece. Sound off in the comments if there’s any favorite travel gear you like when you’re on the road!
Nice tips Gavin. When I go travelling I like to keep it as simple as absolutely possible. I recently had a job that required climbing Mount Fuji to video a group of climbers. Needless to say, a simple lightweight kit was essential. I was climbing with another photographer, who hadn’t really thought it through properly, he had his big bag and lots of lenses with him, he didn’t make it to the summit, the excess weight nearly killed him!