Traveling with One Man Band Gear

I travel a lot for work, often by plane, so you’d think my travel cases were of utmost importance.  But in general, hard plastic gear cases are expensive, bulky, inefficient.  To travel OMB style with separate cases for camera, tripod, lights, etc, would quickly become expensive and cumbersome.  Solving the case case can not only save you money, but also make it easier to navigate airports, public transportation, and even walking, on your own.  The more mobile you are, the more flexible you can be with the types of jobs you take, and the less you’ll have to budget for luggage, cabs, and extra hands. (BTW I’ve never flown Qatar, I probably took that photo in line for Southwest, where bags fly free…).

I shoot a conference in San Francisco twice a year, and the clients asked me to fly out and shoot the sister conference in Boston (yes, very glamorous).  To do it within budget, I’d have to make all my gear fit in two bags.  Here’s what I did.

Get yourself a really big suitcase with wheels.  If you don’t already have one of these, go to any Goodwill or Salvation Army, and you’ll find perfectly good roller bag for around $15.  People dump these things all the time, as they take up too much space. That space is exactly what you need.  Measure your tripod, and make sure the case is big enough before you buy.

Add your tripod and/or monopod.  Take the head off and wrap it in clothes—it makes the tripod shorter and protects the fluid head (not wrapped in this photo, but you get the idea).  I have a Sachtler DV2, which is thin but long. I have taken it to Goodwill with me, and stuffed it in three bags before I found the right one.


Add your light kit.

True, I’m not bringing the Divas, I’m bringing the Lowells.  I take all the bulbs out and put them in the protective case.  Then I wrap the smaller lights in random clothes I’m bringing anyway.

Add your ditty bag.  Am I the only person that still uses this term?   I have a leather bag full of cables, tape, expendables, and anything else I might need.  Shoulder mount.  Stinger.  9 volts .  I stuff it in.

Add you clothes.  Once you have your gear in there, pack your clothes around your gear to keep it safe.


Why is this a good idea?  One, the suitcase is much cheaper. Second, you can check one bag, and save yourself the hassle of checking two or three. When it wears out, get yourself another.  My current bag (pictured), I am slightly embarrassed to say, I found on the street.  But it works.  I can take it to the airport, or wheel it to the train station and ride into San Francisco.

The other thing I don’t like about travel cases is they scream “The contents of this bag are expensive!”  With your old school bag, no one will suspect a thing.

What about the camera?  I always carry my camera shoulder bag, which includes basic audio fanny pack, onto the plane.  Never check your camera if you can avoid it.  It’s the most expensive, fragile, and irreplaceable item you’ve got.  But travel cases are very replaceable.  These bad boys are all sitting in my closet.  Anyone want to rent em?

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