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Thread started 20 May 2013 (Monday) 11:14
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Airport security and your gear?

30 posts
Joined Feb 2011
May 20, 2013 11:14 |  #1

In a couple weeks I will be taking a trip from Dallas to Santa Barbara, CA for a video shoot. I will be bringing such things as a camera (obviously) but more importantly a separate bag case and hard case that will be carrying tripods and sliders as well as electronics, such as audio equipment and batteries and what not. I just want to make sure that none of those things will prevent my cases from traveling with me.

I tried looking for luggage rules and what not on the airlines websites, but could not locate anything.

Could someone help me out with their experience with their gear at airports and let me know if you think I would run into any problems?


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Senior Member
287 posts
Joined Jul 2012
Location: Colorado
May 20, 2013 11:54 |  #2

My experience tells me that you will indeed have trouble if you're taking a bunch of gear and treating it as luggage.

If you're bringing that gear as carry-ons, you may not be able to carry on a tripod. They're allowed, but I've still had enough difficulty with them that I actually FedEx the larger ones to my destination first, as mine are too long to check without paying a hefty fee. A smaller tripod is fine in your luggage.

If you're checking the gear, make sure they get hand-inspected at check-in, and lock them with a TSA lock. They can still open that lock, but at least it's something.

But here's the worst part: If your gear is stolen or damaged during the trip, no US airline will reimburse you for it, so make sure everything is insured. They're only liable for a few hundred dollars, even if you had the Crown Jewels in your luggage. They occasionally pay more if they get some bad press, but I wouldn't count on that.

If this is a paid trip, you might be better off renting gear at your destination, depending on how much gear you need. If there's any way possible to do it, pack all the gear as carry-ons, and then check your Duracells, adapters, cabling and clothes.

Alkaline batteries (Duracells and the like) are allowed under all circumstances. Some airlines limit you to two lithium batteries in carry-on, and most will not allow them at all in checked luggage.

I always try to keep everything expensive with me at all costs, which cuts down on my gear volume quite a bit.

I have a ton of gear, but my gear is just a hammer. (external link)

210 posts
Joined Sep 2011
May 20, 2013 11:55 |  #3

Just returned from a month long photoshoot project. All my gear (2 bodies, lenses, lights, batteries etc) were on my carry-on. At one of the airports, the agents did want to to check the stuff out. Not a problem, told them upfront that I am a photographer etc. Went on my merry way. The only PITA in that episode was taking the gear out and putting them back in.

Be cooperative since they are doing their jobs for our safety anyway. But make sure you account for all the gear are put back in place. I have lots of triggers and small stuff.

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Thomas ­ Campbell
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Joined Jun 2010
Location: Kingwood, TX
May 20, 2013 13:30 |  #4

Don't check anything valuable/fragile.

I check my tripods, monopods, clamps, etc. I carry my lenses, cameras, memory, computers. Never had a problem checking batteries, but put them in their cases.

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"Sorry for being a noob"
8,626 posts
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Joined May 2007
Location: Sweden
May 20, 2013 13:38 |  #5

It's mainly lose batteries that scares them - they don't want a fire.

The international rules for Li-ion batteries are for quite large - or many - batteries, based on the number of grams of lithium that is allowed. But batteries that may short are a big no-no.

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35 posts
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Joined May 2013
Location: Xenia, OH
May 20, 2013 18:35 |  #6

pwm2 wrote in post #15950114 (external link)
The international rules for Li-ion batteries are for quite large - or many - batteries, based on the number of grams of lithium that is allowed. But batteries that may short are a big no-no.

Boeing must have missed that memo... :-P

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49 posts
Joined Apr 2011
Location: Norman, OK, USA
May 21, 2013 20:52 |  #7

If the luggage/cases are going to be checked bags I would just make sure they have great padding in them for when they get thrown around by the staff. I haven't had any issues taking a whole backpack full of a laptop, DSLR, 3 lenses, 5 batteries, a small tripod, chargers, and a few other accessories like an external hard drive. I would also take the most expensive smaller pieces with me onto the plane as carry on because I don't trust anyone. There are so many people out there that steal things and to make it look less lucrative would be better.

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Location: NorCal
May 22, 2013 11:43 |  #8

I'd look into shipping things insured via FedEx. I'd never check expensive gear, luggage locks pretty much open if you look at them sternly. Alternatively see about renting things locally or at least have everything insured. I think airlines cover something like $250 if luggage is lost or stolen.

My local mailboxes place advertises "suitcase boxes" suggesting to ship your entire luggage ahead of time to your destination. Too expensive for international I'm sure, but domestic that could be an interesting option. And FedEx etc ship expensive stuff all the time, I'd guess they are a bit more careful than the luggage wranglers at airports.

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Senior Member
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Location: Hays, KS
May 22, 2013 11:50 as a reply to  @ phantelope's post |  #9

Our roller bag is the largest carry on thats allowed, I can fit everything but the tripod in it, tripod gets locked and checked. I have never been stopped or had the bag inspected in 4 trips through security, but I am sure it will happen.

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Senior Member
595 posts
Joined Dec 2012
May 22, 2013 14:56 |  #10

Ship insured FedEx for larger things. I have a carry-on that fits under the seat which is my maximum "on plane" thing. Most hardcases and such can be checked but you will get gang-raped on cost and it is usually cheaper to ship it ahead -- but not always.

TSA will not let anything that they think might be a weapon through. What has tripped people up before with camera gear is most-often spiked feet on tripods. Yes, they think you might stab a cabin attendant with a tripod leg. They're that nuts. Ship it ahead or remove the spikes and put in checked luggage.

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May 22, 2013 15:04 |  #11

veritasimg wrote in post #15949814 (external link)
...they are doing their jobs for our safety anyway...

either youre being sarcastic or you completely snowed...

-im just trying. sometimes i succeed

Senior Member
448 posts
Likes: 50
Joined Nov 2010
May 22, 2013 17:20 |  #12

Ltdave wrote in post #15957423 (external link)
either youre being sarcastic or you completely snowed...

long rant about security theater anyone? :rolleyes:

There was a couple of guys on "Shark Tank" last week trying to sell the sharks on luggage shipping starting at $39 door-to-door. was their site.

who gives a rat crap how much gear you can list?

Senior Member
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Joined Oct 2008
Location: Santo Domingo
May 22, 2013 20:57 |  #13

I only take my backpack and my laptop roller bag as carry on items. The roller case goes on the overhead bin and my camera backpack goes below the seat infront of me or between my feet and my seat.

Security on my country checked the backpack once when I was flying to USA. However, I fly every two months to the US and I've never had issues with my bags.

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1,434 posts
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Joined Jun 2005
Location: La Verne, Cali
May 23, 2013 14:29 |  #14

I think I've flown on around 30 flights with my gear as carry-on, both domestic and international. The only time I've ever been hassled is when one of them wanted to run my external hard drive separately from the rest of my equipment. Everything else has been flawless. I always travel with my Pelican 1510, 2 bodies, 2 lenses, 1 flash, and the usual accessories (memory cards, some filters, some extra batteries, etc). Occasionally I'll bring an extra flash or two and remote triggers instead of strobes.

I don't typically travel with my tripod or strobes / vagabond setup, just because my kind of work tends to not require it and it's quite cumbersome.

~ Canon 7d / 5D ~ Novatron strobe setup + Vagabond
~ Some L glass, some flashes, the usual

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Joined Feb 2011
Location: Savannah, GA
May 23, 2013 15:00 |  #15

I travel often and I do like most have said pre-ship or rent equipment at the site. Another option is to buy some new stuff in that location and you will have to only ship it home :-)

My name is Ben from Savannah, GA
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