5 tips for traveling with your gear

On business or on vacation, here’s how to ensure your gear makes the round trip.

Traveling with your best gear can be nerve-racking. Toss in a few young children, a plane trip, a boat ride and tropical shower or two and you’ve got the makings of a category-four ulcer. You can lessen your stress by taking an older camcorder and second-string accessories, but if a trip is worth the hassle of lugging your gear in the first place, it’s usually worth capturing with your best equipment. So here are five tips that will help you bring back quality shots and peace of mind.

1. Check, check; one…two…three

O.K., maybe you’ve packed your gear a dozen or more times for a local shoot, but when you venture beyond the point you could reasonably return to retrieve a forgotten item, it’s time to make a checklist. This list should include even the obvious that might include the following: camcorder and batteries; camcorder battery charger (and adapter/voltage converter); videotape; microphone; travel tripod (monopod or other lightweight stabilization device); small video light, stand and cable, etc. (And you did remember the plate to the tripod, right?)

The best part about using a checklist is that you avoid enduring that sickening feeling as you board the plane that you forgot something.

The best part about using a checklist is that you avoid enduring that sickening feeling as you board the plane that you forgot something.

2. By air

We all know that airlines and costly gear don’t mix. Most carriers already caution their passengers that they are not liable for damage to electronic equipment especially if it is checked luggage. So your first option is to pack for carry-on. And even though your camera bag may be out of your sight for only a few moments, it’s still a good idea to label your camcorder with your name or other identifying number. If you have more equipment than you can carry onboard, you can check it as standard or, if exceeding size and or weight limits, as excess luggage. Robust cases like those made by Pelican or Anvil are a must for checked equipment, and even these do not guarantee safe arrival. Since most carriers no longer offer additional insurance for sensitive equipment, if you have time, another option is to ship your gear ahead of you to your hotel via Fed Ex, UPS, or other third-party carrier. At least they do provide a method of insurance.

3. By sea

Even if you are not booked on the Queenie II to a tropical destination, you may still find yourself near water. Oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, rain, puddles, even mist, are all bodies of the same liquid conspiracy to dowse your camcorder. Even salt air can harm your camcorder if exposed for extended periods of time. There are a variety of manufacturers that make form-fitting camera jackets that seal out moisture. Some are made of neoprene; others out of flexible plastic and most are moderately priced. There are also small waterproof cases that float if you find yourself on a small boat.

4. By car

When you are traveling by car, you obviously have much more control but there are other challenges. Extreme temperatures and theft are two top concerns (all right, filling up the tank is pretty scary, too). One simple trick that helps with both is keeping your camcorder in a cheap, and we mean cheap, Styrofoam cooler. This goes a long way to moderating extreme temperature swings as well as deterring would-be thieves. Stopping at a Denny’s or rest stop is no longer an exercise in finding a parking place with a view.

5. On foot

A day hike can be a wonderful time to grab some memorable footage. Here’s where a relatively new breed of bag has come into it’s own; the backpack designed for the video producer. Some, notably made by Kata and Petrol, have excelled at creating large backpacks that feature secure zippers, ample padding, and very durable exteriors that should get even the most avid hiker to and from just about any high point on a map.

Remember, a vacation or trip to a new location is a great opportunity to capture unique and potentially valuable footage. Don’t let the fear of damaging your gear en route keep you from coming home with more than just good memories.

Brian Peterson is a commercial video producer and certified Steadicam owner/operator.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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