As a turtle on the move I need my shell(s). While I trek the world looking for new and fantastic photo opportunities I carry my home on my back and my office rolls alongside of me. I recently posted an article about my new house, the Osprey Farpoint 70, and now I want to talk about my office. Yep, you CAN travel the world with your home & office (I do it and so can you).
Over the past five years I’ve gained a lot of (hard-won) real-world experience when it comes to travelling with expensive photo gear. I say hard-won because I’ve damaged some gear along the way: I smashed the rear LCD screen on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, I had to have the rear element replaced on my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens and I jammed the lens cover on my Canon PowerShot G15 backup camera.
I am very, very careful with my photography kit when it’s in my possession, but I can’t control what happens when it’s out of sight. Initially I incorporated my office into my home (a home office as it were), but the results (as mentioned above) weren’t always positive. Although I took great care in wrapping my camera bodies and lenses in thick clothes before stuffing them into my pack, I didn’t take into account the frequent inspections my luggage underwent while trekking from country to country. Inspectors typically don’t give a damn how they stuff your gear back into your pack, and so equipment damage occasionally occurs (I can personally attest to that).
Another situation that arises is airplane travel. The case or pack containing your photography equipment might meet the airline’s carry-on requirements, but the airlines ALWAYS reserve the right to make you check your case or bag if they want to (for any reason whatsoever or for no reason at all). If you’ve ever watched baggage handlers at the airport you have to ask yourself this important question: Will my camera equipment survive that kind of treatment in a soft-sided bag? The airlines are not the only culprits, while trekking around Cuba, Mexico, Central America and South America I experienced many different modes of travel (each with its own unique set of challenges).
I submit the following anecdotal evidence for your review—while travelling high in the mountains of Colombia (in a small bus) they lashed my pack to the top of the bus (it was pouring rain). Yep—it got soaked (thankfully my camera body was wrapped in a waterproof parka, I wasn’t quite so lucky with my clothes). In the jungles of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Amazon I often travelled by Panga (a small canoe or boat) and though it never happened there was always the possibility of my pack going overboard. Other forms of travel included Zodiacs (in the Galapagos and Patagonia), taxis, Tuk-tuks, scooters, bicycles and mostly my own two feet.
If you’re a photographer who shoots mostly at home and travels by car, a good padded soft photography case will usually do the job (Think Tank and Lowepro make excellent bags and packs). But if you fly with your gear, and/or travel internationally with your equipment, I think a bomb-proof Pelican hard case (specifically the 1510) is the way to go. I would also highly recommend the TrekPak insert to conveniently organize your gear. The Pelican 1510 is 100% waterproof (and will float even loaded with gear), it is shock-proof and will easily survive a drop from the top of a bus or the back of a Tuk-tuk, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Like I said earlier, I’ve learned my lessons the hard way—it’s better to be safe than sorry. I now travel with over $15,000 usd worth of photography equipment: 2 Pro-level camera bodies, 5 Pro-level lenses and all the other gear needed to do my job. A Pelican 1510 case is cheap insurance for my investment—don’t cheap out when it comes to protecting your photography kit. For more information click on the links I’ve sprinkled throughout this post, or simply Google (or YouTube search) whatever question you might still have. With my two new shells (home & office) I can now continue my travels around the world with confidence. Note: I receive no money for these reviews, I wish I did.