Excess Baggage Hack for Traveling Photographers
Traveling as a photographer is a truly liberating experience. Getting paid to fly somewhere to take photos – who wouldn’t want some of that?!
I’ve traveled to more than 15 countries in the past 3 years to shoot destination weddings. Aside from all the other stresses of shooting professionally overseas, my number one issue is always how to travel with just one bag.
Checking in baggage just isn’t an option. I’ve had bags delayed before, and I never want to take that risk again – especially on paid assignments where I’m often shooting the day after I land.
So here’s the problem:
How can I travel with just one carry-on size camera bag packed full of a weekend’s worth of clothes, two camera bodies, three lenses, two flashes, a laptop, iPad and a handful of other gadgets and travel essentials… when carry on limits are usually around the 7 kg (15 lbs) mark?!
Let’s take a look at some of the options…
How to Avoid Excess Baggage Fees
The challenge of ‘smuggling’, for want of a better word, your camera gear onboard a plane as carry on luggage is a common one for traveling photographers.
Aside from how liberating it feels to be able to travel with just one bag, having no checked in luggage means that you can breeze through the arrival gate at your destination, with no time wasted at the dreaded baggage carousel – sometimes to wait fruitlessly for bags that never show up.
In the past, I’ve tried many techniques for avoiding excess baggage fees, but all of my sneaky schemes introduce another layer of stress while traveling.
I’ve packed in ways to minimise weight, carrying the absolute bare minimum – this means that I’m forced to wear the same outfit for 3 days, and choose my lightest camera gear over what I’d normally shoot with (a lightweight f/2.8 pancake lens over a bulky but more functional f/1.4, for example).
I’ve tried the old trick of carrying my heaviest camera+lens+flash on a strap over my shoulder when having my carry on bag weighed, using the loop-hole offered by some airlines… but having expensive equipment on show like this is a worry and a hassle.
I’ve also experimented with somewhat unethical ways to ‘trick’ staff at the boarding gate into thinking my carry on bag is under the weight limit… when in reality it’s often over-weight by 3x!
(You’ll have to join the private Shotkit Facebook Group for that tip!)
In short, no solution has filled me with confidence whenever I fly with excess carry on baggage… which is pretty much every time I fly!
However, all that’s set to change since my discovery of this neat gadget…
The Langly Field Jacket
Before we dismiss this technical garment as a mere ‘hack for avoiding excess baggage fees’, let me explain how the Field Jacket is supposed to be used.
Langly, whose rugged, good-looking camera backpacks you’ve no doubt seen posted on every hipster photographer’s Instagram feed, has released a utilitarian jacket aimed at photographers called the Field Jacket.
Styled on the iconic M-65 field jacket used by United States Forces during the Vietnam War, the Field Jacket is hard-wearing, stylish and functional.
Weather-shield technology in the outer-shell keeps the elements at bay, while still allowing your body to breathe, wicking away perspiration to keep you warm and dry.
The compact micro rip-stop weave fabric, tape-welded interior seams and adjustable wire-frame hood all add up to a jacket that’s made for the harshest outdoor conditions.
Living in Australia and frequently traveling to humid neighbouring countries like Bali, a cold-weather jacket isn’t really necessary for me.
However, I found the breathable fabric, large underarm vents and adjustable velcro storm cuffs to do a fine job in dispersing body heat, making the Field Jacket wearable in warmer weather too, or at least when boarding a plane…
Returning to our initial conundrum, the Langly Field Jacket also happens to be a great way to carry your camera gear on your body… can you see where I’m going here? ;-)
Benefits of a ‘Wearable Camera Bag’
I had one single goal with reviewing the Langly Field Jacket. Langly already has a reputation for building great products, so I already knew their jacket would be as rugged and functional as their Kickstarter campaign claimed it to be.
Moreover, I wanted to know whether I could squeeze the heaviest portion of my travel bag into the pockets of the Field Jacket, allowing me to breeze through the boarding gate with no excess baggage woes.
In short, it passed with flying colours :-)
Not only am I able to fit a surprising amount of cameras, lenses, flashes and other accessories into the jacket, but it’s also proved to be a practical way to carry my gear when out of the airport too.
Having your lenses, spare batteries, filters… and even a spare camera body actually inside the pockets of your jacket is a liberating experience. It’s also a lot of fun too!
Camera backpacks, messenger bags… even sling bags – they’re all great for carrying camera gear, but they all have the same weakness – getting gear in and out involves multiple steps, all of which add up to slow down the process of getting a shot.
Having your camera gear literally within hands’ reach is much more efficient, and not having the bulk of a camera bag on your body is both refreshing and practical.
With the Langly Field Jacket, I’m able to stow multiple items of camera gear in its tardis-like pockets, leaving my actual carry-on bag small and light enough to be taken onboard a plane, to pack away in the overhead locker with no worry.
More specifically, I’m able to fit all this gear into the Field Jacket:
- Sony a7III camera body (x1)
- Sony 35mm f/1.4 lens (x1)
- Nikon D750 camera body (x1)
- Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens (x1)
- Godox TT350S flash (x2)
- Gogox X1S TTL wireless trigger (x1)
- Manfrotto Lumimuse 3 LED light (x1)
- Spare batteries (x3)
- Rode VideoMicro mic (x1)
…basically all the camera gear I need to shoot a destination wedding, plus passport, iPad, iPhone and all the other travel essentials which require quick access.
I can also squeeze in a Mavic Pro drone and controller into one of the inside pockets of the jacket too.
That adds up to about 3.5 kgs (7.7 lbs) of gear, and I consider that to be a pretty lightweight set up.
If you’re rocking a full DSLR rig with fast glass, you’d be looking at well over 5 kgs (11 lbs) worth of bulging jacket pockets!
So far I’ve only talked about using the Field Jacket as a sort of ‘spill-over’ for my main carry on travel bag, in order to board a plane with no check in luggage.
However, it’s worth remembering that it’s obviously intended for much more than just this.
Aside from it being an excellent all-weather jacket for the great outdoors, the unisex Langly Field Jacket is intended to be used as a quick-access storage garment for your camera gear, for everyday use.
Since I don’t have the opportunity to go hiking (kids will do that to you!), I’ve found a great use for the jacket for my wedding photography work.
During the bridal portraits portion of the wedding day, I often find myself in need of a small camera bag.
In the past I used a 5L Peak Design Sling which fit the bill, but now even that is unnecessary – I can simply wear the Field Jacket, containing a spare lens, batteries and even a drone in its pockets!
It feels great not having a bag sliding around my body as I move, and the weight-distribution of the pocket contents on the Field Jacket is surprisingly good.
I also feel rather smug to have all my gear actually on my body, like I’m part of some kind of photographic SWAT team…!
Cons of the Langly Field Jacket
Since this article has turned into a review of the Langly Field Jacket, I feel I should touch on the minus points of this interesting garment.
I have to say I’m struggling a little…
I want to say that the Field Jacket is a little too heavy for my liking, which it is, but this is completely irrelevant when I consider the purpose for which I plan to use it!
(Also, at 1 kg (2.2 lbs), it’s not actually that bad. I’m fully aware that to produce a jacket of this quality and carrying capacity, it can’t be some kind of feather-light stuffable shell.)
Then there’s the cost (see here for the latest price) – is it too much for a waterproof jacket? My wife seems to think so, but she doesn’t appreciate its multiple uses…
Aside from the fact that the Field Jacket actually saves me money each time I fly carry on only, it’s also the most practical way I’ve found to carry camera gear.
Sorry, but I just can’t think of any real negatives of this jacket. Langly really have hit a home run here, and I highly recommend you invest in one, however you intend to use it.
Final Words of Advice
Let’s take a step backwards here for a second. What am I actually advocating?! ‘Smuggling’ heavier items onboard a plane to avoid excess baggage fees?! What kind of website is this?!
Well, let’s just say that the Field Jacket is a great way to travel efficiently with one bag as a photographer.
It’s also a safe way to store your gear (there’s even a built-in RFID blocker to prevent card-skimmers!), and a way to pass un-noticed in foreign lands where you’d normally feel unsafe with a camera bag.
Whether worn or carried over an arm, the Field Jacket also happens to be a nice way to re-distribute the weight of a camera bag across your body while boarding a plane…
There, that’s a good way to put it! Use the Field Jacket as you see fit – just make sure you use it :-)
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.