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Thread: Advice on packing

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Advice on packing

    So I have in the past lugged film cameras with me before but never to the extent of a 4x5 set up. I just was wondering if anyone had some helpful hints/tips on ways to pack things so they are secure and compact. Any advice be great.


  2. #2
    Louie Powell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Re: Advice on packing

    I've made a couple of trips with my 4x5 kit recently.

    I use a LowePro Nature Trekker backpack to transport the camera (a Zone VI Lightweight), two lenses, a light meter, a CD case with a collection of Cokin filters, a dark cloth and 6-8 holders. This goes on my back as my 'carry-on' and fits into the overhead compartment of the plane.

    I also a second case that I use for film, empty boxes for exposed film (more about film management below), a changing bag (wrapped in a plastic bag to control dust), a 35mm SLR and several rolls of film, and a few accessories - a paperback book to read on the plane, PDA, GPS (I do take my wife along, but don't trust her for navigating), cell phone, car keys, pen, plane ticket, passport for ID, etc. On my first trip, I used an old Dell briefcase-style computer case, while on the most recent trip (earlier this month), I used a small camera bag. If anyone asks, this is my 'small personal item' and it fits very neatly under the seat.

    The tripod goes into its own canvas bag and is checked. There is a notable lack of clarity about whether tripods are allowed as carryon items - I've reported here a discussion I overheard between two TSA inspectors at LAX who were in disagreement on whether they should be allowed. To be safe, I just check it along with our luggage (which contains a roll of ordinary blue painters' tape). Yeah, United charges an extra $25, but considering what it costs for my wife and I to go to California for a week, that's nothing. When I arrive at the destination, the tripod comes out of its bag and goes into the holder on the backpack until we pack to leave.

    Now, film management. First, everything is scanned. I don't make an issue about hand searches, and I don't bother with lead bags.

    I have a set of film boxes that I have set up specifically to facilitate traveling. Each has a prominent label that says "Photographic Film - Open Only in Total Darkness", and two outer parts of each box is wrapped in clear plastic shipping tape. While traveling, I seal each of the boxes that actually contain film with painters' tape. (The purpose of wrapping the boxes in the clear tape is to make certain that the blue tape doesn't damage the cardboard when it is removed at the end of the trip.) I've never had the inspectors want to open a box (on one trip, they did do 'wipe test'), but if that were ever to be an issue, I am prepared to let them use the changing bag.

    When I start the trip, I have three empty boxes, one each marked N, N+ and N-. I have a black plastic film envelope in the N box, and two envelopes in the N+ and N- boxes (for +- 1 and +/- 2). How, might you ask, do I differentiate between the envelopes for one and two stop compensation sheets? Simple - I use small self-adhesive rubber bumpers that I bought at the hardware store, one on the envelope for one stop compensation, and two on the envelope that holds film requiring two stops compensation.

    Finally, the matter of reloading holders. In a perfect world, the hotel bathroom is an inside room with no window. I just wait until after dark, turn off the lights in the room, close the bathroom door, and change the film. I do check to make sure that there isn't too much light coming under the bathroom door, and will use the bath mat to provide additional protection if necessary.

    But if the bathroom has a window, or if it is necessary to reload holders in the middle of the day, then I use the changing bag.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Lakewood, CO

    Re: Advice on packing

    I'm not sure if you're talking about airline travel or backpacking.

    I backpack with my 4X5 as often as time permits.

    Although I didn't have the LF with me on this hike, this is my typical backpacking setup. I"m 6'2" for scale. The pack is an 85L pack built to haul 65 pound loads, and it does it well. Specifically its a Gregory Palisade and it just replaced the 7200cuin (120L) Mountainsmith Frostfire III I'd been using for the last 15 years or so.

    For dayhiking, I use a 40L daypack, but could easily see reason to go to a larger 50L daypack. This is my daypack. Its a Deuter Futura Zero. I could see the Vario version being even better with a split main compartment and panel access to the lower segment.

    As to how I carry my gear. I use lens wraps for the lenses and a Photobackpacker case for the camera (and one lens). I carry a big rain cover for the pack which I use to spread out when I open the pack. For day hiking, I don't mind standard film holders. For backpacking, I prefer quickloads since I don't have to worry about the various handling issues and they are far less bulky if you're going to deal with more than 10 sheets or so, plus I can make notes right on the holders. I typically just use my jacket rather than a dedicated darkcloth when I'm backpacking to save space and weight. I've been meaning to make my own light and thin darkcloth for packbacking, but haven't had time.

    I used to travel quite a bit (160,000 miles flown in a year), but I didn't shoot LF then, so don't really have any recommendations for you on that.


  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: Advice on packing

    I fly with the 4x5 quite often. I do pretty much as Louie Powell explained but carry a smaller pack - usually the Lowepro Mini-trekker, sometimes I just throw the Crown Graphic in a Diaper bag and go.

    I just wanted to comment on the tripod carry on seems tome to be totally random. Most TSA guys don't even give it much notice but I have had a couple turn me back and make me check it. Which is a major hassle.

    After one recent bad experience with the Bogen/Manfrotto 3021 legs, I went out and bought a smaller Bogen 190Xb (used to be called 3001) which I just pack in my checked bagage.

  5. #5
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 1997
    San Jose, CA

    Re: Advice on packing

    Packing for what kind of travel? Air, car, foot ?

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Advice on packing

    Air, out of the US. Sorry everyone!

  7. #7

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