View Full Version : Flying with Arca Swiss Discovery and Gitzo 1325

John Hollenberg
4-Oct-2004, 14:01
In two days I will be going to Maine/Vermont area to shoot fall color. The maze of regulations has me a bit confused. I would like to take as carry-on luggage my Gitzo 1325 with ballhead and my Arca Swiss kit. The AS is definitely small enough, but I am concerned that the screener may decide it could be used as a "weapon". The Gitzo is a little long, but not by much with ballhead removed. It could also be construed as being able to be used as a weapon. On the other hand, if I check these items and they are damaged or stolen, my understanding is that "camera equipment" isn't covered by the airline. To top it off, if I check my luggage then proceed to the security checkpoint and they say I can't bring the camera or the tripod on board, how will I get it into my checked luggage?

Has anyone taken metal monorail or a good size tripod as a carry-on? How would you suggest handling this problem (or is it one)?


Greg Miller
4-Oct-2004, 14:20
I always pack ny 1325 in a suitcase that is checked (carefully wrapped and protected; I also remove my A/S B1 head and carefully wrap that too). But my luggage is almost lways opened by the security folks - I think the tripod looks too much like a missile launcher or something and so want to hand inspect .

I'm not sure about carry on. I seem to remember it being up to the discretion of the security people whether they let a tripod on board or not. I don't like to gamble so check it. The only risk there is having the luggage arrive late.

Ted Harris
4-Oct-2004, 14:27
I doubt that you will hae any problems but each airport crew seems to interpert things differently, that appl;ies to TSA and the airline gate agents. I fly frequently and ALWAYS carry-on my FL field camera assorted accessories and some 3-7 lenses. Sometimes I carryon my tripod and sometimes I check it. When I carry it on I put it in my carryon suitcase. My pod is a linhof 3414 which is jsut an inch shorter than the 1325. I use a regulation size 22" airline carryon bag and place the pod in it diagonally.

Beyond that .... if you want some late news on where the foliage is best please contact me off-list and I will give you the update as of yesterday. I live in New Hampshire and was out shooting way up North near the Quebec border Wednesday - Thursday and Sunday.

Good light,


Bruce Watson
4-Oct-2004, 15:00
This is why I drive everywhere. It's a two day drive from where I am to Vermont, but the last time I went I drove anyway. It didn't save any money (didn't cost more either since I didn't rent a car) and it didn't save any time. But it was a lot less hassle and a lot more scenic, the food was lots better, and I didn't get frisked while I tried to keep track of my boots, my camera gear, and my film.

But to your question. My understanding is that if you can't fit it into a carry on (size depends on the airline, and on the particular equipment you are flying), then you must check it. Checked bagage is handled even rougher than UPS (which is amazingly bad). All of it gets heavy X-ray, and much is hand checked.

I put my backpack and tripod (wrapped to protect) in a hard sided suitcase along with expendables like clothes and unfortunately my repair kit (knife, screwdrivers, etc). The AS B-1 and all the camera equipment and film fills my carry on. That way theft and damage is restricted to the tripod which is the easiest thing to replace more or less.

But every time I fly I get hand searched, they hassle me about the film boxes (4x5) wanting to open them, and I have to discuss this without my boots (metal shanks and eyelets). Explaining politely and asking for them not to destroy your livelyhood (I always show them processed negatives that I pulled from the trash so they'll know what's in the boxes, and I offer to let them open the boxes inside my Harrison Pup Tent, but nobody has taken me up on that offer yet) while you feel like you're in Alcatraz is just not my idea of "low stress living." I left the corporate world partly to get away from the stress, and here the airlines bring it to you in spades.

One tip - it'll lower your stress some if you don't have people wanting to open up your boxes of exposed film. Before you fly back, send your film home by FedEx , UPS, DHL. The postoffice might X-ray, but the others say they aren't doing that yet. Of course, YMMV.

Frank Petronio
4-Oct-2004, 18:20
I gave up trying to carry it all onboard. Just get insurance and a heavy duty airline shippable case like a Lightware 45 case. It's big and bulky but you can throw alot of other stuff (like a backpack) in it. I have another Lightware case for the tripods. FedEx the film back and forth.

It is just as stressful packing too light and going without.

Michael S. Briggs
4-Oct-2004, 19:10
I regularly carry my Linhof Technikardan 45S, lenses, ballhead and film in my carryon luggage. The screeners rarely want to open the carryon to examine the items. The whole process is silly. The only item they have ever prohibited me from carrying on the plane is several small screwdrivers that I travel with in case the airplane vibration loosens a screw. I suggest reading the list of prohibited items, available as a pdf file from http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1012.xml

The list is not comprehensive -- a screener can prohibit other items using their judgement. Based on the similarity of a tripod leg to items that are on the prohibited list, they probably should prohibit tripods. However, I haven't seen any complaints posted on the internet so probably they will allow your tripod. I have the same tripod and pack it my checked luggage. This does have the risk that if lost, the airline won't pay for it. To be less conspicuous, I put it in the middle of a regular suitcase. I remove the ballhead and carry it with me because of the high value versus the small size and very low likelihood of a screener prohibiting it.

They more strict than they used to be about sizes of carryon luggage, which is another reason to check a larger tripod.

If they prevent you from taking an item on the plane, they will normally allow you to go back to the ticketing area and check it in. (In principle, they could arrest you, but this should only happen for something obviously illegal like a gun, or for extreme misbehavior.) At a small airport the airline agent can probably find your checked bag. At larger airports they would probably do something like place the item in a plastic bin. This obviously makes it visible to potential thieves. To be able to do this, you have arrive early enought to go through the inspection process twice.

Never put your film in your checked baggage because it might be examined with the CAT-scan type machines which will ruin unprocessed film. While the machines used for carryon luggage should be safe, I normally request hand inspection. The TSA is supposed to provide this service upon request but sometimes the inspectors insist upon x-raying. Carrying a printout of the policy might help: http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1035.xml: "At the passenger security checkpoint, you should remove the following types of film from your carry-on baggage and ask for a hand inspection: ..... # Sheet film
# Large format film ....

John Hollenberg
4-Oct-2004, 20:38
Thanks to all who replied with specific info about what has worked OK when flying with LF camera. A special thanks to Ted Harris, who sent me several emails re: Fall color in New Hampshire and spoke with me twice on the phone. I felt like I had my own personal tour guide! We are focusing our trip on the White Mountains area of New Hampshire as a result of the information he provided.


Tom Westbrook
5-Oct-2004, 04:37
John, that's nearly the same kit I carry. Carefully look at what you're going to bring and make sure that it's under airline size limits and TSA regulations. You might have a hard time carrying on a large camera bag and the tripod.

I check the tripod w/arca ball head attached in a Tenba TTP34 bag (though I used to just use the original Gitzo shipping box w/lots of duct tape until it got too worn out) with no problems. The other camera gear goes in a Lowe Pro Trekker AW backpack. The only problem I've ever had with security is with a tool: I had one of those tiny box-end wrenches that you get with the Gitzo to switch the flat plate with the column. I just let them have it. Just put anything that could be considered a hand tool in your checked luggage (ie in your tripod bag). They almost wanted to keep a Rodenstock spanner wrench, too, but let that one go. They almost never open the camera bag, like someone else said.

Film is another matter. I've also decided that, in the future, I'm shipping my film ahead, buying at my destination, or driving. If you can't do that, carry Ready/Quickloads. Actually, I think you could just send unexposed film through the carry-on scanners 2-3 times with no worries (John Sexton said in a workshop last February that he does this and has never had problems). Better that than having extended "discussions" with TSA people. I mean, how would you feel about letting a fellow passenger on your flight carry on a box that they didn't want security to open for inspection? I mean how hard could it be to fake a "sealed" box of sheet film?

Don Miller
5-Oct-2004, 06:27
I carry on my "delicates". - lenses, spotmeter, filters and film. Everything else gets checked. Wrapping checked items in cloths works fine. Some of my backpacks are designed to be checked as luggage, but I still put these items in larger suitcases. I would check the monorail but perhaps carry on the standards.

I also prefer to drive the middle distance locations. I have a system for working out of my big SUV. I like to have coolers, a heavy tripod for close to the vehicle stuff, and other cameras with me.

Frank Petronio
5-Oct-2004, 08:45
Oh, how politically incorrect to have an SUV!

I have a friend who mounts his 8x10 in the rear of his Explorer, then he pops the tail up, and drives in reverse to frame his photos. Camera remains out of the dirt and rain, and he never has to leave the SUV to make wonderful nature photos. ;-)

John Hollenberg
11-Oct-2004, 18:32
Just a follow-up post after our trip. Quickloads were graciously hand inspected (swab for explosive residue) at both Boston and Los Angeles. The sealed boxes were opened first, but the sealed envelopes inside were left intact. Took the AS Discovery as carry-on without any problems. No problems with the Gitzo as carry-on luggage, except when it was in a duffel bag with another Gitzo and the TSA at Boston made us check the bag. No damage done.

We drove through parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I wasn't too impressed with color in Vermont except for Groton State Forest, which was lovely. New Hampshire was fantastic as Ted Harris said. The whole area around the White Mountains was aflame with color. Also went to Acadia National Park in Maine (not impressed) . However, the color between Bangor and Portland was fabulous, and several lighthouses on the coast were great. I set up next to another LF photographer at Neddick Light House and we had an interesting conversation after the light faded.


David A. Goldfarb
11-Oct-2004, 19:07
I always carry the camera and related equipment on, but I check my tripod in a medium-sized Tenba TTP case, usually with head attached and handles removed or loose, and I've never had a problem.

I usually pass my film through the carry-on X-ray, and sometimes this avoids a hand inspection. I've never had film damaged by X-rays, but I'm more and more worried about inspectors mishandling equipment or inadvertantly opening a box of film. I also try to check things that seem to trigger inspections post-X-ray, like cable releases (look like syringes) and rangefinder cams (look like scissors or blades), and this seems to help.