How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Giuseppe Milo / CC BY 2.0

For most landscape photographers, few things are as exciting as the prospect of a trip to a new destination. The chance to capture images of a different location is something that we look forward to!

But when it comes to packing your gear, flying with your camera, and then toting it along with you while you see the sights and cover new ground –the reality soon sets in. Traveling with fragile and bulky gear can be complicated. Even when traveling with the bare minimum, such as your camera and one lens, it can be difficult to ensure your gear’s safety. Then there the issue of theft, especially when traveling to major cities; you’ll want to take special precautions to help keep your gear safe.

If you’re thinking of hopping on a plane, considering a road trip –or, if you’re just looking for tips on hiking or transporting your gear around your own local area, here are a few things that you can do to help keep your equipment safe –from the elements, as well as theft.

1. Invest in a Quality Bag

While it may sound basic, your first order of business should be investing in a solid camera bag. If you’re going by plane, may even want to consider purchasing two different bags; one for safely transporting all of the gear that you’re bringing, and one smaller bag for going out on day trips. Look for bags that will hold your gear safe and snug without room for much movement. You’ll also want to look for one that doesn’t draw attention to you and your gear, especially if you plan to visit well-populated areas.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Steve Jurvetson / CC BY 2.0

2. Rough It Up a Bit

There’s always a risk of theft or pickpocketing; especially if you’re traveling to big cities or densely populated areas. If you’re planning to see the big cities, you’ll want to make a special effort to protect your gear from opportunists. Depending on where you’re going, you may want to consider roughing up your bag a bit to make it look a bit dirty and worn in. This will help it to stand out less, and attract less attention.

3. Take Care When Flying

While flying with a camera can be difficult, it’s not impossible and it can be done. Just make sure you have a look at the baggage requirements for both checked and carry-on luggage, and ensure that your gear is packed well. Your best option is bringing your gear with you as carry-one luggage, if you can, since this will save your bag from being mishandled, or tossed around by baggage handlers. If you do have to check some of it, though, make sure you have a hard case that’s well padded, and ensure that your gear is stowed securely inside. Pelican cases are a trusted option that the pros use. Don’t forget to take the lens off of your camera when packing so it will travel more securely.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Katie Haugland Bowen / CC BY 2.0

4. Use the Safe

You’ll also want to take care to protect your gear from potential theft at the hotels or hostels that you’ll be staying in. If there’s a room safe, use it. Or, see if there’s an on-site hotel safe. One idea is to snap a photo of what you’re handing over, in front of the person that you’re giving it to, as a record of what you’re leaving. If there’s no safe in your place, consider getting a lock bag that can be secured to something sturdy, and keeping your extra gear inside when you go on day trips.

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How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Angelo De Mesa / CC BY 2.0

5. Bring a Rain Cover

No one wants rainy weather while traveling, but rain can happen, and it’s best to be prepared. Bringing along a rain cover for your camera will help to keep your camera dry and protected if you get caught in a rainstorm while you’re out. Rain covers are relatively inexpensive, especially if you consider the valuable items that they’re protecting.

6. Consider a Dry Bag

Dry bags, most often used for kayaking or whitewater rafting, are designed to keep the contents dry, even in the wettest conditions, and can be great items to bring along when traveling. Putting all your expensive gear inside one of these bags means you can hit the trails and brave rainstorms knowing that your gear will be safe and dry.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Siegmund Führinger / CC BY 2.0

7. Temperature Differences Matter

When venturing into different climates, keep in mind that extreme temperature fluctuations can affect your camera and gear. While you probably already know what happens when you take your camera out into the cold, think: condensation and fogged up sensors, the same thing can happen when going from cold to warm as well. Heading from an air conditioned room into the hot and humid outdoors can cause internal condensation. It’s worth keeping a few silica gel packets in your camera bag to help absorb moisture.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Giuseppe Milo / CC BY 2.0

8. Consider Buying Insurance

This is especially important if you’re planning to bring thousands of dollars’ worth of gear with you. While most professional photographers will already have insurance for their gear, it’s a good idea for anyone with expensive gear to invest in an insurance policy that offers replacement coverage for lost or stolen items –and one that will cover repairs in case of damage.

9. Use a UV Filter

Keeping a UV filter on your camera lens will help to protect it from scratches and minor dings. This is especially important when traveling, or going on outings with your camera –where the chance of mishaps is higher!

10. Make a List

Be sure to make a list of your gear before you go, including the models of lenses, and serial numbers as well –you’ll need these if you have to make an insurance claim. Also, if something does end up stolen, and turns up somewhere, this could make it easier for you to identify it, and claim it as your own. Don’t forget to take a photo of your gear as well.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Claudio Matsuoka / CC BY 2.0

11. Be Smart

The best defense against destruction or theft –is you! Be smart when traveling, be aware of your surroundings, keep your gear close by, and never leave it unattended. If you use public transportation, such as a taxi, try to keep your gear with you and don’t put it in the trunk. And when walking through crowded areas, place your bag in front of you, not on your back where it can easily be targeted by pickpockets. Keep an eye on your bag at all times.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe While Traveling

Image: Garry Knight / CC BY 2.0

Finally, don’t be afraid to get out there and travel! Keep in mind that for the most part, traveling with your camera and gear will prove to be a positive experience, and there’s a good chance that all your gear will survive intact. Still, it’s worth taking the above precautions, for safety and your peace of mind. By being aware of your surroundings, taking special care when visiting crowded areas or “tourist traps,” and making sure you have an airtight insurance policy that protects against stolen or lost gear, you’ll be able to relax and focus on enjoying your trip –and will be able to return with an amazing record of your time away as well!

Happy travels!

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Do you travel with your camera? How do you keep it safe?

How to Keep Your Photography Gear Safe While Traveling

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