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02-16-2016, 03:03 AM   #1
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Airline Travel With a Tripod?

My wife and I are heading to the Hawaiian island of Kauai next month. We are traveling light on this trip... carry-on luggage only.

I will have one of my small camera bags with my K5 and only a 18-135mm on the trip. I want to go lightweight to be on vacation and not on a "photo assignment". My most relaxing vacation was about five years ago when we rented a cabin way up in the mountains of far Eastern Oregon. We had electricity (with a well for water/septic) and propane. That was it. No tv, satellite/cable, phone, cell service, internet, etc. It was wonderful!

Since my main tripod is large and heavy (Slik U212 Deluxe), I don't want to travel with it. Now the questions.
  1. Is it better to ship my tripod there, use it, and ship it home?
  2. Is is better to buy a cheap one while I am there and pass it to somebody else before I leave, or leave it at the VRBO property for others?
  3. Is it better to buy and take a light weight travel tripod, and if I do, are there any TSA security issues at the airport?
  4. I would have an item in here about renting a tripod on the island, but I haven't located a place that does that yet.

Thank you for any advice/experience.

I did find out that "Kauai Photo Tours" does rent "Vista" tripods, $15 per day (or $12 for the duration of their guided tours).
I can get a decent Targus tripod retail there for $54. Cheapies down to less than $17. It only needs to last a week, but needs to be strong enough to be stable/not move.
Now I'll check with the airline on taking a lightweight carbon fiber type travel tripod

Update 2:
I checked with the airline, they don't have a problem with it. They gave me contact info for the TSA.
Before calling I checked their website.
"Search Results For: tripod"
"You may transport this items in carry-on or checked baggage. For items you wish to carry on, you should check with the airline to ensure that the item will fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat of the airplane."
I called the TSA and they confirmed that tripods are allowed, however the security agent(s) reviewing my luggage may decide to not allow it.

Last edited by FarmerJim; 02-16-2016 at 03:32 PM. Reason: Updates to details/questions
02-16-2016, 03:14 AM   #2
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I carry a few small bean bags in my camera bag to provide support on a solid surface; I've found this to be a reasonable alternative to a tripod on walking holidays.
02-16-2016, 03:22 AM   #3
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Perhaps you could consider a monopod. Some of them collapse to quite a small size these days. Enjoy your holiday.
02-16-2016, 03:44 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by FarmerJim Quote
Is it better to ship my tripod there, use it, and ship it home?
I don't like this idea. Shipping is slow so the tripod might miss you. And shipping is rough - there is a big chance it will get damaged. If you add so much packaging to guarantee its safety, then the whole package will be big and heavy, thus also expensive.

I would suggest you buy a small, lightweight tripod, and carry it with you. Either put it in the luggage or just have it with you. Some of the small ones are so small they fit in a camera bag. You just have to decide - is a 5" tripod with a small sand bag enough? Sure it might force you to get creative with your shots, but take it as a challenge.

QuoteOriginally posted by pjv Quote
Perhaps you could consider a monopod. Some of them collapse to quite a small size these days. Enjoy your holiday.
I tried that. It showed up as a giant spike or club on the xray thing, and I had to explain it.

02-16-2016, 03:58 AM   #5
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I will not carry anything in hand luggage (carry on) that can be misconstrued as a weapon by zealous security staff. I nearly lost a souvenir fridge magnet in Copenhagen, while a rolled up Buddhist thangka was almost confiscated as a weapon in Ulaan Bator. It's not worth the delays, the arguments and the possible loss of equipment.
02-16-2016, 04:04 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by OzzRod Quote
I will not carry anything in hand luggage (carry on) that can be misconstrued as a weapon by zealous security staff. I nearly lost a souvenir fridge magnet in Copenhagen, while a rolled up Buddhist thangka was almost confiscated as a weapon in Ulaan Bator. It's not worth the delays, the arguments and the possible loss of equipment.
My wife lost a pair of small souvenir hand cuffs (about 25mm diameter) bought at Alcatraz. Airport security said they could be used as finger cuffs. I think she had them on a necklace.

02-16-2016, 04:13 AM   #7
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I've been ok in Oz with a tripod in my carry on bag (Cullman Nanomax 260 Tripod with Manfrotto 494RC2 Ball Head) on multiple occasions and have also taken this around the world in checked luggage. BTW, that combination fits in carry on bag quite well once I separate the tripod and the ballhead, yet big and solid enough to be useful when used for its intended purpose.

I'd be hestitant to try it as carry on outside of Australia without making enquiries of my airline. On the surface, a tripod doesn't fall into any 'do not carry' categories I know of, but security is not known for its sense of humour, particularly in the US. Your airline should be able to advise.

02-16-2016, 05:06 AM   #8
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Maybe just Amazon a cheap one to your hotel (I am only a recent beginner but I have been using this one: for a little over 20 bucks) and then give it to someone (local school perhaps?) when you leave. Enjoy your time in Hawaii!
02-16-2016, 08:16 AM   #9
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I'll add to my above post: a) you can put the tripod into the checked-in luggage, if it fits. Wrap it in something soft, though, as luggage gets handles roughly
b) you can carry it by hand (or in a thin bag), but only do so if it is small and light and you won't mind terribly if it gets lost They can still tell you to put it into oversize luggage or to leave it with the stewards during the flight. 4
If you will be buying one, make sure it doesn't have parts that can be called sharp or anything like that. Best to get one of those cheap plastic tripods, because even if it gets bent during the trip, it will still cost very little.
I think B is best option, but don't do it with a very big, expensive tripod. Your best bet is to have a big, happy smile, not to argue, not to even explain yourself too much, only answer the questions courtly, but firmly insist on getting your property back at the end of the flight. If you look nervous, get angry, or anything like that, the security and flight staff might work extra hard to make things difficult for you.. take it easy, be sure of yourself, and you should be fine.
02-16-2016, 08:56 AM   #10
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I've flown about 150,000 miles in my life and never once had an issue with my camera equipment. Not more than once or twice did they look in the bag; they saw a long thin lens in a case and thought it was liquid.

I usually put it in my checked bag because of the weight I've carried the tripod and monopod on before. I have not had issues. But it only takes one rogue TSA agent who believes he's saving the world from sharp photos to ruin that.
02-16-2016, 09:22 AM   #11
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If you travel much, or hike, I'd buy a lightweight travel tripod. I have two, both of which are good, sturdy tripods (Sirui and Mefoto, both make several models that are good). There should be no TSA issues with a tripod and many will fit in a carry-on, or I've also just strapped it to my camera bag (usually have to unstrap it for the overhead). This option also supports your go light goal.

I would not ship.

I sometimes carry my heavier tripod on travel. When I do I pack it in my checked bag with clothing stuffed all around it. Yes, baggage handlers can be rough, but the way I pack it they'd literally have to destroy my entire bag to make a dent in the tripod. If you put it in your checked bag, make sure you have a TSA lock. Too many incidents of theft in the baggage handling areas so make it harder for a random employee to open your bag.

I also like the prior suggestions re just take a bean bag. I've done this before also, and it's the lightest option. It also will make you think a bit more about your shot (get creative).
02-16-2016, 09:57 AM   #12
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I have not read all the replies, but I always carry a fairly lightweight tripod in my luggage. Not sure if that prompts opening & inspection. I would never attempt to carry one onto the passenger compartment of an airplane. Duffel bag style luggage is a good shape for packing a tripod. As far as what tripod to select if you are buying new before going, to ask is to invite an additional 200 replies.Look at size (collapsed length especially), weight, features (collar locks vs flip locks, number of leg sections, how low can it go, how high is it without using the center column, etc) and of course price and select one that appeals.
02-16-2016, 10:06 AM   #13
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In Canada, and perhaps other countries too, airlines won't let you bring a tripod as carry-on (even a small tripod -- the last time I was successfully able to do that in Canada was over 30 years ago). It will have to go as checked baggage, either in its own case or inside your suitcase. A tripod with legs in four sections (as opposed to three) is easier to fit into your suitcase because of the shorter overall length than its 3-section counterpart when the legs are collapsed. Some tripod models are available in both 3-section and 4-section versions.
02-16-2016, 10:48 AM   #14
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I'd say options 2 and 4 are the simplest ones IMO.

Regarding 2 : The K-5 and 18-135 are about 1100 grams so not perfectly optimal for a cheap tripod but as a simple solution that could work.

Regarding 4 : I wonder if there's a pawn shop there which you could visit, buy a tripod and then resell it when you leave or ship it home if you want that.
02-16-2016, 11:55 AM   #15
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I've flown may times both domestic and international with this one packed in my carry-on: Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10X Ball Head and never had any problems with security.
I find it good enough to support up to something like K5 with 60-250 , but I guess the upcoming K-1 might be too much for it or at least it will require a better head.

In cases where I think even this is too big I pack a cheap Slick Mini tripod, not sure wich model but might be Slik 611-201. However, this one sits pretty low so it is not useful in all situations.

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