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03-29-2018, 07:23 PM   #1
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Photo Backpack and Airline Travel

I'm looking for a photo backpack for travel, and have these desired features:

1. fit the "Personal Item" rule that US Airlines use, the most restrictive of which appears to be 17in x 9in x 10in. I think I'll have to cheat a little but am looking for something small enough to fly under the radar when accompanied by a traditional roll-aboard. In other words if it's as big as the roll-aboard, that won't work.

2. carry a full-size (6ft) three-leg aluminum tripod centered somehow, since I believe a 7+lb tripod is too heavy for side mounting. Example: Slik 700, discontinued Manfrotto 3221. The tripod wouldn't be a carry-on item obviously; it would be attached later.

3. a removable, reasonably wide and fairly generously padded, hip belt. Removing the belt should make the pack fit more easily under an airline seat.

4. a (cross-)chest strap, although I think any pack with a hip belt would.

5. has a top handle that can strap onto the roll-aboard (the roll-aboard has a mounting strap to attach anything with a top handle.)

I've kind of left out photo equipment requirement because odd they're somewhat secondary, except for the tripod.

Any comments about a pack mostly meeting these requirements that has or hasn't passed as a "personal item" would be appreciated.

My regular computer backpack pushes the personal item limits slightly by an inch here or there, but has never failed to be considered a personal item.

03-29-2018, 09:45 PM   #2
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Many Lowepro camera backpacks have the features youʻre looking for. Here are a few with those features, and with more research youʻll probably find more models:

Lowepro Flipside 200 Backpack (Black) LP35182 B&H Photo Video
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack LP36772 B&H
Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II (Black) LP36869 B&H Photo Video
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack LP36771 B&H
03-30-2018, 03:31 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Many Lowepro camera backpacks have the features youʻre looking for. Here are a few with those features, and with more research youʻll probably find more models:

Lowepro Flipside 200 Backpack (Black) LP35182 B&H Photo Video
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack LP36772 B&H
Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II (Black) LP36869 B&H Photo Video
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack LP36771 B&H
Yes, thanks, I did look at them but I'm pretty sure the 450 models would incur scrutiny as a "personal item" and not fit under a seat... not sure about the 350. I'm hoping someone will have personal experience. I check a bag for the tripod of course but am trying to avoid checking a second; I need the space provided by some kind of personal item plus the roll-aboard. Now I travel with my (large) belt pack in the roll-aboard (takes up almost all of it) and then use the computer backpack for other stuff, but the waist pack plus computer backpack isn't comfortable for walking a lot (the backpack is the main issue - it will barely hold the tripod but the weight of that plus other items makes it uncomfortable with no waist or chest strap. Not sure a smaller photo pack would be happy with a 7+ lb 26-28" or so tripod - I just don't have one to test. I'm guessing a typical travel tripod (4+ leg sections, 5ft height or less) would work with almost anything but that's not what I'm carrying.
03-30-2018, 04:57 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
1. fit the "Personal Item" rule that US Airlines use, the most restrictive of which appears to be 17in x 9in x 10in. I think I'll have to cheat a little but am looking for something small enough to fly under the radar when accompanied by a traditional roll-aboard. In other words if it's as big as the roll-aboard, that won't work.
Many bags fit but sometimes airline employees frown upon a backpack if you have a rolling case. I've had better luck with a messenger bag and a rolling case. Is it because you wish to use the backpack upon arrival?

QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
2. carry a full-size (6ft) three-leg aluminum tripod centered somehow, since I believe a 7+lb tripod is too heavy for side mounting. Example: Slik 700, discontinued Manfrotto 3221. The tripod wouldn't be a carry-on item obviously; it would be attached later.
I suggest that when traveling you might be better served with a compact travel tripod, such as the Sirui T-025X. If you're set on a big tripod, bags from Mindshift Gear, Think Tank and Shimoda almost always include centered tripod fixation points.

QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
3. a removable, reasonably wide and fairly generously padded, hip belt. Removing the belt should make the pack fit more easily under an airline seat.
Removable or "can be tucked away" ?

QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
4. a (cross-)chest strap, although I think any pack with a hip belt would.
Yep

QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
5. has a top handle that can strap onto the roll-aboard (the roll-aboard has a mounting strap to attach anything with a top handle.)
That's a tricky one. For this one I'd recommend anything from Think Tank, they tend to address this fairly often. Maybe the Shape Shifter backpack? It can compress quite a lot (down to 3 inches if empty).

03-30-2018, 07:31 AM   #5
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Several threads about this have indicated that tripods are often not allowed in carry on bags if they can be seen.
03-30-2018, 08:14 AM   #6
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most people who fly, especially on business fly outside the rules every day

take a carry on bag, typically i think 19 x 12 x 9 inches, plus a backpack that holds a 17 inch notebook.

it is not the size that is wrong but the total weight. if you get the bags weighed you could be in trouble

i fly all the time with a combo described as above,

there is no difference between that laptop bag that holds a 17 inch laptop, and a similar sized photo bag.

straps are always an issue but anything that needs waste belt is going to exceed the carry on weight
03-30-2018, 09:14 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
Yes, thanks, I did look at them but I'm pretty sure the 450 models would incur scrutiny as a "personal item" and not fit under a seat... not sure about the 350. I'm hoping someone will have personal experience.
I typically fly 3-4 times a year. I use a standard size rolling carry-on and a backpack the same size as the 350.

I have never had an issue with Hawaiian, Alaska, Delta, American, JetBlue, WestJet, Southwest, or even United. On the smallest turboprops to the smaller cities, if they are overloaded or the overhead bin wonʻt fit my rolling carry-on, then theyʻll put that one in the cargo hold for free. If I get a bulkhead seat or there is some obstruction under the seat in front of me (rare), then Iʻll just put my backpack in the overhead.

There is usually a 25 lbs. limit per carry-on, so just make sure you donʻt bring gold bars in your backpack. With more and more self check-in at kiosks these days, if you act as if your backpack is heavy, they will ask you to weigh it and may have you transfer some of the weight to another bag.

I sincerely think youʻll be fine with any of those Lowepro models (including the 450) I had suggested and itʻs a matter of deciding how large of a backpack you want or need in terms of weight on your back and what youʻre bringing with you.
03-30-2018, 09:49 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote

There is usually a 25 lbs. limit per carry-on, so just make sure you donʻt bring gold bars in your backpack. With more and more self check-in at kiosks these days, if you act as if your backpack is heavy, they will ask you to weigh it and may have you transfer some of the weight to another bag.
This is key. You must be comfortable and natural with the weight otherwise you stand out. 25 pounds is not a lot. About 11 kilos , consider a good 70-200 / 2.8 is in the range of 1.6-2 kilos on its own 11 kilos is easy to reach

03-31-2018, 08:56 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I've done some testing this weekend and think I've come to the realization that what I'm trying to do might not work. For the first time in thirty years I put on my old metal external frame pack (I had no idea there are so few of them now!), and realized that the magic of a frame pack is that the shoulder straps barely touch the top of the shoulders - they run down from behind the top of the shoulders, so almost all of the weight truly is carried on the waist belt. Then I tried a "travel backpack" I'd had almost as long with a similar size to the photo backpacks I've been considering, and realized that, because I have at least an average-length torso, the chest strap almost strangled me when I dropped the bag far enough that the belt was fully on my hips. So for a typical or larger person I'm not sure a pack that meets the 17 or 18in personal item maximum height works that well for carrying a load that includes a 7+ lb tripod+head.

The old frame pack was adjustable, so I had the straps attached relatively high and the belt low. I used to strap my photo waist pack to the bottom of the frame, and just tossed the tripod in the top (it went sideways across my body at about an angle and stuck out the top on one side about 6in.), padded with a jacket or spare shirt depending on the weather.

This thread has been very helpful, though, because it introduced me to several packs I hadn't been familiar with, and will probably help others searching for the same solution. Besides the brands mentioned I also found Vanguard backpacks, which look like they have a very effective tripod center mounting system (logical, being Vanguard) - although it also looked like there are a lot of parts to it that could get lost and/or take a long time to assemble vs. just tossing the tripod in my frame pack like I used to.

As for the tripod itself, that's definitely the problem here. I just haven't found a useful tripod that's smaller. It has to be steady with the camera at at least eye level (6ft+) with an APS body and modest lens (60-250 is my heaviest.) There are some tripods that might work at 5ft but not as many at 6ft. Even with the 700 I've lost a few important pictures to vibrations, although I'm not blaming the tripod for that - that was more of a technique problem.

With carry-ons, I haven't found weight to be an issue, at least not to the point where the packs rip (and I've had that happen.) Now for carrying that's another issue of course, but for just getting on the plane, it's always been a space issue for me.

Thanks to everyone for the replies.
03-31-2018, 11:54 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Several threads about this have indicated that tripods are often not allowed in carry on bags if they can be seen.
Nobody is suggesting carrying a tripod on an aircraft - it has to go in checked baggage if it doesn't fit in a carry-on, and a standard-sized tripod won't fit.
03-31-2018, 04:22 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
Nobody is suggesting carrying a tripod on an aircraft - it has to go in checked baggage if it doesn't fit in a carry-on, and a standard-sized tripod won't fit.
Some had done so in another thread. I misread you - glad you are prepared.
03-31-2018, 05:05 PM   #12
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If I am not carrying a dedicated camera bag, I just put an camera/lens insert into my normal Samsonite City Vibe 16" laptop backpack and that works well.

It doesn't have a waist belt but they add a lot of bulk and will make it look bigger. It has sleeve on the back so you can slip it over the handle of he rolling bag. Very handy.

For this to work you need a backpack that has a boxy type middle compartment like in the attached photo.

Last edited by Theov39; 04-25-2018 at 08:51 PM.
03-31-2018, 07:31 PM   #13
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My experience with the computer backpack, without the waist belt, is that I can only carry a few pounds in it comfortably - so maybe a jacket, umbrella, a little water, and paperwork.
03-31-2018, 08:46 PM - 1 Like   #14
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It's getting harder and harder to fly with media gear...trust me.
Within the USA is one thing. International travel from the USA is another thing.
Outside the USA? It's the wild west!!!!
Batteries, and "power packs" seem to be the "thing" now, and any kind of battery seems to be scrutinized.
At SFO, for international flights, all cameras come OUT of whatever they are in, and go bouncing along in the security bins.
No foam. No protection.
Batteries in China?
They don't care if they are LiPo or LiIon - they are scrutinized. Anything not an AA or AAA battery will need to be carried with you in the cabin.
Those batteries will eat up the weight you are allowed to carry with you.
As a professional it's really becoming difficult to get to some places because of all the rules. China especially. I had batteries confiscated because the security people thought they were LiPo.
They were half charged Sony LiIon lighting batteries that were in their lighting cases and approved for baggage. Gone. If I had to carry all the batteries with me, I would only have batteries. It cracks me up that I GOT the batteries because they were flown FROM CHINA...but if I fly with them, they were confiscated.
It's really really hard these days to fly with media gear.
04-03-2018, 05:18 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
Nobody is suggesting carrying a tripod on an aircraft - it has to go in checked baggage if it doesn't fit in a carry-on, and a standard-sized tripod won't fit.
Well, many people are, me included. I've traveled with tripods all the time, inside or outside my carry-own backpacks. Often the tripod was taller than the backpack. Never had problems. Canadian and USA companies allow tripods in planes.
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