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07-22-2021, 12:48 AM   #1
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Traveling by air with tripod gear

So far, I flew oversea with cameras and lenses in hand luggage, no risk involved with having photographic gear damaged or lost in checked-in luggage, and was very thankful to have in camera sensor stabilization in all Pentax DSLR I used. But, my photographic kit evolved towards a long exposure landscape photography kit: 100mm/150mm filters (ND, ND grad, CPL), big 37mm carbon tripod, gimbal and arca-swiss parts for panoramic/multi-exposures stitching, I've carried all that gear by car when driving to a shooting location, no issue. And now comes the problem how do I carry all that landscape kit when going by car is not an option anymore, for instance going to Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Nordic Europe. Carbon tripod fiber is strong but only in one direction, and can be easily damage if punched perpendicular to the carbon fiber. The big 37mm tripod , even folded, is too big to hand-carry on flight. If I put it together with clothes in check-in luggage, there is a risk that it gets damaged or a risk that I never see my tripod again in case the luggage gets lost. What should I do?


Last edited by biz-engineer; 07-22-2021 at 12:57 AM.
07-22-2021, 01:00 AM - 1 Like   #2
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My only experience is taking a travel tripod and that did go in my hold luggage bag.

I do wonder if a tripod would clear security in some airports.
07-22-2021, 01:09 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
So far, I flew oversea with cameras and lenses in hand luggage, no risk involved with having photographic gear damaged or lost in checked-in luggage, and was very thankful to have in camera sensor stabilization in all Pentax DSLR I used. But, my photographic kit evolved towards a long exposure landscape photography kit: 100mm/150mm filters (ND, ND grad, CPL), big 37mm carbon tripod, gimbal and arca-swiss parts for panoramic/multi-exposures stitching, I've carried all that gear by car when driving to a shooting location, no issue. And now comes the problem how do I carry all that landscape kit when going by car is not an option anymore, for instance going to Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Nordic Europe. Carbon tripod fiber is strong but only in one direction, and can be easily damage if punched perpendicular to the carbon fiber. The big 37mm tripod , even folded, is too big to hand-carry on flight. If I put it together with clothes in check-in luggage, there is a risk that it gets damaged or a risk that I never see my tripod again in case the luggage gets lost. What should I do?
I have often taken my Mefoto Globetrotter in my checked in luggage but that is aluminium. I have also carried bottles of spirits wrapped in clothing with no breakages. Bubble wrap might help protect it.

07-22-2021, 01:17 AM - 1 Like   #4
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For our NZ trip in 2018, my Velbon aluminium tripod went in my checked baggage. I took nowhere near the amount of gear that you mentioned!

07-22-2021, 02:03 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Amazingly, I have seen full-size tripods lashed to the outside of travel packs as carry-on luggage on a flight out of Anchorage, Alaska. If that is not strange enough, I remember a flight from Portland, Oregon to Charlotte, North Carolina that was carrying both a group of hunters and another of fly fishermen. One guy held a full set of deer antlers on his lap the entire distance, while the other group was quite worried about fragile overlength fishing rods in the overhead compartments. Some started out the trip with the rods next to them in the seat, but that did not go well.


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07-22-2021, 02:21 AM - 3 Likes   #6
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a possible solution

get a long pcp pipe big enough for the tripod to fit inside and place the " package " into the check luggage

you could get " caps " or just tape the ends

that would help protect against accidental damage
07-22-2021, 05:10 AM - 1 Like   #7
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I suggest a large pelican or skb case or similar. Then ship it to the destination insured and with tracking or check as baggage. Shipping is likely safer and you can do so ahead of time if thereís an appropriate agent to hold it at the destination. If the shipment is lost you have time perhaps to ship a replacement or track down the lost shipment.

---------- Post added 07-22-21 at 08:15 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by slartibartfast01 Quote
I have also carried bottles of spirits wrapped in clothing with no breakages. Bubble wrap might help protect it.
When I was 18 I traveled to New Mexico and my entire bag of clothing was largely ruined by someone else (unknown who) taking alcohol in their checked bag. Their bag insufficiently protected the bottle, it broke, my bag and clothing and other gear was soaked in bourbon. It wasnít pleasant. The airline replaced some of the cost of replacement of the items that I was unable to fix via the wash. I strongly recommend hard shell protection for liquid cargo.

---------- Post added 07-22-21 at 08:18 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by aslyfox Quote
a possible solution

get a long pcp pipe big enough for the tripod to fit inside and place the " package " into the check luggage

you could get " caps " or just tape the ends

that would help protect against accidental damage
A good solution in many ways. I still recommend shipping if possible gear that is fragile and bulky. The reality of baggage on an airplane is different than shipping.


Last edited by UncleVanya; 07-22-2021 at 05:16 AM.
07-22-2021, 05:34 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
I suggest a large pelican or skb case or similar. Then ship it to the destination insured and with tracking or check as baggage. Shipping is likely safer and you can do so ahead of time if there’s an appropriate agent to hold it at the destination. If the shipment is lost you have time perhaps to ship a replacement or track down the lost shipment.. . . .
please note I suggested a " possible " solution

not a " perfect " one

good luck
07-22-2021, 05:40 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
If I put it together with clothes in check-in luggage, there is a risk that it gets damaged or a risk that I never see my tripod again in case the luggage gets lost. What should I do?
If you do check luggage, then I wouldn't be worried. Wrap it properly, don't place it too close to the edges, and you should be fine. I've done this multiple times.

Of course I would remove the gimbal from the lens for transportation.

I did carry-on a regular (not overly big, but not "compact") tripod more than once. Nowadays, however, when traveling I try to avoid checking luggage and carry a dependable travel tripod (the Peak Design, in my case).
07-22-2021, 05:42 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by aslyfox Quote
please note I suggested a " possible " solution

not a " perfect " one

good luck
Agreed. Shipping isnít perfect either (cost, time, storage at the destination) Adding some type of impact resistant protection to the gear is vastly better than hoping it gets there in a softer carrier.
07-22-2021, 05:51 AM - 4 Likes   #11
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Life is risk. What’s the point in owning the gear if you don’t take it with you? Just use a reasonably rigid bag and don’t over worry.
07-22-2021, 06:36 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Luggage type " hard cases" exist that will accomodate a tripod.
You could likely find a reasonably priced rifle case that will accommodate your tripod; it may need to be partially disassembled.
07-22-2021, 06:40 AM - 2 Likes   #13
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I've occasionally travelled with an aluminum tripod in carry-ons with no serious trouble. The one minor issue was that the handle and rod on my pan head looked like a screwdriver to the TSA X-ray. Thus, my carry-on occasionally was shunted the bag detention zone for manual inspection. But as soon as the inspector saw it was just the pan-head, they let me go.

Is there any way to get a short-strong tripod or stabilizing rig? Although a large, tall tripod might be nice for some landscape shots, you might find that using walls, rocks, posts, etc. can stand in for a large, bulky tripod. Or, for example, @Kerrowdown seemed to like his Platypod. (Once, I made an impromptu rigid support by using a stack of coins under the lens to lift the camera.
07-22-2021, 08:51 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I have traveled with an aluminum travel tripod in a carryon and in checked baggage with no problem. A pelican case was mentioned, they have some sized just for air travel, and they come in different colors, which is nice for spotting in a bunch of luggage when 75% of it seems black.
07-22-2021, 09:06 AM - 2 Likes   #15
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A number of years ago I had a Bogan 3221 (an aluminum Manfrotto 055 equivalent - I think) damaged in a flight back to the US from Europe. The tripod was traveling as checked luggage in a soft and lightly padded Bogan/Manfrotto tripod bag.

The tripod & head (Bogan's Manfrotto 029 pan/tilt head) had survived several (business) trips both to and from Europe, but its number finally came up on this particular trip. I think it was the yoke (the part that the legs connect to) that broke somewhere in transit and I replaced the tripod with a Manfrotto 055.

I always carried my camera bag (the contents varying over time from 35mm to a 6x6 and 645 outfits to a 4x5 field camera) and film as carry on without problems. This was both before and a few years after 9/11.

My camera gear was insured, but when I called my agent to file a claim for the tripod, he told me not to bother - the insurance was tied to my homeowner's insurance, and if I filed a claim, my home insurance rate would increase more than I would get in the claim. Welp, I then cancelled the insurance on my camera gear...

I realize that if I thought I might lose a *lot* of gear, it would probably have been worthwhile to keep the insurance, but after some thought I realized that the (low) risk wasn't worth the cost - to me.

Last edited by wm_brant; 07-22-2021 at 09:27 AM.
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