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How To Pack Digital Camera Gear For Travel

10 tips from photographer Itai Danan you need to read before you head off on your holidays with your camera.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Photo by David Clapp.

Traveling with a camera seems like a natural thing to do. Yet, airlines rules, security restrictions, weight and space all conspire to make it difficult. So, here are the top 10 rules for packing digital camera gear:
1. Choose what to take. This depends on what you have, where you are going, what you will see and how you will get there. Take no more and no less than necessary. A digital camera at least needs memory, batteries and a charger. DSLRs also need lenses. Don't forget extras like tripods, remotes, filters, etc.

2. Decide how to carry your gear while shooting. You may use a dedicated camera bag, a modular system, a general-purpose bag or simply have the camera hang from your neck. This is a personal choice based on your gear and your comfort. Take a look at this camera bag guide explains the pros and cons of each type.

3. Decide how to transport your gear. If you decide to work from a camera bag and all your equipment (tripod excluded) fits, use that bag to transport your gear too, but only if satisfies carry-on requirements. Otherwise, you need another bag. The best is to use a carry-on-size or personal-item-size bag (check your airline for specifications), or both. The most important thing is to keep as much photography gear with you.

4. Tripods are generally too large to take on board, so they end up packed in checked luggage. Luckily, they are quite sturdy. Some people detach and carry the tripod-head with them for extra peace of mind. For a relatively light camera, you can take a Gorillapod as a backup tripod.

5. Take backup gear. There is always the possibility that something will break and digital cameras are nearly impossible to repair without sending them away. Do not count on being able to buy replacements either. Professionals travel with duplicates of every necessary item. That means cameras, lenses, memory, batteries and chargers. Consider that a short-circuited charger can prevent all you gear from working after your batteries run out. Not a pro? Instead of a camera and lenses, consider an AA-battery powered ultra-zoom as an all-in-one backup.

6. Weigh your bags. Carry-on and personal items have rarely enforced weight restrictions, but rarely does not mean never. You should at least know when you are over the limit. Should your overweight bag get discovered, take your heaviest camera and heaviest lens and put them around your neck. You can also put small lenses, batteries and flashes in your pockets.

Tamrac bag7. Protect everything. Most camera bags come with movable padded inserts. Ideally, there should be one of these between every hard item to avoid things from damaging each other. To save space, or if you run out of inserts, you can place items in protective pouches. Many lenses come with them.

8. Know your stuff. Write down the model and serial numbers of all important items. This helps claim things should they get stolen or confiscated. Insurance and police may also need this information. Go through the camera's manual as a refresher if you have not used it for a while.

9. Check your gear. Before actually packing anything, make sure that each item is in working order. Batteries should be charged and memory cards should preferably start empty. The last thing you want is to lose images from your next and previous vacations! Check for sensor-dust and clean your lenses. Make sure that cleaning products have not dried up either.

10. Prepare for backups. A long trip may produce many once-in-a-lifetime images, so backups are highly desirable. If you travel with a laptop, you can use a DVD burner to copy your images as memory cards fill up. For extra safety, burn everything twice and mail one copy to your home address. While you can use the laptop's hard-drive, using optical disks is far better since they have no practical value. If you get robbed, they'll take your laptop, your camera and other expensive devices such as iPods and portable hard-drives, so use optical disks!

Traveling with photography gear takes some preparation but the feedback and possibilities from shooting digitally are tremendous. Travel photographer Itai Danan has been doing it for almost 10 years, refining his technique and becoming a leading digital photography expert.

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