Every time I purchase new camera or drone gear, the first thing I do is become proficient with it. Then, I figure out how I can travel with it. These days, it’s a common expectation to be ready to travel around the world with production gear at a moment’s notice. To be prepared for these situations before they happen, it’s essential to have a system in place on how you pack your equipment for the journey.
1. Manage expectations. 1. When working on productions in remote locations, one thing is certain: it’s not if something will go wrong, it’s when it will go wrong. Inevitably, there will be situations out of your control, but for the rest of them, proper planning can help avoid a lot of unneeded stress and headaches.
2. Stay organized. Organization is crucial. I keep similar items in the same cases and bags. It may take some creative thinking to maximize space, but it pays off to easily find what I need quickly, and know exactly where to look so I don’t waste time in the field. I pack all of my lenses in my carry-on as they are the most likely to be damaged, then my cameras, and depending on room and travel plans, additional camera systems, batteries, light kits, drones and grip gear wind up in my checked cases. I recommend prioritizing your gear and taking the absolute essentials for your shoot as carry-on(s). If all of your other checked bags are lost, you can at least capture the key elements and have enough content to tell your story
3. Do your research. Know the area you are traveling to, and investigate the terrain and conditions you will be faced with. Traveling to Australia versus traveling to Uganda for a documentary requires a much different packing strategy. If I have too much gear and need to lighten the load, I may research if I can purchase back-up drives, grip gear, and basic accessories in that country, and just ship them back directly to the states.
4. Get frequent flier status. I always try to fly with the same airline in order to build an elite frequent flier status. Currently, I am able to check three large bags/cases up to 70 lbs each, as well as two carry-ons. If I did a good job in pre-production and camera prep, I am able to fit quite a bit of gear with me, and can handle almost any situation presented to me on the shoot.
If you don’t have a frequent flier status or you’re traveling on an airline you haven’t flown with, I highly recommend you check their baggage policy online or with an airline representative. This way, you can budget accordingly on your project bids, and more importantly, avoid costly bag check-ins — and arguments at the check-in counter (which happen more often than you think)!
5. Always pack light. The lighter and more efficiently you can pack will allow you and your team to change locations quickly, locate gear with ease, and move with a smaller footprint. With time, it will become second nature.
One of my favorite quotes is “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” The longer you are in the industry you will realize the truth in this, but when something ultimately goes wrong, stay composed, take a deep breath, and remember it will make for a good story one day. Here’s to your next adventure!
Matt Katsolis is a GPC case owner, the founder of Interpret Studios and a Professional Cinematographer who travels the world to capture incredible stories.
Photo Credit: A.J. Neste