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I wanted to share my somewhat eclectic approach to carry-on luggage: as a very frequent flier, I have learned one or two things that might be helpful to others. The context here is that I need a stills camera,  a video and sound recording capacity; and the software to process; anyone interested in how I arrived at my choice of solution on the camera front, please refer HERE.)

Checklist #1 (the must-have-no-matter-what-else-you-take items):

1) Current passport (most jurisdictions require 6 months remaining as a minimum; and double check you have a valid visa for the countries you intend visiting.

2) Credit cards (and reading glasses if you need them)

3) Airline ticket or electronic version thereof

So: three items only in this list, but travel cannot happen without them, so make this ‘holy trinity’ the first items you check as you head out the door. I use ‘tech’ pants that have Velcro closers over the leg side pockets; this is where these critical items live; at all points along the route, a touch of these pockets can be reassuring.

If the wheels fall off everything, you will find post-crisis life  easier if these items have never left your body.

Checklist #2 (the carry-on bag(s)):

I use a Kata camera bag (similar, but much older than THIS one, and without in-built wheels), and I always book exit rows (usu. $60 more); I use the Kata case to elevate my feet; a kind of relaxation (more akin to Purgatory than Heaven, truth be told) is possible, in the event the Premium Economy flight does not come though, or the upgrade does not happen. The Kata bag had a material band through which to slide the extending handle of the check-in bag, which has wheels; both are easily moved though airports.

Checklist for carry-on bag contents

  • pen (I like the thick ball type); for Customs and LaMigra forms
  • LED torch; essential for finding anything on board
  • toothpicks (“Interdens”, wood, discontinued, but best of their type; a triangle profile)
  • electrical plugs for region I am travelling to (phone, MBA, other)
  • MacBook Air (I have written about this HERE); never leave home without it!
  • paper book (airline fodder; you know what you like)
  • headphones (not the noise cancelling type, perhaps surprisingly, but closed-ear type; result is better sound quality. I favour the Shure bros. SRH-440s): they FOLD, which feature is never mentioned in the promo material)
  • moisturiser—make sure smaller than 100ml
  • all my hard drives; like credit cards, must travel near me; holding movies, work, data
  • my ‘sleeping’ hat (I use this for meditation in bright or noisy places; pulls down over eyes and ears; airline air conditioning has long lag times and heads get cold
  • thumb drive; my travel one is 32GB; holds certificate templates etc.
  • metal filter for AeroPress
  • Thunderbolt and USB3 cables
  • enough space to hold bag #2, below

Bag #2 (Crumpler Mild Enthusiast, Scan be placed inside Kata bag for pesky officials)

  • NEX 6 body, with Sigma 30 ƒ2.8 lens (EFOV: 45mm, my favourite all-rounder)
  • 16GB SDHC card, two batteries, USB-driven charging cable
  • spare charged battery
  • hot-shoe level (essential for landscapes)

Total weight for both bags: make sure this is under 7Kgs; I will never forget an argument I had with one official; I was heading out for a paid photo shoot, so had quite a bit of gear with me. My carry-on camera bag weighed 7.8Kg. She made me remove one lens (the amazing Nikkor 14–24/2,8, worth $2,400 then) and carry it on board in a plastic bag. She claimed that the extra 0.8Kg rendered the carry-on bag “dangerous”. I did try to explain that the difference in kinetic energy between 7.0Kg and 7.8Kg, assumed to be falling approximately 1m (to head of hapless passenger underneath, me) was trivial, but that attempt definitely was a failure to communicate (my favourite line from Cool Hand Luke).

Checklist #3: checked bag

A no-brand roller I bought in the US in Chattanooga; I forget the shop, but one you find everywhere in the US: gigantic, requiring a car simply to navigate. This roller cost $47 USD, and it is better built than any of the many other bags I have trialled. I have a “Qantarse” ‘Q’ Tag (free when I received my two as a silver FF; now they actually charge travellers for them… no shame).

My tripod (Benro “MeFoto“; hate the name, love the tripod, lives in the check-in bag, as does the iKan Field Monitor (in a Tupperware plastic container, fits in the NEX 6 hot shoe on a ball-swivel; I use this to shoot pieces to camera on the road). The hot shoe level is used to set up the NEX; then the field monitor replaces it; very handy. I record ‘second system sound‘ on a Roland R-05 (packed in a second food container), and using a Samson levalier microphone; amazingly good quality and budget price. I edit in Final cut Studio; total overkill for YouTube videos, but I am an intermediate-level user, and the software has a massive learning curve and I am strongly disinclined to change to another editing program. The MBA and a USB3 HD handles the HD video from the NEX 6 with ease, too.

Socks (if taking Vivo shoes; to Vancouver, essential—like Seattle, it knows how to rain!), a dozen underpants, two teaching pants; ten T-shirts; sleeping pants; second beanie, Gore Tex rain shell, three pairs Vibram Five Fingers—that’s it, I think. Total weight ~15Kg.

So, I will add to this if I find I have forgotten anything.

Yes, one addition: following the wardrobe failure I wrote about recently, I recommend wearing pants that have pockets, but no zipper. These can, and will, fail (much like hard drives); it is only a matter of time.