I’ve got four trips in September. I am teaching the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop at Mt. Rainier National Park. A day later I fly to Maui where I’m on the faculty at the Maui Photo Festival. From there it’s off to a secret location to do a shoot with a client who prefers to remain anonymous. Then it’s off to Vegas for Photoshop World.
That means airplanes, airplanes and lots of airplanes. One of the big hassles is what to do with your big tripod, all those layers of clothing, hiking boots, etc.
I carry my laptop and all my camera gear with me in the plane’s cabin. Everything else goes into one checked bag.
I’ve tested 20 or so bags to conclude that the REI Wheely Beast Rolling Duffel (35″) is the right bag for the job.
I’ve used this bag for slightly more than a year now. I discovered it when shopping for a bag I could use on my Alaska expedition last year. It will hold a big tripod, tripod head, clothes for a week, boots, and more. It’s light, affordable, durable and easy to transport. Best of all, fully loaded with all my gear, it comes to 49.5 pounds. That number is important for several reasons.
1. I’m getting old and hauling a bunch of heavy bags around is much less fun than it used to be.
2. I travel to Alaska and go on sea planes sometimes. There is always a 50 pound limit for non-camera stuff every time I use the sea plane service.
3. If you fly commercial – the airlines charge a BUNCH of money for any bag(s) over 50 pounds.
So now that I’ve finished the rant, I’ll tell you a bit more about the bag.
It is very easy to get into. I like that. The handle telescopes and makes it easy to pull the bag. The bag is very well balanced. Usually bags like this tip over easily. Not this one. It’s very touch and the zippers are of good quality. The grab handles are all padded so it’s easy and comfortable to carry at the grab points if you don’t want to use the handle to push or pull it while rolling. I also like the wheels on this bag since they are large enough to roll the bag over tough terrain.
There is only one word of warning. This bag is two inches too big for some airlines. Most airlines that only allow a 62-inch bag (this one is 64) won’t even notice and if they do, worst case scenario they will surcharge it – but the surcharge isn’t as bad as it is if you go over 50 pounds. I’ve flown with this bag on commercial airlines more than 20 times and never been challenged, but you should know that it is a rare possibility.
I’ve put my Wheely Beast to the test over and over and over again. Each time it’s stood up to all the abuse the airlines can offer. I would buy another one in a second if I lost the one I have and give it my highest recommendation for traveling photographers.
The REI Wheely Beast is $169 and includes free shipping from REI.