Traveling Light

By Josh Root

Air travel is a necessity for many professional photographers. Email, smartphones and video conferencing may allow us to communicate with clients from around the globe, but they can’t turn Seattle into South Beach or Paris, Kentucky, into Paris, France. Sometimes you just have to be there.

In recent years, carry-on rules have tightened up considerably. Whereas once I could easily walk on with Lowepro’s biggest backpack, today my cameras are just one grumpy gate attendant away from the ominous, “You’ll have to check that, sir.”

With this in mind, here are four rolling bags that won’t break your back as you walk through miles of airport terminals, will make it through the carry-on bag-sizer, and will allow you to keep your gear close at hand during the flight.

Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 250 AW
The Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 250 AW is a rolling carry-on bag in its simplest form. It protects and carries your gear, is tough enough to withstand the rigors of travel, and is compact enough to qualify as a carry-on. Approximate carrying capacity: two DSLRs, four to five lenses and two flashes. Notable features include an all-weather cover, replaceable wheels, ultralight construction, and a pocket for laptops up to 15 inches. It may not be flashy, but with Lowepro’s long history of quality and a solid feature set, you know the Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 250 AW will get the job done.

Exterior dimensions: 13.8 x 8.8 x 22.3 inches
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Price: $310

ThinkTank Airport Security v2.0
From the outside, the ThinkTank Airport Security v2.0 appears to be another simple, semi-rigid rolling bag similar to the Lowepro, but inside you find a host of upgrades. Approximate carrying capacity: three DSLRs, seven lenses and two flashes. Notable features include an integrated retractable cable lock, TSA-compliant zipper lock for the main compartment, replaceable wheels, a hidden cell phone holder, an all-weather cover and even a water bottle holder. Coolest surprise? The emergency shoulder straps can turn the ThinkTank Airport Security v2.0 into a backpack in a pinch. Drawbacks? There’s no laptop pocket. 

Exterior dimensions: 14 x 22 x 9 inches
Weight: 12–14 pounds
Price: $395

Ape Case ACPRO4000 Digital SLR and Laptop Roller Backpack
The Ape Case ACPRO4000 may require pushing your luck at the gate a bit, but the rewards may be worth it. While the dimensions put it under the 45 linear inches (L+W+H) that U.S. airlines use as their maximum carry-on size, its 10.1-inch height may cause it to fail some eight-to-nine-inch bag sizers. That said, the Ape Case ACPRO4000 offers a lot that its competition does not. Approximate carrying capacity: DSLR+70-200 zoom, four to five lenses and two flashes. Notable features include its soft-sided “bag” design that fits easily into cramped carry-on spaces, fully adjustable and padded backpack harness system, all-weather cover, Hi-Vis™ yellow interior to make finding your equipment easier, a water bottle holder, cell phone slot, and a pocket for laptops up to 16 inches. Because of its soft-sided design, you may give up some protection in comparison to the Lowepro or ThinkTank, but the advantages of the Ape Case ACPRO4000 - along with its bargain price - may outweigh that compromise.

Exterior dimensions: 15.4 x 19.25 x 10.1 inches
Weight: 9.4 pounds
Price: $150

Pelican 1510 Carry-On Case
Worried that none of these cases offers enough protection? Think you may run over your camera bag with a car or need to float it across the San Francisco Bay? Then perhaps you should take a look at the Pelican 1510 Carry-On Case. Approximate carrying capacity: two DSLRs, seven lenses and two flashes. Notable features include an unbreakable design that is airtight, dustproof, chemical-resistant, corrosion-proof and watertight up to a depth of 30 feet. It floats in salt water with up to a 64-pound load, has a purge valve for changes in temperature or altitude, and has dual padlocks. Fancy? Nope. Bulky? Very much so. But it will protect your gear when nothing else will, and will still fit in the overhead compartment for the flight home.

Exterior dimensions: 22 x 13.81 x 9.0 inches
Weight: 15.3 pounds
Price: $180



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