3-August-2007 : Going Around The World For A Few Days? You’ll Need To Pack Ulta-Light

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

3-August-2007 : Going Around The World For A Few Days? You’ll Need To Pack Ulta-Light

So you need to fly around the world 1.5 times in less than a week for business and you are limited to one legal carry on bag and no checked baggage…..what do you do?…..what do you do?

This task can sound a little bit daunting, I know. A Think Tank Airport Addicted would be a great choice, except for the loaded weight and the bag not being legal carry on for certain European and Asian carriers. The Lowe Pro Stealth backpack is a great stand-by, I loved mine….unfortunately I loved mine to death and Lowe Pro no longer makes the bag, so I went exploring for an answer. The possible answer to my needs came to me by way of the Mountainsmith web site when I stumbled upon the Mountainsmith Parallax backpack. The design of the bag didn’t seem perfect and with four days before my trip, it seemed like I needed to take a leap of faith to see if the bag would work.

My bag was in my hands at 7:30pm on Monday and my first flight of this eight flight, five airline, five different aircraft type (ranging from the medium sized 737-500 to the “heavy” 777-200 & 747-400 and the tiny Dash-8 Turbo prop) three continent, five country, approx 34,000 actual flown air miles, crossing the Pacific twice , the Atlantic once and 10 trips through immigrations counters was to begin 10.5hrs later. Not that I was cutting it a little bit to close.

The following is a list of everything I have brought with me, all of it is pictured, with the Mountainsmith backpack it got loaded into.

Everything is listed in the order it appears in the photo from the upper left hand side down: Baseball hat ; tooth brush/tooth paste ; belt; four pairs of socks ; four pairs of underwear ; stick of Right Guard ; zip-lock bag of toiletries ; pack of sani-wipes ; pack of tishues; container of powder ; CF card reader ; retractable USB cord; iPod cord ; in-ear noise cancelling headsets ; on-ear noise canceling headsets; APC power inverter ; APC emPower (in-seat power) adapter ; Canon 1D ; Canon 85f1.2 ; Canon 14f2.8 ; Canon 50f1.4; Holga Lens (modified to fit Canon EOS mount) ; Newswear Press Pouch ; Canon 1D battery charger ; 4 Canon 1D batteries ; Motorola USB phone charger (for both Motorola phone and Blackberry phone) ; power cord for 1D battery charger ; 3-way power splitter ; MacBook power supply; Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket (limited edition “SportsShooter” version with 10 CF cards); Canon 70-200f2.8 ; iPod (in Red Sox sleeve) ; multi-country power-tip adapter ; hair brush ; sunglasses ; pen ; pack of tishues ; roll of Gaffers tap on a strap; two TSA approved locks on a zip-wire; Blackberry ; Motorola Razr; zip-lock with “Kim Wipes” (lint free cloth to clean lenses); four button up shirts ; North Face A5 cargo pants ; Timbuk2 mobile phone holser ; Passport ; wallet ; business card holder ; magazine (Photo District News) ; 12-slot flat DVD sleeve ; fleece vest ; Apple MacBook…………………..and of course the Mountain Smith Parallax bag

**Not pictured are a pair of New Balance sneakers and the Canon 1Ds and 24f1.4 I used to shoot this photo.

I placed the backpack next to all my gear so you could see the size of this bag. You can see it is not a huge bag. It is deep, but not outside the linear dimensions of any carry on restrictions, in fact it is well under the linear dimensions restrictions of every major airline (I say major because the reincarnation of Pan Am has a bad restriction size that is about the same size as my 13″ MacBook when it is in it’s sleeve).

I will be wearing this back pack while shoot about 25% of the time, and it appears to be very comfortable and wall balanced even when fully loaded.

Many photographers try and pack everything they own for every shoot. I know there are times photogs need a lot of gear. I have done a lot of shoots were my Think Tank Airport Addicted is bursting at the seems and weighs in around 70lbs. On the other hand I have also shoot very complex jobs, such as the one I am shooting now with minimal gear by doing my homework and know what the most effective tools in my bag are for the job. By bringing exactly what I need , but still being prepared, such as extra batteries, a battery charger and packing the 70-200f2.8 as a saftey net (I really wanted to leave it home due to the size and weight) I am covered from all angles.

The only thing I really needed and didn’t bring was a Tide Stain Stick!

–Click On Image To Enlarge It–
a group of items on the floor

Below is an approximate flight map of this loaded bag’s journey
–Click On Image To Enlarge It–
a map of the earth
The journey goes in this order
Providence, RI – Newark, NJ – Tokyo, JP – Hong Kong, PRC – Vancouver, BC – Hong Kong, PRC – Paris, FR, – New York, NY – Providence, RI

Happy Flying!


  1. so did you carry your mountainsmith parallax on all the flights ?

    didn’t you get hit by international hand-luggage weight restrictions ?

  2. My Mountainsmith Parallax backpack went on each and every flight. I had no place to leave my bag, as I was constantly in transit.

    They key to traveling with a bag that may exceed weight restrictions is to wear it very “light.” Never ever, for any reason, give a counter agent or gate agent any reason to weigh you bag. Even if you bag weighs 70lbs you much carry it like it weighs 5lbs. I choose to travel with bags that look quite small and have a low profile. By traveling with bags that look like small standard carry on bags the contents never gets questioned.

    Walk upright, walk comfortably, if you can be seen by an airline representative always pick the bag up with one hand and swing it over your shoulder in a way that conceals the true weight of the bag.

    I have only been stopped a few times for an overweight carry on bag. All three times were by American Airlines at DFW. All three times I had a fully loaded Think Tank Airport Addicted backpack, weighing around 70lbs. I did however fly with this same loaded Think Tank Airport Addicted backpack around 300,000 miles over the course of a year, through multiple countries, and dealing with the TSA an average of three times per day, three days a week, and never get stopped by any other airline or at any other airport.

    Hopefully this explains how I avoid getting hit with weight restrictions.

  3. wow.. that’s amazing. and something i plan to test with my lowepro stealth aw when i fly to the uk early next year.

    a tip i’ve also heard is if they do insist on weighing you (as happens automatically at heathrow a lot of the time apparently), take out your heaviest camera body with heaviest lens attached and sling it over your shoulder, then take out your laptop and sling it on the other shoulder, then finally stuff your pockets with your spare batteries.

    that way your bag weighs a LOT less and you’re not breaking the rules, as you’re allowed to carry a camera and a laptop as well as your carry-on bag.

    of course, it’s rather cheeky, but it has worked for a good friend of mine who travels a lot.

    a great blog by the way, keep up the exceptional work !

    james madelin

  4. James

    The Lowe Pro Stealth backpack is great for hauling a lot of gear in a single legal carry on. The bag is quite big but does not stand out as a huge photo backpack as it is designed with a low profile.

    I have never actually had my backpack weighed at Heathrow, ever. I may just be lucky, but I have been through LHR dozens of times, including a few trips through in the summer of 2006 right after the “no carry on ban” was lifted. I actually flew during the ban, however knowing the ban was in place I packed everything in a Pelican 1514 and checked it.

    I have gone through security with a body on each shoulder, with a 16-35f2.8 and 70-200f2.8 attached to the 1D bodies, and my laptop in my hand a few times. I do this not for weight, but to better be able to push my backpack into the rigid size template at the start of the security line at London’s Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) airports.

    Oddly enough, my first ever blog posting at Flying With Fish is about stuffing my Lowe Pro Stealth backpack for a for a day business trip , that involved hauling my gear through four countries , on two continents, on nine flights, without every staying a single night in a hotel.

    This trip was New York (LGA)- Dallas (DFW) – Incheon, South Korea (ICN) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Incheon (ICN) – Nagoya, Japan (NGO) – Honolulu (HNL) – Los Angeles (LAX) – Columbus, OK (CMH) – Hartford (BDL). The flights, were a mix of EMB-170 and CRJ regional jets, 777-200, 747-400, 767-400 and 737-800 airplanes. So the Stealth backpack has to work on both very small and very large airpcraft.

    You can read my post and see what I stuffed in the bag here:

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