Carry-on restrictions show up in Asia

Carry-on restrictions show up in Asia

Fisherman

This past week I was caught off guard a bit. Never has an Asian airline once weighed my carry-on. You know as well as I do that traveling photographers carry loads of gear in their carry-on. But this trip, as I entered the boarding area the fine folks at Malaysia Airlines asked me to put my Think Tank International roller bag and my Urban Disguise both on a small scale. Of course I was over, by 15 kg. So they graciously told me they would not charge me, this time. They told me to rearrange my bags and I could check the roller bag. I did. I put my 5D body, 85 1.2 and my 24-70 2.8 in my Urban Disguise and continued on to the plane. But once I got to the door of the plane there was no one to take the roller bag and I walked in and took a seat with both bags. Upon returning I knew what to expect. So I packed everything in my Urban Disguise. Sure enough, this time at check-in they weighed my roller bag. So I simply checked it there.

What does this mean? It means, Asia is also feeling some sort of pinch financially. Money has to be the motivation. Will other airlines in Asia follow suit? My guess is, yes. This puts us Asia travelers in a slight bind. Here are a couple of ideas that might help. If you have some better ones share it with the rest of us.

Prioritize your gear load. Pack the most costly or most important gear in your carry-on and check the rest. Remember, it was only two trips back that my luggage got lost for days (On Malaysia Airlines). So put your body or bodies, and the most costly lenses in your carry-on. There is a slight problem with this plan, the more expensive lenses are also inherently the heavier lenses. So you might be able to get away with a minimum amount of gear in a carry-on if you reduce the load. But lets face it if you are serious about your shooting then you have a lot of gear and it is costly, heavy and with you, otherwise, why did you buy it? So…

Enter the photo/travel vest. This is the age old idea that seems to work. It is uncomfortable and hot. But deal with it! It just might get your gear on the plane with you. I am not advocating wearing a vest to shoot, just to travel in. But photo vest are ugly and lets face it, we all want to look good, otherwise we all would be wearing velcro sneakers from Wal-Mart. What are the options? Well sad to say the vast majority of photo vest are the same; multiple pockets on the outside and the inside all zippered to the max. I swear they all used the same pattern. Even renown companies like Tilly and Domke look alike. The Bellingham vest is getting closer, but still, it looks like your are a cross between a special forces commando and a fly fisherman and it sets you back 300 bucks! Then there is David DuChemin’s favorite vest the Gitzo Fleece. I am not as keen on this as he is, mainly because it is a working vest and it is fleece. I don’t really need a working vest and certainly am not looking for a fleece one. All I want is a simple vest to smuggle illicit gear on board a flight and sidestep the weight restrictions.

So where does that leave us? Just about nowhere. Until today on David’s blog (this is a long way to go about promoting his blog entry) where he linked to this thing of beauty. It’s Scott Jordan’s, Scottevest Travel Vest. This looks like a real winner. It has pockets galore and still is stylish. The one downside of this is it looks a bit warm for Asia. So, enter Scottevest SeV Tropical Jacket/Vest. Pretty much the same jacket just a lot lighter weight and even packable. Ya’ gotta love that! Here is the deal sealer, the thing is only $120. True, you can get other vest cheaper (not the ones listed above), but I think I would pay a little more for the looks and the functionality of this vest jacket combination. Now I can’t be too enthusiastic over this vest yet, as I have never actually see it in person…so to speak.

So if you have a better vest or a better idea how to get your gear safely to the shoot let me know.

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18 Comments

  1. Cooper Strange

    This problem was inevitable. Airplanes are very sensitive to weight and really burn a lot of extra fuel for the added weight…meaning more cost. So, they limit the weight AND get a few extra bucks when you are over.

    I feel for the more gear-heavy photographers out there, but now have a new thankfulness for my simplistic approach: a small selection of prime lenses. The accessories really add up fast, though. Prioritizing seems the best start: what are the essential lenses if luggage is delayed, and such.

    Reply
  2. Ian

    Hi Matt, this is something i’ve been pondering a bit recently as i’m going to be in this situation myself next month. Both David & yourself are fans of Think Tank but neither of you have mentioned them in speaking of vests. I’m guessing that’s because they don’t make one, or is it that security would probably get a bit jealous if you looked a bit more macho special forces than they did?

    D’you think a racing harness and steroid belt under a coat would do the job as well as a vest? With my figure I have to run around in the shower just to get wet so bulk wouldn’t be a problem as long as it’s allowed. I’ll double check before I go with the airline of course but just wondering if you’d tried it?

    Reply
  3. brotherjoe

    hey matt,
    having visited the philippines numerous times w family, this is nothing new. the last 2 times i flew philippine airlines, dating back to 1998, and they were weighing carryon then. i had to resort to smuggling gear in a north face jacket i had cause it was raining at lax. once my “empty carry on” was weighed, all my gear went back in. and this is before i had a dedicated photo carry on. i flew korean airlines 3 years ago, they didnt weigh my carry on, but i was ready just in case…

    filipinos are notorious for bringing more on board than allowed, thats probably why the airline has been weighing carry ons for so long. photographers need to learn the filipino techniques of getting more “stuff” on the plane than allowed, weve been practicing this for awhile now. im still learning…

    Reply
  4. brotherjoe

    hey matt,
    having visited the philippines numerous times w family, this is nothing new. the last 2 times i flew philippine airlines, dating back to 1998, and they were weighing carryon then. i had to resort to smuggling gear in a north face jacket i had cause it was raining at lax. once my “empty carry on” was weighed, all my gear went back in. and this is before i had a dedicated photo carry on. i flew korean airlines 3 years ago, they didnt weigh my carry on, but i was ready just in case…

    filipinos are notorious for bringing more on board than allowed, thats probably why the airline has been weighing carry ons for so long. photographers need to learn the filipino techniques of getting more “stuff” on the plane than allowed, weve been practicing this for awhile now. im still learning…

    Reply
  5. David duChemin

    Ian – I’m not sure but I think a belt and harness system wouldn’t pass muster. You’re allowed to stuff your pockets, but anything resembling a bum-bag would get counted as just that. I think a vest or jacket with big pockets is the best bet. The SeVest won’t take large bodies or gigantic lenses, I don’t think, but they will take laptops, harddrives and all the other stuff that weighs a bag down.

    I’ve got a design I’m trying to get made, and when that happens, baby lookout, I’ll be packing the kitchen sink 🙂

    Reply
  6. Christine Glade

    Well it’s not too warm for Vermont. Almost summer and was 36° f yesterday morning. This looks nifty. I will definitely check. But Matt, if I may ask, what do you have against velcro sneakers… ;-D

    Reply
  7. Kesh

    Hi Matt,

    One way of reducing the load if your running out of space with limited carry luggage is to put the camera (the the heaviest lens attached) around your neck. Airlines generally allow you to carry a camera apart from the rest of your luggage. I’ve been travelling around China lately with my gear and this can definetely take a few kilos off the weight of the bag (especially with that monster 85mm you have). As soon as they’ve weighed my bag i just put the camera back in the bag and I’m good to go.

    Sneaky but it works

    Kesh

    Reply
  8. Kesh

    Hi Matt,

    One way of reducing the load if your running out of space with limited carry luggage is to put the camera (the the heaviest lens attached) around your neck. Airlines generally allow you to carry a camera apart from the rest of your luggage. I’ve been travelling around China lately with my gear and this can definetely take a few kilos off the weight of the bag (especially with that monster 85mm you have). As soon as they’ve weighed my bag i just put the camera back in the bag and I’m good to go.

    Sneaky but it works

    Kesh

    Reply
  9. Jack Kurtz

    Matt,

    Do you know if Thai weighs the carry ons? I’ve been flying United LAX (or SFO) to BKK specifically because United doesn’t have carryon weight limits. Yet.

    FWIW, I use a ThinkTank Airport Ultralight (vers1). I can fit a lot of stuff into it, everything except the laptop, and on my recent trip to Thailand it tipped the scales at 25 pounds. When I went to Istanbul a couple of years ago, (Zurich – Istanbul) Swiss weighed everything but they let my Airport Ultralight through, even though it was heavier than allowed. I think because it looks so small.

    But I’ve taken to wearing the dorky photo/safari vest since I get both bodies, and three lenses into it, bringing me to well within weight guidelines.

    jack

    Reply
  10. Jack Kurtz

    Matt,

    Do you know if Thai weighs the carry ons? I’ve been flying United LAX (or SFO) to BKK specifically because United doesn’t have carryon weight limits. Yet.

    FWIW, I use a ThinkTank Airport Ultralight (vers1). I can fit a lot of stuff into it, everything except the laptop, and on my recent trip to Thailand it tipped the scales at 25 pounds. When I went to Istanbul a couple of years ago, (Zurich – Istanbul) Swiss weighed everything but they let my Airport Ultralight through, even though it was heavier than allowed. I think because it looks so small.

    But I’ve taken to wearing the dorky photo/safari vest since I get both bodies, and three lenses into it, bringing me to well within weight guidelines.

    jack

    Reply
  11. David duChemin

    Thai hasn’t weighed mine, though I’ve flown with them only 4 times.

    Reply
  12. Matt

    Hey all, I think we can breathe easy. BrotherJoe above nailed it. After he wrote I started thinking. Being a half Filipino family we return to the Philippines every few years. Never by Malaysia Airlines, till this trip. Filipinos when they return to the Philippines from staying abroad are call “balikbayan” or a loose translation is a returnee. Somewhere in the Filipino culture the tradition of returning with as many gifts as possible came into being. So people started manufacturing a thing called a “balikbayan box“. With more and more airline restrictions my guess is some of this booty is being carried on and flights to the Philippines are being targeted by Airlines for stricter carry-on rules, as in the case of Malaysia Airline.

    This is another example of how community works. Thanks for reminder BrotherJoe.

    Kesh, great idea. I’ll remember that. Of course none of this work if you do it in front of the attendants, So best walk up like that and not pull out your body and lens as a response to being over weights.

    Jack, I have never had bags weight on any Asian airlines. For that matter the only other airlines that did was Austrian Airlines some years back.

    So the lessoned learned here is; If traveling to the Philippines wear a vest for your extra heavy gear or put yout camera and heavy lens around your neck till you get seated. Otherwise, travel with ease in Asia. No worries.

    Reply
  13. Ian

    Cheers David, & Matt for bringing it up. I’m one of those travellers that usually the first thing that goes in my hold loaded bag is my brain so it’s good to hear from those in the know.

    Reply
  14. tbymrtn

    There is a 7kg limit on Cebu Pacific in the Phlippines (unsure of the Philippine Airlines limit), and they’ve gotten stricter on weighing your carry-on if it looks large-ish. Best to carry just the right-sized bag for the gear you intend to carry on. Vests seem to be ignored as long as you’re wearing them. Brotherjoe is right in noticing that Filipinos are notorius for carrying on items that aren’t only beyond the weight limit but even the volume limit.

    Reply
  15. Matt Brandon

    tbymrtn,

    Thanks for the update. Yeah, like I said, it really never downed on me this could be just a Philippines issue. But I think it is. You might not know, but my wife is Filipino and so I am very away for oversized luggage. Never leave home without it 😉

    Reply
  16. Matt

    tbymrtn,

    Thanks for the update. Yeah, like I said, it really never downed on me this could be just a Philippines issue. But I think it is. You might not know, but my wife is Filipino and so I am very away for oversized luggage. Never leave home without it 😉

    Reply
  17. Christine Glade

    Well it's not too warm for Vermont. Almost summer and was 36° f yesterday morning. This looks nifty. I will definitely check. But Matt, if I may ask, what do you have against velcro sneakers… ;-D

    Reply
  18. Christine Glade

    Well it's not too warm for Vermont. Almost summer and was 36° f yesterday morning. This looks nifty. I will definitely check. But Matt, if I may ask, what do you have against velcro sneakers… ;-D

    Reply

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