Packing light for Europe travel #1

| August 5, 2010
gitzo travel tripod in carry on bag

Sizing up the carry on

About packing light for Europe travel

Call me crazy but I thought it would be fun to do a series on packing for overseas vacations. I am always amazed when I see huge bags being hauled around by tourists when I go on trips. I like to think of packing as a science. I even have Donna thinking this way and trust me, it has been no small feat to convince her to pack lighter and more efficient. When traveling for work, there is no mercy for the uninitiated. When my co-worker Brian went on a Europe trip with me, he showed up at the airport with an enormous bag plus a briefcase. We were only going for three days! I could not resist and asked him if he had gotten the luggage from the Ivana Trump collection. He learned very quickly while hauling the bags up and over train platforms in England that he needed lighten up on the next trip.

I am still learning how to make my overseas travels more efficient so I like to try and continuously improve my methods each time I travel. My packing is a bit more complicated than average because I haul a fair amount of camera gear too. I have carefully selected my camera gear not only for picture quality but also for a weight and convenience factor. And, I always take my tripod with me.

So, the picture above shows where I start. This the only piece of luggage I will take (my wife has her own) on our two-week trip except for a moderate sized backpack that has also been carefully selected for my needs. I will highlight that in another post. This bag, which I bought at Target for $85.00 is perfect. It will fit front-to-back in just about any overhead airplane luggage compartment. I carry on whenever I can because airlines lost our bags a couple of years ago in Italy and it took Donna four hours on the phone with three countries to find them. Not worth it!

Although Rick Steves recommends a backpack-like suitcase, I still prefer to have a wheeled option when I travel. If we encounter cobblestone streets or stairs, this bag is still very easy to pick up and carry by the handle. If the bag is too tall, you have to haul it in an unnatural way to keep it from dragging on the floor. At 23″ it is short enough to be lifted easily by most people.

Now for the packing. First off, I like to pack my tripod in the bag. The tripod you see is about the sturdiest one you can buy with the lowest weight factor. It is a Gitzo GT1541T Series carbon fiber tripod with a specially made Markins Q3T ballhead. Specially made, meaning the design of the ballhead, which is the thing that attaches my camera to the tripod, is made specifically for my tripod. It allows the tripod to be reverse-folded as designed without hitting the adjustment knobs on the ballhead. In the end, this saves me a few inches and allows the tripod to fit in smaller carry-on bags.

At about $1000 for the setup it is not cheap but the design and build quality is second to none. It’s kind of like the Ferrari of camera supports. At 17 1/8″ tall and about three pounds, it fits nicely in my small bag with plenty of room left for…well…clothes. Most big airports know what the tripod is when they x-ray the bag. We’ll have to see if the international airports do. All my stuff was checked by a screener once at a small airport because of the gear. It slows me down but that is always fine with me considering the security concerns these days.

I will cover clothes and shoes next. Donna and spent some time last weekend picking out some items with comfort, weight and glamour in mind. 😉

Other posts in this series about packing light for Europe travel:


Category: Photography, Travel, Travel Tips

Comments (2)

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  1. AutumnLeaves says:

    Comfort, weight and glamour? Sigh…the bane of my existence! I’m guessing you find places to get your laundry done while vacationing so you can pack a bit lighter?

  2. Lee says:

    Very funny Sherry! Yes, the plan is to do laundry at least once while we are there. Either using a service or on our own in the room.