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Quick Tip - How to Talk to a TSA Agent and Fly with your Camera Gear

I have received many e mails asking what you can and can not fly with when it comes to camera gear. People seem to want to know what should they do with their gear. Should it go with them on the plane or should you check it?

I personally try and carry on board all of my very important gear. I do not recommend checking any of your cameras, lenses, memory cards or batteries. The reason being that if something happens to your gear in transit how will you do your job or capture the family memories. On top of that you run the risk of it being stolen or broken during the flight.

This is what I do, I cary on my ThinkTank photo Airport Security and ThinkTank Urban Disguise 35 V2. (you can pick up all ThinktTank Gear from It does not matter what camera bags you use as long as you can cary them on board.

In the US you are allowed one carry on and one personal item. I stretch the personal item to be my backpack which includes a lot of my electronics such as my ipad, lap top and sometimes a camera body and lens. I always want to have my gear near me at all times because that is how I will be able to do my job when I get to where I am going. If something happens to my gear I am SOL.

Now that I have talked about what I take my gear in when I travel, the next question is always what do you do at security. I get stopped 50% of the time at security to have my gear looked at. This is what it is, it is a pain in the butt because I know I am not doing wrong but it is the TSA’s job to check.

Here is what you can do to make sure you have an easier time at the security check point. Make sure all of your gear is in its own bag and not stacked. What I mean by not stacked is you have one item by itself and nothing stacked above or below it. This will allow the TSA agent to easily see that you have camera gear. Make sure that you do not have any sharp objects though I have left my swiss army kniff in my bag along with a small screwdriver set.

There is always a possibility that you will hear the words “bag check” in which case that means the TSA is going to hand check your bag. You are not allowed to cary or touch your bag at this time and they will carry or attempt to carry your gear to a checking station. This is the point where I am very carful with what I say as I am very protective of my gear. I make sure that they know its camera gear and its very expensive. I say if you need to remove anything form the bag can I please direct you on the best way to handle my gear. Many times they have no problem with this and will mention that they have dealt with camera gear before. This is a good thing because sometimes you will see someone being a little to rough with your gear.

Just remember to stay relaxed and calm and everything will check out fine. This is why I suggest always getting to the airport well before your flight. I personally like to get their close to two hours early. I rather wait at the gate than have to rush to the plane. You will notice that you are much more relaxed if you do not have to rush or attempt to rush your way threw security.

I will end with this, common sensor trumps just about everything. I know I am talking about the TSA here and common sense went out the window a long time ago but just be smart. If you think something should not fly than it prob should not fly. Just remember that your gear is very important travel smart and make sure to protect your gear.