Get A Grip: Travel With Your Grip On The Cheap

Get A Grip: Travel With Your Grip On The Cheap

As a photographer that does a lot of non-profit work internationally, I have always been on the look out for traveling with my gear in the safest yet most affordable way. Typically, my cameras, lenses and lighting equipment (strobes and powerpacks) travel with me as carry-ons in two Pelican 1514 cases. As for my grip gear, well, I was mostly limited to what I could throw into my checked bag with my clothes, which typically would be one Manfrotto Magic Arm, a Photek Softlighter and a small softbox or other miniature modifier. I have never really been able to find a hard case that is under $500 to carry a real light stand or any large modifiers with me, which can really hold me back when I am out shooting in the field, so naturally I had to search for other alternatives.

In the search for large hardcases I only had 3 criteria: (1) It had to have holes for me to put TSA locks in to secure the gear it would contain (2) It must have roller wheels, and I dont care what kind or what size, as long as it has something (3) It must fall within the standard airline checked baggage specifications for most major airline companies, i.e. I dont want to pay extra for a bag being too long or too wide.

After a few days of searching I found the perfect answer to my solution, Plano Golf Guard Standard Case. It was perfect. It met all of my criteria and it was only $49.99! How's that for moving gear on a budget? Here is what I pack it with when I am on the go, but there is a lot of space in this thing and you can arrange whatever you'd like in this puppy.

Avenger Boom Stand
Manfrotto Magic Arm
Elincrom 6ft Rotalux Octa
46" Photek Softlighter
Profoto Reflector
3" Pony Clamps
Grip Tape

Pocket Wizards
Extra batteries

Like I said, there is so much more that you can store in this thing as well, but the gear I listed above is what meets my needs and all I really need grip-wise to get the job done while abroad. One last thing, to close. To reinforce the case before I get it to the airport, I tightly wrap some good ol' strapping tape around the top and bottom to protect the latches from the abuse I know the airline workers put our bags through while loading and unloading. I have yet to have any issues with this case and am so stoked to have found such an affordable way to fly with my big boy gear! Enjoy! via

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Pixyst's picture

Thanks for this cool tip. Interesting that golf gear can be this affordable. As soon as it gets labeled as 'photographic' equipment and one of the big names slaps their logo on it, the price skyrockets!

Jeremy Cupp's picture

Exactly. Prolly be sold out by tomorrow and re-listed for double the price.

The good thing is that golf gear goes under sports equipment and is an extra luggage not counted in the weight usually... that's an additional reason to get a golf pack :D check airline details for that :)

Corey Melton's picture

exactly, it cleared #3 in my criteria. Also note that I haven't gone anywhere near the weight limit with this thing packed up, I am like 10-15lbs under, even with the heavy lightstand in there.

Joundy Hakim's picture

It seems to be a very nice solution, but if I well understood, you take your cameras, lenses and strobes with you in the airplane in the pelicase?

Corey Melton's picture

Yeah, I have 2 Pelicans, both are 1514s. One has foam which holds 2 bodies, 3 lenses some filters, my profoto trigger, GPS and a few other things. Then the other Pelican has dividers and holds my Profoto Acute2B power pack, strobe head and other miscellaneous stuff. 

Kayzar™'s picture

Is this in the US? In Australia we are limited to one carry on plus one personal item (laptop). Plus all that equipment is way over the carry on weight limit here. damn.

Patrick Hall's picture

in the US we also have a one carry on and one personal item.  They are pretty strict about the size but I've never had anyone weigh my bags.  If it fits in the overhead then you are good although in some of the smaller planes you still have to check it in plane side.  

Corey, how do you get two pelican cases on a flight?

Corey Melton's picture

If you read the description, most airlines in the US describe a personal item as a camera bag, computer bag, briefcase, purse, or tote. I have only been stopped twice for having 2 larger carry-ons, all they have done is checked one of the cases at the gate but I haven't yet had to pay for them to check it. That is also why I use Pelican cases, I am not afraid of the gear being checked and thrown around when they are in a Pelican. Also, I use standard padlocks on the carry-ons (not TSA locks that can be opened by crew) because the bags have already gone through security I can get away with having a more secure lock on, so I am never worried about checking the bag at the gate. All of the other times I have gone on smoothly with the 2 cases.

Been looking for something to fit that Avenger Boom for awhile... thanks for passing this info along! Just ordered one.

i just modded one of these like a month ago, although i haven't taken it anywhere yet. what is strapping tape?
gonna post a pic when i can

Nicholas's picture

Thanks so much, Corey! I used to break a sweat carrying my camera bag, light stand, sandbag and tripod most of the time without an assistant. The soft bags I've tried would eventually break and anything else was too dam expensive (I'd rather buy an Alien Bee Einstein instead.) I had to take some measurements of my stands to make sure it would work (It holds drivers up to 46 inches).

Tips like this I love the most, the kind that doesn't cost much but can make someone's work easier. Many thanks for sharing.

Good find Corey, but I'm struggling with the size aspect.  You indicated at your #3 need that it must be within standard airline bag size limits.  Amazon has the dimensions as

51 x 14.2 x 12.6 inches.  The airlines use the linear dimension total of these, which is ~78 inches.  Both Air Canada and US Airways (the only 2 I checked) consider a linear dimension greater than 62 inches as oversize, and in US Airway's case incurs a charge of $175. 

Are you using a loophole of claiming it is golf equipment since that's what the case is made for?  Air Canada gives an exemption for golf bags.  US Airways does as well, but explicitly states if the bag is not used for golf equipment, the oversize charges apply.  United/Continental has the same limits and policy, with $100 charge applicable.

I don't see how this case helps avoid oversize charges other than by luck of not being challenged about it contents.  Is there something I'm missing?

Just dont fly with US AIRWAYS... I had a shoot a few months ago and flew with them, a horrible horrible experience.... I was with my assistant and we had two pelican cases full of gear and they said the overhead compartment was full and would not allow us to bring them into the plane ourselves, we had to check in the two cases at the gate. We told them there was over $30,000 in gear and they didnt even budge, they took our cases and tossed them down the 30+ foot ramp smashing to a stop. Once we landed my cases came out in a rubber bin with one case open and camera lenses with all the caps off and with gear spilt out everywhere. The other had been opened and inspected and quickly thrown back together, they closed it on my of my wireless lav mics damaging the antenna. **wait why would US Airways inspect my bags I thought that was TSA the only ones that did that? So I believe that some one was just curious about what was in the cases and illegally went through them with out thinking, (wish i knew i was checking them in I would have put my locks on them).....

I filed a report and US airways claimed to have lost all the files, so I sent them another claim and they have done nothing about this but sent me a few emails (attached image) 

Lesson learned avoid flying with them at all cost... 

The cases are really nice thou and fit a lot of gear. 

As a long time golf bag user, a couple words of caution...

First, buy the right one.  There are many models on the market, some are poorly constructed, some that are really good.  Look close to make sure you get the right bag for your needs.  

Make sure you get one with an integral, molded handle.  I had one with a handle that simply folded down.  Seemed OK, until it came thru the baggage turnstile sans handle.  Luckily there was an integral handle at the top so moving the case wasn't a problem, but loading it into the SUV was a PITA.  You need that handle for leverage.

Don't over load the case.  There is a LOT of room in those things.  It's easy to pack a whole lot of stuff.  Don't.  I did.  My back has never forgiven me.  Neither has my assistant.  Especially my assistant.  It was a local assignment and we needed a lot of lights.  Something like a dozen heavy duty stands, plus any and all smalls were crammed inside the case.  It seemed like the thing to do at the time... I know there was a good reason why we did it... but all I can remember is how much of a mistake we made.  That case packed weighed a half ton.  So keep it light, resist the temptation.  

If you want to keep your stands from getting banged up, or banging into other gear while traveling in the case, buy (or make) stand sleeves.  I know, who cares, it's a light stand.  But who wants to arrive at a job site and find one of the knobs of your stand has been sheared off, or bent, in transit?  A little protection goes a long way.

I managed to find a UK supplier for this bag, but unfortunately it's priced at £110, an equivalent of around $130 more than the price shown in the US.

Jayson Carey's picture

as popular as golf is, especially in the UK, you should be able to find an equivalent bag for much cheaper, it doesnt have to be this exact bag.  


What do you people think of the secureness of just a lock and latches...being able to deal with the baggage handlers... particularly if the TSA cuts the tape to search the bag?

I live in North America. I would not want a Case that looked like it could hold a Rifle.

Shorter and fatter with extending Handle (like what you usually see at an Airport) would be better
than having the S.W.A.T. Team ambush you with their Weapons drawn (and red dots on your chest).

I use a Gator Keyboard case its long enough to hold my stands, reflectors, and softboxes has space for tsa locks and has wheels, When its full comes up to 48pds on the scale..

Hi Corey,

I've been using this exact same case for year now for my film travels all over Hawaii. That case has even been to Cambodia. It's a great way to travel, especially love the wheels. There is one drawback, though: the bales, or latches, are total junk. I see that you use gaffer tape over them-- that is mandatory!

I might take my case to a luggage repair guy and see if they might have a better latch, as long as that doesn't cost more than the case.


Been doing this for years too, the latches are worthless..