Tripod on an Airplane

Just the other day, work flew me from Minnesota to Colorado Springs, Colorado to do a video shoot.

Now the first question in my mind is “what is the best way to carry all of my gear”.  I was leery to check my camera equipment; I guess I just don’t trust anyone with thousands of dollars of fragile equipment that is the basis of my travel.  Additionally, I had a minimal amount of time while I was in CO to accomplish the shoot, so the time of checking my luggage didn’t seem logical.

So what I did was take a typical carry-on sized suitcase and loaded it up with all of my gear: camera, microphone, MacBook Pro, etc.  (The location I was going to already rented a light kit from a local house, so that was all set).  The suitcase worked out great.

But what do you do with the tripod?  I can’t shoot without it.  I considered having them rent one for me, but when you’re comfortable with your tripod, it’s hard to switch to a new model…

I did some research online about traveling with one and got several mixed reviews, most of which were several years old.  Seeing as the TSA regulations change so often, I didn’t know what to trust.  I was going to call the airline or the TSA, but finding a phone number is not that easy… and the TSA’s website had NO mention of a tripod.

My tripod.  An old and rather basic set of Bogen sticks with a Manfroto head.  Does the trick though!

But the most common answer I was finding is that it’s up to the security gate at the particular airport you are traveling through to decide if a tripod can be brought on as a carry-on item or not.  Interesting rules I thought, but whatever.  Let’s see what happens.

So off I went, and didn’t get a stray eye by the security team at all.  Very relieving.  Simply put the tripod in it’s own tray going through the scanner and you’re all set.  I tucked it way back into the overhead compartment in the Airbus 320 that I flew in both ways and there was no issue.  I actually had several security personnel talk to me about photography.  It was kinda cool to get a complete opposite reaction as I was expecting!

And to be concise, I flew Frontier Airlines and went through the Minneapolis and Denver airports.

But there were a few other lessons learned on this trip.
1) I don’t own a bag for my tripod, so I carried it by hand.  Next time I go, I’ll either fashion some sort of shoulder strap, or even use the bag from one of those camping chairs to carry it.  That would make my life much easier.

2)  I also brought with me my “poor man’s tabletop dolly” that is made out of PVC tubing, rollerblade wheels, and a tripod head.

To make it fit better, I disassembled it into easier to pack pieces like this.

So let’s say that the lesson learned here is that PVC tube in a tightly packed suitcase can look like bomb materials…  ha!  In Minneapolis the security team pulled me aside with my bag, pulled out these items, swabbed my bag for bomb dust or something, rescanned everything separately, and found that it was nothing evil so I was allowed to go along my merry way.  On the way back, I pulled the pieces out and put them into a bin so they could be scanned clear as day and was thanked for doing so by a security worker.  And fair enough; they are just trying to do their job…