Travelling with Underwater Photography Gear

Maldives from the Sky

Travelling with Underwater Photography Gear

Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) laying down at 42 meters / 138 feet depth

I have shared my thoughts in previous posts about different options of equipment for travelling. If you have DSLR equipment, it’s much bigger and heavier than point & shoot or mirrorless. Same concerning flashes, some are more bulky, others more compact.

If, like me, you have all the “big and heavy” equipment and you refuse to send with your baggage on the plane, you need to manage with it.

I travel with a Tamrac photo trolley backpack (697), which is very strong and can contain a lot of gear. The downside is that it’s quite heavy when empty and very heavy when loaded up, and looks quite bulky.  It’s not always easy to sneak it on the plane, but mostly possible. I have always succeeded.

There are of course also lighter bags on the market, but once they are filled-up with all the photo gear, they are very heavy. Thinner bags models look more discreet, even if they are heavy.

The advantages of the trolley backpack is that it contains a lot of place and the large wheels help a lot when you need to cross a huge airport. Also, the bag can be transformed into backpack within seconds.

Tamrac rolling backpack trolley full of underwater photo gear
Tamrac rolling backpack open with plainty of underwater photo gear inside


The bag includes here the housing, 3 lenses, 1 flat port, 2 ports extensions, 2 flashes, 3 sync cables, 2 flash arms, 1 or 2 focus lights, a multi-socket plug adapter and some more small accessories.

Lowepro offers also a good trolley photo bag, which is lighter than the one I owe.

Tamrac 697 Rolling Backpack Specifications

Material Exterior: Waterproof Power Grid Cordura three-ply woven grid fabric
Interior: Gray colored smooth, weatherproof, lightweight nylon fabric
Interior: Thick, closed cell foam padding
Windowpane-Mesh combines clear vinyl and nylon mesh for strength and provides easy viewing to the contents of film and accessory pockets
Type of Closure Zippers
Two straps with buckles
Exterior Dimensions 12 5/8 x 10 1/2 x 22 1/4″ (32.07 x 26.67 x 56.52 cm) (WxDxH)
Interior Dimensions Front computer pocket: 12 3/4 x 10 1/2 x 2.0″ (32.39 x 26.67 x 5.08 cm)(WxHxD)
Tripod Holder Yes
Waist Belt Yes
Accommodates DSLR with large telephoto lens attached, multiple extra lenses and flashes, and a 15.6″ (39.6 cm) screen laptop
Carrying/Transport Options Tuck-a-Way backpack harness
Side carrying handle
Large ball bearing in-line skate wheels
Telescoping handle
Weight 11 lb 5.0 oz (5.12 kg)


Safari Photo Jacket makes all the difference when travelling
With my Safari Jacket and Tamrac trolley, in Doha Arport (Qatar). Photo courtesy: Ran Ton

I usually wear an inexpensive safari photographer jacket with large pockets and I move most of my gear to my pockets before embarking the plane.  I keep my laptop with me so the trolley is lighter and look more streamlined.  I look huge, but that’s fine!

The last time I traveled I used a regular trolley, lighter and thinner than the photo trolley. I put my flashes, lenses, flash arms and other small equipment carefully into it. I took my camera housing in my hand as a simple camera. It included the camera, a large lens, two port extensions and dome port. The photographer’s jacket is always very helpful to stash some gear that I couldn’t tuck into the trolley and has already saved me many times. My notebook is usually in a separate side bag.

For “dry” trips, I either take my small Tamrac back-pack or my LowePro side camera bag with a minimum amount of photo equipment (1 DSLR + 18-200 lens, 1 complementary lens, SB800 flash and Sanho HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA2 + some small accessories).


There is a wide choice of camera bags on the market. Choose one large or two smaller in which you will be able to set all your equipment. Trolleys are always helpful to save your back, but they are heavier. Make sure the bag protects properly all the gear and don’t forget an important detail which will save you many times: the safari jacket for photographers!

  1. Eric Francis
    Eric Francis10-27-2013

    The safari jacket is a great idea.
    I occasionally get pulled up for too heavy bag but when I open it 95% let me pass.
    I use a samsonite roller bag inside I have got a big slab of foam cut to fit the inside of the hard case. A spot made to fit the housing with largest port/lens combo. The foam is sliced to make 2 layers with spots to sit all lens and strobes etc with just 1cm of foam separating each as to give protection. Works great been using it for 2 years now but with the added gear the jacket will be a savior I think

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