Regardless of where you are traveling to, when traveling with valuable camera gear you are automatically a potential target for thieves. Here are a few tips to avoiding loss of equipment.
Before Leaving Home:
Make 2 copies of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, and travel docs.
Make 2 copies of the lost/stolen card notification numbers.
Leave one set of copies with a friend or family member and take the other set with you.
Make sure the set with you is packed separately from the original docs.
You can purchase a money strap that sits comfortably under your clothing. Thieves will sometimes cut straps on a purse or bag and run.
Packing Your Luggage:
Make a list of everything in your luggage and take pictures while you pack.
Medications, valuables, and prescription glasses should be packed in a carryon so those important items are with you at all times.
Do not list your full address on your bag tags because it will inform people that your home will be empty for some time.
Make sure your bags are securely closed and will not potentially open while being handled and transported.
When traveling or walking around a big city, you are most susceptible to theft.
Do not place your wallet in a backpack or an area where you cannot easily observe someone’s attempt to take it.
In addition to these general theft prevention methods, here are some tips to ensure that expensive photography equipment is kept safe.
Pack Your Gear in Carry-On Luggage:
This is the safest option because it will be in your possession or close to you for your entire flight.
People have had items stolen from their checked luggage many times. The last thing you want is to have your valuable camera and camera gear exposed to that risk.
Checked luggage is often handled forcefully and you do not want to risk that your camera gear gets damaged or destroyed.
More durable and less valuable camera gear, like tripods and extra memory cards, can be placed into checked luggage without much concern.
Pack Spare Lithium Batteries in Carry-On:
If the battery is not installed in your camera, TSA guidelines require that they be packed in carry-on.
Buy a Protective Camera Bag:
Cameras, and much of the gear that comes with them, is expensive and delicate. They are worth the investment for a protective bag that provides padding. Having a camera in a normal bag or backpack that you are wearing increases the risk that it will be bumped and some of its sensitive components will become damaged.
Most camera bags are weather-resistant or waterproof. Imagine you are in a beautiful city taking pictures and a torrential downpour comes out of no where. Not a pleasant thought! Having this layer of protection is invaluable and, in comparison to your camera, very affordable.
These bags are almost always cleared for carry-on, allowing you to keep your camera with you.
Never leave your camera bag in your vehicle. Not even if it is out of site.
Modest Bags May be Better for You:
Some camera bags are very clearly that, while others look much more like normal backpacks. It may be worth your while to get a more modest bag that does not attract as much attention to what you are carrying in order to avoid theft.
Another option is to make your bag look a bit more beat up and dirty. This has the effect of making people think that the contents are probably older and, therefore, less valuable.
Most importantly, the type of bag you purchase for your camera should depend on what your needs are for your equipment. If you need to go less modest because your gear will be better served by that, then do it. This is just one possibility to minimize risk.
Intuition can go a long way. If you feel like someone is staring at you or standing a little too close, it is best to keep your gear well secured. Use your senses before you put the camera up to your face to take a shot.
People have had cameras snatched right out of their hands while trying to get a good shot.
Travel in a Group:
While traveling, it is especially important to be with a group of people when taking pictures. You are not as easy of a target when you are with other people because everyone else will be paying attention as well.
We will be in our group during lessons; however, there will be times when you will want to go explore outside of our group to practice your skills. Make sure you bring family, friends, or even each other with you so you are not making yourself an individual target.
Keep Your Bag in Sight:
When you are moving through crowds, you may want to wear your backpack on your front, so that you can have eyes on it at all times. Sure it’ll look like an overgrown fanny pack, but at least your camera is far less likely to be stolen.
Whenever your bag is not on your back keep it attached to you. In airports or while shooting, if I put my bag down I will wrap the strap around my leg so no one can grab it and run off.
Use Several Different Memory Cards:
Memory cards are very small and can be lost easily. Use several memory cards with small storage instead of one large memory card for everything so if you lose one, your entire trip is not lost with it.
Make a Note of All of Your Gear:
You should make sure all your gear is accounted for throughout your trip. A good way to accomplish that is to make a list of all of your items.
You should also opt to add the serial number for each item for even more protection in case your items are lost or misplaced. Taking photographs of the lenses and serial numbers and backing up those photos are a simple way to accomplish this.
If you want to be protected in case your equipment is lost, damaged, or stolen, you can opt to take out insurance on your photography equipment. There are insurance companies that specialize in this.