How to Pack So You Don’t Break Your Back


When you’re packing your gear to travel out into the field, you should always ask yourself one question: Do I really need to give myself a hernia? Even though the answer is always “no,” it’s important to remind yourself not to make your freight heavier than it needs to be. You may not injure yourself this time, but in the long run, overexerting your body will catch up to you. Here are a few tips that will help you lighten the load.

Tip No. 1: Do You Really Need to Bring Your Hard Cases?

Hard shell cases are required for transporting equipment on airplanes and for other kinds of heavy-duty field work, but they’re not always a necessity. Cases like these are heavy even when they’re empty. If the job doesn’t require hard cases, consider using a soft case like a Porta Brace SP-3 Sack Pack. Plastic resin watertight cases typically weigh more than 30 pounds when empty, while large soft cases like the SP-3 Sack Pack weigh only two pounds. The SP-3 is much better than a cheap duffle bag. It’s got a foam-padded base, a drawstring top, two pockets and industrial-grade, roadworthy construction all around.

Tip No. 2: Two Bags Are Better Than One

In an ideal world, the film 8 Heads in a Duffle Bag would’ve been titled 8 Heads Evenly Distributed in 2 Shoulder Bags. You should always bring every piece of the equipment that you’re going to need, but you should make a point of packing it into multiple smaller cases, as opposed to one larger case. Even if it means making a few extra trips to the car to get all of your gear on site, it’s worth it not to risk injuring your back just to save time.

Tip No. 3: Be Smart and Bring a Cart

Because you wisely packed your equipment into several smaller bags as opposed to a single, heavier case, having a collapsible cart will allow you to move everything a lot more easily. If you’re moving massive amounts of audio or video equipment, a hand-truck like the MultiCart R12 will save you a lot of strain. If you prefer something more lightweight, the Conair TS31LHT LadderKart is an awesome little solution. It doubles as a three-step ladder, which can give photographers more interesting angles to shoot from, and give boompole operators a nice little boost in height to keep out of frame.   

Tip No. 4: Only Bring the Gear That You’re Going to Need

We all know that you’re better off being prepared for anything. Having back-up equipment is vitally important. However, it’s also important to think of your body as a piece of equipment, and you need to make sure it doesn’t break down either. Instead of bringing all of the gear that you own to every job, carefully consider the work you’ll be doing and repack your bags each time. Only bring the necessary equipment (and a backup) each time and leave the unnecessary dead weight at home.