Store and Transport Gear on the Cheap

Yeah… I know…


You’ve spent some time and quite a bit of money on the gear you need (or think you need) to go get the photo. Of course you have the camera, maybe even two or more, and some lenses and it is quite possible you’ve invested in lights and stands and diffusers and this and that and the other thing.


All of it now is sitting in varying degrees of organization. It is even quite possible you bought kits with some type of storage and carrying incorporated. If so, go out and play with your toys. I have little to add for you.


However, if you have been collecting the best deals you can find and have a mix of stuff that you are struggling to get around then by all means read on.


I’ll give you my situation. I had amassed several lighting stands, umbrellas, holders, clips and “stuff”.  It was obvious I needed a way to not only store it securely but also to transport it to a shoot. Some of it is expensive and, if not handled correctly, fragile.


At one point I went to a sporting goods store having a sale on firearms cases and purchased a hard case designed to hold 2 or more rifles or shotguns. This did and still does work well for many applications. It holds easily 4 stands and umbrellas and the attachments to go with them plus some other odds and ends. The downside for this is that it is quite long and sometimes unwieldy in tight quarters. It is also a gun case and looks like one which can raise an eyebrow of scrutiny in some situations. As far as cost, it was on sale for $40.00 so there wasn’t that much to lose.


Fast forward to more recently and a stroll through a thrift store. If you are a photographer and do not go to thrift stores then, in my opinion, you are missing a boat. There are props, clothing, “stuff” and all sorts of bits that come in handy and it costs practically nothing.


To the deal and the point. People toss out and donate all kinds of stuff and much is unused or very slightly used. Take, for instance, as I noted one day… The golf bag.


Yes! A golf bag! They are fantastic for photo gear. Not all of them, but many…  And if you check your Goodwill or DAV Thrift Store or other similar outlets you will find them for very little cash. Flea markets and yard sales and even sporting closeouts can get you a deal, too.


Learn from my first mistake if you go this route. The first one I got wound up being a little tight on the club slots to hold what I needed. So consider the sizing and measure and go shopping to make sure the openings will accommodate what you intend to put in there.


Note that I bought the second at the same place I found the first. Both were $3.00. Three bucks! OK – I lost $3 on the first bet but even for a total of $6 I’m ahead. I have reinforced leather and nylon with working zippers and compartments all over the thing plus it is styled and looks kind of cool. It easily holds 4 stands, 6 umbrellas, 2 small tripods, flash and socket clips, extension cords, and still has room for more.


The bag I do use still needed just a few modifications and they were quick and easy. These bags have sections to hold the irons and the woods and the special clubs. The sections are connected at the top but do not go the full length of the bag. For my use, the center section(s) would hold the umbrellas. I simply confirmed my “design” and cut away the two connecting bits of plastic at the top to create one larger section. The other thing to note is these are deeper than much of the gear is in length. For the stands, simply extend the shafts slightly so they will go in and still have enough height to grab easily. For the umbrellas, get some PVC. I used 1-1/4″ at less than $5 for a 10 foot section. Cut to the length of just short of the height of the bag and the umbrellas slide right in. I did have some Styrofoam from a computer box or something that I cut to be a tight fit in one end of the PVC tubes and pushed in to act as a stop for the umbrellas to keep them from sliding all the way down. Six tubes cut to length fit easily in the “modified” center section of the bag. The other two sections easily hold the stands!


The bag has zippered compartments all over. Some on the sides are large enough to hold umbrellas leaving more space if you need it in the actual bag. I have the umbrella clips for flashes and bulb sockets in them. I have 2 little tripods I can use for additional lighting if needed plus threaded flash clips. Battery chargers and extra batteries are in a compartment. There are extension cords in another. One is large enough to incorporate extra padding to include bulbs and small slave strobes.


All said and done, $3 for the bag (plus $3 for the “mistake” bag), two 10 foot sections of 1-1/4″ PVC (approx. $4.50 each) and a little time to measure and cut with some “trash” Styrofoam to finish and I have a convenient storage and transport system for my gear. Total expenditure, in this case, was $14.00 plus a little duct tape to secure any loose bits that may snag on equipment. I didn’t include the cost of duct tape because everyone has it around anyway…


If you are curious, the total weight as packed is 27 lbs.


You can save three bucks by doing it right the first time!