Camera Equipment weight

I am concerned about 15lb carryon limit on small flights. My camera backpack with equipment will certainly weigh more. How strict are they and what happens if you are over?


  • If you're a SLR camera person, with multiple lenses, you might consider finding a single lens option for a couple of reasons. One is weight, but the second is that it isn't recommended that you change lenses during safari drives because of the possibility of dust getting into your camera.

    A single lens that has a large zoom capability but still allows close shots would be a good option. This was the option that I employed.

    More people, as phone camera capabilities are improving, go strictly with phone pictures.

    In general, the animals that you see during the safari drives are fairly close (and sometimes real close) to the safari vehicle.

    Not sure what would happen if the weight limit is enforced, but why risk finding out when several options are available that would fit within the limit.

  • You can find all sorts of discussions on the forum regarding DSLR vs phone cameras for the safari trips. While I agree you are typically very close to the animals, I don’t think you can compare the photos taken by a phone to photos taken by a DSLR. If you know how to use your big camera, take it. I think you’ll be very sorry if you don’t. This example is from South Africa, but Kenya and Tanzania are no different.

    This is a picture my husband took of me photographing a lioness.

    This is my favorite picture of her.

    As to your original question - they certainly could weigh your carry on, but I don’t think they commonly do for the Kenya and Tanzania trip which I was on in August 2022. No one ever asked me to weigh mine. That being said, you need to be respectful of everyone else on the trip and there are a couple of things you can do to help your cause. Smiling Sam is right about not changing lenses in the field. It’s too dusty. If you have a lens that covers a significant breadth of focal lengths, you could simply take one body and one lens. If you want the ability to use more than lens during an individual drive, you should consider taking two bodies each with a lens, which of course weighs even more.

    I think it is worth investing in a very good camera backpack. There are lots of options in terms of camera cubes that fit into backpacks vs backpacks with camera compartments. I think it is also very helpful if, from the outside, it doesn’t look like a camera bag and you can comfortably carry it without it being visually apparent how much it actually weighs. I think those two things go a long way in terms of not being asked to weigh your backpack. I first read the advice on a photography blog and it makes sense. I’m sure there are some who will think that borders on dishonest but I’m a small person and my weight plus the weight of my camera backpack is less than the weight of an average human.

    The internal flights on Kenya and Tanzania are small planes where you will have to leave your backpack in the rear of the plane with all the other backpacks so everything does need to be well padded.

  • edited February 6

    When we go again,our fourth time to Tanzania this coming summer, we are definitely not taking a big camera each, we may not even take one, we may just rely on our phones which being some of the latest, our pics are great for us and look good in our photo books, that’s all we want. It feels liberating not to carry our big cameras around.
    I guess the question is, what will you do with your photos?

  • edited February 6

    Above are a few random photos I took with my cell phone in November. I haven’t started my photo book for this trip, but they are good enough for me. Not even looked at my camera ones yet, but after a while on the trip, I gave up my camera for the phone and it was so much easier and quick to take photos with that.

  • My first husband was an amateur photographer (as a hobby) and took his equipment on every vacation. He was quite good but it took him forever to take a photo...constantly adjusting lenses and moving around to get that perfect shot. He finally realized he missed so much scenery by constantly looking through a camera lens.

    For my purposes, my cell phone works just fine. I just point and shoot and move on. I take very few photos, preferring to memorialize my trips in my mind.

  • I’ve also always wondered what everyone does with the gazillion pictures everyone seems to take now. They seem just to be stored up in the “cloud”. Yes, we would love to have the best wildlife picture or the best scenery picture or even wonderful pictures of family or friends from our vacations, but then what do we do with all of these pictures that are taken. I’ve learned that friends are simply being polite as can Bev to view all the pictures that we’ve taken on a trip. The only ones who are truly interested in the photo, is the one who took the picture.

  • I love it!

  • OurTravels34–I still use my DSLR for vacation photos that I upload to my computer. I use Mimeo to make wonderful 10”x13” hard-cover photo books with my journaling of our trip. We love looking through them periodically to bring back wonderful memories. We keep them available, some as coffee table books, for anyone who might want to look through them. Some of our friends and family don’t or can’t travel, and they enjoy living vicariously through our photos.

  • I make photobooks as well with I also make slideshows with music. It’s fun to do and a labor of love. When the book and videos are complete, it’s a satisfying feeling. I do if just for fun and also to remember these wonderful vacations.

  • Every once in a while a post just disappears. So this one I will try again. Their are reasons for the weight limitations on light airplanes. Weight and balance is a serious issue. Your backpacks will most often go in a tail compartment. When you know the number of passengers and the number of backpacks under fifteen pounds each you have a pretty good idea about your load configuration. It is important. One of my friends known as “Navy Dave” launched off a carrier in our VIP A-3 one day. We calculated the ‘catapult trim setting’ based on the fuel and weight distribution on the airplane. It was important. Without the crews knowledge the ship crew had tossed an extra drag chute into the tail compartment (about fifty pounds) … roughly eighty feet behind the nose. That’s a huge moment arm on the center of gravity on a relatively small, but huge for a carrier, aircraft. After the cat shot the Captain was looking at a ‘planform’ view of the aircraft … that’s what you see if you are directly above the aircraft or if the aircraft is vertical in front of you. He was able to recover, but all pilots are not “Navy Dave”. Don’t try to get away with overweight luggage on a light aircraft. It is not in your best interests. (The engineers here will probably point out that the distance from the nose is not important, but the distance aft of the CG. But this airplane took off from the carrier weighing seventy three thousand pounds or more. Your airplane in Africa is probably less than thirteen thousand pounds.)

  • What was Dave's last name? I think I knew him or at least met him.

    Believe what Sealord says. Weight and balance is serious business for light planes, especially when they operate at high density altitude (high altitudes and air temperatures) like you may find in Africa.

    You can guess what happened to a small cargo plane (C-2) when, during the catapult shot, a spare engine broke loose from its tie downs and slid to aft end of the cargo bay!

  • mklawler, I don't know which brand you shoot, but when we went to Africa with Tauck in 2022, I took two bodies, Nikon Z9, Nikon D850 and three lenses, 20-70mm, 70-200mm and 200-500mm plus associated cleaning materials etc. All was packed in a lowepro bag and was easily over 15lbs all up weight. We traveled inter camp on small Cessna caravan aircraft ( I think they are less than 20 seats). I was never questioned on my bag weight on the international legs or the small inter camp ones on the Cessna. Maybe I got lucky, but I don't think so. I believe this is the norm although not technically the operational policy. It is ultimately your risk! All they may do is charge you more (international leg) or ask you to get the weight down somehow ( leave a lens out) on the small planes. I am heading out there again this September and will be carrying more or less the same kit. If you are into photography and have the kit, take it. You will kick yourself if you don't. FYI, when I looked at which lens I used the most on the trip, it was the 200-500mm. PM me if you want more details


  • Ok. A final comment. If you must bring the photo store with you (I have a degree in photography by the way) wrap up your extra equipment in your clothes and put it in your duffel bag. That is normally put in a cargo compartment in the middle of the airplane, or sometimes it travels by truck or safari vehicle. It is not ‘your’ thirty pound backpack that is the problem, it is the other twenty thirty pound backpacks that may cause a problem.

  • rwilso15 - thanks. This is really the info I wanted to understand. Appreciate it.

  • It was interested today to see the news report about Finnair weighing passengers on a voluntary basis and the importance of estimating weights of passengers and their bags. SeaLord is of course correct about the dangers of incorrectl weight on small planes…and even more important on the helicopter rides in Africa.

  • Weighing in late, but some thoughts. Many good points made, but a couple additional thoughts: 1. A phone may be enough depending on what you are looking for. We went in Sept 23 and a number of our group were disappointed in their phone pics, so be aware of what type camera your phone has; they vary widely by phone model. 2. Perhaps a good compromise on weight issue might be take one lens (I agree with rwilso15, I used my 200-500 most often) and then use a good phone for closer shots. 3. I took a D500, 60-300 lens and 200-500 lens. It never left my side, I had a backpack but inside I bought a very small foldable pack that I put the Camara and lens in for internal plane rides, left the backpack with the pile for weight distribution and kept camera in my seat. It's a pretty inexact science estimating weight; at 160 lbs plus my camera, I'm sure there were many passengers that weighed far more than my combined weight. Our Tauck guide carried a camera body and a 400mm lens so I wasn't too worried. 4. I think there is no wrong answer, if you want nice pics take the camera, if you are satisfied with a phone, that's fine too. I took some pics that if I had a phone I would have never taken because they were too far away. We saw a caracal that our driver said was 1 of 3 he had seen in his life. We also saw a leopard up in the rocks that I was able to get great shots of. Our group asked me to send my momento link to them, so I guess it isn't just you that may want to see them.

  • edited February 15

    The animal that we have seen that is rare to see is a Honey Badger. Oh and an Ardwolf but that was a long way off.

    The thing we have gone off topic with here is that ‘they” say a 15lb weight limit, so if they do enforced it, what do you do?

  • Wear a safari vest and put your extra lenses in the pockets.

    I only take one lens, a 16 - 300mm which I find meets 95% of my needs.

  • I have tried multiple lens combinations and still don't have the perfect answer. Whatever you do bring make sure that you are really comfortable with the camera. Don't get a new camera the day before you leave. It will take all of the fun out of it. What I have settled on depends what I think will need to get 90% of what I want. I always have my phone which works great for wide angle, portraits...My current set ups are as follow: I use a m43 setup with an OM-1 as my camera. 20MP is more than enough for me as long as I don't have to crop too much. For my primary zoom lenses there are three scenarios. I choose only 1 zoom lens to bring. If I am in an urban environment, I use an Olympus 12-40(24-80 FF equiv.)F2.8. If I am out in both urban and country settings I will bring the Olympus 12-100 f4(12 to 200 FF equiv.). I love shooting telephoto landscapes. And if I am looking for wildlife then the Olympus 40-150 F4 Pro(80 to 300 FF equiv). All of these are weather sealed as well as the camera. In addition, I will bring one or maybe two prime lenses. The m43 prime lenses from Olympus and Panasonic are tiny so binging 2 is not a big deal. Usually I will bring one of the following: Panasonic 15 mm f1.7, Olympus 20mm F1.4 or the Olympus 25mm F1.8. In FF terms these are 30, 40 or 50mm. These combinations will keep my kit fairly light. For a bag I usually bring a Wotancraft 7L pilot that I can easily slide into by backpack.

  • I hope I’m not in the same safari vehicle as you next time I’m on safari. There isn’t much room for sharing positions popping heads through the vehicle roof.

  • Clarification: I only bring one zoom lens for the entire trip. If it is a safari, I would bring one OM 1 body, the 40 to 150 F4 and one 20mm F1.4. Total of one camera body and two lenses. Total around 1500 grams.

  • To British' point the topic of weight limit, this trip is all about minimalism in clothing, things you carry, etc. I weigh everything before we leave on a trip. My camera body, 200-500 lens weighed 7 lbs. so I still had room to add 60-300 lens and some other items to the backpack I took on the plane. You can meet that weight limit if you are careful. On our trip the small planes carried us and drivers drove our luggage to the site except the carry on.

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file