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wanderlust123 Jul 9th, 2005 04:26 PM

Luggage question
I am struggling with luggage options. I am told I am limited to 13 pounds for my carry on. I am putting all my camera equipment in a Lowepro Orion Trekker II and have a small purse as well as a safari vest to use for batteries, chargers, etc. and hope that all this will suffice to have everything I need with me and still be within the restrictions. I also am told that I am limited to 20KG (44 pounds) checked baggage.

I have tried to pack everything else (my checked stuff) in a 27" soft non-wheeled duffle and it barely zips shut. Bare in mind that I am not taking many clothes (sticking with a couple of ExOfficio LS Airstrip shirts and a couple of ExOfficio pants with zip off legs). It just seems that all the other "stuff" takes up so much space and weight. I also need to take my prescription dive mask and some other diving related things.

Next I tried to put everyting in a 31" wheeled duffle from LL Bean that has a separate bottom compartment for shoes, etc. Everything fits with plenty of room left over. And it feels like I could live out of that bag easily for my 32 day trip. However, it weighs nearly 40lbs packed (the bag is 9lbs 6 oz empty due to the wheels and handle). I have a collapsable bag inside to bring home souvenirs (or laundry) but weight seems to be my biggest issue with this option. So I have two questions.

1. Am I starting out with luggage that is too big / heavy? I am flying Virgin Atlantic from New York to London and Kenya Airways from London to Nairobi. I have other flights once there from Nairobi to Zanibar, Nairobi to Kigali (Rwanda), Nairobi to Johannesburg and Cape Town and Johannesburg to Livingstone (Vic Falls). Not sure of all the plane sizes but not aware of any futher restrictions than I have already stated.

2. Does anyone know how strict the airlines are with regard to checked bags? Are they any more lenient coming home than going to Africa?

tashak Jul 9th, 2005 04:53 PM

My recent experience with Kenya Airways says they are very strict about checked baggage weight, but they did not weigh my carryon. I was charged $10 per kg for overweight luggage, and because I had two flights with them, I was hit twice. (Not sure how this overweight charge relates to flight distance...these were for Nairobi-Lusaka flights...might be less for shorter domestic flights.)

However, it sounds like you are under 44lbs, so this shouldn't be a problem...unless you want to bring home lots of souvenirs. If all the things you packed are things that you need, sounds like you will just make it.

The choice of a wheeled vs. nonwheeled duffel is a tough one. I think that the structure and wheels tends to add 5 lbs. On the last trip I went with the lighter wheel-less duffel. In most cases you can move your baggage with an airport luggage cart (lots available in Nairobi) or get the assistance of an airport porter.

But you are currently under the limit so you could go with wheels. You'll just have to shed some things before you come home if you have heavier souvenirs. and some of this happens naturally, as you take your meds and use your sunscreen etc. (And don't forget sunscreen-- I did, and couldn't find any at all in Zambia. Fortunately my lodge gave me a bottle another tourist left behind!)

Just make sure you carry ALL essentials (especially meds) in your carryon...and I'd recommend a change of clothing if possible. I've run into too many people whose luggage did not arrive with them...or ever. (Most likely just a day or two late however.)

Roccco Jul 9th, 2005 04:59 PM


I had to pay about $125 USD for having overweight baggage when I flew from Rome to London last year on my way to Zambia. I was so pissed off but there was nothing I could do about it but pay the fine.

I never had a problem on any of my light air transfers, but then again, I left half my luggage at the Joburg Airport, downstairs, checked in.

For your light air transfers, I would advise you to find out who your light air transfer companies are, and tell them that you will be slightly overweight on the luggage. I did this for my upcoming September Zambian safari, and I was told that it would be a $1 per kg charge for overweight luggage. That is extremely reasonable, so if I have to pay an extra $5 in each direction, it is completely acceptable.

wanderlust123 Jul 10th, 2005 04:22 AM

I will probably be able to shed some weight as my toiletries get depleted and could even ditch them altogether for the flight home. I have to take a lot of (heavy bulky) stuff in that category due to skin problems. I am leaning towards taking this latest bag as it offers more of what I need and just hope that I don't see something heavy I just have to buy and take home!

I know all about losing one's luggage. It was always a particular concern when I did scuba-diving focused trips. If your gear didn't arrive, it seriously affected a trip. I was lucky on those and had few incidents. However, on a trip to Poland / Czech republic a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of checking my carryon (only) bag and after they lost my luggage on the way over, I had nothing but what I was wearing for 3 days. Yuck!

This time, due to the apparent weight restrictions, I am taking a change of underwear and socks in my carry on and can wash out my exOfficio shirt at night if necessary.

I have to relate a story about my boss when I told him how carefully one must pack for a long trip and how limited one is when taking stuff. He doesn't travel except for domestic business trips. He said he would be the most concerned about how to take enough mouth wash for 32 days! It was hard to stifle a laugh.

Kavey Jul 10th, 2005 04:46 AM

Wanderlust - where was he going?
If we're going anywhere urban for longer than a week or so, we don't worry about taking toothpaste, shampoo etc to cover the entire trip as it can be fun to shop in a local supermarket anyway and restock anything that runs out.

On safari you do need to have your basics with you and I agree that some of the non-clothes stuff really added up - sunblock, aftersun, mosquito head nets (glad I took 'em), chargers, journals and so on. I don't wear make-up even at home so I know that saves me weight that other woman have to take with them but our medical bag was probably the single heaviest thing we had in our luggage. We're glad we did though as we did need items from it a couple of times and who can predict which items one will need during a trip?

We kept clothes to a minimum, as you are doing, as camp laundry services mean you need less than you think but even then you do need to pack different kinds of items... trousers, tshirts, long sleeve shirts, fleeces, waterproofs, swimsuits...

For things like shampoo, we took solid shampoo bars (by LUSH) which last for ages and take next to no space compared with bottles of shampoo.

Our handluggage bags were definitely overweight, we just held them as nonchalantly as we could on checking in for flights!

Our main bags were <12 kg each but we could split stuff between the two of us (such as that heavy medical bag). I think it's harder if travelling alone when you can't split one off items between two travellers.

wanderlust123 Jul 10th, 2005 05:35 AM

He was referring to MY 32 day trip to Africa. He never goes anywhere for more than a few days at a time. I thought it was funny that mouthwash was his biggest concern regarding packing for a 32 day trip to Africa.

I agree that traveling alone presents its challenges. And I do take various types of clothing (fleece, rain wear, gaiters for Rwanda, swimsuit, etc.) but try to make do with fewer things, and before the trip I keep taking stuff out of the bag as much as I can,trying to reduce what I am taking, knowing that I can wash and rewear as I go.

The "other stuff" ends up weighing a lot. I also take a substantial medical kit. And while I don't generally wear makeup, I am rather "high maintenance" in the toiletries department (sunscreen, lotions, sunscreen, hair care products, other skin care products, etc.) as I mentioned. How does one decide how much of each of these one must have for a month?? I will keep trying to pare down before I go as I know there are more things I will run across before I leave that I forgot to add. But then that is all part of the fun of travel!

I am wearing a safari vest on the flights so I can transfer stuff to it if necessary should the weight of my carry-on be an issue. I was told I could bring a "purse" (besides my daypack) and I don't think the "purse" is weighed. I don't know how large it can be and still be considered a "purse" but it would be nice if I could bring something substantial and feel that I have what I need on the flight. Some say they have worn their binoculars as part of their apparel and then those don't get weighed.

Any thoughts on the "purse" size?

sandi Jul 10th, 2005 06:21 AM

Keep the faith. You'll have it figured out by the time you leave.

As to the vest - remember: everytime you pass thru a security checkpoint, you're going to have to empty all those pockets, or take the entire vest off and pass it thru in a container.

Kavey Jul 10th, 2005 07:38 AM

No easy answers really but here's what I take in terms of toiletries:

shampoo bar (one bar lasts a couple of months)
conditioner (*)
toothbrush and paste (I take the gel type as I prefer it anyway and one uses less per use than toothpaste)
unperfumed deodorant (*)
moisturiser (*)
sunblock and aftersun (we always overcater on both and bring tonnes back or leave it with staff at the last camp if they use it)
Perfume (only if we're also doing a city break as I don't wear any on safari as it attracts insects)

* I assume I'll get through these at the same rate as I do at home so I work out how often I buy new ones/ how long they last at home and then work out how much I need depending on length of journey. Unless it's a big difference I seldom decant into small travel bottles but that may be useful for you for some of the items.

I also take
travel tissues
disposable razor
hair bands etc
spare glasses
nailclipper/ nailfile

As I said, the medical bag far outweighs all this stuff, even when I'm taking toiletries enough for two people for two months, medical bag was still heavier.

Kavey Jul 10th, 2005 07:39 AM

PS I can't comment on purse size as, if I take one at all, it's in my main luggage during the journey - all my purse stuff (wallet, tissues, toiletries, pens etc goes into the camera rucksack front pocket).

wanderlust123 Jul 10th, 2005 07:57 AM

Thanks. I would plan to just remove the vest during security checkpoints. I would like to think that I can put everything (that would be in the vest pockets) in the camera bag unless they want to weigh it. Much of that is camera batteries and rechargers. I would hate to not be able to photograph because my rechargers were in my checked bag and my luggage got lost....Anyway, my camera bag is small enough that I can still manage it on a daily basis as a daypack and I was told that due to the 13 pound limit having a bigger one would not help (if I want to put more stuff in it) if they weigh it since it already weighs 13 pounds.

Normally I would not take a "purse" either but need more space than my camera bag will hold since it is so full of camera stuff. It would be so much easier with a traveling companion to balance all this stuff.

I have something that qualifies as a "purse" from an airlines perspective (it is a little Eagle Creek Bag that goes over one shoulder -- but not what you would consider a purse if you weren't traveling as it is very casual. However, I would like to take something a bit larger than that as a second allowable carry-on item (something not considered "baggage") which would let me bring more stuff on board. They mention things like a purse, a briefcase, etc. I didn't know how far I can push the "purse" size limit.

I guess I am probably getting too concerned about all this and should just decide something and go with it.

sundowner Jul 10th, 2005 06:03 PM

I've always used a backpack (the size kids use for school books) as my "purse" and a rolling 19" suitcase or rolling camera bag for the camera gear. My camera bag was over the weight limit but was never weighed. However, I was not flying through London. I was on SAA for all flights.

My checked luggage was under the 44 lbs but I sure worried about carry on. Good luck with your packing!

WhitePelican Jul 10th, 2005 08:37 PM

You sound like me. My camera equipment is heavy and takes up most of my carry-on allotment in a MountainSmith camera backpack. Because I seem to need all sorts of stuff on the plane, I carry an LL Bean purse, one of those shoulder sacks that has a dozen or so pockets and is comfortable to lug around: it holds my books, meds, cosmetics, travel documents, earplugs, eye mask, vitamins, energy bars, etc. I have never been questioned about its size: it is, after all, a purse. I, too, use a photo vest where I can stuff battery chargers and other items on a flight where the limit is 33lbs. So don't worry about purse size: almost anything that's technically a purse seems to pass.

wanderlust123 Jul 11th, 2005 02:32 AM

sundowner: If I thought I could get by with a small rolling bag (for my camera stuff) and a little day pack as a "purse" I would surely do so. That is what I do in the US and there has been no issue. BUT I don't know how strict they are going to be on the flights to and within Africa. If they weigh my hand baggage I am hosed.

tashak Jul 11th, 2005 08:32 AM

and complicating matters, every airline within Africa seems to have completely different policies.

One thing that has never happened: No airline (in any country) has ever asked to weigh my purse/handbag.Even if it is fairly big, but still looks like a handbag. It's more painful this way, but I often put my heaviest, densest stuff including camera equipment in a strong but lightwag Sportsac bag--it is actually fairly big, and looks a bit like a totebag. But it is still clearly a "purse". Then I put only the lighter (relatively!) stuff in the more obvious carryon. They only have scales at frontdesk /checkin counters, so once you are past that, you can repack to be more comfortable!

One time, flying SAA to another country in Africa (can't remember which now) my carryon was overweight but I pleaded with the agent--it had camera equipment for my holiday and just could not be checked! She was kind and let it pass! So if worse comes to worse, I would be really nice but try to convince them that you camera stuff just cannot be checked. I think they really want tourists to have a good experience in their country, and they know tourists all have and need their

Good luck and have a great trip!

Kavey Jul 11th, 2005 08:48 AM

Tashak, I've done that repacking trick too! Also, given that you're usually allowed as many carrier bags full of shopping from airport shops as you like I'll sometimes even resort to buying something light, getting a carrier bag, moving some of the heavier items such as guide books, my journal and books to read on the trip into the carrier bag, which always escapes scrutiny.

I know it sounds devious but since my main luggage is always below the limits AND I don't do duty free shopping of heavy bottles of alcohol and perfume I don't feel too guilty.

It's just that, with delicate camera equipment I have a different hand luggage/ checked luggage ratio to many other travellers.

wanderlust123 Jul 11th, 2005 09:05 AM

What is disconcerting to me is that the airlines go to so much trouble with the weight of bags, checked or hand carried, causing people (including me) resort to ways to "get around the system" but the airlines rarely if ever weigh the passengers. So I can be penalized for having too much luggage weight, but someone who weighs twice as much as me has no penalty for bringing much more body weight on board. It all goes on the same plane!! Arrrghh.

wanderlust123 Jul 11th, 2005 09:27 AM

WhitePelican: Which llbean bag are you refering to? I would like to check it out. Thanks.

Lolo12 Jul 11th, 2005 09:41 AM

This whole issue of luggage limits can be taken to the extreme of absurdity! I am going to Africa in Sept with International Expeditions. According to the info they sent me, the checked bags cannot exceed 26 pounds, but there is no limit on the carry on. Now, I ask you, does this make sense? Weight is weight, unless they are only concerned with positioning bags in the hold of the plane. I plan to keep my duffles to 26 lbs but will load up my carry on with camera gear, toiletries, etc plus any clothing I couldn't fit in the duffle.

WhitePelican Jul 11th, 2005 11:04 PM

The LL Bean purse is called a Healthy Back Bag. I have the regular size as opposed to the small--of course. Travel Smith and other companies have similar bags. The thing is amazingly heavy by the time I've stuffed in all my supplies but never has it been questioned or weighed.

I agree: this weight business is slightly nuts.
My luggage and I together might well weigh somewhat less than an individual with a large body mass who is not charged for overweight. Oh well. . .with our vests and purses we manage.

lisa Jul 13th, 2005 07:39 AM

Wanderlust123 -- What brand of photo vest do you have? I have been looking for a woman's photo vest for ages but they all seem made for men and even the size small is way too big.

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