Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Traveling with Plein Air Gear, Part I

This post will be part of a series on how to travel with your gear.

With the Flint Hills plein air workshop only a week and a half away, and the New Braunfels workshop right around the corner, I thought a post that explained how my plein air set up works would be timely. 

There are many questions to ask yourself when packing your gear for plein air, but four main ones come to mind:  1) Medium(s) in which you will work, 2) How you are traveling, ex. driving or flying, 3) Where you are traveling, ex. continental U.S. or international, 4) How are you arriving to painting locations once at your destination, ex. hiking vs. driving.  I have experience with many of these situations and will cover them over a period of time.  For this post, I will cover traveling with oil paints where one would be driving to the destination and not needing to walk for a very long distance.  This covers what I do 80 percent of the time, and will help most of you in most situations.

Backpack with all gear inside
Start with a good, roomy pack.  One that has a few outer pockets, really good padded hip belt, comfortable shoulder straps, and made of a durable nylon.  Lightweight stays and ventilating back are good features when carrying a distance.  I use the Kelty Redwing 2900 which is an older model.  Kelty still makes the Redwing because it's very popular.  Though I love my Kelty backpack for carrying purposes, I have my eye on several good wheeled backpack models from REI that can still be used as traditional backpacks.  Like most artists, I'm constantly trying to improve my plein air gear.  While everything fits great in this pack, it would be nice to be able to wheel it around when I have that option.  I'm waiting until I can get to an REI store to try them on and see if they really sit well on the shoulders before I can recommend one.

10x12 pochade on tripod
My easel set up is the 10x12 palette/panel holder pochade from Open Box M, mounted to the 190XPROB Manfrotto tripod that Open Box M recommends.  The legs on this tripod can extend beyond what most tripod legs can handle, allowing for more stability outside on uneven terrain or in windy situations. Living and painting in Kansas, I'm all too familiar with windy situations!  The 496RC2 ball head on this tripod can hold 13 pounds and has a quick release plate to quickly attach the pochade.  I have a tripod apron attached to the tripod.  Sometimes called a stone bag, you can put a large stone or other heavy objects in it to help weigh down your set up (also necessary in windy conditions!)  I also use this to put my camera, water bottles or other items you want quick access to.

I use Raymar's wet panel carriers.  I have several traditional wooden boxes, but once these came out, really have had little use for them.  I will keep a wooden box in the back of my car when I know I'll have my car close. Unlike the wooden boxes, the Raymar box is lightweight, made out of fluted polypropylene plastic.  And unlike the cardboard panel carrier boxes out there, these are waterproof and strong.  I can fit an 8x10 or smaller box in my backpack, and keep the larger ones in the car.  On a short walk, I can easily carry the 10x12 Raymar box since everything else is inside my pack.

Main compartment of backpack
You can see from this photo that everything I need fits inside my pack or sits outside in a pocket.  Here's a quick run down of what's inside.

Inside the larger compartment:

• 10x12 Open Box M pochade, inside a Hefty 2.5 gal. bag to help slow drying time
• 8x10 Raymar wet panel carrier that holds up to 6 panels

Rubbermaid container with oils
• Rubbermaid container big enough to hold all tubes of oil

Rubbermaid container with brush washer
• Rubbermaid container that holds small brush washer with mineral spirits
• Small brush case - holds 10 brushes and/or palette knives
• Brass tray that attaches to pochade for holding brushes
• Papertowels
• Breathable rain jacket, Cabela's Dry Plus Ultra with it's own bag.
• Small sketch book
• Car sun visor and two clamps

Middle compartment

Inside the middle outer pocket:
• First aid kit with band-aids, instant ice pak,
wrap, alcohol pads, latex-free gloves, etc.
• Multi-tool
• Wet-Ones and small spray bottle for baby oil
• Pencils, small pencil sharpener, erasers
• Clip to attach carabiner with keys, pepper spray and whistle
Small compartment

Inside the small outer pocket:
• Sunscreen
• Bug Spray
• Small wallet
• Cel phone
• Other things you want to get to easily

• 2 water bottles in the side pockets
• Tripod slides through the ski slots
• Ball cap velcros to the carry handle

As you might suspect, a lot of thought after many painting experiences have gone into this set up.  You can take this list and adapt it to your particular backpack organization.

Sun visor shielding pochade