Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rugged Gear Carts for all Shooting

I imagine that many people understand that when a photographer goes out, they take a camera, lens, and the needed accessories. But what about the tripod, extra lenses, perhaps a SECOND camera body and that's just if you're a natural light photographer. What if you are working on a portrait session, trekking around an urban environment and hauling lights and reflectors with you? I outgrew my camera back pack years ago, especially when I photograph weddings. I have several totes, each for their own designated category of gear. It takes effort to haul my gear from the car to the church or into the reception. It is becoming difficult to find a bag or a case that is large enough to hold almost everything, but not be too cumbersome itself.
My friend Chad Cable, and fellow photographer, has had similar difficulty toting his photo and video gear as he works on projects. Chad also works for Rugged Gear, a company that specializes in producing carts to haul guns for competitions. A different category of shooting, rather than ammo I need a spot to stash batteries. Still, the two genres can utilize the same cart fairly effectively. AND Rugged Gear is looking at adapting it's current line of carts to meet a photographer's need specifically. The question is, what can stay the same and what should be adapted?
Chad has used a Rugged Gear shooting cart as a dolly for his video production. He reached out to me to see if I would like to work a cart over and offer my own thoughts on how well it is suited for photography work.

I am on board for trying new gear!! As a photographer, gear acquisition syndrome is a very real issue, thus the difficulty in carrying it. I got to try out the burgundy cart that you see below.

                                                       Image from www.ruggedgear.com

I tried to compose some ideas before I received my cart, but that's tough to do without seeing it in person. At first glance, it looks like a stroller. I've been using a large stroller for two years and understand how portable they are.  One can haul a lot of 'stuff' fairly easily. In this instance, I also had been told that lightstands fit well where guns would typically reside, especially if they are extended. You may even leave the strobe head or flash attached.

Standing around in the RuggedGear office, we were able to brainstorm a few more ideas. There is a tray at the top where a sports shooter (not football) would stash their ammo. We thought that would be a nice spot to store small accessories that a person may need quick access to like batteries and a white balance filter. It could be improved by adding a cover of some sort to the top so that it could be zipped or snapped shut. It would be nice to not have to unload every small item when you load and unload the cart into your trunk.

I was also given a clamp that could be fastened to the side of the cart to hold another item. I intend to try it out by attaching a light stand to it. The cart could be a base for an upright light. I've run into issues photographing on location with a light and an umbrella. The umbrella catches a breeze and tips over. I believe that the cart would be heavy enough to keep that from happening. Perhaps it would take longer for me to break an umbrella diffuser again.

Before I pushed the cart out the door, the guys at Rugged Gear were able to show me how easily the cart collapses. There are releases on either side. You simply reach down and pull up, allowing the cart to fold in half. If you need to break the cart apart further, the wheels also come off. The cart fills my trunk, but I am able to close the lid. My husband was able to load the cart into the trunk in a more compact fashion. I need to practice, I think that I could get better too. If the front wheel is turned more, I believe that would help. That's an instance where it's an issue of my technique.


I was hesitant about this system. I didn't see how I could be very efficient if I had to pack all of my gear in their cases anyway, just to break the gear apart and load into a cart. Turns out, it's not too different from when I used a luggage cart or another transport cart. PLUS, this collapses better than the other options and holds more equipment. The only difference is that I removed the light stands from the case that I usually carry them in (golf bag) and my strobe lights came out of their suit case as well. 
I looped the strobe cases around the gun holders. The light stands stacked well on top of my camera and flash bags. I forgot to bring bungee cords along, those would have been helpful. My husband was a dear and delivered a few to me. Toting back to the car went more smoothly with those. I also would suggest shortening the straps on the strobe light cases if you also decide to hook them over the gun brackets. I found that the cases rubbed on the wheels.

Initially, I thought that a drawstring on the mesh bag would be handy. However, it's a great place to stash extension cords. And the cart travels well with the cords in the bag. That's an item that doesn't need to be unpacked.


There are pouches around the cart that would be great to hold lenses if you are switching between a couple through the shoot. I found that they also hold snacks and a beverage handily.


The cart was quite a bit messier on the return trip to the car. BUT, I did try leaving the strobes assembled on their respective stands. I also had to throw my case with video gear in it on top of everything. The bags and lights all stacked into my car and back into the trunk well.
The cart does come with a rain cover. I'm not sure that it would cover all gear in this particular situation. If I were photographing outside, I don't think that I would be carrying ALL of this gear either.

I have had the opportunity to use the cart at a second wedding, with similar success.  I made sure to have the bungee straps with me.  That really is a critical step in securing the load and making the transport smooth.

The reception was outdoors and I appreciated the minimal effort needed to push the cart back to my car.

Overall, I like how the cart is setup in its current form. A cover for the top tray is my main suggestion. I think that I might add some long Velcro straps to help lash items to the frame for quick transit. I have some additional shoots coming up this summer, including a wedding reception at a state park. I would also like to use the cart during a portrait excursion. I want to try out my plan to use the cart as a light base. 
I also think that the cart by Rugged Gear would be a nice tool when out on a photo walk with friends. No one person would have too much gear to haul, but perhaps three friends could share pushing it along with a cooler of choice beverages. After my initial use of the cart, I think that it's a great piece of equipment for all types of shooting.

If you are interested in checking out more products, the company's website is www.ruggedgear.com, or you may call an associate at 1-800-784-4331.


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