We queried the hardworking folks aboard tight-quartered cruise ships to find out their “must-haves” for lighting professionals. Size, weight, and compatibility are the priorities for both professional and personal gear. We've compiled a list of the most popular items on our survey and thrown in a few more that are just plain good advice.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE…

MULTI-TOOL

Most of our cruisers expressed satisfaction with Gerber and Leatherman brands, with the Leatherman Supertool 200 receiving the most praise. While these are not the cheapest tools in the shed, they're well worth the investment for reliability and convenience.

A practical note: be sure to stow your multi-tool if you're planning to leave the ship. According to Sefton Bates, lighting technician and lead technical coordinator for Norwegian Cruise Lines, “Increased security means that a multi-tool can be confiscated if you happen to be wearing it while going on or off the ship. Getting onto the ship can be just like going through airport security, even for crew.”

PATHWAY CONNECTIVITY'S PATHPORT

According to programmer David Horner, “Having the Pathport system in a multi-use venue, such as a show room on a ship, is so useful. To be able to have multiple DMX universes around the stage with out a mass of wire makes this system worthwhile, but what I like about it the most is the fact you can have inputs in the house as well as the control room, making the ability to put the desk in the house for programming so much quicker.”

MULTI-METER

With varying voltages, this is an essential tool in your arsenal. David Wetmore, lighting technician for Holland America, put in his recommendation: “My personal favorite is the Fluke T5-600. It's compact, can be carried on your tool belt, auto-sensing, and a good price for a Fluke.”

MULTI-BIT SCREWDRIVER WITH OPTIONAL BITS

Yes, of course ships carry tools, but they may not have the selection and quantity you need, so keep it simple with a multi-bit screwdriver. They're more compact than a full set of screwdrivers, and you'll be happy not to cart around the extra weight. One popular pick: Klein 10-in-1 Screwdriver/Nut Driver. It features 5/16" and 1/4" nut drivers, #1 and #2 Phillips, 1/4" and 3/16" slotted, #10 and #15 Torx®, #1 and #2 Square.

“C” WRENCH

We'll let lighting designer Geoffrey Platt explain, as he does it best in this case:

“I believe the most important thing to have is a wrench on a cord…you may be wedged into a very tight place, overhanging the theatre, trying to change a lamp or do some minor adjustment, and you surely do not want to lose a wrench or kill a dancer rehearsing on stage!”

Well said, Geoff.

FLASHLIGHT

This scored high on the must-have list. Mag-Lite and Surefire are popular brands, but one new favorite is the Inova X5 LED flashlight. Don't forget all the extras if you don't have a rechargeable model.

TOWELS, HAIRDRYERS, AND SHRINKWRAP (OH, MY!)

This was one of our more unique, yet practical, responses. According to lighting designer Guy Smith, “The salt spray environment is harsh on circuit boards and potentiometers. Always keep gear dry, and when it has to go from the cool, dry interior to the hot, muggy weather outside, it has to be warmed up and dried out from condensation.”

MORE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT WE JUST COULDN'T LEAVE OUT:

  • Nite-Ize Pock-its, a great carry-all for tools and such
  • Set of metric and SAE Allen keys (hex wrenches), both extra-long and l-shaped
  • Ratchet straps for everything
  • Basic soldering kit with helping hands device
  • Stubby screw drivers for hard to reach-places
  • LED head-lamp
  • Blue Loctite
  • Small cats paws (screwdriver size) for removing color and pattern wheels
  • Extendable magnet to reach screws you drop into your lights
  • Dental pick to put springs onto stabilizers
  • Powerful cordless drill
  • Service manuals and spare parts for all your gear
  • Notepad and two working writing devices
  • DMX cheat sheets

DOWN TIME…

LAPTOP

If you don't have one of these, you may go absolutely mad, according to our respondents. Aside from serving professional needs, this one piece of gear will be responsible for most of your communication and entertainment while on board, sadly enough, giving you access to e-mail, movies, music, etc. One tip from our cruisers: compose and edit everything offline; sign on only when necessary.

MP3 PLAYER

Still don't have one? Time to get acquainted with this century.

Douglas Claus, lighting designer/programmer shares his personal pick: “I prefer the Apple iPod. A small portable hard drive that can hold up to 40GB of information…invaluable when you think how much weight and space it replaces with the CD equivalent, not to mention loads of room for a system back up.”

CELL PHONE

If you're going to take up space packing your cellular, make sure you've got global coverage, or you may be wasting room where you could have packed another DVD.

NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES AND/OR EARPLUGS.

Don't get stuck hearing every movement made by the ship and your cabin mate. Think: small spaces, lots of people — noise that warrants canceling. Earplugs are essential, but for those who like a bit more pampering, spend the extra dough and go for the noise-canceling variety (they block out surrounding sound even if you're not running audio through them). Your ears (and head) will thank you. Try Bose QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones.

A GOOD COMFORTER

Many ships are headed for tropical destinations but originate in much colder regions. While you're in Finland, your bedding was designed for Cozumel. Bring extras to keep warm.

AND FINALLY…

  • Sunglasses
  • SCUBA Gear, because you never know
  • Digital camera, because seeing is believing
  • Multi-zone watch
  • Oakley SI Assault Boots, because they're great in wet environments
  • DVDs and CDs

Resources:

Apple: www.apple.com

Bose: www.bose.com

Fluke Electronics: www.fluke.com

Inova Light: www.inovalight.com

Klein Tools: www.kleintools.com

Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.: www.leatherman.com

Loctite: www.loctiteproducts.com

Nite Ize: www.niteize.com

Oakley: www.oakley.com

Olympus: www.olympus.com

Pathway Connectivity: www.pathwayconnect.com