Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: A different approach to bags  (Read 3741 times)

John Camp

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2171
A different approach to bags
« on: March 20, 2006, 03:03:19 pm »

One of the reasons that the never-ending search for the perfect bag is **never-ending** is that there isn't a perfect bag, even for one person. What works in the woods, or what is needed for a long hike or multi-day outing, is different from what is needed for street photography; and what is needed for a small compact outfit is different then what you need for large format. All of this seems pretty obvious, but it never stopped me from trying to find the perfect bag; I have literally a dozen bags of all sizes and shapes.

Recently, I've tried a different approach: It started when I bought a Kata Teddy-2, and found that I could order lots of extra "guts." I tore out what came with the bag, and rebuilt the interior like I wanted it, to carry a small Nikon D2x system. Then I decided to build a bag to carry a street-shooting system, starting from scratch. I hunted through camera, office supply, and outdoor stores (REI was the best) to find the components. I was building it for an Epson R-D1 and a selection of Leica lenses. It will also fit the Digital Leica M, when that camera comes out.

Basically, I started with a backpack of the kind designed to carry laptops and to replace briefcases. It's waterproof black nylon, and the main compartment is divided vertically across the width of the pack (that is, you have the full width, but the depth of the pack is divided about 1/3-2/3.) The pack is also lightly padded, because it was made to protect a laptop. This pack has a good one-hand carry strap on top, in addition to the packpack shoulder straps, but no waist belt; the lack of the waist belt was okay in a pack this size, because it's essentially meant to carry a small system. The shoulder straps are comfortable to wear off either shoulder, or on both at the same time.

In REI, I found small plastic-foam containers called "Candle Lantern Cocoons" which fit the Leica lenses perfectly. I can put four standard camera-bag separators in the bottom of the bag, to hold the R-D1 with an attached lens, facing down, and on the sides of the separators, cluster as many as four to six additional Leica lenses in these foam carriers.

Because the bag was designed to be a briefcase, there are lots of little pockets for accessories and stuff like notebooks, cell-phones, pens, water bottles, etc. For air travel, you could stick a laptop in it, with all the camera equipment, although that makes it a pretty heavy load. On the other hand, when you're traveling with camera equipment, there's going to be a pretty heavy load somewhere, and this bag-size meets all the airline regs for carry-on.
 
The bag empty, including the lens protectors, but without any equipment, is way lighter than any camera bag of similar capacity, quite a bit cheaper, and it looks like a book-bag, rather than a camera bag. Hardly worth stealing, in other words.

When I was putting the bag together, I looked at lots of packs, and realized that if you have a few old bags around that you can strip of their guts, or if you can find or buy camera-bag padding somewhere (the guts), you can almost always make a better carry-bag than you can buy. That's because you're making a custom bag that fits you and your equipment. (I'd make an exception for certain specialty bags like roller bags, or hard-shells.)

One of my problems with most camera carry bags is that they have WAY too much padding; you're carrying a load before you put the equipment in. I have a small Kata bag (it's like a 100), and it has so much padding that if I ever fell far and hard enough to break anything in it, the least of my problems would be the camera equipment; I'd need an ambulance. On the other hand, there are camera bags that are intelligently padded, like the Domkes, but those scream "camera bag" and that's not usually what I want.

I also want to be able to carry other stuff in the bag -- notebooks, pens, a cell phone. A lot of camera bags don't have room for that.

I think building your own would have an even bigger benefit for people who carry long distances -- you can buy a "real" backpack and customize it and come up with something a heck of a lot more comfortable and carryable than anything I've seen in photo bags. If you look around a variety of stores, you can find all kinds of components for a pack like this-- little hardshell boxes for delicate stuff, little zip bags for things like remote releases. Domke sells "wraps" that can be used to pad anything, and are are about the size and weight of a handkerchief.  

I've still got a way to go with my pack, but I'm getting there. Better to roll your own, IMHO.

JC
Logged

jule

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 738
    • http://www.juliestephenson.net
A different approach to bags
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2006, 03:40:18 pm »

I agree.
In my endeavour to find a bag to suit my varied needs, John, I too am evolving my own custom made system. For a trip with small - medium lenses, I use a smallish comfortable back pack that was designed for a lap top, leaving the insert inside so I could put my small laptop in it as carry-on (and to be left in room at destination), and I put my lenses in neoprene pouches I made myself. I custom made and sewed pouches out of neoprene (light weight wet/spring suit material). Each pouch has a flat round base and a flap type lid held down with some velcro. Design needs a bit more refinement, but works well at present.

I just thought the prices for brand name backpacks were way too over the top, when they didn't suit my needs, were too cumbersome, and were way too uncomfortable for me.
julie
Logged

Paul Sumi

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1217
A different approach to bags
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2006, 03:48:06 pm »

Quote
I think building your own would have an even bigger benefit for people who carry long distances -- you can buy a "real" backpack and customize it and come up with something a heck of a lot more comfortable and carryable than anything I've seen in photo bags.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60705\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Amen to that.  I was in Yosemite in February hiking with a Lowepro Minitrekker with 2 bodies, 3 lenses and miscellaneous gear.  If you're walking more than a couple of miles, carrying all that weight on your shoulders is a major pain.  

Lowepro makes "real" backpacks with internal frame suspension and load-carrying hip belt.  Why can't they do the same with their camera backpacks?  Okay, the Pro Trekker has a load-carrying belt, but it's hard to adjust the suspension system to my torso length.

Paul
« Last Edit: March 20, 2006, 03:52:34 pm by PaulS »
Logged

jimhuber

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 147
    • Elegant Earth
A different approach to bags
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2006, 04:26:22 pm »

I bought a camera/laptop backpack at a local camera shop, then simply moved the removable, padded camera portion to a CamelBak Peak Bagger. I can't carry a laptop that way, but can carry my 5D & Rebel XT bodies plus several lenses, etc. The Peak Bagger will still hold 3 liters of water in it's bladder, plus snacks and a jacket. Total cost was about $150 USD.
Logged

Eric Myrvaagnes

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 22812
  • http://myrvaagnes.com
    • http://myrvaagnes.com
A different approach to bags
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2006, 09:32:26 pm »

Quote
If you're walking more than a couple of miles, carrying all that weight on your shoulders is a major pain. 

Lowepro makes "real" backpacks with internal frame suspension and load-carrying hip belt.  Why can't they do the same with their camera backpacks?  Okay, the Pro Trekker has a load-carrying belt, but it's hard to adjust the suspension system to my torso length.

Paul
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60712\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
This has been my big beef for quite a while. My favorite camera pack for hiking for many years has been a vintage 1970 Kelty external frame pack. I attached two stainless steel machine screws to the top crosspiece of the frame, and I can hang my camera from that instead of from my neck. Great for hiking.

For an upcoming trip to Italy, I decided I didn't want to bring anything as bulky as the Kelty, so I got a Lowepro Street & Field Shoulder Harness which provides a good, well-cushioned hip belt. I then built a camera support out of half-inch plastic pipe, which inserts in the back pockets of the belt and again lets me hang my camera(s) from the pipe instead of my neck. It is light-weight, puts all the weight on my hips instead of my neck and shoulders, and is incredibly ugly. But very functional, and less bulky than the Kelty.

Eric
Logged
-Eric Myrvaagnes (visit my website: http://myrvaagnes.com)

BernardLanguillier

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 13983
    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/bernardlanguillier/sets/
A different approach to bags
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2006, 10:00:36 pm »

My personnal conclusion is the same... Lowe Pro gear is basically only useful for those people hiking short distances around a hub to which they can get to by car/boat/plane...

Actual back packs are the only option for those doing multi-day trekking, especially in the winter with a tent. Photo gear always ends up representing less than 25% of the load/volume anyway.

I have been using Osprey packs for a long time now, since they offer IMHO the best compromise between confort, weight and rugdness, although Millet comes pretty close. At 2.3 kg, my expedition Osprey Aether 90 is IMHO the best game in town. It is actually an amazing 800 gr. lighter than my previous 75 litres pack, without compromising too much on features.

My basic philosophy is that you cannot take good pictures on the run, meaning that is basically mandatory for me to drop the bag, walk the scene before considering setting up a tripod and taking images. From this point of view, there isn't much value in improving the pack for faster access to the camera.

The whole thing then is to plan well the hikes so as to know where to have breaks, and how many breaks can be had without taking too much risk timewise. This is obviously easier to do in places you have visited before, and when the weather isn't too cold.

Regards,
Bernard

Anon E. Mouse

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 197
    • http://
A different approach to bags
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2006, 02:28:01 am »

Lowe and LowePro are two different companies. (That is why their bags are different.  )

But I am with everyone. Hiking and climbing gear make better bags. Just add an insert. My favorite "camera bags" are MountainSmith lumbar packs (for 6x6 and 6x12 systems). I have my light meters in small pouches which I clip onto my backpack.

Camera bags do look impressive, but I find they do not work well in the field. You have a feeling the designers think you would not want to carry anything but camera equipment - no rain gear, food, water, extra clothes, map, wallet, etc. You wonder if the designer actually uses these bags. Plus, as stated above, they are far too heavy. But they look impressive at the store...

To their credit, I do have one camera bag. A LowePro Mini Trekker, the old 1990 version with the single large pocket on the front panel/cover/door. Toss out all the silly dividers and it makes a good bag.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2006, 02:28:53 am by Anon E. Mouse »
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up