Like many other photographers, figuring out what is the most effective and comfortable way to carry around photography equipment has been a long time struggle for me. Here are 4 bags that bought after a lot of research. (Going from small to large.)
Ameribag Healthy Back Earth (tiny day pack)
If I just need to carry along one camera in a bag, this is the small bag I reach for. It has tons of pockets for parts. My wife calls it my manbag or merse. I like it but it has no padding.
Vanguard Adaptor 41 (small day pack) (mirrorless go bag)
This is the smallest Adaptor, so it won’t fit my iPad. There is enough room to bring a Canon DSLR + 15-85mm and a few small accessories, but if I bring a 70-200, it pretty much takes up all the room.
**Updated 2/2016** However, it is perfect for TWO Fuji cameras (Fuji X-T1, X-E2, plus accessories). And, if I want to get to a specific camera, this bag has openings on both sides.
The bag can either be a backpack or a sling. I found it difficult to use it as a sling with my Canon DSLRs (I think they were too wide to easily get out of the opening), plus the sling hurt my back and shoulders, but it works well as a sling with my Fuji cameras. My guess is because the Fuji equipment fits through the opening easier, but I still like it better as a backpack in general.
The backpack also works great with a Peak Design Capture Pro Clip. (Here is my mod.)
**Added 2/2016** And, unlike my giant Lowepro Flipside Sport:
- It fits at my feet at events
- AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, I can get into the compartments
I now have a Vanguard Adaptor 46 which is the bigger brother of my Adaptor 41. Go here for my review.
Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag (transport)
This bag seemed huge in the reviews, but it hurt my back and shoulder and it was difficult to get to everything if I packed the bag (which was why I wanted a big bag in the first place). I use it now to just carry equipment from place to place, but not as a field bag.
This taught me that messenger bags, in general, were not for me. (Even beautiful ones like The Everyday Messenger Bag by Peak Design.)
*Update* I sold this to someone who will love it and give it a full life. 🙂 If I ever need an equipment bag, I think that I will just get a big duffle bag.
Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L (heavy duty day pack) (DSLR go bag)
I did a lot of research for something that could be a heavy duty day pack. Something light enough to carry empty (when the cameras were out) but roomy enough to throw the cameras back in quickly if needed.
Compared to the other options, backpacks seemed the best for distributing weight for me. These come in front-access, back-access or side-access. Back-access seemed the best for keeping nature (dirt, grass, etc) off your back when you put the backpack down on the ground then put the backpack back on which I often had to do.
For the most bang for your buck, I choose the Flipside Sport, and this thing is HUGE! which is not for everyone. If you want one of those thin-ish, handmade-looking, “I’m trying not to look like a camera bag” bags, this thing it is not. It is function first.
Here is an old pic of how I configured mine (but I reconfigure it often) and a recent pic. The top is configured in case I need a Canon with a battery grip attached. There is also a cut tennis ball at the top for padding the foot of a monopod (I like to sit while shooting kids soccer so the shots look nicer).
Although the product pages and reviews show the dividers in 3 columns for separated bodies and lenses, I prefer not changing lenses in the field, so I needed two bodies with long lenses attached. This bag can do it (not all of them can without losing significant function), but it helps to extend the dividers with velcro extenders (wide velcro taped together).
It also helps to add an extension to the zipper pull. It makes a huge difference in usability. Anyone who complains that any zipper is hard to use, but doesn’t use the zipper pull has no grounds for complaining. I use old Peak Design Anchors.
I agree with many other people that it is difficult to put small accessories in the main compartment. A generic lens bag helps me divide the smaller compartments. The padded section can be removed from the backpack — I have tools between the padded section and the backpack.
This back-access backpack with waist belt has a trick up its sleeve. If you have the waist belt on (and slightly loosened), you can take off the shoulder straps and rotate the backpack so you can access the main compartment without putting the backpack on the ground (which is handy if the ground is wet, muddy or snowy). I can say this is tough with heavy equipment (have your knee up to support the bag), but now that I am slowly switching to lighter Fuji X cameras, this is a more viable option.
The backpack also is works great with a Peak Design Capture Clip Pro. (Here is my mod.)