Every photographer will tell you that aside from their camera and lenses, a camera bag is really important and can make a big difference in how accessible your gear is when you need it. I’ve found that I like a backpack as opposed to a shoulder bag as I find it more comfortable so I’ll focus on backpacks.
I’ve had several camera bags in the past ten years. My first was a bright red photo backpack that held everything but it screamed “expensive photography equipment here!” I don’t like to advertise what I’m carrying especially as I’m sometimes traveling alone. My second choice was an inexpensive black vinyl backpack that lasted for years but I eventually outgrew it as I accumulated a few more lenses. I hated that bag!
I decided that I wouldn’t buy a new photo bag until I found the perfect one … and all of my equipment fit inside. It took two years before I finally found the bag that I love.
This was my criteria:
- Space – A sleeve for my laptop and iPad as well as lots of room for two camera bodies, several lenses, and other supplies.
- Camera Accessibility – A place to stow my camera where I could retrieve it quickly and easily.
- Storage – Most backpacks offer divided spaces that hold equipment in sectioned areas. I prefer not to use this method to store my stuff as I’ve found another way that seems to save space and is easier to pack. I put my cameras in fleece ski hats. They’re soft and keep my photo gear protected, and this yields extra space in the bag. My lenses are stored in neoprene bags which have drawstring closures. I also use the soft leather bags that often come with a new lens.
- Pockets – These are necessary for battery chargers, a memory card wallet, various filters, quick release plates, cleaning clothes, a multi-Allen wrench tool, wallet, car keys, etc.
- Comfortable Straps – As you conceivably may be carrying your backpack for a length of time, comfort is so important especially if hiking. As a woman, I’ve found that many straps are too rigid or are spaced too far apart making the backpack uncomfortable to carry.
- Waist Strap – They’re super helpful to support the weight of my gear when hiking.
- Waterproof or Water Resistant – Photographers often ditch their packs to be able move unencumbered. I’ve parked my pack in sand, on ice or snow, and in wet or muddy areas. Having a bag that wipes off easily and doesn’t absorb water is a plus.
And the winner is …
I chose the Shimoda 30! This nylon backpack has access on the rear, side and top so you can grab your camera or lens quickly without removing the pack. This is a huge time saver! It has a pocket that accommodates a 13 inch laptop computer, and has adjustable straps that you can set at Small, Medium or Large for varying torso lengths. Mine is set on Small and it fits my smaller frame perfectly. The backpack is designed to use Shimoda’s Removable Insert System. These are the core units that can hold your camera and lenses in protected pockets that are customizable. It has so many pockets including a zippered smartphone pocket, and has loops and a stretchable pocket that can hold a water bottle, sunscreen, or bug spray. It has two rugged handles, as well as rings which you could use with a carabiner to attach other necessities. The waist belt is removable, and another strap can be used at the sternum. It’s also weather resistant and washes easily while keeping equipment dry. I also bought the small accessory case. This bright blue small square bag holds a battery charger, a memory card case, cables, and everything else that is small and must be easily reached. I love this bag!
The Shimoda backpack also comes enlarger sizes, the 40 which would be preferable for most men, and the 60 which is great to carry camping gear and/or lots of camera equipment, as well as a large rolling bag which is great for air travel.
My Cube is packed so that the smaller left side holds my memory card wallet, a flash drive, lens cleaning wipes, and Allen Multi Wrench tool, Model Release Forms, and photocopies of my Passport, Driver’s License, Credit Card, Health Insurance Card, and my list of medications. The other pocket holds my battery charger with battery, a headlamp, two cleaning clothes, Computer Screen Cleaning Wipes, a clip-on mini flashlight, and personal things such as my inhaler, a hair elastic, croaks, and a buff.