Choosing the Right Camera Travel Bag

Any photographer, be they professional or photo-enthusiast, will tell you that taking care of your equipment is one of the major concerns of the hobby. After all, it just wouldn’t do to show up and be in the position to take a great photo, and discover that your camera’s broken.

The delicate nature of cameras is something that has only been magnified in the move to digital. Where earlier light-proofing the film chamber was the biggest deal, now it’s keeping all the little electronics and tiny moving parts dust free and safe. Even the most rugged of SLRs is not something you want to toss around like a stuffed toy.

And so having a good camera bag is essential. I’ve just picked up one, and after tweeting about it (as one naturally does in this day and age) some people expressed interest in finding out more about it. After all, though there are a raft of products available to house your camera, it’s actually quite rare to find something that covers all your needs.

And my needs were more than just a padded box to house my Pentax K200D DSLR. I don’t consider myself one of those photographers who has tons of kit, but over the years I have amassed a fair amount. There is, of course, a camera (or in my case, cameras, as in addition to my DSLR I also carry around a Kodak C875 compact camera). Then there’s extra lenses for the DSLR, all of which need padded, secure casing for transport. After that, accessories such as battery chargers and extra batteries, extra storage such as SD or CF cards. There’s even stuff I don’t have yet that I plan on getting in the future, such as a tripod, external flashes, and supplementary accessories such as diffusers, gel packs and whatnot. All of these things add up.

And then of course, there’s the new technology, the reason I’ve been searching for just the right bag for ages now: a laptop computer. I first saw a camera bag that also had a sleeve for a laptop a year ago, but it was a prohibitively expensive Kata. I’ve seen cheaper ones since by Lowepro and Case Logic, but in each case they lacked something; either the laptop sleeve was not padded enough, or the placement of the compartments in the camera area just weren’t adequate or placed to my liking, or it just wasn’t comfortable to wear (a major consideration when buying a bag).

Today I picked up this one, a bag that seems to tick all the boxes for what I need. It’s small enough, first of all; smaller than a lot of the others I’ve seen, yet still able to take my bulky old 15 inch laptop. Then it’s black and therefore a bit more innocuous than some of the day-glo yellow and orange ones I’ve seen. It doesn’t scream “I HAVE A HUGE CAMERA AND LAPTOP INSIDE ME” to any would-be thieves, which is a good thing when travelling (the chief reason for getting one of these). It has several pockets on the outside , and all of them are secured under flaps or behind clasps — there are even ties for tripods and other oversize accessories.

Turning to the inside, and this is where the real action is. Each and every one of the black partitions in here are removable with strong velcro grips, which is a godsend for being able to arrange accessories and lenses. This, more than anything, is the reason I bought this unknown brand over other, fancier ones, all of which had limited flexibility (also it was cheap, about $50).

Once all the laptop chargers and extra hard drives and usb keys and general pocket lint are put in here, I can still imagine having space for expansion.

Now, I know most of you are probably thinking, “I still don’t want to carry around a large backpack with my laptop everywhere!” — and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I bought this laptop camera bag precisely for long transport. Overseas trips, weekend expeditions and the like. Instead of two or three pieces, I now have to deal with only one item of carry-on luggage at the airport. Of course, for day to day use, when you don’t need multiple lenses or chargers or other such things, I am still going to carry my trusty little shoulder-strap case. During afternoons out the big bag stays at home base.

All of this is fairly new to me, of course. If you’re careful then an ordinary messenger bag is adequate for securing your camera on an afternoon out (and in the case of smaller cameras, putting it in its softcase and dropping it in a handbag will do).

However, if you’re moving into the realm of DSLR photography, and going abroad or on a long trip, I’d definitely suggest getting a good, versatile, laptop camera bag.