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Choosing a Day Bag For Your Camera

Last week we asked readers to tell us about the digital camera bags that they use – today Peter Carey gives some tips on how to select the right camera bag for you.

In this post I’ll take a look at smaller day trip camera bags. In a future post I’ll include the larger, multi-day or multiple camera bags but for now, let’s keep it small and simple. Rather than tell you which kind of bag to pick (as that would be nearly impossible with as many readers of this blog as there are), I’ll ask some useful questions and point out helpful features to help narrow the very wide field of possibilities. And let me state for the record I enjoy having a bag for different uses, be it a long trip, weekend outing or just walking around town.

Camera-Bag.pngBackpack or front pack?

Let’s start off with where you will be carrying the bag. I’d put forth that the comfort of a camera bag is paramount and thus, where you carry it is equally important. Some people prefer the backpack only, some like something that can clip on a belt and others prefer something in between, like a messenger bag over one shoulder. If you’re not sure, find a friend or two with the different bags and try them out. Load them down with about 4lbs of weight to get a realistic idea. Another option is an over the shoulder bag, meant to be worn on one side or the other. An example would be the Crumpler bag pictured to the right, with enough room for camera, one lens and a flash.

Camera-Bag-1.pngIs speed of access important to you?

This question points to how you plan to use your camera. Will you be making a lot of birding trips where quick access while hiking long distances is important? Do you take it a bit slower and shoot a lot of scenics where stopping often and removing a pack is likely? If the former, a front pack is probably your best bet. A lot of people don’t like to wear their camera around their neck for long periods of time due to strain. This is where the front pack comes in handy. And yet, it may be a bit bulky on your waist so try many different styles on before deciding. Many, like the Lowe Pro bag pictured here, which comes with a shoulder strap as an alternate option to the waist belt. Make sure the strap is comfortable and adjusts to your proper height.

Also, if you get a front pack, it is very handy to have the lid open AWAY from your body. If the lid opens towards you, it tends to get in the way of removing the camera as the lid can not open fully.

Camera-Bag-2.pngWhat else are you carrying?

On this point I’d caution you to keep the load to a minimum. If you can’t live without 3 lenses and a camera then you’ll have to expand a bit. But if you can keep your daybag to only include a good all around lens and maybe an external flash, the space and weight saved will be worth it. Check out the pockets of the pack and make sure there is ample organization for what you plan on carrying (flash cards, batteries, notebook, snack, etc…). One large pocket is not the best use of space and will add more wear and tear to your gear. Most bags now a days have handy pockets for flash cards and batteries, such as the Tamrac bag shown here with its quick access pocket for cards. Use this chance to examine what you carry and if it’s really necessary for a quick trip around town or the woods.

Camera-Bag-3.pngSlingbags…the wave of the future?

Slingbags might be called the hybrids of the backpack and front pack. The idea is to wear the bag on your back and when a camera is needed, you simply sling the bag around to the front using just one strap. The LowePro bag featured here has a side opening with a panel that opens away from the body to make access to your gear even easier.

Comfortable and quick, the bags are a good mix if you desire a backpack and want quick access.

Some features to look for in any pack:

  • Zipper pulls … These are the little tags on the end of a zipper. Without them you will be fumbling around more than you wish when the weather outside might be chill. Some have bits of reflective tape on them which is always a good idea (most bags are black)
  • See thru pockets … If there is more than one pocket, it’s great to be able to spot the contents from the outside. Just make sure the plastic these pockets are made of is sturdy and built to last.
  • Padding … Padding can be tricky. There shouldn’t be too much as to make the bag too bulky. Yet, it should provide ample protection in the right areas. Especially make sure the padding on the bottom is up to the beating it will take. Often the front of the lens is here so don’t be afraid to add in your own to help protect your investment.
  • Quality buckles and snaps … Check out the buckles and see if they look thin or flimsy. I also like to figure out how hard it’ll be to replace a broken buckle in the future. Some are sewn in hard and fast and require an experienced seamstress to repair. Others can be fixed with a 10 minute visit to an outdoor or camera shop.
  • Removable parts … A lot of bags have panels attached with velcro. These are great for customizing or simply removing when you want more space.

Some features to avoid

  • Built in rain cover … I’ll admit, this one can go either way. Personally, I prefer to carry a separate rain cover that will fit other packs, than spend the extra money on a bag with a cover integrated.
  • Too many loops or straps … If there are too many attachment loops or straps, you’re bound to get them caught some place at the wrong moment. Airport security checkpoints comes to mind. Also, loops can catch on objects when passing by, such as in a crowded market. Keep the bag lean and sleek to make movement easier
  • Plastic zippers … Look for high quality zippers that move easily.
  • Mesh pockets … Mesh tends to catch things and make items hard to remove from pockets. It’s also hard to clean after a couple months on the road.

The choices for a daybag are nearly endless. Hopefully some of the pointers here will help steer you to a bag that is right for you. And that’s one of the most important aspects; make sure the bag is right for you no matter how fashionable or hip it is. If a $5 tote from a street vendor works, use it! If you’re looking for a few more features, I hope this post will get your creative and decision making juices flowing so you may pick the best bag for yourself.

Previously at DPS we asked What Camera Bag Do You Use? and the response was phenomenal. I’d like to ask a similar question: If you have a daybag for your camera, what are the features you love or hate about the bag that others should know about?

Peter and his wife Kim are avid photographers who enjoy travel, portraiture and wildlife photography. They are getting the bulk of their images online, which can be viewed at Hidden Creek Photo. A travel related blog of their past and current shenanigans can be found at The Carey Adventures.

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Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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