I have been searching for over a decade, I am pretty sure there is no perfect bag for all photography uses.
Recently I have changed the way I been traveling and shooting, which has lead to some change in the kit I use and how I carry it. I have ended up with a few different bags which fit together in some kind of ‘bag eco-sphere’. Let me know in the comments which bags I might check out next, or if there are better options to choose from.
My top 5 bags
- Cosyspeed Camslinger Outdoor
- Billingham Hadley Pro
- Domke Chronicle
- Pelican 1510 or 1535 Air
- Army Tactical Backpack
Here is the lowdown
A normal day out shooting on the bike:
- GFX50r + 3 lenses
- Lee 100mm Filter kit
- 3 Legged thing Tripod
- Bunch of cards and batteries
- Mavic 2 + 3 batteries
On a size run down from small to large, the first and newest bag that I use and love is the Camslinger from Cosyspeed.
I have been aware of these bags for a number of years but didn’t really understand the genius of these compact bags. They are designed for people who want fast access to small cameras. Think street photographer meets small system cameras. as a pro-photographer, I was thinking that these small bags are not the ones for my GFX50r. With all the trimmings that would be a tight fit. It was only when I needed to find a way to carry my camera on my motorbike that the Camslinger showed it’s genius.
I don’t use this bag on its own, a lot of the gear goes in my panniers and the camera goes in the Camslinger. This gives me fast access to the camera without having to stop, get off the bike, open the pannier and get the shot. I can just open it up, grab and go, It’s so easy I can do this one-handed.
I know not everyone rides a motorbike, but that’s fine. What I do when I go hiking or out on a is carry the camera in the Camslinger and the rest of the stuff like extra batteries, lenses, tripods and all the other stuff in my rucksack. This means I can have the best of both worlds, hands-free when I need but only takes a second to grab the camera. Genius!
The next camera bag on my list is an absolute classic. Billingham have been making the most amazing bags for years and years. My Hadley pro is my little slice of luxury. It doubles as a smart bag for work, the weekend or as it was intended, a camera bag. Having a Billingham is pretty much a rite-of-passage for a photographer.
If my Billingham is the slice of luxury, my Domke Chronicle is the workhorse. It is the one bag that makes every trip. If can only take one bag, it’s normally the Domke. It is big enough to take everything I normally need, durable enough to last and comfy enough to carry. I would be very lost without this bag.
My next bag is not what you might expect, it’s not even a photography bag, it’s an army-style tactical backpack. It does everything I need when carrying kit and it’s everything I need when I just need a grab bag. It keeps everything super dry in the rain and can carry a water insert for then it gets warm. I did mean to order a black one, but they sent a camo colour one, which looks cool, so I just kept it.
It has so many pockets, loops, zips and everything that I can always find a place for everything. This rucksac combined with the camslinger is a very handy combination. When I want to carry things like spare bodies or lenses, I use the ones from Amazon, they work great and are quite economical. A tripod can easily be looped & firmly attached, which is awesome.
My next item is not so much a bag but a company. Peli the company to look at if you want the very best in terms of protection for your kit. I have a range of cases that are used depending on the nature of the shoot or location. If we are flying, we always use Peli cases – there are no exceptions where this is not the case. It’s just not worth the risk.
The 1510 & 1535 Air are the two cases that we would carry on the plane with the larger 1615’s going in the hold. The more vital something is the more likely it will go in the cabin with us. Using the Trekpak system, we split the main camera up with the backups and pack them separately. We do this so that if something happens to one case or camera, we can still work.
The main camera would be the yellow case so that it is clearly marked. This seems overkill but those of you who work in the music world will know how easily one black Pelican be confused with another. Label it or lose it. Last year I was on tour with punk rock legends, Bowling for Soup. My job was to document the tour, many times it was left to local crew & staff to move cases about. Having a very clearly marked case is very important. I just made it clear, the yellow one goes on the bus, not in the truck.
Should I do a full post about hardcases? Let me know in the comments.
I guess I am missing 1 major important element. Back when I had my Honda, I simply bolted the back plate of 1510 to the bike. The trekpack inserts provided the flexibility and storage in the case and that was how I carried my gear. The tripod fitted behind the case with my Billingham snugly in the side with laptop etc.
When I upgraded the bike to the Triumph Explorer, things changed a vast amount. I picked up the Adventure panniers and by either luck or coincidence, they are a perfect fit for a full kitted out Domke Chronicle. This means I have the strength of the hard case and the portability of the Domke for my kit.
The last few things are little bits like the Peli card cases. I use the Cosyspeed wallet for cash and spare empty cards and the tough Peli SD card cases for full SD cards. I use another Camslinger for the Mavic 2 drone, which is very impressive, to be honest. It is a perfect fit, leaving just enough room for my Lee Filter field pouch and a few other supplies.