Looking for gear bags, act like a marsupial – Carry your photo gear for under $5

Mar 27, 2024

David Prochnow

Our resident “how-to” project editor, David Prochnow, lives on the Gulf Coast of the United States in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He brings his expertise at making our photography projects accessible to everyone, from a lengthy stint acting as the Contributing How-To Editor with Popular Science magazine. While you don’t have to actually build each of his projects, reading about these adventures will contribute to your continued overall appreciation of do-it-yourself photography. A collection of David’s best Popular Science projects can be found in the book, “The Big Book of Hacks,” Edited by Doug Cantor.

Looking for gear bags, act like a marsupial – Carry your photo gear for under $5

Mar 27, 2024

David Prochnow

Our resident “how-to” project editor, David Prochnow, lives on the Gulf Coast of the United States in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He brings his expertise at making our photography projects accessible to everyone, from a lengthy stint acting as the Contributing How-To Editor with Popular Science magazine. While you don’t have to actually build each of his projects, reading about these adventures will contribute to your continued overall appreciation of do-it-yourself photography. A collection of David’s best Popular Science projects can be found in the book, “The Big Book of Hacks,” Edited by Doug Cantor.

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When it comes to choosing a new bag for carrying a camera and an extra lens, some photographers will select a luxurious leather bag. Others will opt for a more rugged backpack selection. But if you really want the best bang for your buck, study the habits of a kangaroo and you’ll see a much better solution.

Featured on the frontal anatomy of the female kangaroo is the ideal carryall for photographic equipment–the pouch. No, you aren’t going to hire a mother kangaroo to become your personal valet, rather you need to shift your mindset from using a camera bag, to re-purposing second-hand camera manufacturer’s lens pouches, instead (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - Pouches that are suitable for carrying a camera and/or lens are ridiculously inexpensive.
Figure 1 – Pouches that are suitable for carrying a camera and/or lens are ridiculously inexpensive.

In their originally intended context, lens pouches are used for holding one lens inside a cluttered camera bag. This pouch acts as a protective sheath keeping the lens from smashing into other pieces of equipment, as well as minimizing damage to its glass elements.

Some manufacturers even extend this protective barrier concept into selling pouches for holding electronic flashes, film backs, and interchangeable viewfinders or prisms. Likewise, the pouches, themselves, are made of soft fabric, suede leather, or fine-grained leather. Regardless of the construction material, pouches typically feature a drawstring cinching top, like the one in Figure 2, along with a reinforced bottom.

Figure 2 - All pouches have extra-large openings that can be tightly closed with drawstrings.
Figure 2 – All pouches have extra-large openings that can be tightly closed with drawstrings.

All-in-all, pouches are an excellent protective product for all photographic gear. And that’s exactly why you should use a pouch as your “go-to” everyday carry (EDC) bag for cameras, lenses, and accessories. Before you plunge into converting to pouches for your next camera bag, however, consider these points:

1. It is very difficult to find a pouch that can easily hold a DSLR; especially a DSLR with an attached lens. On the other hand, digital mirrorless, digital point-and-shoot (see Figure 3), and 35mm film cameras are all prime candidates for packing into a pouch. Similarly, many 35mm film SLR cameras (except for the larger motor drive equipped models like a Nikon F4) can be carried in a pouch. Typically, you’ll need to carry the lens in its own dedicated pouch, however.

Figure 3. A digital point-and-shoot camera can be easily tucked inside a pouch.
Figure 3. A digital point-and-shoot camera can be easily tucked inside a pouch.

Pro Tip: Use the pouch that’s holding your digital mirrorless or digital point-and-shoot for also storing all of the cables, memory cards, batteries, and charger that are associated with this camera, together, inside the same pouch.

2. Most pouches were made to specifically hold one type of lens. This singular focus on a particular lens can result in some unusual pouch shapes. Avoid pouches designed for holding a long telephoto lens. These pouches are just too narrow and long for adapting to being an EDC camera bag.

3. The ideal pouch shape is one that is designed for holding electronic flashes. The rectangular shape of these pouches is perfect for holding most cameras (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Many different 35mm film cameras will fit in a pouch.
Figure 4. Many different 35mm film cameras will fit in a pouch.

4. Not all suitable pouches begin life as a camera lens holder. If you live an active life with daily fitness goals, the Small Personal Item (SPI) belt from, you guessed it, Small Personal Item Belt is exactly the pouch you need. Featuring a zipper closure, an expandable  pouch, and an adjustable waistband, the SPI belt is ideal for safely carrying a small camera with you during your exercise routine, as shown in Figure 5. You can conveniently tote a 35mm or digital point-and-shoot camera inside a SPI belt during a morning run without worrying about damaging your photographic cargo.

Figure 5. Now you can take your camera everywhere, even while exercising, when it is safely held inside a SPI belt pouch.
Figure 5. Now you can take your camera everywhere, even while exercising, when it is safely held inside a SPI belt pouch.

5. There is a glut of pouches available on the used market. You can expect to pay $2 – $10 for a pouch that is in “excellent” condition. Although, you would be prudent to fix your price limit at $5. And, at that price, a pouch for an EDC camera bag is a steal.

6. The drawstring closure on a pouch acts as an ideal loop for stringing onto a belt. As you can see in Figure 6, this is a perfect concealed carrying point for even your most valuable camera.

Figure 6. Ready for action--a pouch looped through a belt gives you discrete access to your camera.
Figure 6. Ready for action–a pouch looped through a belt gives you discrete access to your camera.

Adopting a mother kangaroo’s brooding pouch as your newfound safe haven for carrying all of your camera gear could leave you with one unexpected problem. Now, which pouch is holding your beloved FUJIFILM X100VI?

Enjoy.

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David Prochnow

David Prochnow

Our resident “how-to” project editor, David Prochnow, lives on the Gulf Coast of the United States in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He brings his expertise at making our photography projects accessible to everyone, from a lengthy stint acting as the Contributing How-To Editor with Popular Science magazine. While you don’t have to actually build each of his projects, reading about these adventures will contribute to your continued overall appreciation of do-it-yourself photography. A collection of David’s best Popular Science projects can be found in the book, “The Big Book of Hacks,” Edited by Doug Cantor.

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