If there’s one subject guaranteed to get photographers into a passionate discussion then it’s camera bags. We all have our own particular needs and wants, and sometimes finding that ‘just right’ hold all can seem like searching for a unicorn.
So one such solution then is to perhaps create your own camera bag. In this video, wildlife photographer Morten Hilmer walks us through his quest to build the perfect camera bag.
In this video, Morten is concentrating on bags for longer trips and multiple-day expeditions. No day hikes here. Now Morten has certainly got through a lot of bags, as you’ll see from the video. So he has learnt from experience just what works and what doesn’t. He does emphasise that he won’t recommend any specific bags, however, as we are all different with different needs and requirements.
Morten first talks about standard front opening packs, like the Lowepro Pro Trekker series. The advantage to this style is that you can fit a lot of gear inside, and once you open the pack all the way up, it is easily accessible. This sort of pack is great if you’re going to one location and unpacking once you arrive.
Morten says that he moved away from this style because they are just too heavy. Once you add non-photgraphy-related equipment, such as food, spare clothing, weatherproof jackets and first aid kits it becomes crazy-heavy. They often don’t have an internal frame and aren’t built towards comfort. Other details like being able to replace broken clips are an important consideration.
The F-Stop type bags are another category of camera bag. These have back-opening compartments for the camera equipment which means that you can access it more easily without having to lie the bag down in the mud. It also has an internal frame which makes it more comfortable in general.
These bags have robust zips and clips, but again there are some issues. The side pockets aren’t big enough, and you can’t keep your water bottle within easy reach. Besides the large-looking size of the backpack, there’s no extra room for non-camera gear. That’s a huge issue.
Morten has another very good point. As soon as a backpack is marketed toward photography, the price increases exponentially. So his solution is to create his own backpack that ticks all of his boxes.
Morten has tried out several military-grade backpacks. They are quite literally made for soldiers, not photographers, and they are used by the Scandinavian Special Forces.
These are made for carrying very heavy weights so are more comfortable and adjustable. Huge side pockets, durable zips, and plenty of space for things like sleeping bags either inside or hanging on the outside make these bags quite versatile.
However, quick access to photo gear was still an issue. So instead Morten found one with side pockets, added extra straps, and with a front opening panel, Morten was able to add a camera insert with easy access. Plenty of room for both camera gear and non-camera equipment.
So when you’re looking for a camera bag, have a think about your needs and how you work. You may find that customising a non-camera bag may work better for your needs.