I've been getting many queries about choosing bags for travel, for photography gear. The two major domains in which photographers carry their gear on trips are “in-transit,” and during shooting.
In Part I, I discussed the problems of “in-transit” travel, which also affects how you pack for your trip.
In Part II, I discussed the specifications for bags for carrying your gear while “in-transit” which must be considered when choosing bags for that purpose.
In Part III, I discussed bags for carrying your gear while shooting.
I created this blog to offer helpful information for travel photographers; general tourists capturing beautiful memories, through advanced amateurs intent on sophisticated travel photography. I'm not writing articles to induce readers to use the same equipment I prefer, merely because I use them.
So, with reluctance, due to many emailed requests, I will reveal below which bags I currently use for my travel photography, and why. I hope everyone will concentrate on the why, and not the particular bags themselves.
For “in-transit” travel, I use the Lowepro Computrekker Plus AW backpack.
The Computrekker line by Lowepro has been discontinued, and replaced by Lowepro's Pro Runner line of backpacks. As much as I think of the Computrekker bags, I do not recommend the Pro Runner line, primarily due to their physical dimensions, which, in my opinion, are sized wrong as airline carry-ons.The Lowepro Computrekker Plus AW is sized to fit in the overhead bins of both narrow and wide body airplanes, and normally fits under the seat of regional jets too. It's well made, with movable padded dividers in the main section. It has accessory pockets in the lid for easy access, and a built-in rain cover. It has a convenient internal padded pocket for my laptop computer, so the laptop can be easily removed for inspection at airport security. It's black with no big splashy logos.
I'm not a light packer. I can easily load as much as 30lbs (13.6K) in this bag. As a result, I didn't consider shoulder or sling bags for my “in-transit” choice. They put all their weight on one shoulder. Plus the shoulder bag makes you too wide to easily move down the aisle of a plane. I didn't choose a roller bag, because I already use one for my essential travel gear including: medications, toilet articles, valuables, breakables, electronics, and a complete change of clothes.
The Computrekker's straps and harness enable me to carry my heavy equipment “in-transit” comfortably. I carry my camera, with an attached lens separately at all times. There's nothing more frustrating than missing a shot because your camera has to be dug out of your bag, even while “in-transit.” The Computrekker has ample room for a 2nd pro camera body, flash, 5–6 lenses, with a couple as long as a 70–200mm, portable hard drive, memory cards, batteries, card reader, plus a photographer's other odds and ends.
It can even accommodate my behemoth 500mm lens with padded lens cover, and still have room for a 2nd pro body and several lenses, plus other equipment. When carrying the 500mm lens, I pack some items normally in the Computrekker, into my roller carry-on.
If I had to replace the Computrekker today, I would choose either the Think Tank Photo Airport Acceleration V2.0 (a bit smaller than the Computrekker) or their Airport Addicted V2.0 (a bit larger). Being more square at the top, these Think Tank bags have more stowage space than the rounded Computrekker top. Their other characteristics meet or exceed the Computrekker's.
For shooting, my primary “bag” isn't exactly a bag at all. It's the Think Tank Photo Modular Component System, which consists of a series of modular bags which hang from a padded belt around your waist. This way all the weight from your equipment is borne by your hips and legs, not your neck, shoulders or back.
The modular bags are sized for different lenses and to carry other gear such as batteries, memory cards, lens feet, etc. They are padded to protect the gear from damage, well made, durable, and have built-in rain covers. They can be moved around on the belt as needed. They afford quick and easy access to your lenses and other equipment.
The bags are gray and black with no logos. They are secure on the belt. I have used them in urban and rural settings, for all kinds of photography, from events, to wildlife, to travel.
I have often carried a small gear bag, two lenses and a water bottle comfortably, on the Think Tank photo, padded Pro Speed Belt, and periodically added an additional lens to that mix. Three lenses is my typical shooting choice, with one of them on my camera.
If I need more equipment with me, or need to carrying some clothing, lunch, snacks, etc. I use an F-Stop Guru backpack with small or medium padded ICU (Internal Camera Unit) to carry my extra equipment in the bag. There's enough room in the bag for the ICU and my non-photo gear. I use a Camelbak water bladder in the bag too.
The Guru is durable and comfortable to wear. It's sized right as a daypack. It has lots of easily accessible pockets and can carry a tripod attached to it, if desired. Access to the ICU is from the back through a zippered opening. That adds to the security of the backpack from urban slashers, who will only see your clothing and lunch if they slash the bag from behind. A rain cover for the Guru is extra.
The small ICU can accommodate 3 lenses filters, etc., while the medium ICU can accommodate that, plus even a pro DSLR body.
The Guru can be used alone, or as a wonderful compliment to the Think Tank Modular Component System.
Sometimes you need a specialty bag to haul around your equipment when shooting or working. Hiking through a rain forest, white-water rafting, or kayaking require you to have a bag that's not just water-repellent, but waterproof. For wet outdoor conditions for which you need waterproof photography gear protection, I use the Lowepro Dryzone 200 backpack pictured above.
The Dryzone 200 uses a TIZIP and 600D TXP material to keep your equipment “bone dry” even if your kayak or raft flips over. It's well made, with movable padded dividers in the interior, like the Computrekker.
Tip: If you ever purchase a bag with a TIZIP closure zipper, it's important to keep the TIZIP clean and well, but lightly lubricated or it won't seal properly, and will be difficult to close.It has very comfortable shoulder straps and a great harness system. You can use the outer non-waterproof shell for some clothing, lunch and odds and ends when hiking away from rivers and alike. Just put them in baggies when you're hiking to protect them from getting wet. It's the best waterproof photo gear bag I've found.