Sunday 11 January 2009

Gear we use and abuse - Its in the Bag

Now this is a difficult one as buying a new camera bag is like buying a tie-what one person likes another doesn't so all I can tell you is what I use and why. I use Lowepro and have done since 1999 when I bought a secondhand Lowepro Super Trekker to go travelling with for 6 months, I needed something that would take all the kit I had at the time-23KG in total and it swallowed it easily and would have taken more. It was massive, too big in fact and once I had finished my travels I rarely used it. I subsequently bought a Lowepro Nature trekker AW for my day to day photography and still use it as you can see here it is big enough to carry a Nikon 200-400, Body, 14-24, 24-70, extenders plus cards batteries etc. Fine for a days shoot and comfortable which after protecting your investment is very important, I have travelled extensively with this bag around the world and have used it almost daily trekking across the Jura and Alps when I lived in Switzerland and yet it is still as good as new-nothing has broken on or inside the bag.
I also use this bag as a landscape bag and when I don't have the 200-400 along with the body and lenses in it it carries Lee filter ND grads and polariser with the Lee filter holder,A very versatile bag and one that stood the test of time and I would thoroughly recommend it.
My other bag which has now become my main bag is a Lowepro Pro Trekker AW-The AW stands for All Weather and the bags that carry this tag have a pull out cover that goes over the bag and keeps the insides dry should you get caught in the rain. I have only had this bag a couple of months. When I switched to Nikon I decided that as I was getting a full frame body I didn't want to loose out on the crop factor that the 1D3 had given me so I would increase the focal length of the lens and opted for the 600 in place of my previous 500. Now the 600 is way bigger than the 500 and it then limited me to a handful or less of bags to carry it in. I looked at the Kata and Tamrac range along with a couple of others but ended up back at the Lowepro camp. As you can see the Pro Trekker carries a lot of kit.

The 600 fits in the bag with a body attached (lens hoods reversed) along with a spare body, 14-24, 24-70, 1.4 and 1.7x extenders, flash with Better Beamer, leads, remote, batteries, cards etc. etc. It carries a vast amount of kit and weighs a tonne when loaded. So I use it more for protection of my gear than walking any distance with.
Normally when I get to a destination I carry what I need in the smaller bag and have the 600+body on the tripod over my shoulder. The Pro Trekker is made from the latest material and feels very nicely put together. These bags are not cheap and its nice when you receive it to think that you have something that is going to last some years. The Pro Trekker comes with 2 side bags as you can see in the picture. These are useful for carrying another couple of lenses and I tend to keep a 180mm macro in one just in case. You could carry some water in them as it wouldn't be long before you build up a sweat.
One problem I have had over the years and one that I don't know how to stop is getting a sweaty back when carrying a back pack for any distance. When trekking in Switzerland you could be walking for an hour or more to find Ibex and then spend a couple of hours shooting them whilst sitting with a wet back-uncomfortable and not healthy. This is a problem that all backpacks seem to have and there is no real answer as the bag has to rest against your body. Anyway these are my day to day bags. Travelling by aeroplane now throws up a different set of problems especially now I have the 600, and I will be looking at the Think tank range to solve that problem, as I know Martin has been using bags from this range.



  1. A very useful post Dave.

    My friend was asking me yesterday which bags to use, and I certainly would like to know how to transport my 500 f4 and 1D3 on a plane as hand luggage.

    I had a Tamrac Expedition 7, and have replaced that for a Cotswold Aquarious long lens bag which I find so much more comfortable and practical, although that won't be allowed as hand luggage.

  2. Graham,

    As well as a Lowe Pro, I use a couple from the Think Tank range when taking my gear overseas by air. I have the Airport Acceleration rucksack, which complies with the size requirements for those airlines that do not take the full max. size for carry on, and I also use the Airport International roller case when you can use the full carry on size. They are both brilliant bags, that don't have 'camera' written all over them if you get what I mean, making them less obvious. The smaller of the bags swallows the 1Dmk3, 500f4, 300f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 100 macro as well as other bits and bobs. I will be doing some more detailed studies of both bags in a later part in this series, so keep following.

    Also check out
    on Tuesday this week, as I will be featured photographer and have a bit more to say about bags there