For a long time I was searching for the ultimate camera bag; one that was surreptitious, could carry all my camera gear as well as my purse, glasses and keys and could easily be carried hiking, sightseeing and to special events. Of course I have now realised that no one bag can do all those things and I have instead invested in several bags which so far seem to cover all bases. In case anyone is in need of a good camera bag, here is a rundown on the various bags I now use when I am out and about.
Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW
This is the bag that I wished I had when I was backpacking Europe and South America. Although I had something very similar which I loved (an old Kathmandu backpack camera bag which they no longer stock), it wasn’t as versatile, roomy or comfortable as this Lowepro pack. Whilst its bright orange colour is not exactly surreptitious, it doesn’t scream ‘camera bag’ and therefore I feel confident enough wearing this without feeling like any more of a walking target for thieves than I normally would. This bag has many of the features you would look for in a good camera bag; it has a soft, padded area to fit a SLR and regular-sized lens, it has pockets for extra memory cards and batteries, and it has a waterproof cover tucked into its base. As well as this, the bag has plenty of room up top for a purse, glasses, waterproof jacket and pants, room on the side for a water bottle, space at the back for a hydration pack (which also snugly fits a 13 inch Mac) and pockets on the top and hip straps for any other small bits and pieces you are likely to collect whilst on the road. Fitted with adjustable hip and chest straps, the bag is comfortable to wear for long distances and has proved to be reasonably durable. When backpacking, this pack can also easily be worn on your front, with a larger pack on your back.
Best for: short hikes and backpacking
Pros: comfortable, roomy, good all-in-one pack, rain protection, gender neutral
Cons: bulky for short trips or special events, camera inserts are not removable so you cannot transfer the camera and padding into a larger or smaller bag if you need whilst travelling over extended periods (for instance, if you need to take a long hike that requires a larger bag).
Lowepro Slingshot 100AW
Another bag from Lowepro, the slingshot 100AW is an older version of their Slingshot Edge 150AW pack. Although more difficult to disguise the fact you are carrying a camera, the slingshot is sleek and comfortable to wear. The one strap at the back allows for a smooth rotation to the front so you can access your camera easily without having to remove the whole pack. At a compact size, the main compartment of the 100AW neatly fits a SLR with attached lens (up to around 300mm), and a spare lens of equivalent size. The small pouch on the front can be used for spare batteries and cards, whilst the pouch on the top can squeeze in a flash, or a glasses case, or a small purse and phone, but none of these items combined. The AW in the bag’s title refers to the fact it is considered an ‘all weather’ bag and thus a waterproof cover can be found tucked into its bottom.
The slingshot 100AW is a great bag to use for day trips around the city and is gender neutral. However, if you’re on the road travelling for any length of time, it doesn’t easily double up as a day pack, or much of a handbag, which means you may need to limit what you carry.
Best for: day trips or city sightseeing
Pros: easy to wear, rain protection, gender neutral, comfortable, can be packed into larger backpack if required.
Cons: limited space inside, obvious camera bag
Jo Totes Gracie Bag
The Gracie Bag is a handbag that has been designed to carry an SLR camera and lens. From the outside, there is nothing that distinguishes this bag as a camera bag and therefore it is perfect for walking around the city, going out to dinner or going to a wedding, without drawing attention to the fact you are carrying around a hefty piece of equipment. The bag is fairly versatile and roomy inside, with padding allowing you to align your equipment how you see best. An SLR with attached lens (up to 300mm) and a spare lens of about the same size easily fit within the camera padding. There is also plenty of space for a purse, phone and glasses case in the main compartment, without needing to squeeze the zipper shut. There are also plenty of pockets inside and outside the bag, which are useful for spare batteries, memory cards, keys etc. If you take out the camera padding you can also squeeze in a 13 inch Mac (although this defeats the purpose of using it as a camera bag). As yet, I have not had the opportunity to pack this bag to its capacity, mainly because I have had little need, but also because it does start to get a little heavy and bulky once your camera, spare lens and purse are inside.
Best for: day trips, city sightseeing, special events, everyday
Pros: easily disguises the fact you are carrying a camera, removes the need to carry extra handbag, roomy with plenty of pockets
Cons: can become heavy and a little bulky when full, no rain protection, not gender neutral
Lowepro Pro Trekker 300AW
This is the bag you want to have when you need to bring it all. Fitting at least two SLRS with attached lens, flash, laptop, tablet, numerous spare lenses, purse, glasses’ case, water bottle and tripod this bag is a beast! As with the other Lowepro bags, this pack is well designed; with nicely segregated compartments for all your spare memory cards, nifty zippers for your extra gear (such as batteries, filters, cleaning wipes etc) and a hidden rain jacket. The bag also sits comfortably on your back and can be carried on your front if you have a larger pack on your back. However, you would only want to carry this bag fully packed for short distances, for it can weigh in excess of 12kg once full. Additionally, whilst the bag fits a lot in, your gear isn’t easily accessible when you’re on the go as you need to lay it down to unzip the zipper and then all your gear is exposed at once (not great if you want to conceal exactly what you are carrying). The camera gear also takes up 90% of the room in this pack, so don’t be fooled into thinking you can easily take your rain jacket, jumper etc as well. However, if you don’t need to be doing a lot of walking around, or if safety isn’t a big issue and you need all your gear in once place, this bag is a great choice.
Best for: car trips, photo shoots where all your gear is required
Pros: can potentially fit all your gear, well crafted with plenty of pockets, rain protection, gender neutral.
Cons: very heavy and bulky when full
Which bag/s do you use for your gear and why?