During my entire career in photography I’ve always carried my gear in a shoulder bag. Then about three years ago I switched from studio, location and event photography to nature and landscape. Now I carry my gear all over Mother Nature, and my neck and shoulders are not at all happy. So because of the pain, and recently having my bag shift unexpectedly and almost throw me down a 200-foot scree slope, I decided it was time for a pack.
In the past, selecting camera equipment was easy, largely because there weren’t many options. Not so today. I looked for a camera backpack and was buried in an avalanche of options. Backpacks, daypacks, sling bags, messenger pouches, lens and camera pouches, various fabrics, sizes, padding, weatherproofing and even different kinds of zippers. The choices are endless.
To add more to the mix, I needed a pack that would also let me carry water, food and a sweatshirt. The temperature drops fast and far here in northern Arizona. I soon realized that a pack designed to carry only camera gear just wouldn’t work.
I contacted several other photographers I know, including Guy Tal, Meethil Momaya and Sean Bagshaw. They were kind enough to tell me about their good and bad experiences with various packs. The F-stop pack was well liked, but the one that would work for me was about $280 plus another $100 for the padded liner. I wasn’t’ ready to spend $400 for a daypack.
Several of them also told me they use a regular backpack, and insert a padded unit to hold their gear. It lets them carry gear, food, water and clothes.
This sounded great to me. It offered versatility and options with modular padded units. These units included the ICU from F-stop and the Domke Insert for ProPack. But these required pulling part, or all, of the unit out of the pack to access the camera equipment. I wanted the ease of accessing my gear from the top, just like a shoulder bag.
The solution was a padded insert designed for camera equipments. They would easily slide into my pack, and still give me access from the top. One insert would hold most of my gear, and they only cost about $20. I could also stack one on top of another if I needed to carry more gear.
So here’s my daypack. I spent $23 for the Camaroo insert, $2 for each of the straps and $6 for the tape measure pouch. I already had everything else. So, $33 for a camera pack. That’s a lot less than $150 for a Tamrac 5547 Adventure 9, which was the only manufactured pack I found that came closest to meeting my needs.
The straps are used to hold my tripod on the back of the pack. Two of the legs fit perfectly into the tape measure pouch. Be sure to loop the straps through their clips properly, or the strap will slide out of the clip, and your tripod will quickly become a slave to gravity. But don’t worry, it will eventually stop slamming into rocks and bouncing off of trees and come to rest as far away from you as physically possible.
I use the cardboard box for holding food and water. It’s made from a strong, two layer thick, corrugated cardboard box I had in the garage. It was too wide, so I cut out part of the middle, slid the two halves together until it was the width I wanted, then went crazy with packing tape to hold it all together. I then took part of the cut out section and made it into a lid to rest the Camaroo on. This raised the Camaroo to a nice height in the pack, and still left room above it for a sweatshirt.
As you can see here, the Camaroo holds my Canon Rebel with attached 18-55 lens, next is my 55-250 lens, and then I have my waterproof memory card case, a small video camera and assorted wires and filters. The Camaroo came with two additional dividers. I also looked at the BBP Camera Paddy and the Tenba PP12 Padded Insert, but the Camaroo is the one that was the right width for my daypack.
So there you have it, an inexpensive, flexible, adaptable system for carrying camera gear in a pack that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
What do you carry your gear in when you commune with nature?