This is a follow up on my previous post from 2016, after having made more experience and more thoughts about this topic.
Here is just a not so short recap on this topic:
I’ve always been struggling with a good solution to pack away camera equipment during long hiking trips which might take several days. On the one hand it’s practical if you use one of the present ICU systems by f-stop or Mindshift backpacks , however it has the disadvantage that those backpack internal camera bags are note very flexible when it comes to only carrying them for a couple of meters. Let me give you an example:
On a multi-day hike camp is set up in the afternoon, the tent is pitched and all camping related stuff resides in the tent or next to it, while the camera gear needs to be available for sunset or night shooting which might happen 1-2km away from the camping spot. Surely you can empty your backpack completely and only carry the camera gear in it for strolling around next to the camping area, however it comes with additional effort of re-packing which can be quite annoying on a week-long hiking trip. ICUs from f-stop at least can be detached from the backpack and carried with both hands or with a simple shoulder bag. This already gives a lot of flexibility for different packing styles and workflows, but it’s not there yet. I’d like to have the flexibility to carry an ICU either in the backpack or outside of the backpack, for example in front of me, like a slingshot shoulder bag or a bumbag. This gives you the freedom to have quick access to your camera gear during the hike and might enable you to get photos you otherwise wouldn’t have taken because of the hassle to get the camera gear out of your big backpack.
Back to today:
I’ve been on several long hiking trips since 2016, like on Yakushima in Japan and Tasmania in 2017, several multi-day hiking trips in the Alps and my recent 8-day hike trough the Drakensberg area in South Africa.
I’m still using the solution mentioned in my previous post, having a big Deuter 70L backpack and cheap shoulder bag which I can either carry in front of me by hanging it on the backpack carry system over both shoulders
What I noticed on each hike is the strap of the shoulder bag compromises the carry system of the backpack by putting weight on the load balancing straps next to the shoulders and hence prevents the carry system from putting more weight on the hip belt, which might be convenient at times when you want to carry the backpack away from your back. This is not catastrophic, but not good either, especially on very long hikes.
That’s why I recently looked into other solutions which allow you to carry a camera bag on your waist like bumbags. I want to try out the bags listed below and will update the post once I have new insights or decided to change mit kit by choosing one of those bags.
This was mainly meant for documentation purpose for myself, if anybody reads this and finds it helpful let me know, I’d be happy to hear about it 😉
On daytrips (e.g. hiking, visiting cities) I’m already using my trustworthy Lowepro 400AW, it’s big and sturdy enough for rough treatment. Recently there have been very exciting offerings by f-stop and MindShift (by Think Tank) which use a very similar concept of accessing your backpack from the back side while it is in front of yourself and not on the ground. I might look into those sometime later, however this blog post is dedicated to my approach for long distance trips or hikes with overnight stays.
I previously just combined what I had at my disposal, a cheap 70L trekking backpack by Aspensport and an Olympus E-System shoulder bag. I never even tried to fit my camera equipment directly into my trekking backpack, like putting it into a dedicated compartment with clothes for padding, I always liked the idea of having an ICU (internal camera unit) where I can arrange my camera gear properly, it’ll stay in place and it’s perfectly protected from outer impacts. So in this case I just used the shoulder bag as an ICU while keeping the shoulder strap attached, because I want to be able to just pull it out of the backpack and use the comfortable access to my equipment from the top while it hangs in front of me.
Recently both trekking backpack and camera shoulder bag became almost unusable because of some serious wear, I even stitched together seams which already disintegrated. Well, this was the motivation to look for new equipment for the job and hence this blog post, it was mainly meant for documentation purpose for myself 😉
I considered the following requirements:
Around 70L of interior volume
Comfortable carry system which makes you carry most of the weight on the hips (my previous Aspensport trekking backpack was really bad at this!)
Many reasonably placed pockets to store different equipment, also wet pocket
Enough and well placed mounting possibilities for hiking poles, camping kitchen equipment, tent, tripod etc.
Hydration system (compatible to 3L hydration bladders)
Unfortunately I didn’t do much research on the trekking backpacks. I have known the fabulous f-stop mountain series (e.g. Sukha and Shinn) for quite a while now, but there is on thing which kept me from buying one: availability. Here in Germany a friend of mine had to wait almost 2 months to get one after ordering. Their ICU concept is very nice, however not flexible enough (yet) for me, I want an ICU which can be used as a proper shoulder bag too. This means I want to able to conveniently pull out and put back my camera while standing. I think by offering shoulder straps for their ICUs f-stop might be already on the way to offer something which would be perfect for me, I’m curious and will stay tuned with what they come up with in the future!
During my recent research the Deuter Aircontact Pro 70+15 was one of my first finds and immediately became my first choice, it ticked off all of those requirements, received good reviews and also I trust the good reputation of Deuter among alpinists and mountaineers as a very experienced company with high-quality equipment.
Now this was the main part of my research. There are so many shoulder bags on the market, it was really difficult to get a good overview in a short amount of time. For comparison:
bendable padding goes around lens compartments (left/right), camera can be put on top of lens compartments, has zipper access on both sides, this is all stuff I got used to with my previous Olympus E-system bag, I worked quite well in comparison to conventional shoulder bags
put my Olympus E-M1 crossways into the bag, with the lens facing downwards
bendable padding goes around lens compartments (left/right), camera can be put on top of lens compartments, has zipper access on both sides, this is all stuff I got used to with my previous Olympus E-system bag, it worked quite well in comparison to conventional shoulder bags
nice overall design but a little bit too big and too heavy for my needs
compartment for tablets, suitable for filters
put my Olympus E-M1 into the bag, with the lens facing downwards
I previously selected the Lowepro Adventura 170 bag as the go-to shoulder bag, but once it arrived I noticed that I highly underestimated the depth / height of the bag, which was ridiculous for my needs, hence I sent it back.
Now I ordered the AmazonBasics DSLR bag (medium) bag because it is very close to my old one in terms of size and at the same time it is very inexpensive compared to the ThinkTank shoulder bag, which I also liked.
I guess I’ll keep updating this post and maybe I’ll post a picture later of how I arrange my gear in those bags.