Why My Next Camera Bag Won't Be a Camera Bag
My friend and colleague, Matt Brandon, has alot of camera bags. So many, he says, that his Philipino wife calls him the Imelda Marcos of camera bags. I’m catching up. I have hard shells and softshells, backpacks, rollers, modulars, and shoulder bags. My problem, fetish issues aside, is that no one bag works for every situation. I have a couple bags I absolutely love. I use a Think Tank Airport Addicted to hold most of my gear at home and for local assignment work. I use a LowePro Specialist 85AW for international field work as my working bag, with a Topload Zoom 65 on it for my second camera. So I’m covered for working bags.
What I do not have is a perfect travel/flight bag. As carry-on luggage restriction get tighter and less consistent across the board, and as the varieties of planes on which I travel gets broader, my need for something new has come to a head. Here are my problems with the usual suspects
So Much Foam = HEAVY
Many of the bags I’ve been looking at lately weigh 8 lbs or more. Just the bag. Empty. They’re filled with foam and plastic – it makes a bag that weighs 5 pounds more than similar bags without foam. And 5 pounds, when you’re already pushing the limits, is a big deal.
A rigid bag is a bag I am not going to be able to cram into a small overhead bin – no matter how I try. It will always be the same size empty or full. Not helpful to me.
Remember the Foam?
A bag filled with foam dividers is a bag that is too full for me to bring an extra set of clothes and some powerbars. I don’t need foam! I need a light, spacious bag that allows me as many options as possible. i don’t know what you folks do with your gear but I have never, ever put my carry-on luggage through trials that would bring it to the point of needing that much padding to protect it. In fact my gear takes more bashing when it’s on the field, out of the bag, and in my hands.
Here’s What I Need.
I need to be able to carry two pro-sized bodies, four lenses, a MacBook, three small harddrives, assorted chargers, cables, and adaptors, digital film, a change of clothes, some toiletries, a couple books, a dozen powerbars, travel documents, and my essential medications – enough stuff to do my job unhindered if/when I land in Rwanda and my checked luggage goes to Rochester. I don’t need padding, I wrap my bodies and lenses in David Honl’s GearWraps. I don’t need a bag I can work out of – I have that in my checked luggage and if that goes AWOL I can do without. What I need is to be able to get it all into ONE bag easily, one that’s light,
bomb-proof, soft-shelled, and guaranteed to fit into any overhead bin I
can throw at it.
Here’s My Pending Solution. Maybe.
My solution is not a camera bag at all. I’ve looked at Moose
Peterson’s bags and I think he comes close to my needs. But I want a
bag I can throw my laptop into and not be forced to strap it to the
side. Or at least I want the option to do either. The bag that I think comes closest is a Red Oxx Air Boss. The Air Boss, some GearWraps, and a thin sleeve for my laptop will protect my gear against bumps and save me 5+ pounds. And it’ll fit into bins.
RED OXX seems to make some of the most bomb-proof travel kit out there. On a side note, be careful with the words “bomb-proof” when travelling. An airport security officer recently remarked on my Stormcase as I threw it on the belt. He said it looked tough. I said it was “bomb-proof.” He suggested I not say that again. Momentary lapse in judgement – it had been a long, long day.
Here’s Your Chance
I’d love to hear how some of you are dealing with the tightening airline measures and the need to carry it all in one bag and do it lighter and tighter than ever before. Anyone with experience with Red Oxx gear? I know we’re beating a dead horse here with this carry-on issue, but I like my dead horse well-flogged, so feel free to chime in on this one (about the luggage issue, not the horse joke.)
Update – March 26 2008
Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men, right? I used the Sky Train bag and love it, I just don’t love it for my purposes and am now back to flying with my ThinkTank Photo Airport Addicted and have an Airport Security on the way. I’ve pulled as many of the dividers out as possible, and carry my gear in Modular pouches or Honl Gear Wraps. In the end what tipped the scales was ease of use. It’s just easier to work with the Think Tank bags. I’ll still use my Red Oxx for other things, casual travel etc.., but for all my clever re-thinking on this, I’m back to tried and true.