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Camera bags I use

Camera bags I use

The search for the top camera bag seems like a never-ending quest, especially when diverse options exist. This is particularly true for photographers, where just one camera bag is never enough.

In 2021, as more and more unique bags are being introduced, it is harder to know which one fits your camera setup. Moreover, the variety in these bags namely sling, holster, roller, messenger bags, and more are made for different cameras.

The type of bag you need depends on what you are shooting and the destinations you are travelling to. Hence, there is no one size fits all solution when you are searching for the perfect camera bag.

There is no such thing as a right bag or wrong bag, and all depends on the gear that you use and how you travel (flights/road etc) and whether you prefer more checkin bags or carryon bags. However the basic common criteria is that the bag should hold sturdy with your gears, the worst thing that can happen is a bag tearing off in middle of a trip, or a checkin bag with your gears breaking down! Except some cheap bags, most decent bags in the market pass above that criteria, especially if from a reputed brand. Here are the bags I have and find them suited for different purposes.

 

1. Think Tank Airport Security

This sturdy rolling case is designed to meet most of the domestic and international airplane carry-on requirements (atleast size-wise, if not weight-wise when fully loaded). It is also perfect to bring when you go for road trips. The case surprisingly fits in almost my entire gear collection (including 600mm, 14-24,24-70,70-200 and two D5) and remains compact.

The thinktank
The thinktank
The inside of thinktank
The inside of thinktank

For organizing and protecting the accessories inside, the bag has touch-fastening dividers that are interiorly padded. While this is a soft bag, but it is built like a tank and completely justifies its price tag of about $400. I have loaded it with about 23Kgs and comfortably carried it on trips and in carry-in baggage (how I managed to carry-on that much weight is a different story), and not even a thread has come out till date and the bag feels rock sturdy. However this is surely not for checking in luggage on flights. 

The front section of the bag has a laptop and a tab compartment that is located in a lockable pocket. The bag has a retractable trolley handle and wheels. 

  • Dimensions – Exterior: 14 x 22 x 9″ / 35.6 x 55.9 x 22.9 cm

                                Interior: 13 x 21 x 7-8″ / 33.0 x 53.3 x 17.8-20.3 cm

  • Empty Think Tank Airport Security weight – 5.0 Kg
  • Weight when loaded with gear – 15.8 kg 

Here is all the equipment I carry in my Think Tank Airport security:

  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon 14-24 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 600mm F4 FL
  • Nikon 1.4X TCIII
  • Nikon 50mm 1.4

 

2. Pelican 1615 AirNF

The Pelican 1615 AirNF is a waterproof and crushproof case. It is made from lightweight HPX2 polymer with honeycomb structural elements. The case is also secured with a push-button latching system that makes use of compressive force to tightly shut the bag.

The exterior of pelican
The exterior of pelican
Empty pelican 1615
Empty pelican 1615
pelican with my gears
pelican with my gears (600mm, 300mm, 70-200,24-70,14-24,two D5)

I bought it with empty interiors for about $275, it is called the NF version. Then there are versions with foam and with paddings, which I found not so reliable for checking in as the gears may not be held firmly. Then I used 4 sheets of hard thermocol to make precise cutouts for my gears, including padding on top (not visible in above pictures, as it was shot before that). With that, my gear snugs in very tightly with no room to move, and even if someone jumps on the closed bag nothing will happen to the gear. 

It is ideal to take in as check-in baggage and proves to be a great option for international travel. I can easily carry my entire collection as the custom padding keeps things in place.

The case is built like a tank and intact, keeping all equipment safe from any damage.

  • Dimensions – Exterior: 32.6 x 18.4 x 11″ / 82.8 x 46.7 x 27.9 cm

                                Interior: 29.6 x 15.5 x 9.4″ / 75.2 x 39.4 x 23.9 cm

  • Empty Pelican 1615 AirNF with inserts weight – 7.2 kg
  • Weight when loaded with gear – 21.1 kg

Here is all the equipment I carry in my Pelican AirNF:

  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon 14-24 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 300 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 600mm F4 FL
  • Nikon 1.4X TCIII
  • Nikon 50mm 1.4

 

3. Camtree Flyfilms

This Fylfilm case offers high protection to the assets stored in the bag. The customized and sturdy case is built from ultrahigh-impact copolymer which is long-lasting and potent. It keeps the equipment intact and is hard enough to bear bumps during traveling.

flyfilms camera case
flyfilms camera case
The interiors
The interiors
flyfilm case interiors
flyfilm case interiors

Sealed off ABS latches and O-ring deal with changes in air temperature and pressure, in turn allowing rapid equalization. The Fylfilm camera bag is compact and lightweight, ideal for carrying all my small lenses and bodies as checked in baggage. There are same sized pelicans also available in the market, but this is also just as good. My only reason for getting this was as this was readily available in India compared to Pelican when I got this and similar in performance. Actually all the other bags in this list were bought from the US. In this too I got custom thermocol interiors done. 

  • Dimensions – Exterior: (L x W x D) 49.5cm x 39.5cm x 20.5cm
                           Interior: (L x W x D) 46.5cm x 32.5cm x 18cm
  • Empty Camtree Flyfilms weight: 3 kg
  • Weight when loaded with gear – 10.7 kg

I can put all my small lenses and 2 cameras in the Camtree Flyfilms bag as check-in baggage. Here is my equipment as follows:

  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon 14-24 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens
  • Sigma 150 2.8 Macro

 

4. Lowepro Pro Trekker BP 350 AW II

This edition from Lowepro is packed with unique functionalities, transforming it into a professional backpack.

 

lowepro 350 bag
lowepro 350 bag
lowepro 350 bag interiors
lowepro 350 bag interiors

The bag features Velcro dividers inside that can be moved to make space for certain gears while its rear opening lid contains a secured compartment for a 13-inch laptop. The front section has succession loops that are helpful to attach accessories like a tripod toe-cup, straps, phone case, and more.

Lowepro’s main compartment is spacious and has an adjustable partition system with upto 11 dividers to fit a DSLR or mirrorless camera along with a small lens and a drone. Keep in mind that it can accommodate everything except a long lens.

Its material is made up of durable polyester and nylon construction which is immensely weather resistant.

This backpack is best to carry as hand luggage on flights, and can carry all of my small lenses and two bodies. However, personally am not a great fan of carrying heavy bags as backpacks on flights, I much prefer to use rollers for luggage and laptop, and check-in my gears on the pelican. If the thinktank can be sneaked in (weight wise), then anyday I will go with it in my hand bag. 

  • Dimensions: ‎32 x 25 x 48 cm
  • Empty Lowepro weight– 2.4 kg
  • Weight when loaded with gear – 9.1 kg

Here is all the equipment I put in my Lowepro BP 350:

  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon 14-24 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens
  • Nikon 1.4X TCIII

 

5. Tamrac 5793 Super Telephoto Lens Pack

This solid bag is built primarily for you to carry a long lens while attached to Pro DSLR with grip. It offers dual protection for the lens as the inside is padded and has an adjustable internal divider. 

 

Tamrac anvil bag
Tamrac bag
Tamrac anvil interiors
Tamrac interiors

This bag is for carrying long lenses from 400mm to 800mm with a body attached. Additionally, there are several pockets to store essential accessories. The Tarmac 5793 also features a Quick Clip Tripod attachment system for swift access. 

As hand luggage, you can carry a long lens and one body as the weight of this camera bag complies with almost all airlines. You can place the rest of the gear in a hard case. More or less, this camera bag is reliable when you want to carry limited camera equipment.

  • Dimensions: Exterior – 9.0 x 10.5 x 22.0″ (22.9 x 26.7 x 55.9 cm)

                              Interior – 6.5 x 7.75 x 21.0″ (16.5 x 19.7 x 53.3 cm)

  • Empty Tamrac 5793 weight – 2.3 kg
  • Weight when loaded with gear – 7.7 kg

Here is the equipment I carry in my Tamrac 5793:

  • Nikon D5 Body
  • Nikon 600mm F4 FL

 

My final take

After using them for a long time, I have compiled my most preferred choices among these camera bags during my travel:

  1. When I have sufficient check-in baggage allowance, I usually prefer to place all my gear in the Pelican and travel hassle-free. In scenarios where you take the cameras with you in a handbag, it is always a hassle to remove everything for checking at the security checkpoints. But yes, you risk misplacement or loss of $25,000 worth of your camera gears in check-in baggage, but complete loss is a rarity. I usually place a luggage tracker inside the Pelican for added safety of tracking. 
  2. I choose the Thinktank over others as luggage for road trips. It is also very comfortable to carry during local train trips as there is no such idea of hand baggage during such rides. On flights, If possible to sneak it in as a hand luggage then I any day prefer to checking in the cameras in Pelican. Some like British Airways and few airlines of US do not check weight of hand bags, but only are bothered about size. 
  3. During safaris, I prefer to keep a camera handbag to store extra lenses and camera accessories and usually have two lenses mounted on two bodies. For this, I use Lowepro 350 which is handy and always within the reach. Usually, my camera and lens are always placed on the seats next to me during shoots. But, if I need to change my lens quickly, I make use of the Lowepro handbag and also tug my gopro/mobile tripods etc inside that bag. If there are packing limitations, using this camera handbag is not always the go-to option but nevertheless proves to be an ideal choice. 
  4. I will repeat again, this post is not to suggest anyone to buy any of these bags. That completely depends on the gear you have and in what kind of conditions you travel. This is just an illustration of how I manage my gears packing. 

 

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Alankar Chandra

Alankar is the founder CEO of Wild Voyager, an award-winning nature photographer and an explorer of the natural world. He leads the exploration culture at Wild Voyager from the front. He is also a thought leader in the travel industry and a speaker in many travel forums and entrepreneurship events. For your travel related queries, reach our travel experience designers at letstalk@wildvoyager.com.

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