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Thread: Gear bags and belts.

  1. #1
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Gear bags and belts.

    My currently camera bag is rapidly biting the dust. Apparently two years of photography is rough enough to destroy mil-spec PALS pouches designed for war zones.

    When I go on location for a serious shoot, I'm normally toting nearly everything I own - quite a bit of "extra" gear. I'm a disciple of backups and Plan Bs, so when I load all the way up, I'm carrying the following:

    -Canon 60D with battery grip (usually on a homemade sling, but a quick-access way to store it is a definite plus for rainy days)
    -Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 USM
    -Canon 20mm f2.8 USM
    -Canon 50mm f2.8 USM
    -Canon 100mm f2.0 USM
    -Canon 70-200mm f2.8L (don't own this yet, but I'm planning for it)
    -Two Canon 580EX II Speedlites
    -Two Bolt flash battery packs (eight AAs apiece)
    -Three-Legged Thing Jack tripod with Manfrotto ball head (largish travel tripod)
    -Four different small flash modifiers (all pack flat)
    -Three Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 radios
    -Smorgasbord of spare batteries (around 24 AAs and various coin cells)
    -When traveling, I add chargers for everything and a tiny laptop for backup

    Obviously carrying this much gear means the pack will never be terribly light or compact. Moving away from primes would obviously shed quite a bit of weight, but that's just crazy talk. The main requirements are lasting several years, allowing rapid camera access (sling or convertible packs preferred), and providing good rain and impact protection. So far, the winner is Kata's 3N1-35 PL, but what are your preferences?

    Ideally, I'd like to have one pack to cover all uses, but for run-and-gun shoots, something light with rapid access seems appropriate. On that note, I'm looking at a photo belt system or small sling pack. Enough to hold two lenses (one telephoto zoom, one wide-angle zoom or prime), a flash with battery pack, and a small selection of accessories. I can look at reviews and product descriptions until my eyeballs rot, but frankly, I find the opinions here far more accurate and trustworthy than any retailers' site. What works for you guys?

  2. #2

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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    I did see some comments fairly recently about an 'unbreakable' camera gear container which was produced by one of those companies which make those carrying boxes which fit on car roofs. Can't remember the name now.

    It was even totally waterproof. A little on the heavy side though; but users said it was quite comfortable to carry as a backpack.

    I normally use a Lowenpro Mini Trekker which is sufficient for me; but there is a larger version.

    ps. Found the discussion, and link, about this container.

    http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/fo...s-bargain.html
    Last edited by Geoff F; 23rd January 2013 at 07:27 PM. Reason: link added

  3. #3
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    IMO, there are two types of camera containers (bags etc).

    Those in which you carry your gear when traveling - like flying on an airline.

    Those out of which you work while actually shooting.

    As far as carrying everything - man you have a lot of gear to lug around. You might be advised to hire a porter with a cart for that gear

    I traveled to Alaska with two 1.6x DSLR Bodies, 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, 70-200mm f/4L IS, and 300mm f/4L IS lenses as well as my 550EX flash, 1.4x TC and a 12-24mm Tokina wide angle as well as batteries, chrgers, memory cards, etc.. I used a Lowepro Vertex 300AW backpack ( http://products.lowepro.com/product/...%20AW,2074.htm ) and swore that I will never carry that much gear without wheels on my luggage. I purchased a lightweight luggage roller for future trips of that type.

    When I traveled to China, I used my Lowepro Mini Trekker AW to tavel with my gear. It fit my two cameras, 17-55mm and 70-200mm lens + 12-24mm Tokina. plus flash and various small accessories. For walk-around shooting, I used my Domke Photo Vest and a small lghtweight (and ancient) Tamrac bag.

    I don't need as much stuffing for protection in my carry around bag. I have finally settled on a Domke Rugged Wear F-2 bag ( http://www.tiffen.com/displayproduct...temnum=700-02A ) which is light weight and carrys the gear that I shot with.

  4. #4
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    IMO, there are two types of camera containers (bags etc).

    Those in which you carry your gear when traveling - like flying on an airline.

    Those out of which you work while actually shooting.
    Excellent point. That succinctly describes the two bags I'm after. I've been using one bag - a hodge-podge of PALS pouches on a carrier with a shoulder strap - for both purposes, and I guess I'm tired of it. So far, a Think Tank (or similar) belt system is looking like my answer for run-and-gun work, but I haven't found anyone with first-hand experience with that system.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    As far as carrying everything - man you have a lot of gear to lug around. You might be advised to hire a porter with a cart for that gear
    That may be why my volunteer assistants only seem to last one assignment.

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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    And the worst of it is, that it feels as if you left out stuff...
    I mean, 2 flashes, pocket wizards, light modifiers, battery packs, but no tripods for the flashes??

  6. #6
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    Excellent point. That succinctly describes the two bags I'm after. I've been using one bag - a hodge-podge of PALS pouches on a carrier with a shoulder strap - for both purposes, and I guess I'm tired of it. So far, a Think Tank (or similar) belt system is looking like my answer for run-and-gun work, but I haven't found anyone with first-hand experience with that system.


    That may be why my volunteer assistants only seem to last one assignment.
    Pelican has large rolling cases which would be good for storing equipment. However, if you need to fly, you absolutely need a case which will fit in the overhead rack. I would never place my gear in regular checked-in luggage. I purchased a rolling Lowepro case for my trip to China. The size of the case would qualify for U.S. carry-on luggage. I have never had my carry-on gear weighed in the USA. However, I learned that the internal Chinese airlines, on which I was scheduled to travel for in-country flights, had a 5-kilogram (12-pound) weight limit. The darn Lowepro weighed almost 10-pounds EMPTY!

    That is why I used my old Lowepro Mini-Trekker backpack to carry my gear to China. It was stuffed to the brim but, was within the 12-pound weight limit...

    BTW: a hint for overweight photo gear. Wear a photo vest (mine is a Domke) and if your luggage is overweight, shift a few heavier items to your vest which will reduce the weight of the luggage...

  7. #7
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    I use a ThinkTank belt and harness. I really like it. Really easy to flip the harness straps off your shoulders and spin the belt to get access. You could probably cram most of that stuff into lens pouches and small bags. The tripod would have to be carried separately. Consider their larger bags, some are immense and on wheels

  8. #8
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Quote Originally Posted by revi View Post
    ...but no tripods for the flashes??
    When traveling light(ish), I carry little cold shoe bases and duct-tape the flashes to whatever's handy. My three 'pods (a 3LT Jack, and, regularly pilfered from my Dad's gear, a beastly Manfrotto video 'pod and an aluminum 80's no-namer) have their own cases, and are generally in the car on location.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    BTW: a hint for overweight photo gear. Wear a photo vest (mine is a Domke) and if your luggage is overweight, shift a few heavier items to your vest which will reduce the weight of the luggage...
    Good trick. My only concern with photo vests is that the pockets are generally unpadded, and rarely reconfigurable. You can leave a pocket empty, but it's still there flopping around.

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    I use a ThinkTank belt and harness. I really like it. Really easy to flip the harness straps off your shoulders and spin the belt to get access. You could probably cram most of that stuff into lens pouches and small bags. The tripod would have to be carried separately. Consider their larger bags, some are immense and on wheels
    Good to hear a positive review. My only problem with a rollie bag is that I sometimes hump gear over tricky terrain or crawl through tiny spaces to shoot old buildings, both of which are unkind to small wheels. A backpack, even a big, heavy one, is more suitable. Think Tank's stuff appears to be excellent, so I'll give their packs another look. Might be worth switching from the Kata.

  9. #9
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Regarding my Lowepro Vertex 300AW backpack, the dimensions of the pack were within USA carry-on standards but, the shoulder straps and waist belt were so heavily padded that I had problems stuffing the backpack into the carry-on size box at check-in. The waistbelt was not removable either.

    In the line of keeping my gear straight at home, I usually will keep most of my cameras in one of my various camera bags but, will usually leave one out for grab shots of my dogs.

    However, small items like filters, batteries, chargers. etc,, etc. often get misplaced. I have begun using a roll around tool box, very much like but not exactly like this unit...

    http://www.amazon.com/Trademark-Tool...astic+tool+box

    Keeping all of my smaller items, even including flashes, meters and rain covers in one place makes it very easy to set up for a shoot.

    BTW: I seem to have so very many power cords and chargers for my equipment that I have taken to labelling the darn things to keep them straight. This helps me keep track of what and where things are...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 25th January 2013 at 02:19 AM.

  10. #10

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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Going by your equipment list there is one model that would carry all that. I believe the model number is F150.

    Personally my Lowepro 400AW holds more than I can comfortably carry for an extended time. Too much for too long and it's no fun anymore. For our photo day walks I put what I need in a KATA 10-20. Of course one can never have too many bags.

  11. #11
    CP140's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    My currently camera bag is rapidly biting the dust. Apparently two years of photography is rough enough to destroy mil-spec PALS pouches designed for war zones.

    When I go on location for a serious shoot, I'm normally toting nearly everything I own - quite a bit of "extra" gear. I'm a disciple of backups and Plan Bs, so when I load all the way up, I'm carrying the following:

    -Canon 60D with battery grip (usually on a homemade sling, but a quick-access way to store it is a definite plus for rainy days)
    -Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 USM
    -Canon 20mm f2.8 USM
    -Canon 50mm f2.8 USM
    -Canon 100mm f2.0 USM
    -Canon 70-200mm f2.8L (don't own this yet, but I'm planning for it)
    -Two Canon 580EX II Speedlites
    -Two Bolt flash battery packs (eight AAs apiece)
    -Three-Legged Thing Jack tripod with Manfrotto ball head (largish travel tripod)
    -Four different small flash modifiers (all pack flat)
    -Three Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 radios
    -Smorgasbord of spare batteries (around 24 AAs and various coin cells)
    -When traveling, I add chargers for everything and a tiny laptop for backup

    Obviously carrying this much gear means the pack will never be terribly light or compact. Moving away from primes would obviously shed quite a bit of weight, but that's just crazy talk. The main requirements are lasting several years, allowing rapid camera access (sling or convertible packs preferred), and providing good rain and impact protection. So far, the winner is Kata's 3N1-35 PL, but what are your preferences?

    Ideally, I'd like to have one pack to cover all uses, but for run-and-gun shoots, something light with rapid access seems appropriate. On that note, I'm looking at a photo belt system or small sling pack. Enough to hold two lenses (one telephoto zoom, one wide-angle zoom or prime), a flash with battery pack, and a small selection of accessories. I can look at reviews and product descriptions until my eyeballs rot, but frankly, I find the opinions here far more accurate and trustworthy than any retailers' site. What works for you guys?
    I've recently jumped through the same mental hoops... I must admit however that your "walking around" equipment is much more diverse than mine. I favour the style/look/feel of the 511 Tactical back packs... but they are crap for protecting camera equipment. Conversely, camera bags lack the rugged "mil spec wanna be" feel us ex-military guys like, the "extra" space one needs for a jacket/lunch/water etc. and the secure shoulder straps for the "run to gate G45 because inbound flight was delayed".


    What would be really nice is a bag/pack that offered the best of both worlds... combat photographer if you will... with a Molle/Pals platform and lotsa pockets....and still fits into an airline overhead storage bin...


    LowePro? 511 Tactical? Maxpedition? Tactical Tailor? Any of you listening?

  12. #12
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140 View Post
    LowePro? 511 Tactical? Maxpedition? Tactical Tailor? Any of you listening?
    I like a lot of Maxpedition's products, but as you said, they do a poor job of protecting camera gear. Of course, I've had three lenses knocking around in a Condor drop pouch for about a year and a half now, so the damage is probably done. It would definitely be nice to see camera pack manufacturers using tougher materials.

    Andrew, any comments on your Kata's build quality?

  13. #13

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    Re: Gear bags and belts.

    Lex, the KATA bags are just short of indestructible. Very well built with no external stitching. Take a look at their site for more details. The stow-away straps are a slick feature. This is my second Kata. I used the 3in1-10 for about a year but needed more room. I liked it so much I bought the 3in1-20. The fellow that bought my used one thought it was new after looking at it. If you take a look and feel you need to move up one more size then I have to say the 3in1-30 was not one I liked. Getting in through the side panels was a pain. The Lowepro 400AW is much better at that size in my opinion.

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