Traveling With Photo Equipment – Part 2 – Bag in a Bag

Eight days away and I have to work on editing down the proposed gear list plus figure out exactly how to get it all to the destination. Shown below is the pile of gear I think I am taking as of this second – it will change by tomorrow. I’m sure I will edit the list several more times, especially as I try to get it all the bag.

chris martin photography - travel with gear
Photo bags are such personal beasts – I guess that is why there is an endless variety of bags available and new ones come out all of the time. The perfect bag not only has to hold the required gear for the photo session or journey, but it absolutely has to fit your individual workflow. Just like any other photo person, I have several different types of bags for different kinds of trips. When heading out on location in my vehicle, I take huge bags with all the gear I can shove in the car. When having to carry the gear exclusively, sometimes my preference is a Tenba or Crumpler shoulder bag. Other times, and more frequently these days, I love to use Think Tank modular gear and a Pro Speed Belt. These are the trips where I need quick access to gear and things are constantly changing. What is missing from my camera bag arsenal for the most part is a camera backpack. I still have, and probably will never say goodbye to , the trusty Lowepro Mini Trekker. It is a great bag, but anymore it just doesn’t work for me to put the bag down to get out gear, and it doesn’t hold enough of a variety of things for me to be able to travel with it.

For this trip to Tanzania I have many requirements for the perfect bag:

  • Can it haul camera gear and personal gear – the 1 carry-on bag allowance problem?
  • I don’t want it to scream out “camera bag, camera bag”.
  • Can it be used on-location to shoot out of?
  • Can it be worn all day long without too much discomfort? There is no place to leave gear back at the hotel or in a vehicle on this trip.

chris martin photography - travel with gear
My solution is a two-part one. Shown is all of the gear, nicely packed into a combination of Think Tank and Lowepro modular bags. The body (no grip on this trip) and 24-105mm go into the Think Tank Digital Holster 20 (which can be used on-location to handle the body and any of the lenses I am taking because it zips out to a longer length). The 70-200mm f/2.8 goes into the Lowepro Zoom 2. The Thank Tank Chimp Cage (for now) is holding the 10-22mm, 1.4x Extender, 580 EX II, Omni-bounce, and filter pouches. The G12 goes into the Think Tank Modular Pouch. All the tiny stuff went into the Lowepro pouch. The travel tripod will go into checked baggage. [NOTE: Also shown is the Think Tank Lightning Fast, off to the side. I still haven’t decided if the 50mm is going. If it is, I will move the flash over to this and pack it in with the other lenses. If the 50mm isn’t going, I don’t need this bag. However, it is a great sized bag for holding all sorts of things once there and great to have along. This is obviously something that needs to be sorted out soon.]

Right about now is when you are going to call me either crazy or brilliant, and I figure it is the later. Shown below are several images illustrating where the modular bags are headed and why. Enter the Mammut Nirvana Pro (35L) technical pack. Where do I start on why this is the perfect one bag solution? This is a snow pack. These are a little different than other technical packs and this is why this works for me:

  • Camera gear is placed in the back, using the full zippered access and reachable from the top/front of the pack through a different zipper.
  • Personal gear like a change of clothes, toiletries, music, phone, glasses, passport, etc. goes in the middle/front section.
  • The pack is lightweight, but very durable.
  • The pack has a real waist belt and internal frame to help out with the load.
  • It has a removable hip belt which could be replaced by the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt. [The existing waist belt has room to accommodate one modular pouch on each side so I can leave the Speed Belt at home if I want and the shoulder straps will help distribute the load.]
  • It even has a hydration chamber.
  • This thing will even fit under the seat, fully packed, in small Regional Jets.

Do I have to keep going?

chris martin photography - travel with gear
chris martin photography - travel with gear
chris martin photography - travel with gear

chris martin photography - travel with gear

For me, this is about as perfect a solution as I can come up with. That however, is all just in theory. We will see as the adventure unfolds. This will be my last post here before the trip. If possible, I will post updates along the way on Twitter. When I return, I will follow up and post info on how it all worked out, exactly what gear I decided on, and what I wish I would have or wouldn’t have taken along!