Choose a Camera Bag

As I wrote about in a previous blog, the most important part of making photos is having a comfortable way of bringing your camera with you. Part of that is your camera bag. Specifically, will you choose a camera bag that can carry what you need it to in a manner that makes sense for the occasion?

This is the paragraph that my wife reads and looks at me with a sideways glance. You don’t need just one bag. It’s ok to have many. Hi. I’m Dave and I am a bag addict. I love cameras bags. I have too many to count, but they all have different purposes. Its ok to be like me.

What equipment are you carrying?

Here’s the most important thing about choosing a bag. List out what you’re going to be carrying. It’s a bag. It carries stuff. If it won’t hold everything that you need it to, then what’s the point. How many cameras do you need to carry and what size are they? Do you want to carry multiple lenses or will the one on your camera do it? Will the one battery be enough (don’t even ask this because of course it won’t) or do you need room for others? Do you need to bring any lighting equipment or a tripod.

I recommend writing a list of everything that you are going to bring with you. Do this for two reasons. The first is so that you can look at the list and laugh at yourself because you just put your whole studio on the list. You did. You know that you did. You were going to just put your camera and a lens on there, but were worried that you may need to photograph a professional football game while you were out doing street photography, so you added the telephoto lens and the tripod. On top of that, you thought there might be a chance of doing some portraiture on the way home, so you brought your background with you. Now, cross half the things off of your list and use that as a template to determine how much bag you need.

You’re not done. Do you carry sunglasses? Do you need to bring your keys with you? Do you need to take a laptop with you? What non-camera stuff needs to go in there? I always forget a water bottle. Don’t forget a water bottle. Stay hydrated.

Now your list is complete.

Where are you going?

Now that you have everything you will need for your expedition because you didn’t do what I said and cross of half the items on your list, you need to determine where your going and what you’ll be doing. “But Dave. What does it matter? A bag is a bag.” The style of bag and the materials that make up that bag will now come into play, but only if you are honest about where you are going and what you are doing with this bag.

This is also why you might want different bags. Your “running errands” bag might be different from your hiking bag and it will definitely be different than your “going to work” bag. And no, I’m not writing this blog as a justification to go out and buy another bag. And what if I am? You’re not the boss of me.

Bag style types

There are quite a few bag styles, but I will focus on the most common three:

  • Backpack
  • Messenger Bag
  • Sling

All three can accommodate a camera and a computing device of some kind. For example, my sling will hold my camera and my iPad. Just make sure that you review the size requirements for the particular bag that you are looking at to make sure it will hold all of your gear. It will always say in the description, but I highly recommend bringing the items with you to the store to test them out just in case.

The most import differentiators for these three bag types is the feel. I often times have should problems, so carrying a laptop and camera on one shoulder with a messenger bag will be uncomfortable. I love the feel of the sling bag. Your milage may vary.

The other reason that you will want to bring your stuff to the store to try in the bag is to feel how that weight is going to hang on your body. All of these types of bags have a different feel and loading them with your own stuff that you will be carrying is the easiest way to tell what will feel the best.The most import differentiators for these three bag types is the feel. I often times have should problems, so carrying a laptop and camera on one shoulder with a messenger bag will be uncomfortable. I love the feel of the sling bag. Your milage may vary.

Bag materials

Last, but certainly not least, is bag materials. This is yet another reason why you might want multiple bags. I have two slings. One by Peak Designs (this is my go to bag) that is made from nylon and my Ona sling, which is made from leather. If I want something that looks really nice, I go with the Ona. If I need something I can bang around, I go with the Peak Designs.

It goes back to where you’re going to be and what you are going to do. Canvas and Nylon to better where the bag is going to get beaten around or get wet. The leather will get worn in nicely and age in a pretty way.

Final thoughts on choosing a bag

While people like to say “Go big or go home” going big isn’t necessarily the best way to go when choosing a camera bag. Get something that feels good on your body, but isn’t too big and bulky. Choose a bag that has a hefty material that won’t fall apart on you. Try out the bag to make sure the weight feels good on you. and remember, you can always have more than one bag.

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