Stylish Photography Rucksacks/Backpacks
Okay I'll admit it, I have a bit of an obsession with camera bags. At least that's what my wife says!
(Note from editor (aka the wife) I can confirm you do have an obsession.)
I have quite a few already, mostly messenger or shoulder style bags. I have a lovely bag made by Ona, called the Ona 'Bowery'. This is quite a small bag and is made from waxed canvas. Lovely antique brass hardware and is perfect when I want to take out my X-Pro 2 and 2 lenses or 1 lens and a flash. I also have a larger Millican 'Christopher' camera bag that was made with Fuji in mind, a beautifully made canvas bag with brass hardware. I'll be reviewing both of these bags in the near future.
Recently however I have found that a rucksack would be the better bag in certain situations, especially when hiking or when I need to take my laptop with me.
I have been looking around for a photography rucksack that is a little bit more stylish than the usual. They do tend to be a bit boring and I wanted something extra. Don't get me wrong, it has to be functional, it can't be style over substance.
I came up with a short list of bags that I was interested in, I really like all of them but there were certain reasons that I selected to order the one I have. These reasons will be things like functionality, cost and the cost to import from outside of the UK.
Talking of functionality, this is a very personal thing, I need my bag to carry a certain amount of equipment and this will vary from person to person. But here's what I'm looking to carry in my photography backpack...
- Cameras - Space to take my camera system, which is the Fuji X system. Sometimes that might just be the X-Pro2 and 1 lens, other times that might be the X-Pro2 and 4 lenses and a flash.
- Tripod - It would be really useful if the bag had a system to hold a tripod. I use a fairly small and lightweight tripod, but having it attached to the bag in a sensible way would be a definite bonus.
- Extras - I need some extra space to put various bits, it might be my lunch, sunglasses, a note book and pen. Maybe even a lightweight water proof jacket.
- Water - When I'm hiking it would be useful to have enough space to put a water bottle. It would be better of this was on the exterior of the bag so it's easier to get to.
- Laptop - Space for my laptop is a must, a 15" MacBook Pro.
- Small bits - An outer pocket for things like a pen, memory cards and batteries.
So that's what I might need to carry and it's important that the bag can do all of that. But I'm picky, I need it to do more than just be able to hold that stuff, I want to access that stuff quickly without dropping my lenses or worse, my lunch! It needs to be comfortable, weather proof and not too heavy.
The first thing that is important is accessing my camera equipment efficiently. A good system would be to have side access to the camera, so you only have to swing the bag off one shoulder and you can access your camera and lenses easily.
An outer pocket for things like memory cards and a spare battery or two would be really good. Nothing worse than having to route through other stuff to find what you're looking for.
Whilst hiking it's essentially to have a water bottle and it's best stored in an outer pocket where it can be accessed quickly and there is less chance of it leaking on to your valuable camera equipment.. An elasticated pocket that stretches to the size of the bottle would be good.
The fastenings are also important, you need them to close securely enough that it's not so easy for someone just to pinch your camera but they need to be easy enough for you to use to access your camera gear without having to wrestle with it too much.
The bag really needs to be weather proof. If it can take a good shower of rain then that would be a good start, if it can take a downpour then even better. Most bags seem to be pretty good in this respect with some offering an additional waterproof cover that can be accessed from the bag to give you extra confidence that your gear is not going to get wrecked during that lovely British weather.
1. Compagnon 'The Backpack'
This backpack looks really great, it's made from bull leather and Scottish waxed canvas. The photos show just how lovely it looks and I think you can tell it's going to be of very high quality.
That quality does come at a price though, both financially and in the weight of the bag. The bag is currently €450, that's £382! Maybe to some people that might not be an issue, but it definitely is for me, I like nice things but I have to draw the line somewhere. No import duty for those in Europe though, but even so.
The weight of the bag is 2.0kg, which seems like it's going to add a bit of weight to the gear you're carrying. This is heavier than some of the other bags, but it is made of leather and canvas so it will be heavier.
It does look like it has everything I want though, including side access to my camera. But what about my tripod or water bottle?
Hmmm, here is where they push me over the edge. You can purchase a "quiver" separately that will hold a water bottle or tripod and attaches to the outside of the bag. This will set you back another €50 (£42) for this! That is very much a deal breaker for me. If you would like a waist strap for the bag you can have one, that is also extra!
I'd love to see one of these bags, try one, just to see if they are worth the money. I bet the quality drips from them, but for me right now it's out of my price range.
Campagnon 'The Backpack' available from Campagnon Bags.
2. Vinta 'S-Series' Backpacks
I've had my eye on these for a while and have been very tempted by them, they look really nice and seemed to cover most if not all of what I want.
They come in 3 different colours; Black, Forest green and Charcoal grey.
This one doesn't seem to have side access to your camera gear, in fact you actually unzip the back of the bag access it. Maybe not quite so quick in practice, but only using it would tell.
I do really like the additional pack that you get, this fits in the top of the bag and I think would be really useful for those other bits and pieces you need to take with you.
On the side there is a tripod/water bottle pocket. It's unclear whether the strap you would need for a tripod comes with the bag or not. Maybe someone from Vinta could clarify?
The bag is made from lightweight and weatherproof materials with some really nice leather details. For me this may well be a better option because as much as I like the fine quality canvas and leather options, I think it just adds too much weight.
These bags are proving to be quite popular and I can see why. Vinta seem to be having difficulty keeping up with demand and when I just checked there were a limited amount available for just the Forest Green colour whilst the Black and Charcoal options were yet again pre-order only.
So why didn't I go for one of these? Well the cost of the bag is $249 which is £190 so for me it is pushing my budget. However when you factor in the VAT (because it comes from the USA - 20%), customs duty (over £135 it is 2.5%) and the Royal Mail handling fee of £8, that pushes the cost of this bag up to £241.70 which is, unfortunately, over my budget
Check them out at Vinta's website.
3. ZKIN 'Raw Yeti'
Another lovely looking bag, this time from the brand ZKIN.
Personally for me this one has to be rejected, t's just a touch too small because it only holds up to a 13" laptop.
The bag weighs in at 2.0kg, so not a light bag either.
It looks like you can gain side access to your gear from both sides. Maybe this makes a difference to you if you're left handed? I'm right handed and I always swing my bag off my left shoulder and round to my right hand side to access the side panel.
The description of this bags says it has a quick release tripod holder, but it's unclear with the foot/feet of the tripod are secured somehow. Looking at the photos I would say it's supported from the top and not secured at the bottom. Maybe someone from ZKIN could confirm?
It really is a great looking bag and looks very well made, I'd like to see one in the flesh.
It's not cheap at $369 (£281). If I was feeling crazy I might stretch to that if it was available from the UK or at least Europe. But when you add in the import duty etc, it makes it very expensive which is a real shame.
ZKIN bags are available from http://www.z-kin.com
4. Langly 'Alpha Pro'
These backpacks from Langly look pretty big but I think that's mainly due to the style of the outer pockets on the bag. Of course this all adds extra storage which can only be a good thing and I suspect that they go pretty flat when not used. Actually these 'Alpha Pro' bags are not their largest, their Multi Camera Pack looks even bigger, for carrying a serious amount of gear.
The lower part of the Alpha Pro is the part that holds your camera gear and zips right around the middle. So again a slightly different system to the others here. Only regular usage would tell if this is easy to use in practice.
The bag does have a tripod holder, as you can see in the picture above it is suspended from the underside of the bag.
They offer quite a few colour options; Black, Olive, Black/Brown, Coyote and Natural. I think this is good with some of the lighter colours (especially Natural) feeling slightly more feminine and I know I lot of female photographers feel they lack choice for camera bags.
The price of the bag comes in at $250 which is £191 at the current exchange rate of time of writing.
These bags are available direct from Langly at http://langly.co
5. Brevite 'The Original', 'Rucksack' and 'Rolltop'
Brevite currently offer 3 different types of camera bag with some subtle differences which I think are mainly in style rather than functionality or size.
They recently announced pre-sales on these new bags, namely the Original, Rolltop and Backpack. You can see the Rolltop and Rucksack in the photos above. The Original is somewhat more traditional looking, as you would imagine.
They are made from heavy duty nylon with some leather detailing.
They all use the same removal insert system that keeps your gear safe in the lower half of the bag. You can access your gear from one side of the bag as well as the front. The upper part of the bag can be used for other bits and pieces. There are also other pockets that would be useful for memory cards and batteries.
On one side there is a useful elasticated pocket that can be used for a water bottle or tripod. There is also a tripod holder on the bottom of the bag too.
The bags are weatherproof and also include a waterproof cover for them.
There are other neat addition; like the lens cap holder in the strap, it also has loops for sunglasses, (most of the bags have those).
The bags are priced differently, I guess it must cost more to manufacturer some. But not to worry because they are very reasonable...
The Original normal price is $145 - Currently there is a 15% discount for pre-order, making them $123.25
That offer brings this bag in at under £100, which seems very good value.
The Rolltop normal price is $185 - Currently there is a 15% discount for pre-order, making them $157.25
That offer brings this bag in at £120.
The Rucksack normal price is $165 - Currently there a 15% discount for pre-order, making them $140.25
That offer brings this bag in at £107
So after a huge amount of deliberation I decided to pre-order a Brevite 'Rucksack' and I'm looking forward to receiving it when they start shipping later this month.
Pre-Orders from Brevite's website http://www.brevite.co