As many of you know, I totally love my electronics, computers, gadgets and cameras. And the only way to really enjoy them is to "have them with me"! So at the end of the day, it is alway a quest to find the right bag/luggage/backpack/etc. to get the job done. Now my gear can include quite a bit including a full-frame (larger) Digital SLR camera, some larger zoom lens, a flash, tripod, 13" Macbook Air or 15" Macbook Pro, an iPad, Sony Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, a Canon S100 pocket camera, some work papers, power supplies and cables. Now each product i reference below might not carry all this equipment but I am looking for the right bag for the right occasion. And at the very top of my priority list is a bag that can handle good sized pieces of equipment but is at the same time small, light and durable to fulfill its function.
I need solutions for the everyday commute, something to haul my camera gear for an afternoon out and about or when traveling abroad, luggage for an overnight or week-long excursions. The scenarios are endless and so are the options. I can easily see a half-dozen bags I typically use each and every month. So the following is a selection of luggage I have or wish I owned after some extended research and tested.
Everyday Carry Along
Okay, let's start with the everyday solutions. Now, I have the usual laptop, iPad and some small gadgets I carry between home and work. Most days I like a casual piece that is rugged, trusted and secure...but when I am heading off to a meeting or something I like a more professional solution. Depending on your needs, I will provide a few everyday bags to get you and your stuff to the office (or Starbucks)!
Filson's Padded Computer Bag. This piece is constructed from an industrial-weight rugged twill that is designed to carry quite a load of gear. You'll find a padded laptop pocket that can safely carry most laptops except for the 17"+ variety and 3 other full-length sections to hold your other papers, tablet computer and the like. You also have a front zipper compartment that accommodates your cellphone, pens, business cards and other accessories. All your stuff is shut tight by beefy two-way brass zippers and a leather snap closure. This is a bag that matures with you. It only gets better with age. Owning one of these comes at a price...I mean a decent amount of money. Now the adage goes, you get what you pay for...especially if it is a Filson! ($315'ish 16 1/2" x 14" x 7 1/2")
If you have read any of my other write-ups, you know I am particularly interested in the products that do what they are meant to do as efficiently as possible...all the while making me look cool ;-). When it comes to these types of bags I am looking for the smallest, lightest and most effective in carrying my stuff and getting that stuff in and out with ease. This backpack does that for me. The number one thing I am looking for is a padded compartment that can hold a 15" laptop (and room to spare for a iPad) and is easily accessible as I travel through security at an airport. The laptop storage compartment is accessed through a convenient side zipper. The main compartment holds your books, papers and the front zipper pocket has a good selection of pockets and slots to hold your other gadgets. And if all that isn't enough, the pack comes with a cables accessories pouch so you don't have chargers and the like all over the place. Nice, neat, well organization and light! A great backpack...as a matter of fact, I like this backpack so much I am even considering this series of pieces as my next set of luggage due to their light weight and quality construction...I just wish they had a wheeled suit bag! ($175 18" x 13 1/2" x 6")
I would be remiss if I didn't talk about my trusty Tumi wheeled laptop bag, I have the previous version of their latest Alpha Deluxe wheeled laptop case for many years and can't speak more highly of it, the company or their service. This is my go to bag for extended travel and needing to carry a fair amount of gear and materials. I can really load this thing down with some heavy stuff which could includes a large 17" laptop, iPad, camera gear, portable game system (or two), cables, chargers (when are we going to get to a universal standard for charging devices!) and probably a few backup print outs of presentations or reading material for the flight. And all this can go with me onto the plane and will even jam under a seat in extreme cases or easily go in an overhead bin. It is only too big as a carry-on for those really small commuter flights and a few small regional jets I find in remote parts of Asia and abroad. Beyond that, this is it. If I am heading off to London or Sydney...this is the bag going with me.
The bag is well organized into some discrete sections that allow me to make sure everything thing is easily found when needed and can compress down to 10" deep for a lighter load. You have a section for files, a padded laptop section, Tumi's Tracer feature that includes a unique code in each case to help locate it in case of being lost or stole. You have several exterior pockets to make accessing cellphone, smaller gear (passport, pens, business card)...even a water bottle holder! The exterior of the bag is also very rugged as Tumi really pioneered the use of ballistic nylon to the consumer market 30 years ago. And you get a second case/sleeve to carry your laptop in situations when you don't want to haul the entire set. Again, all this comes at a premium but your years of use should help balance the cost over time. ($795 17 1/2" x 15 1/2" x 10)
Briggs & Riley Medium Executive Rolling Brief. Inside you will find three sections (computer with airport security checkpoint separate sleeve, organizer and a file section) to help keep everything organized. Will haul laptops up to the 15.4" variety and padded pockets for your other tech. And the bag can be expanded two inches to make sure you have everything with you and it is all protected behind an exterior of ballistic nylon. ($399 16" x 14" x 8")
Hauling Camera Gear
Crumpler Haven is a wonderful solution. This protective bag can house your camera and a lens or two depending on which size you get (S, M or L) and then put the whole set in your backpack or luggage and you are ready to go. This isn't rocket science but a simple, padded bag to safeguard your camera gear is totally worthwhile. Inside the bag are two velcro dividers to help keep your fragile camera gear from banging into each other. The top opening folds closed to keep everything snug and the exterior material is water resistent for added protection. (Large size: $60 10" x 9" x 5 1/2")
CaseLogic SLRC205 Camera Sling. This is a beautifully sleek bag that can hold most consumer-level Digital SLR cameras. It features a very innovative sling what you slide the camera lens first into the slot inside the bag and the camera is suspended from there. The back of the pack is a padded air-mesh that makes it comfortably breathable. The sling design makes it easy to access your camera by just sliding the strap around until the bag is in your hands. My only issue is that the sling function only works off of your left shoulder. This also happens to be the shoulder I run my camera sling off of. So this case didn't work well for me as is but for others this most likely is not as big of an issue. From there it is an easy step to open it up and snatch the camera quickly. Even though this is a very small case, it can accomodate a small tripod mounted on the outside. ($45 8 1/2" x 4" x 5")
Lowepro Flipside 200. Again, I favor small, compact and lightweight over having all my gear. I prefer to force myself to "just enough" equipment...maybe I'm just lazy? ;-) Anyway, what I love about this bag is that it will accomodate my full-size Digital SLR camera with a very large 70-200 zoom lens plus a second or even third lens as well as some other small gear. Mind you, this is not a big bag...you will need to get down to what you will need for the day. What is great about a small bag, is that you can move with ease through crowded streets, jumping onto a subway, entering buildings and at no time have to overly worry about hitting people with your backpack. And the Flipside has the added security that access to the bags contents is from the back. There is also a hideaway tripod holder that helps you haul that small tripod you might need for those night shots and the like. You also have a handy mesh side pocket for some personal items or a bottle of water. Speaking of water, this bag is pretty tough and water resistent. ($60 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" x 16 1/2")
Other small backpacks I currently like include the Kata 3N1 series (v20 - $80'ish), ThinkTank Streetwalker ($150) and the Crumpler Karachi Outpost (S - $230). And if I had to pull the trigger tomorrow on a new bag to replace my Flipside 200...it is a toss-up between the ThinkTank and Crumpler. I really need to play with those some more to get a better feel.
I haven't spent much time with a messenger bag solution but am tempted to. I really like how some of those bags make it very easy to get the camera in and out while on the move. I also am digging the California Sunbounce Sun-Sniper Strap-Surfer...a big name for a cool solution. This strap attaches to the shoulder-strap of your messenger and turns it into a very nice side holster type of hang. Check out the video to see what I mean...
Two messenger bags I really like from my initial research are the Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home and the Tenba Small Messenger. I want to spend more time with them but they are both big enough to hold a camera body and a couple good sized lens. Crumpler makes an array of smaller and larger sizes of the Million Dollar Home series depending on the camera gear you are taking with you.
Taking ALL My Camera Gear
ThinkTank International v2.0.
The ThinkTank International v2.0 meets all the international carry-on standards which is key as you really don't want to check all this precious gear. But should the occasion come that you need to check this bag, it comes with a TSA combination lock to lock zipper. The bag also has a security plate with a unique serial number to help you retrieve it in case it is lost or stolen. Even though this case is visually small in appearance and easy to stow on a plane, it can actually carry a substantial amount of hardware. Imagine two pro-sized Digital SLR cameras, two flashes, four large lens, your 15.4" laptop and assorted other pieces of equipment. And on the side of the case you will find a handy tripod carrier. This bag really helps out if you have a wide assortment of camera and video camcorder equipment to bring with you.
Just Carrying A Camera?
Black Rapid RS-5. This type of sling takes the weight of the camera off of your neck and also makes it very easy to grab, aim and fire before the subject you wanted to take a picture of is gone! While the RS-5 worked well, I felt the shoulder storage compartment was too small, yet too heavy and caused the top to slide down on occasion. I have since moved onto the RS-7 model ($60) which is even $10 less and does exactly what it is suppose to. I know what you are saying...$60 for a camera strap????!!!!! But trust me, if you are carrying a decent sized camera around all day...this is a life-saver!
All of these products listed are of the highest quality and something I would be proud to own. Yes they all have their limitations and it will be up to you to decide if one bag is better for your needs than another. I would also point out that many of the bags I have talked about have smaller and larger siblings should your needs be slightly different, just check out the internal and external dimensions on the products websites for that level of detail.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and if you haven't already chosen to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, please do so now. Thx
|Larry Pacey, award-winning designer tracks the latest news on consumer products, electronics, appliances, smart devices, networking and the gadget lifestyle.|