When I see the standard camera backpacks and bags at the airport I always think about what a target they are for theft. You know the brand names.
Why don’t they just label the bags with a giant patch that says, “very expensive camera equipment inside”? I may be off base but it is something I worry about.
Some of the purpose built camera bags are exceptional. Many of them are well designed, neatly organized backpacks with great protection and convenience built right in. But I was looking for a more minimalist, stealthy and versatile solution. I don’t want that “rob me” target on my back, but I do want good shock and impact protection for my gear, as well as a comfortable way to carry it. I also need space for non-camera related items. My go-to solution is a good daypack and an inexpensive insert.
I started with the i-graphy camera insert, purchased online for just under $17. There are numerous choices, but I picked this one because it is the perfect size for a 20-liter daypack, and had the right number of sections for my needs. I was looking for minimal weight and good padding in an inexpensive insert. It has just enough compartments for my Nikon D5600 with the 18-140mm lens, a 70-300mm zoom, the battery charger, a circular polarizer and a lens cloth. I like to travel as light as possible and these are my essentials. Also, the compartment dividers are on Velcro and can be adjusted for your specific camera, lens and accessories. Clearly this isn’t for the professional photographer who needs loads of equipment, but for the hobbyist hiker/photographer, urban trekker this works very well.
I chose my deuter speedlite-20 daypack because it has some features that I find useful, and are often missing on small daypacks like this. The deuter has water bottle pouches on both sides. These pouches come in handy for carrying my Hydroflask, folding walking sticks, a tripod, or as in the picture above, a few bottles of wine I picked up at a tasting in the Redwoods. It also has a dedicated compartment for a hydration bladder. The small size of this pack is great for short day hikes and urban excursions. For anything more than six miles or so, I would go up to a larger pack with a good hip belt to take some of the load off your shoulders.
With the camera in and the insert’s flap down to protect it, you can fit quite a bit into the bag. I typically put either a base layer and or rain shell in just in case. There’s also a small zipped compartment at the top with a tether for keys, space for wallet, reading glasses and all the little things you might need to haul. The front of the pack has another pouch that can carry an ice axe for climbers, or whatever else you may need.
Dedicated camera packs are great, and indispensable for the more serious paparazzi, but with this set-up for light travel, urban jaunts and day hikes, you’re just another pedestrian with a small pack (and that’s a good thing).