Ask any photographer and they will tell you, you can never have enough camera bags. Or it might be that we can never find the perfect camera bag. I’m inclined to think that there is no single one bag that meets all our needs. I have different situations I go into with my camera and need a different bag for each. Recently, I found myself frustrated with a limitation placed upon us by camera bag manufacturers and so turned to a conventional rucksack manufacturer, Glasgow based company Trespass, for the solution.
I needed a bag which wasn’t primarily a camera bag. It needed to carry some camera gear, yes, but also needed to hold quite a bit of other stuff too. Camera bag manufacturers seem to focus almost solely on our optical equipment. They give us massive amounts of padding. Endless pockets, sleeves and dividers. Camera bags and rucksacks are generally well made these days, from most manufacturers. But should you wish to carry a first aid kit, some warm clothing, a flask or water bottle, food or other paraphernalia the bags and rucksacks just don’t seem to cater for us.
I have also got a bit tired of the fact that the rucksacks made by the camera bag manufacturers have become so heavy in themselves. I have downsized to the Fuji mirrorless system from my Canon DSLR system to save weight. (I still have one Canon 5D mk3 and some lenses for multiple exposure and macro work but the vast majority of my images are made on the Fuji now). It seems to me crazy to have a rucksack which weighs more than the entire camera system it is designed to accommodate. I know the bag is supposed to keep the gear safe, but I think maybe the manufacturers have got just a bit carried away with this. Lets be honest, the vast majority of us are not extreme photographers. While, if we are outdoor and landscape photographers we do venture into wild places, we do not really push the boundaries of human endurance. Some certainly do and they do need the gear to cope with the conditions. Most of us are rarely mor than an hour from the car, often just a few minutes away. And, if we are being honest, we take good care of ourselves and our gear while we are out. We carefully put our bags down and carry them about. We are not in the habit of slinging them down the sides of mountains.
Hence my discussions with the good people at Trespass. I wanted to look at an alternative approach. I wondered if the world would end if I used a conventional hikers rucksack. They very kindly gave me one of their TWINPEAK DLX 45 litre rucksacks When it arrived the first thing that struck me was just how light it was in comparison with conventional camera rucksacks. It was so refreshing to have a rucksack which was so light. It has a large main compartment for the bulk of your gear, with space for a hydration pack if you wish. Then outside you have two large side pockets (I used one for a water bottle and the other for my gloves, hat & snacks etc). On the Front is a large double zipped pocket in which I placed my Lee Filter system, remote shutter release, tripod tool and all those bits and bobs I need while working in the field. On the outside of this is a mesh pouch. I found myself slipping my lens cloth and lens caps in this temporarily while I was working – it came in quite handy. On the main compartment lid are two zipped pockets which are large and spacious. One is accessed from the inside. I put my valuables into the one accessed from the inside of the bag for extra security and in the one accessed from the outside of the bag I put my head torch, cash for parking, my keys, notebook and pencil etc. What I found was, rather than struggling for space as I normally do with most camera bags, this bag ended up with space to spare.
I found the strap system very comfortable. The bag is held away from the body with a mesh panel to help prevent moisture build up as you toil along. The waist strap puts much of the load onto the hips for longer walks, taking it off the shoulders which is ergonomically much better and far less tiring. There is also a chest strap to stop the shoulder straps spreading and slipping off the shoulders. The bags is made from 420D mini ripstop polyester and is easy to wipe clean. I liked the orange straps and closures as I could see them easily in low light. A downside for us as photographers with a non-specialist bag like this is there is no tripod support built in. It does have the facility to strap on an ice axe or walking poles but these are not suitable for tripods. I use a small, lightweight tripod and mine fitted inside the rucksack with ease, but I recognise this is not going to work for those of you who have larger tripods, although many carry them separately to their rucksacks anyway, so this may not be an issue. I did like the built-in rain cover for heavy downpours. The material is already rain resistant, but when the weather misbehaves it takes just a couple of seconds to pull out the attached all-over cover to protect your kit. (or to protect your kit when you lay the bag down on a wet beach or muddy moorland).
Using it required a change of approach as the design is quite different to a conventional camera rucksack and so I had to re-think how I would load it and how I would store my gear. Whereas camera bags tend to have a large opening on the back or front, conventional rucksacks like this open on the top and you fill from the bottom up. Therefore, you place at the bottom the things you think you won’t need. For me, it is important to carry a first aid kit. I carry a mountain leaders kit and this went in the base of the DLX. I have never had to use it on a workshop, but it is there just in case. I then found I had room for a sweater (which I used as cushioning for my camera bodies and lenses) with my camera bodies (2) and lenses on top giving me easy access to them. I have my lenses in soft fabric pouches and my camera bodies are wrapped in ‘Skye Skyns’ (people who are regular readers of my blog will know about these) and so they are protected individually in the bag.
All in all, I am delighted with the bag. I am finding it very versatile, extremely comfortable (especially because it is so light) and it is a joy to have so much space and for that space to be free of the infernal padded dividers which hamper what I want to carry and how I want to carry it. It is so much cheaper than camera rucksacks are these days too. I have had to adjust my thinking and the way I pack my gear and it will not be ideal for all trips or situations, but as a photographer with a bag fetish this is a lovely addition to my collection and I would heartily recommend you give it a try, you might like it as much as I do.
You can see the full range of Trespass rucksacks on their website HERE. Disclosure: Trespass provided me with a rucksack for testing purposes but allowed me to say whatever I wanted about the product.