The Joy of Sacks

I have too many bags. Almost every photographer I’ve ever talked to has admitted to having the same problem. I have big bags, small bags, bags that fit everything, bags that fit some things, rucksacks, messenger bags, shoulder bags and things that aren’t quite bags but which nevertheless are designed to store things safely when on the move.

And still it’s not enough. No matter how many bags I’ve bought over the years I’ve never been able to find one that does everything that I want from a bag. They always do everything I want from a bag in a given set of circumstances, and therein lies the problem.

Let’s take for example, my ‘garage’ bag, A LowePro Vertex 200 AW. It holds just about everything that I need for a shoot, or at least for a shoot where I’m working without an assistant. It certainly carries all my lenses and a couple of camera bodies without breaking a sweat, unless I happen to want to have some flashes in there too, in which case the 70-200mm f/2.8 goes in a lens case on the side of the bag instead. But for travel purposes it’s decidedly bulky, even though it should by rights still meet the international carry-on regulations.

The other bag that I’m often seen wandering around with is a LowePro Classified 250AW, a messenger bag that stores a couple of bodies and four or five lenses along with other accessories. It’s a fantastic bag and reasonably compact, but I’ve found over the last couple of years that it’s getting increasingly uncomfy for me to carry. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m starting to wear out my spine or whether I’m just walking about with it more and so noticing that it hurts me to carry it around (fully loaded anyway), but I’m less and less inclined to load it up with gear and instead prefer to just have one body and a couple of primes in there, especially if I’ve got a laptop in the back of it too.

Which rather brings me to the point, dear reader. It would seem that the time has come, once again, for me to buy yet another bag. Something that I can carry plenty of stuff around in, but which won’t make my spine any more crooked than it already is. The initial impetus for this decision is that I’m starting to do more walking as the year warms up, and whilst I’m quite happy with just my camera and one lens, I’d also like to have some options open. The Vertex seems to be overkill for my needs in that department.

The other thing that’s making me think about buying a new bag is California. In less than a month’s time (and yes, I’m ridiculously excited about this; thank you for asking), Sarah and I will be driving California Highway 1 from LA to San Francisco, and I intend to do a lot of shooting on the way. We’ve got four days of driving and four days in San Francisco, so I want a bag that I’m happy to throw in the back seat of a car but which will also serve me well when tromping up Market Street and wandering through Chinatown.

So far, the bag that seems to fit my needs best is a LowePro Flipside 400AW. It’s sturdy and holds plenty of gear, but it’s also quite compact. It’s got the rear opening, too, which seems like a particularly nice feature for a bag that I’m going to be wandering around a city with. Finally it’s got the sainted LowePro All Weather cover, which I would trust in pretty much any conditions except a sudden and surprising Monsoon.

Sadly, I think I’m going to have to let the Classified 250AW go. It’s a great bag and it’s done me plenty of service but I’m no photojournalist and frankly I like my spine this crooked and no crookeder. I’ll throw it up on eBay when I get the new bag, I guess. Like its predecessor, the massive Stealth Reporter D650AW, it will be missed, but only by the squishy grey bit between my ears; the rest of me will be quite happy with something that distributes its weight a bit more¬†symmetrically, I think.