Shoulder bags, messenger bags, roller bags, backpacks. All of those help you carry your gear but, what’s better for you? Keep reading so you learn how to choose a photography bag.
If you’re carrying around a camera body, a couple of lenses, cables, cards or more accessories, you probably need a bag. Not just any bag, but something that helps you carry your hard earned gear safely and securely. That’s why I’d like to help you choose a camera bag.
Of course, you have many styles to choose from when looking for a camera bag, but they can usually be narrowed down to these categories:
- Messenger Bags
- Sling Bags
- Roller case
For each category I’ll mention my favorite bags with links to Amazon. Just so you know, these are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission at no extra cost for you, if you buy using these links.
The Messenger is, I think, the oldest style. It’s very practical because it’s easy to have your gear within reach. Many messenger bags these days are waterproof, whether from the materials used or because they include a rain cover. I personally prefer a rain cover because some materials may lose their water-repellent capabilities over time.
The main disadvantage of the Messenger style is that you carry it on one shoulder so, if you carry too much weight, you risk injuring your shoulder or back. That’s why it’s probably better for light loads, like a camera body, two or three lenses, a flash, and accessories.
The one I use is, sadly, discontinued. It’s the Lowepro Inverse 200 AW, which combines the versatility and comfort of a messenger, with the stability of a waist pack. It allows you to even carry a tripod or monopod.
Sling bags are a mix between a traditional messenger bag and a backpack. You carry it on your back but using only one strap over one shoulder, and you have access to your gear through a side. This way, when you need to access your camera, you slide the bag to the front and all your gear is in front of, still strapped to your body.
It has the same disadvantage of the messenger bag, carrying all the weight on one shoulder, so it’s better suited for lighter loads. My prefered sling bag is a ThinkTank Turnstyle 20, with which I can carry a camera body, two lenses, a 10” iPad, accessories and a light jacket.
We’re all familiar with backpacks, but not all of them are built the same. One of the main differences is the access method, with some backpacks opening from the front (not very secure), others from the back (seriously secure), or the side (open for discussion). Regardless of the access method, the main advantage of the backpack is that you carry the weight on both shoulders, so it’s better for your back. Many offer some balance aids in the form of chest- or hip-straps, or both, depending on their load capacity.
The usual disadvantage of front loading backpacks is that you need to get it off your back, place it on a surface, and then you’ll have access to your gear. My first backpack was a Tamrack Adventure 9, which was comfortable but heavy, even while empty. The next one was a Lowepro Flipside 400 AW, which has serious design issues, was uncomfortable and difficult to balance.
My current backpack is a ThinkTank Urban Approach 15 which, even though it looks small, you can carry a lot with it, it’s comfortable and easy to balance.
If you need to carry a lot of gear, like 2-3 camera bodies, 5 lenses, tripod, strobes, and computer, you’re probably better off with a roller case. The main advantage is that you won’t carry the weight, but pull it and, of course, you can carry everything and the kitchen sink.
Depending on the size, it may or may not be suitable for air travel, but if you usually drive to your location shoots, you can seriously carry everything in roller cases. The one I seriously liked is the Thinktank Airport Security v3, which can handle anything you thgrow at it.
Based on these categories and their characteristics, your main concern when choosing a bag for your gear is about weight. If you only carry essential gear like one camera body, a lens and a few accessories, messenger or sling bags are probably what you need. If you need more than one camera body, consider a backpack and, if the weight is simply too much for your back, consider a roller case. Either way, you now have a guide to choose a camera bag.
I really hope this post helped in your search for a bag. If so, why don’t you share it with your friends?
If you’d like to share your experience with a specific bag, leave a comment below.