When I bought my Canon 30D last year, I got a little Crumpler bag for it. It wasn’t a bad bag, but it’s a wee bit too small to be really useful, as it has room for the camera with a lens fitted and not a lot else. Not bad if I want to go out with one lens and want to protect the camera, but I’ve only used it a couple of times.
I also have a Lowepro backpack, which is a bit more useful, as it has a padded lower section with room for the camera with a lens fitted, one or two more lenses and a few bits and pieces. It has a separate top section, which can hold a few things – a sandwich, a book or magazine or two, but not much else. Not bad for taking your camera somewhere, but not really much use if you want to be able to get your camera out of the bag quickly, being a backpack. And I don’t really like backpacks when walking around – too easy to accidentally bump into people.
So, I decided I needed a more suitable bag, and after much looking and thinking, I settled on another Crumpler bag – their rather versatile Daily. This has a padded sleeve for a laptop, a section with moveable dividers for camera kit and more compartments and pockets for bits and pieces than most people are likely to fill. It’s available in a range of sizes to accommodate various amounts of kit, and after a good look in the shop, I eventually went with the biggest one, variously referred to as XXL or Sevenfifty. And what a big bag it is:
It’s heavily padded, and made of very tough nylon, which isn’t going to rip, tear or indeed get damaged in a hurry. The strap is wide, and looks like it’s made out of the same kind of webbing as seat belts. The padded sleeve makes it quite comfortable to wear, and slides freely so that it’s always on your shoulder, however you turn the bag. It’s also reversible, so you can make sure the logo is the right way up, whichever shoulder you put it on. There’s also a second strap supplied, which they call a “third leg”. It’s only useful if you’re wearing the bag much higher on your back than I do, and makes it more stable in that position – probably good for cyclists. Not being a cyclist, I removed the extra strap, as it kept getting in my way. Nice to have options, though.
Once it’s opened up, you can see just how much room is available. The laptop sleeve is nicely padded, and in the case of my big bag, can hold even a 17″ widescreen beast. In front of that you’ll find the photo pouch, a very padded section with lots of dividers and flaps which firmly attach with Velcro, and can be repositioned or removed, depending on what you’re carrying. It easily swallows my Canon 30D with a lens fitted, and with my other two lenses in other sections, there’s still tons of room for more toys that I’ll probably add in the future.
Even that quite large Sigma zoom vanishes into the big compartment. Next to the lenses is a handy little accessory pouch which slides out. Unless you’re carrying a huge amount of kit, there’s room above all this for other bits and pieces – books, odd bits of shopping, whatever.
At the front of the bag, above the nice bright reflective strip, is a large zippered compartment with pockets for memory cards, batteries, guidebooks, manuals, maps or indeed anything else you might want to shove in there.
But there’s more. Inside the flap is another compartment hiding behind a zip. Open that, and there’s room for all your laptop’s bits and pieces – cables, a power adapter, and anything else you can think of. Useful. I leave my work laptop’s bits in there permanently, so if I need to take the laptop somewhere, I’m already packed.
Another nice feature is this little hole. It allows you to put your MP3 player or some such device in the front compartment and feed the headphones out of the bag. It’s covered by the top flap, so your equipment is still nicely protected. To the left of that is one of the chunky handles – if you just want to grab your bag off a luggage rack on a train or some such vehicle, this is ideal. Strong enough to carry the bag and wide enough not to slice your fingers off.
Now all of that would make this my ideal camera and laptop bag. But it’s got another trick up its metaphorical sleeve. The padded photo section can be removed.
This involves disconnecting some Velcro and a bit of jiggling, but it’s not too fiddly, and probably gets easier with practice. Once you’ve removed the photo section, all its flaps close up to seal it into a bag which has a small carrying loop. You’re probably not going to want to carry it around like that, but it does mean that your camera kit is nicely self-contained when you’re not carrying it in the main bag.
And once it’s removed, you’ve got a nice large bag, ideal for short trips. Short trips without your main camera gear, that is. I like this – it means that when I go to London or Leeds on business, I can get away with carrying one bag rather than two, which makes life much easier. And talking of trips, although it is a large bag, it does easily fit onto the overhead racks on trains, which makes it easier to carry around than the last laptop backpack I bought.
OK, this is not by any means a cheap bag. Full price is around £130, with discounted prices on the net from various people. But it’s a good, practical, hard-wearing bag that carries everything I need to carry with ease. Since I’ve had it, my camera has gone to work with me nearly every day, which is great for when I get the photographic impulse at lunchtime, or when the weather unexpectedly improves and it’s suddenly perfect picture time. If you’re not a large person, you’d probably be better off with one of the smaller bags in the range – the next one down (XL or Sixfifty) holds lots of stuff and might be more appropriate for a lot of people.
I actually bought the bag nearly two months ago, so I have given myself time to get used to it before writing about it. I’m still sure I bought the right bag for me.