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A 'perfect' Camera bag (that actually does the job)


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I've never had a camera bag that does the job for me. I've bought half a dozen, but none of them have ever done what I need a bag to do. The first bag I bought was a Slingshot. Under no circumstances ever buy a bag with only one shoulder strap. As all the weight is not evenly distributed across your shoulders, it's guaranteed to give you sore backs. Weight must be evenly distributed across your shoulders.

All the other camera bags I've bought are only good for 2 or 3 hours work, but they also give you sore backs after extended use, especially if you're carrying heavy lenses. Your shoulders are not the load bearing points on your body, your loins are, the hip area. Weight must be carried by your hips for extended heavy work and not your shoulders and back.

Here's me photographing a broch back when I was a Canon shooter and you can clearly see that a single strap twists the load on your back. Never use a bag with only one strap unless you enjoy sore backs.

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I suppose most camera bag manufacturers make bags for chucking on the back seat of the car, or perhaps even for a couple of hours on site where you actually have to carry the thing, and I would have to agree that most bags are suitable for that kind of work. However, trust me, they are not suitable for 12 hour hikes in remote countryside or up in the hills. They give you sore backs, there is usually no room in the bags for things like flasks and food, wet weather gear, hat, gloves and scarf if it turns cold, and somewhere to stash your jacket if it gets too warm. They do not do the job I need from them.

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Last month I went for a long walk along the shore. Took me about 6 hours. Brilliant walk, but yes, you guessed it, I had a sore back for 3 days afterwards. I've had quite enough of bags that don't do the job so I started looking around. Again. Couldn't find one. I did find some dude who has a new start up called Alotech, and he has designed a bag which looks promising, but it doesn't look as if he has got off the ground with the business as there is no stock at his website, and he doesn't answer emails.

Anyway, last week I said fuck it, and decided to make my own bag.

First thing I did was source a frame, and eventually opted for the Tatonka backpack frame. It had glowing reviews from folks who use it for such things as carrying firewood, large metal petrol jerrycans and other heavy stuff, it's built like a tank, it's lightweight, your hips carry the load, and it even stands up on the ground and doesn't fall over when you put it down. Imagine that! I ordered one from Amazon, and when it arrived I was impressed. It's a nice piece of kit.

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Next I took one of my expensive Lowepro bags, spent a good hour studying the Tatonka frame and the straps on the bag, and when I had a clear picture of what I was going to do, I butchered the bag and cut off all the straps I didn't need.

The side straps on this bag wrapped nicely around the frame, as did the 2 main straps once I'd cut off all the shoulder and body padding.

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I've glued the clips and straps here, but I think I may have to stitch the straps as well so they don't slacken off over time.

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And here is where we are with the main camera bag attached.

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Had another look at the straps. Stitching won't be necessary as I was able to double wrap the straps back through the clips. Now for the top bag.

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Although I no longer use my Slingshot, and haven't done for years, it's perfect for my new system as it has plenty of space for personal gear. Here it is with all the unnecessary straps carefully cut off. There are ample bungee securing points on the frame, so I've ordered a few short black bungees for this one.

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The biggest challenge with the top bag was getting the main belt fastenings to clip together behind the frame. First I had to adjust the straps on the bag and then I had to trim the padding. Clipping them together was a bit fiddly but once they clicked into place I only needed a single 18" Savage Island black bungee (excellent bungees!) to secure the top of the bag.

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And here is the finished bag. I was surprised to find that I could lift the whole rig off the ground with one finger, empty of course, and raise it above my head.

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Look at all the space I now have for personal gear.

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I don't need to worry about accessing the rain covers on the bags either, as the Tatonka has a rain cover you can order separately, which folds up into a tiny little bag.

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As for space for gear, doesn't this look good! My X-T2 and 16-55mm sit comfortably in the top compartment in the Slingshot when not hanging around my neck. Can't wait to take this lot for a walk. I'll let you know how that goes.

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Did a 4 miler yesterday with the bag to break it and me in gently. It's the most comfortable bag I've ever carried, hardly knew it was there at times, and no sore back today. Rubbed my hips a bit towards the end, but not uncomfortably, and I expect even that will dissipate on the next walk as my hips get used to carrying the load. Here's a part of the coasts I love to wander.

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Had my second walk with the new bag today. As expected, it was even more comfortable than the first walk. I have to give this Tatonka backpack frame 10/10, it really is an exceptional piece of kit. Although I have it set up for day trips, it could easily be adapted for overnight adventures as it could be paired with a bergen and a camera bag. It's even adjustable for folks of different heights so anyone can get the weight onto their hips and off their backs.

Another surprising feature I discovered today was that even with the backpack on, I could crouch down on one knee to use the flip screen on the camera at ground level without feeling unbalanced and could stand up again quite easily with no problems or undue stress on my knees. No sore backs this evening, in fact, no sore anything, just a nice feeling of finally having a camera bag that does the job.

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