Because of their utilitarian nature, camera bags often get looked over as being an integral component of your photography kit. After all, you just need something that will hold all your gear and do so securely, right?
Not so fast!
Just like there’s a difference between an “okay” lens and a “great” lens, there are profound differences between run-of-the-mill travel camera bags and bags that go above and beyond the call of duty. The gap between the two can be quite wide, too. If you’ve ever had a subpar camera bag, you know the struggles that come with it - lack of comfort, poor accessibility, and lack of versatility to name a few. But if you’ve ever had a top-shelf camera bag, you know just how much it can change your workflow for the better.
With that, consider these tips for choosing the very best camera bag for your travel needs.
Whether your travels take you down the street, across the country, or around the world, your camera bag should be built to stand up to whatever conditions you throw at it. What’s more, the bag should be able to stand up to the elements whether you’re trekking through the mountains as a landscape photographer or following your models around in the rain in the urban jungle.
Water, dust, dirt, and other environmental elements can be highly damaging to your photography gear, so the construction of your bag is of the utmost importance. Some cheap bags are made of materials that simply do not wick moisture away, or they have zippers, buttons, or clasps that don’t close well to keep the gear inside safe from the elements. On the other hand, well-constructed bags are made of materials like wax canvas and leather, both of which are waterproof and can take the lumps of being knocked around as you work. Don’t trust your expensive camera and accessories to any old bag - get something that is durable and will stand the test of time.
If you’ve spent any amount of time traveling and taking photos, you know that some days you need room in your bag to accommodate a 50mm lens and a travel tripod, and on others, you need room for your 70-200mm zoom lens and a 100mm prime. With each day comes a new adventure, and those adventures require that your camera bag be adaptable to your needs.
Beyond having customizability to fit your gear, a camera bag that’s adaptable means that it’s also more capable of protecting its contents. Moveable dividers, for example, give you the flexibility you need to ensure that no matter what you’ve got in the bag’s compartments, it will be snuggled gently and kept in place, regardless of how hard you’re working.
Additionally, look for a camera bag that has functionalities that go beyond carrying your photo gear. If your bag has a spot for your wallet, mobile phone, car keys, snacks, or even your water bottle, that means you can carry one bag, have your pockets free of obstructions, and you can move about more quickly and with greater ease.
Easy to Carry
You don’t have to carry a lot of weight around for very long before your neck, shoulders, and back start to feel the strain. That’s the last thing you need when being mobile, agile, and having free range of motion is critical for getting the shots you want.
Though it might seem prudent to skimp on a camera bag and get something that is cheap, nothing could be further from the truth. Cheap bags are much more likely to cause discomfort as you carry them because they tend to be made of materials that rub, chafe, or simply break down over time. Bags that are constructed well, however, work with your body - not against it - so you have an easier time carrying the gear you need for longer periods of time.
When looking for a camera bag, don’t just look at the strap that comes with it. A better option is to purchase a bag that’s compatible with a larger carrying system, like a two-strap or holster setup. Not only is it more comfortable to carry a bag when the weight is distributed more evenly, but you can also access the bag with greater ease. This isn’t to mention that with a dual-strap or holster system, the bag is more stable and nearer your body, so you don’t have to worry about it knocking around on things as you work.
Making a Final Decision
There are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of camera bag manufacturers, some that create products that are so-so and others that knock it out of the park. Holdfast is certainly in the latter group, with products that are purpose-built to be durable, customizable, and easy to carry. As a result, they have our highest recommendation for our readers. Their Explorer bag, pictured throughout this article, is the essence of what Holdfast bags offer to photographers: Impeccable construction that is functional and looks good, customizable spaces that fit all sorts of gear, and products that are easy to use and easy to carry as well.
The Explorer bag from Holdfast is made of wax canvas, so it will keep all its contents dry and safe, even in the worst weather. The bag works with Holdfast’s MoneyMaker camera strap, so you can carry it in comfort and with ease all day long. The Explorer comes in two sizes - small to accommodate two small or medium lenses or large that will fit two zooms or short telephoto lenses - so you’re sure to have the versatility you need to capture the images you want. Better still, Holdfast was founded with an adventurous spirit, and the bags are made in the U.S.A., so you know that the product you get is worth the price!