Messenger Bag vs. Backpack for Photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by cosmokanga2, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    I'm in the market for a new bag to carry my gear and can't decide between a messenger style or a backpack style bag.

    It is going to be a heavy bag hence my indecision between a messenger bag or backpack. It will be carrying a 15" MBP, Nikon D80, 70-200mm, 18-70mm, 1 Flash, accessories and more equipment in the future.

    I've narrowed my choices down to Crumpler bags as I don't want it to scream camera gear or photographer but still be designed for that use. I'm looking at the Brazilian Dollar Bag and the Karachi Outpost. The bag will mainly be used in photojournalism, travel, sport and street photography.

    I've never owned a messenger bag so please notify me if some of my concerns are not a issue.

    My points for the messenger bags:
    Pros: Ability to access its contents without having to remove the bag or set it down.
    Style: In a urban environment it "blends in more" than a backpack.

    Cons: Not as easy to carry/run with?
    Traveling for extended periods of time it may get hard to carry due to not having enough shoulder/hip support.
    Could get in the way when shooting on the move.
    Can't carry a tripod.

    My points for a backpack:
    Pros: Added security in that it has to taken off to access the main compartment. This at the same time is it's greatest problem.
    Much easier to carry over a messenger bag.

    Cons: Can't access it on the move. Has to be taken off.
    Can make one stand out in a urban environment though it has good security.

    I'm hoping someone here has used a backpack and/or messenger back for photography and can tell me what they suggest and how using it is over a long period of time.

  2. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    if it's heavy and you're walking for more than few minutes, get a backpack.
  3. paintball312 macrumors member

    May 25, 2009
    I'm not a fan of messenger bags for extended times. Look into Lowepro slingshots, best of both worlds. It does scream camera bag though. Backpack wise, I have a Burton Zoompack 28L, and love it. It doesn't scream camera bag to me, and is very comfortable for long periods of time.
  4. cosmokanga2 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    I currently have the Slingshot 200, and while it is a great design, large one is too ugly and doesn't hold a 70-200 i believe.
  5. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Canon 70-200 2.8 will fit in a slingshot 200, not even close to fitting in a 100. None of the slingshots hold a laptop. The slingshots are incredibly comfortable(I used to jog with mine on) and relatively easy to access the camera, getting into the other compartments is a little harder, but easier than a backpack. They do scream camera though for people that know at least a little. Your gear will pretty much fill a 200 right now. If you get anymore you'd need the 300 (which seems a lot bigger and not as comfortable).

    I have two bags, a backpack when I need everything (phototrekker, I could use more space here, but I believe it's the largest acceptable carryon bag) and a slingshot 100 for just the camera, flash and small lenses. I should have bought a slingshot 200, but didn't have the 70-200 at the time.

    I would not be carrying the MBP around with me, it's way too heavy and fragile. I'd get a sleeve and take it in your suitcase, or a laptop bag for it. That bag will quickly fill up too with cables, card readers, calibrator, tablet, etc.

    EDIT: I see you already have the slingshot 200. To fit the canon 70-200 you need to pull all of the dividers to the left of the body and it will go, the flash would go in the top pocket or maybe (depending on your flash) below the body on the right. You cannot fit the 70-200 in the bag attached to the body though.
  6. Abraxsis macrumors 6502


    Sep 23, 2003
    Personally, I use the Lowe Fastpack 250. It has an easy access side zip, as well as a larger opening for loading gear initially.

    As for "screaming photographer" I think holding a camera in your hands pretty much takes care of the screaming. For myself, if Im in a high risk area, I carry light. Maybe only a DSLR, good "all around" lens (ie. the classic 50mm), and a small 35mm rangefinder like my Konica C35 Automatic. I keep the DSLR in a camera wrap and placed in a simple GAP slingpack that I modified with a small steel cable hidden on the inside part of the carry strap. This prevents the classic "cut and run" that can happen.
  7. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Long term a Fastpack 250 works for me. Short term a messenger is great.
  8. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2004
    Have never been much of a fan of Lowepro...while a wide array of products are offered, the level of build and innovation are both lacking (IMO).

    Take a look into Kata and thinkTANK camera bags. You can research to your heart's content here:

    Good luck.
  9. Nicholie macrumors regular

    Jul 6, 2008
    Huntsville, Al
    Tenba Shootout Medium. It's big, it's heavy, but i carried it 8 hours in a cave... so it works.
  10. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    i have a timbuk2 comp messenger bag, and it IS NOT ideal for photography. It is just too small. I am going to be picking up the fastpack 250 or 350. Just need to see them in person.

    I have had Lowepro in the past, and no problems with them at all. I had the Rover II AW and it was great.
  11. tcphoto macrumors 6502a


    Feb 23, 2005
    Madison, GA
    I find that the Tenba backpacks are perfect for me to carry my DSLR kit. I prefer not carrying the MBP with the kit but separately in a Timbuk2 Commuter bag. I am looking at a Timbuk2 bag for those shoots that require a smaller kit.
  12. britincan macrumors member

    Jun 12, 2008
    Here now, but used to be over there.
    I have a Crumpler 'Brian's Hot Tub' (gotta love those names!), which I've now had for 6 years or so now. I think it's comparable with the Karachi Outpost bag you are considering, though mine may be slightly bigger. I really like it and can fit a 17" powerbook, Canon 5d and 40d with grips, 70-200 f/2.8, 17-40, Sigma 12-24, 50, flash, charger for laptop, chargers and batteries for cameras etc. I even used the bag as carry-on on a flight to the US and Canada back in 2004, though I doubt it would fit the specifications today. It's comfortable and very secure and definitely doesn't shout photographer. Admittedly I don't carry the laptop all the time, but with all the camera gear it's still comfortable to use. The quality of the stitching, zips and straps is exceptional and mine looks as good as the day I bought it. I had a Tenba messenger bag before and returned it for the Crumpler. I just didn't like the layout of the Tenba and felt you always had to remove something to get the item you were looking for, whereas with the Crumpler everything is at hand immediately.
  13. cosmokanga2 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    The first time I heard about the Crumpler Karachi was actually seeing a photographer with it. He showed it to me and I like it's design. While I won't always be carrying everything around in it, I would like to have that ability. For example flying as there is no way I'm checking my photo or computer gear.

    Have you found the lack of many pockets on the outside to be a major issue? This is my only worry.
  14. coachingguy macrumors 6502a


    Feb 7, 2003
    The Great White, Albeit Frozen North
    I had (gave it to my dad) a Crumpler $7 million bag. Too bulky for my tastes and I couldn't put anything else in, like a bottle of water. I like a multipurpose bag so I went with a Timbuk2 med and large messenger bags. The medium works great for just walking around, I keep a a 18 - 200 sigma on my 50d as a walking around lens. I did buy a lowpro toploader and I've got 2" of memory foam in the bottom. Now I've got room for water, cables, filters, manuals/books etc... I also like how it sits snuggly on my back until I need it, then I bring it around front and viola'! I've got access to camera.

    I use the large with a sleeve when I want my laptop with. I can get it in the medium, but it's a better fit in the large...

    So, there's another option.

  15. sangosimo Guest


    Sep 11, 2008
    if I am carrying alot of gear I go backpack because I am just going to a shoot. I use a messenger bag for my walkaround kit because it is easier to access my lenses; my walkaround kit is pretty light (5d, 50 1.8, and 500 f8)
  16. clams macrumors member

    Aug 2, 2009
    Personally, I've exclusively used messenger bags for photography. It allows for easy access and it doesn't scream "PHOTOGRAPHER!" for miles away like an obvious lens/camera backpack would. I think your best bet in this area would have to be one of the Crumpler MDHs. I use the 6MDH although I don't have too much gear to lug around. I also use timbuk2 medium messengers with makeshift padding.
  17. britincan macrumors member

    Jun 12, 2008
    Here now, but used to be over there.
    The one I have has 3 pockets, 2 large ones on the front and one smaller one on the side, personally I find them adequate. I don't like to cram too much stuff in them and most of the time they are either empty or just have a few items in them as all the stuff I need is inside the backpack.

    I presume your bag fits into the carry on flight dimensions, I know mine doesn't since the regulations changed but It's always worth speaking to the individual airline before booking as some are more lenient than others. like you, I certainly wouldn't want my camera equipment in the hold.
  18. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    honestly, why not just buy both? Bags are a HUUUGE problem for me. There is NO ONE PERFECT bag for all occasions. Everyones' needs are subjective.

    I have gone through soo many bags...I had a Lowepro Rover II AW, which was great, but it was quite the task to get to my gear, really stiff (was waterproof, probably why), and didn't have enough room on the top part for food, water, extra clothing, etc.. I didn't have a laptop back then, so not having the compartment for a laptop was no big deal.

    I have been looking a lot lately at bags since my last post in this thread. I like the tamrac system 9 (something like that). I also like the fastpacks by Lowepro. I also saw that Timbuk2 makes a photography/laptop bag. I am sure that is special order from Timbuk2, however, which means finding stellar deal out of the question..

    I just find the messenger style bags hard on my shoulder/back with a lot of gear in it. I have the computer messenger (medium), and it is really a tight fit. I bought it for school, but it is a tight fit with 3 books, my Mac, and maybe a few other things... I have had back problems, and i like the stability of a backpack. I would just go to a place that sells these bags and try them out. Most places will allow you to test them out, ie; putting your laptop and a camera or something in, to see how it will feel.
  19. Flash SWT macrumors 6502

    Flash SWT

    Mar 14, 2009
    Houston, TX
    I switched from backpacks to rollers years ago and my back is thankful.

    Make sure to checkout the product line from Think Tank:

  20. oakie macrumors 6502


    Oct 16, 2008
    i just went from the crumpler 8 million dollar home to the tamrac aero speed pack 85. best decision i ever made, as it gives me all the storage and quick access but also has room for extras, allowing me to use it, and only it, for weekend flights.
  21. jackiecanev2 macrumors 65816


    Jul 6, 2007
    Just as a point of reference, most good messenger bags come with a "third-leg" strap, that fastens from the shoulder strap (usually centered, but adjustable), that secures the bag and makes it more comfortable to wear. It also makes things like running, biking, walking etc much easier. It still allows for easy access, as you just unclip, and spin the bag around.

    Like so-

  22. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    i believe all Timbuk2 bags have that. Mine came with it, but I haven't even opened the bag that the attachment is in:)
  23. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I dunno about "innovation" but both of my Lowepro bags have been absolutely stellar for years in terms of build. They live in the back of a truck 90% of the time with a bunch of other gear on and around them, and I haven't had any issues at all. The Lenstrekker 600AW always has my 400/2.8, 2-3 smaller lens holders and the back pocket stuffed with gear, and ~15lbs of tripod strapped to the side and the MiniTrekker is always stuffed with lenses and flash and a camera when I carry it. Both get hiked with in all 4 seasons and I've yet to see a build quality issue (zippers, seams, straps...) They get shrugged off and tossed down on the side of a trail, rocks, pavement, whatever. In fact the only two things I don't like is the color choice (black sucks in the summer) and the fact that the tripod straps for the 600 weren't engineered for supporting a large tripod/head combination (I added a couple of webbing straps and it's fine.) I've had the Mini for probably ~7 years and the 600AW for at least 5. I keep forgetting about the built-in rain cover on the Mini and still haven't had issues in a downpour.

    In the past week, the 600AW has been out twice and the Mini has been out six days- when I'm shooting that's fairly typical this year, but in years past the 600 took the brunt of the work. I don't consider my usage light, nor am I especially careful. I keep large camera bodies with heavy L brackets in mine, and I shove flashes and large EN-EL4 batteries and whatever else in the pockets without padding stuff. I'm frankly surprised that I haven't had to replace at least one of them due to UV damage or just wear.

    I don't know what your experiences are with the build quality, nor your expectations, but my experiences simply don't have me imagining a build issue.
  24. cosmokanga2 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 7, 2008
    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    Well, today I picked up the Crumpler Karachi Outpost in black and grey. Compared to the the Dakine Mission Photo which I was also looking at, the Karachi is much tougher built. The fabric used is REALLY tough. To test their bags, they way them down with bricks, and drag them on dirt roads in Australia. That's at least what the rep said.

    The shoulder straps are strong, well padded and provide great support while also incorporating a removable chest and waist harness.

    Here are a few of the points that made me decide on it versus other bags on top of my points posted above:
    > The inside compartment is completely lined in the fuzzy velcro, allowing my to place the ~10 foam dividers anywhere. The Dakine for example only had velcro in some areas.
    >The bag is already water repellent, there for not having me need to put a rain cover on when it starts raining.
    >The number of "little things" that make the bag great. The back foam for example had depressions for your spine and the carrying handle therefore eliminating pressure points. The laptop case inside is attached via two Velcro latch systems, and when not in use there are flaps that cover them eliminating the possibility of clothing of things getting caught.

    Over all I love the bag. I'll try and post pics, however my cameras lenses autofocus system went on the fritz today and won't be back for a week.
  25. georgemann macrumors regular


    Nov 25, 2005
    Seattle, Washington & Siem Reap, Cambodia
    Think Tank - Shapeshifter - is the way to go.

    I have way too many bags and have put a lot of miles on all of them, but since changing to the Think Tank Shapshifter, I am picking it up the most when I need both the MacBook (17-inch) and my cameras with me.

    When I don't need the computer with me, I change to a smaller bag and when I want to go stealth, I put the smaller bag inside a ratty old lightweight backpack (bought for $10 in a market in Cambodia).

    My favorite small bag is the Think Tank Change-Up (it can be used as a shoulder, chest, or belt system bag, so extra lens pouches, etc. can be attached).

    Most of my bags are now Think Tank (only pro shooters know that they are camera bags).


Share This Page