These days I’m getting ready for a trip I’ll be taking to Europe. I’ll be traveling through Germany & France, and wanted the perfect camera bag to take with me. I won’t be taking a ton of gear, mainly one body (my Nikon D600), and one lens (Nikkor 24-70 2.8), as well as a portable hard drive & card reader to dump images onto. I wanted to find a low key bag that looks stylish, is comfortable, and can safely carry my gear with a little extra space.
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I have several bags already, that I do indeed love. I have a great shoulder bag by ThinkTank called the Retrospective that is one of my favourites. However on long days, a shoulder bag is uncomfortable, and just not practical, though this bag is inconspicuous as a camera bag (which I love) and holds a ton of gear. I also have a great backpack by Olympus called the E-system Pro that holds a LOT of gear, and is very comfortable, but screams out CAMERA BAG to anyone looking. While I do bring this one on assignments when I need to fly with a lot of gear, it isn’t what I want for this trip, which will be more casual. My other favourite bag is the Photo Sport 300AW by Lowepro. This bag is what I use in the backcountry. Very comfortable, it is meant for hiking, skiing, or other off the beaten path type activities. Carries a hydration bag, a small amount of camera gear, with extra space too. Unfortunately the one I have is bright orange, which, is the complete opposite of subtle.
So what to do? I looked high & low online. I saw some amazing bags, the nicest being the Ona Camps Bay, which is exactly what I was looking for. Stylish, functional, & well-built. I though long and hard about it, but the one reason I didn’t jump on purchasing it…the pricetag. It is US $429. Add shipping & taxes, I’d be spending well over $500 dollars for this beauty. Sure I would love it, but I just couldn’t justify it.
My solution? DIY
I decided that maybe I could put something together to suit my needs. First I had to find the right bag…I wanted a good looking canvas type backpack with comfortable straps. I looked all over, and by chance someone mentioned to me that a local skate shop called Cheapskates had some in stock that I might like. I headed down and there I indeed found a good selection of Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. The one that I liked most was the Little America 24L Canvas backpack.
I checked it out, and it looked promising. The size looked about right, the straps were comfortable, and it looked great. Importantly it wasn’t too expensive either. They retail for around $149. I noted the inside dimensions, and told the owner I’d hopefully be back to buy after I checked on the next part of my plan… A camera bag insert. I found a seller through Etsy who sold various sizes of inserts with adjustable padding to turn any bag into a camera bag. I checked the dimensions of the Medium Bag insert and found it to be almost a perfect match to the Herschel bag. And for only $18 CDN too.
A quick online search, and you can find several padded inserts. Just be sure to get the right size insert for your bag.
I promptly ordered the insert, and back to Cheapskates I went, to purchase the Herschel backpack. When the insert came in, I installed it into the Herschel bag, and it fits quite nicely. I’m able to fit all the gear I need, and even have extra room for a sweater, light jacket, or any other items I might want to bring along on my excursions. The whole kit cost under $200, which is a big savings compared to what I would have put down for the Camps Bay. The bag carries nicely, and looks very inconspicuous. There is a media sleeve for a laptop in the bag, not that I’m bringing one on this trip, but it is a nice feature. The front pouch is zippered, with a key clip inside. The top flap has adjustable leather straps, that easily close with magnetic clips. Under the flap there is a drawstring closure as well, so it is quite secure. There is even a media pocket for a phone on the inside, with a port for your headphones to slip through. All in all, I am very happy with the bag, and this setup. It is a good looking backpack, that doesn’t look like a camera bag, and can carry just what I need for this trip. Sometimes when you can’t find what you need, you just have to do it yourself!
***UPDATE: I’ve had folks ask me about the ability to load a tripod in this bag. It doesn’t really work for a regular tripod to be honest. But I do have a small travel tripod, and a Gorillapod that would work. I use this bag for day excursions, where I’m not likely to need one anyways. Nowadays I use a Fuji XT2 Mirrorless camera which is super light compared to the Nikon D600 DSLR I lugged around in Europe in this bag. I hardly notice it is in there. Love that camera for so many reasons, and that is one of them!
Well I hope you enjoyed my post about my DIY camera backpack. I would love to hear from you if you have any ideas like this that you have tried, or want to try. Happy travels!
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