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.
*And speaking of travel, if you aren’t using Airbnb yet, what are you waiting for? You can find amazing homes & apartments all over the world. We started using Airbnb & haven’t looked back. So much better than a hotel room.
You can use my DISCOUNT CODE when you sign up to get FREE TRAVEL CREDIT. $45 (Canadian funds, you do the math for the exchange rate) just for using this referral code. Do it!
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 found one here.
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!
Don’t forget to try out Airbnb for your next destination. We have little ones & so having a place with more than one bedroom is so amazing, and has completely changed the way we travel. Use my discount code to save a bunch on your first trip! Cheers!