Using a gadget bag that’s too big can be as frustrating as using one that’s too small. Today’s photographers must match their carrying method to the gear they’re packing, as well as the type of journey they’re about to pursue. Airline travel, for instance, requires a bag that’s small enough to meet carry-on requirements (see the "Carry-On Restrictions" sidebar), but large enough to accommodate all of the equipment you need on a long trip. We’ve categorized the possible solutions—small packs for day trips, larger bags for road trips and cases for air travel. Here are some standout products in each category.
The Clik Elite Impulse Sling provides padded, subdivided space in the bottom half for a large DSLR with zoom attached, two additional lenses and small accessories. The very bottom features a zippered media organizer that stows memory cards, cables and adapters. The top half easily accommodates a jacket, large lunch, flash unit or additional accessories. An exterior mesh pocket on the side holds a water bottle or other items, and a large mesh pouch on the front is perfect for lens caps, sunglasses, trail snacks or similar-sized items. The bag is made from 1680 denier ballistic nylon with 420 denier high-tenacity nylon trim and is fully lined with finished seams. A hideaway sternum strap unleashes to tether the sling for greater comfort and security. List Price: $125.
The made-in-USA Domke F-2 shoulder bag is constructed of breathable, waterproof canvas that’s comfortable and durable. The original bag was designed by professional photojournalist Jim Domke more than 30 years ago because he personally needed a sturdy camera bag that was large enough to carry everything he needed in the field. Equipped with convenient pouches on either end, the inside features a four-compartment padded insert with a removable bottom stiffener. The classic steel snap and ring closures are secure and built to last a lifetime. List Price: $204.
MOUNTAINSMITH REFLEX II
Sometimes all you need is a second lens or two, and you don’t want to carry a half-empty bag. Enter the Mountainsmith Reflex II shoulder bag. Available in three sizes, the Reflex II combines rugged good looks, light weight and ample protection. The large-sized model weighs just over one pound and features a zippered pocket with key clip and organizational dividers, a rear notepad sleeve, a laminated mesh zippered pocket under the lid and an easy-access, push-button, quick-release buckle. The Reflex II is lined with soft fleece and comes with a detachable padded shoulder strap. List Price: $45 (small); $50 (medium); TBD (large).
The newly redesigned Tenba Roadie II rolling photo and laptop cases come in three sizes and are built to withstand serious professional use. They all feature ballistic nylon exteriors, heavy-duty YKK zippers, an internal support frame and user-replaceable, ball-bearing wheels. Inside the Roadie II Universal you’ll find room for one or two DSLR camera bodies, six to eight lenses (up to a 400mm ƒ/2.8) and tons of accessories. A padded computer sleeve fits most laptop computers with screens up to 17 inches. List Price: $279 to $319.
The Lowepro Pro Roller Attaché X50 is literally two bags in one. Open the fully zippered front, and the panel drops open like a clam to reveal a pull-out reserve shoulder bag that holds a 14-inch laptop, a DSLR with a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom attached, two to four additional lenses and more. The shoulder bag has deep mesh pockets on either end and a removable strap. The reserve shoulder bag can be used separately, carried snugly inside the roller or slipped over the spring-loaded, retractable, five-stage TelePod handle. It’s an amazingly clever design and one of the most versatile bags you’ll ever encounter. List Price: $329.
The Tamrac Extreme Super Photo Backpack Model 787 can easily transport multiple camera bodies and a multitude of lenses in its fully padded 12×11.25×22.5-inch chassis. The flagship model of Tamrac’s Extreme Series also has three interior mesh pockets to stow filters and small accessories. Despite its size, the backpack is comfortable to carry. The contoured harness distributes the weight across both shoulders while a waist strap adds additional stability and security. It also features a tripod attachment, carrying handle, two exterior zip pockets and self-healing coil zippers. Estimated Street Price: $399.