Comprehensive Guide to Rigging Any Camera – 28 Bags and Cases (Part 1)

 

In this chapter I’ll cover Bags, Cases and Transportation for your gear.

I choose bags this way:

  • I look at all my current gear
  • Figure out surprise additions like an extra lens, cards, tablet or laptop, etc.
  • Choose my bag options and list them (By now you should know I’m a big fan of lists!)
  • Sort the list by order of price and features
  • Narrow down my list to two or three options that feel the best
  • Look at the manufacturer’s reputation
  • Estimate the climate and storage conditions that the bag will be used in. To know more, read my post on Weather Protection for your Gear
  • Test them out at a store for ergonomics
  • Last: Consider the exterior aesthetic design or style of the bag. Face it: If you’re a working professional your bag is going to get jaded pretty fast.

 
Which way should your camera point?

There’s a lot of confusion going around the internet about how to place your camera with lens in a bag. Should you place it facing down, up, sideways, or what?

Answer: It doesn’t matter. Camera bag manufacturers perform the toughest tests on their gear, and none of them have been able to demonstrate conclusively the advantage of one method over another.

Rule of thumb: When in doubt, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They have designed a bag or case in a particular way after a lot of thought and testing (hopefully). Your real world use is unlikely to be as tough as their testing scenarios, so quit worrying.

Bagonomics, or “What goes where in a bag”?

Rule of thumb: Place your center of gravity in the bottom middle.

Where did that come from? It’s simple, really.

For backpacking:

Let’s say your heavy stuff is placed at the top. When you lean forward or backward, you pivot on your hip. The distance of the weight from the pivot increases the force that tries to push you forwards or backwards as the case may be.

If this weight is at the bottom, it is closer to the pivot (fulcrum) and does not contribute any force.

For rolling:

The same applies when you’re rolling bags. The lower the weight, correctly centered, the easier it is to pull. When the weight is placed higher up, any small change in your movement will make it tougher to pull.

For carrying:

If you’re carrying a bag that does not have a centered weight, it will try to tip forward or backward, just like an unbalanced rig.

If you’re carrying two ways, which way do you go? E.g., if you want to roll it and use it as a shoulder bag hung from one side, what do you do?

Choose the solution to the one that troubles you the most. But for heaven’s sake don’t try to find the average spot. In the latter case, you’re making it difficult on yourself 100% of the time; but if you choose one correct way, at least you won’t suffer half the time!

Types of travel

It is likely that your gear and travel falls into one or more of these broad categories:

  • Quick and light
  • Backpack
  • Single person airline
  • Full cargo

 
This is a highly generalized guideline – you can always make things easier or harder for yourself. Mix and match as you please.

Quick and Light

A quick and light trip usually lasts for just a few hours. You arrive quickly, shoot for a couple of hours, and get back home for tea (substitute your favorite drink here).

Guerrilla

My favorite for one DSLR or BMCC camera and a couple of lenses is:

Think Tank Retrospective 10, Pinestone

Videographer

Of course the previous example will hardly do for video. Video always needs more cubic inches. I recommend:

Lowepro 350 AW DSLR Video Fastpack


This bag will do perfectly from DSLRs to prosumer cameras all the way up to a Red Epic or Scarlet.

Backpacking

Backpack travel might include many days worth of trekking. It is cool for photographers to do on weekends, but hell for videographers. Forcing yourself to trek alone carrying the entire load by yourself means compromise, even if you are an Olympic athlete.

Trekker bags have to be soft and comfortable to carry, yet be strong enough to bear the load without sagging or having your gear mixed into electronic cocktail.

Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW Camera Backpack

Single Person or Airline

This is for a one-person crew who travels alone with gear, but luckily doesn’t have to carry it on his/her back. We can go two ways:

Carry-on baggage

Think Tank Airport International V 2.0

Think Tank Airport Security V 2.0


Use the former link for international travel, and the latter link for travel within the US. An airline bag must hopefully fit into cabin baggage racks, so please check with your airline before you pack any gear.

Check-in baggage

These bags better be sturdy – they might get dropped from uncomfortable heights. And they are bigger:

Tamrac 694 Camera Rolling Case

Yet, they have to be rolled in airports for comfort. At this point, it might be a good idea to go sturdier with a different design:

Portabrace CAR-2B Cargo Case


It’s the classic box vs bag conundrum. You’ll have to figure out for yourself which style suits your body, gear and workflow. There is no such thing as a perfect bag for all scenarios.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Airports and/or client trips – hard cases or formal bags with wheels
  • Car travel – Soft but tough bags with a great shoulder strap

 

In the next part we’ll look at full cargo, shipping and transportation.

Next: 28: Bags and Cases Part 2
Previous: 27: Streaming Solutions