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I will be traveling around Austria (and Alps) next spring and will be carrying my photography gear with me. I have a Canon Rebel T2i, a prime and a telephoto lens, an external speedlite, CPL filters, etc. (no tripod). Not a lot, but still the basic kit one would need. I have never traveled abroad with all this gear before. Even though its only a week long trip I would have my clothes and my laptop with me too.

So, my question goes out to the people who do a lot of travel photography. What kind of backpacks would you suggest for this kind of trip? As I have to go through airports, it should be acceptable for that as well. How do you guys travel around with all your stuff and the camera gear (especially when hiking)? I don't have a big camera bag where I can put the camera gear right now. I don't need exact product details but just advice from people on the type of bags they use for such trips.

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considering the weight you are putting on your shoulder, I think a luggage-style bag (with wheels) might be a better choice, so you can stroll all your gears and the heavy laptop and your clothes etc. Or, you can get a small luggage and a big camera backpack with a sleeve for suitcase so it can be properly secured on top of any luggage by inserting the handle bars into the sleeve. Sorry for the terminology I am not sure what are these called. –  Gapton Dec 29 '11 at 1:49
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Correct if I am wrong, but I have never used a backpack with wheels that felt comfortable on the back for more than a few minutes. –  Itai Dec 29 '11 at 3:59
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I am confused, are you looking for a camera bag(dedicated), a hiking backpack(dedicated), or some hybrid of the two? –  dpollitt Dec 29 '11 at 4:35
    
@Itai I wasn't paying too much attention to the hiking part so I was actually recommending a suitcase, not backpack with wheels. Now that I realized I completely missed the "hiking" part, a suitcase would be silly lol my bad for not reading. @ OP Considering all the weight, have you thought of bringing less gear? –  Gapton Dec 29 '11 at 6:49

4 Answers 4

From what I understand you need a backpack for hiking, even if there was no photography involved. In that case, I recommend you get a hiking backpack that you are comfortable with and avoid trying to fit the photo gear in it. If you do, you will only have shots of the summit :) - At least it says so in Remote Exposure.

Considering you have barely any photo equipment, you should consider a top-load or modular carrying system. They are models from Lowepro and Thinktank which attach the the harness or belt of hiking backpacks. This will give you access to gear while hiking and let you take photo opportunities in a greater number of locations. With one of the bigger Lowepro TLZ you can fit all of your equipment in it and the AW model has a built-in rain cover to protect it too.

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A beltpack would possibly go well with a backpack. Something like a Lowepro Outback 200. Would need testing to see if and how the straps interfere of course. –  jwenting Jan 10 '12 at 11:18

I use the Tamrac Expedition 9X. My passion is adventure photography, so I do a lot of hiking and trail navigation. I have gone through several bags over the past couple of years because none of them felt quite right. The 9X has been very good to me so far. It is comfortable, water resistant and has the water-casing zippers to prevent any leaks into the bag.

It can hold My D4, and easily hold two medium telephotos and one standard, or one long telephoto and one standard, along with any filters, batteries, memory and notational pads pens/pencils you bring with you. The tripod easily straps to the back, and the shoulder harnesses can be adjusted without stopping or removing the bag. It has a chest and belly fastener to further anchor and stabilize the shoulder straps.

It's not the lightest bag out there, but I think it was designed more for rugged use than minimizing weight. I just got back from a trip to Zion in Utah where a lot of the hike involved boulder-hopping and stream wading, and the bag was right in its element. It got banged around a good big and was partially dunked in water at times, but the inside stayed in mint condition. I would be very comfortable recommending this bag to any pro or friend that I know.

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I traveled to the Alps this past year and used a Lowepro Passport Sling to hold a similar amount of equipment. It is a sling style, which I thought blended in nicely with the locals, even at the high traffic European airports and train stations. It obviously isn't a great idea for serious hiking, but I carried it as a sling for some semi-intensive 3-4 hour hikes through the Alps. Another benefit I found with this bag, is that it was fully collapsible, allowing me to fold it up if I decided to throw my gear into my clothing backpack(Osprey Porter).

If you do end up choosing a backpack, I would consider something that doesn't scream out photography equipment bag, or potentially cover up the logos with some tape as not to draw attention to camera equipment.

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I also though about buying a photo backpack, but this did not solve the problem when I have a big backpack and do not want to leave the camera on my neck or pull it out every time I need it.

Finally I chose Lowepro Inverse 100 AW which is able to carry my Pentax K-x + 18-55 kit lens, a telephoto zoom lens, filters etc. Advantages which convinced me buying it:

1) it is possible to put inside my K-x with mounted 70-300 lens, in vertical position - easy to put in, easy to pull out

2) it is beltpack and you can use it like a normal beltpack and it also has carrying strap to be used as shoulder pack. So you can use it without problem together with any other bag. If the bag is full or (and) you need to fasten firmly, then you can (and I sometimes do it) use both shoulder and belt strap.

So I tak my Inverse and use it together with a big or a small bag.

PS: this is not photo related, but very useful - I recommend to buy Source Convertube for drinking - you do not have to pull out a bottle for drinking so you can drink while walking and use the "drinking breaks" (when travelling in group) for taking photos.

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