Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have a Lowepro Slingshot 200 sling bag that I use to carry my Canon Rebel XSi with two zoom lenses. I love the bag for day trips, but it doesn't work so well for airplane trips or anytime when I need to carry the camera gear and anything else.

When I take it on the plane, there's barely enough extra space for a paperback book and an apple much less a jacket or any of the other things I might normally bring as carry on. Also, the bag is designed for easy access to the camera, but to fish out a guide book I have to unzip the entire bag.

What I'm looking for is way to transport my camera gear with enough space for and easy access to additional items like a guide book, jacket, my lunch etc. Any suggestions?

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I'd love to know if there's a carry-on bag out there that fits SLR and lenses plus a desktop-replacement notebook - i.e 40x30cm in size, 4cm to 6cm deep (approx 16x12in, 1.6in to 2.4in deep) - not one of the compact slim macbooks many bags are pictured with. –  Peter Boughton Sep 28 '10 at 21:39
    
I'm a bit curious if there are any camera backpacks that would fit an 18.4" laptop. I have a Sony VGN-AW190, which is a pretty large laptop with full 1080p screen. I use it for photography work when away from home, but it doesn't fit in any of the packs I've ever looked at. The biggest ones seem to stop at 17". –  jrista Sep 30 '10 at 1:59
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Not sure if this is helpful, but most airlines allow you a jacket in addition to your carryon. –  DJClayworth Oct 4 '10 at 20:51
    
I just wonder -- are you talking of hand baggage or checked baggage? –  Simon A. Eugster Apr 8 '11 at 6:53

11 Answers 11

I use the Think Tank Airport Antidote which not only holds my camera, 6 lenses, flash, teleconverters, and other camera gear, it also holds my laptop and ebook reader. More importantly, it fits inside the carry-on requirements and will slide under the seat of a regional commuter jet.

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I hadn't seen this one, but it looks like a great option! –  chills42 Sep 26 '10 at 2:40
    
I'm very happy with it, it's well designed, and pretty comfortable to wear. –  John Cavan Sep 26 '10 at 12:11
    
There's also the Think Tank Airport Ultralight, which is very similar but with a shallower front pocket and no tripod straps. It looks much smaller and stealthier (I think), and it's slightly cheaper. I like it. –  Scott Carroll Jan 6 '11 at 15:17
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I am considering this backpack, but the body shape and the placement of the straps makes it look uncomfortable (I couldn't find pictures of its back). Do you feel it is comfortable enough to make a day-long hike wearing it, as compared to a backpack with a more "shaped" back? –  rumtscho Apr 16 '11 at 19:56
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@rumtscho - I probably wouldn't want to carry it on long hikes, it is good for travel purposes though and I still use it extensively. –  John Cavan Apr 16 '11 at 20:30

Answering my own question. I did some research and found a few other bags that match my criteria. I don't own them nor I have even seen them in person--just some ideas for other people who are looking for something similar.

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+1 for showing me Kata. It looks sweet! I hope I can find it at a retailer so I can touch and play with it a bit because i don't like buying things based on images alone. –  kacalapy Jan 6 '11 at 16:17

Lowepro Fastpack 250 - Has a padded section for your camera gear, a padded section for your laptop, and a space at the top (easily accesible) for stuff like a book, passport, ipod, etc. Has worked great for me, doesn't break the bank either.

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Second that. The only problem I have with it that it does not fit into carry-in requirement of some european airlines. –  che Jan 6 '11 at 18:58

I have a Kata R-103. It takes my camera and plenty of lenses or other equipment, a 15" laptop and a tripod. If you need space for a bigger laptop, check out the bigger models in the Kata R series. You can easily change the compartments in the inside of the backpack. It is no problem to fit an apple and a book in there.

The backpack has an extremely good quality and is very robust. Furthermore, you can access your camera without taking the backpack off:

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Tamrac 3385 Aero Speed Pack 85 tries to answer these needs.

There is a separate top compartment with enough space for some small items (like a guidebook, tiny umbrella, gorillapod and/or lunch). It isn't too large or convenient; depends on your jacket whether it fits in. Anyway, I very much like the idea of keeping my lunch and my camera gear in separate compartments.

Most importantly for me, there is also a separate compartment for a laptop. It's easy to access and there is more than enough space for my MacBook. I have also used the laptop compartment for things like magazines, paper notebooks, etc.

It's a backpack, but you can use it a bit like a sling bag; there is a convenient side door for camera access.

The camera compartment is actually too large for my needs (Canon 500D); it seems to be designed for huge professional DSLRs. Especially if you happen to have a tiny lens attached (say, 50mm), the camera is a bit too loose for my taste, no matter how you try to adjust the paddings. But on the positive side, there is plenty of space in the bottom compartment for miscellaneous things that you don't need to access too often, like a laptop power adapter, mobile phone charger, etc.

The bag is fairly large; check your airline regulations if you want to play safe.

Edit: Some updates of my user experiences:

  • As I mentioned above, the bag is too large for Canon 500D. However, the size of the bottom compartment seems to be perfect for a 500D with a battery grip attached – this is what I am using nowadays and it is fairly convenient to access.

  • My bag got broken after only some 5 months of frequent use: the zipper of the side door broke apart. Of course I got a new bag as a replacement, but I am a little bit concerned with the durability. If the side door zipper fails, it renders the whole bag pretty much useless – something I would prefer not to happen when travelling.

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I tried some camera bags for travel but never found any that really suited all my needs; instead I converted my daily use Eastpak bag. It's one of the larger models (very rear compartment fits a 17" laptop), and the rear compartment is more than large enough to fit the equipment I usually take when travelling (40D, 17-55, 70-200f4, hoods, some filters). Then there is still the middle compartment and smaller front one, more then enough space for food, books, jacket, ...

I took one of those bulky large white packing materials as found in boxes for pc's etc, cut out the exact shapes of everything and made it a tight fit into the rear compartment. Result: perfect fit for everything, no fiddling with padding and justs fits 50x20x40 or whatever the typical airplane regulation is.

The major withdrawal is getting the camera out does require taking the bag of your back and unzipping the top. And for switching lenses you have to take the entire white piece out. But for the rest I'm very happy with it.

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The Lowepro Compurover should fit your needs. It has 3 compartments, one for a camera plus about 5 lenses (including the one on the camera), one for a laptop (16" fits) and a third with interior pockets for misc items. It also has a fold-out tripod holder.

I do own that one but honestly hardly ever use it. I bought it to travel with one bag but is impractical for my style of photography which requires frequent lens changes and working quickly. Instead I carry a regular small backpack as my airline carry-on PLUS a camera bag that qualifies as a personal item. In my case, it is a Lowepro Nova 200 AW. It fits 2 DSLRs and 6 lenses easily. This particular model is the largest I found to fit the personal item limits based on the top 10 airlines I travel with.

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I see in your answer that you mentioned the Kata 3N1-30 bag. If this is the size you are looking for (it is BIG) than you should consider the 3N1-33 version which has a laptop compartment in its back.

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Not specific to photographic needs, but useful for travellers, the site onebag.com helps people who want to travel light.

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I really rate the FStop range of backs, the Tilopa is about as big as you will be able to carry on, with the interchanagble ICUs you can have a small section for camera gear and a larger one for your other gear.

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I have a variety of different camera bags, backpacks and so on (I have the Slingshot 300AW).

What I have found works best for airplane travel if you're not willing to check a locked Pelican case, is a medium sized Eagle Creek cargo duffle bag, into which I can fit my Sligshot 300AW loaded with anything that can fit, and also a Lowepro Toploader AW 75 (the longest camera case they sell), AND a manfrotto 3051 3-section tripod (nowadays something lighter and a little smaller), plus a number of other things (like a ballhead removed from the top of the tripod).

The camera cases keep things padded, or I can also pad out a few other extra lenses with clothes (Galen Rowell recommended this travel technique even when checking lenses and cameras!!).

The best part about a duffel bag is it looks inconspicuous, it doesn't seem like you have a lot of gear - but even better no-one questions its size to fit in overhead storage. In particular I mentioned it was an Eagle Creek bag because that particular bag has been very strong, and has not had any issues with wear carrying all this gear.

And because you get a personal item in addition to the duffel, you can have a whole separate laptop case - I have a a pretty big bag that I can fit a 17" laptop in, along with a ton of accessories and a few books and a compact external HD (really two, one for backup), as long as it looks like it will go under a seat you are fine. On a regional commuter jet I remove the slingshot and Toploader case from the duffel to carry them on-board with my laptop (they can fit in the smaller overheads) and hand-check the duffle bag (this is the time where whatever is left need to have decent padding).

The downside of this whole system is: no wheels, you'll have to carry everything you can put into it. That's why you should not get anything larger than the medium sized bag...

But again, to re-iterate - the upside is you don't look like you have a ton of photo gear and you'll never have anyone say "that's too big to bring on board".

Now that's just for air travel, you also mentioned you'd like extra space to carry a guidebook and a few extra things while on location. You could get the 300AW, that might have enough space for a guidebook too. Or you could get the long toploader case, a lot of books would fit in the side compartment and you can carry a camera with a lens, plus and extra lens under it if both lenses are not too long. Or just get an iPod touch and use guidebooks from that.

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