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For the past 10 years I've been carrying my camera in shoulder bags and it had been like that in jungles, mountains or city trips.

Now, as I'm reaching my 30s carrying the camera in that style is getting worse and worse. Doing city trips is not much fun any more as I feel that stinging pain on my shoulders in the evening and the day after.

This weekend was bad in particular as I joined my friend on a ski tour in the alps (5h) and carrying that bag was draining my stamina to a point where it's just not tolerable any more. After removing all the filters and whatever I had in that bag it shouldn't be more than 1,5kg - still it felt unbearable after 4h ascent.

Having a camera-rucksack is not really an alternative as I'm skilled with fetching the camera (I'm wearing it under my back or slightly half on my hips, already knowing where I find what without looking).

Putting more weight on my hips or shoulders isn't a big deal, for most journeys I end up carrying 20-30kg and (so far) don't suffer from severe problems.

The bag I'm having is one from the higher segment and I enjoy it for most of its features (compact, my camera fits perfectly, space for filters and some notes). A Thinktank Retrospective 7 to be clear. But there's something I have to change as in spring/summer I will do tours over several days.

Any suggestions what would help?

  • "Having a camera-rucksack is not really an alternative"... I too prefer shoulder bags, but on my own last trip I finally decided it's going to have to be a camera backpack from now on. There are lots of options, and modern design innovations for reasonably hassle-free access to gear. Re-consider. – osullic Feb 18 at 11:49
  • I once had a great bag which was a camera rucksack that had a long strap and side openings, so it could be used as a shoulder bag during the shoot. Don't remember the make, but the idea was a great one. – user59085 Feb 18 at 12:41
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    @osullic - I get your point and would like to agree, but usually I'm having a rucksack already (sometimes two...) which makes another one really the last option I want to consider – Qohelet Feb 18 at 13:23
  • Is it just your camera in the bag? I often use a small pack for most of the gear, small shoulder bag for camera plus lens or two. Swapping to backpacked gear does suck, but it’s usually far between shots. Use webbing and a ‘biner to secure shoulder bag to backpack when hiking so that the weight transfers to your back/hips – Hueco Feb 18 at 18:31
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    "Now, as I'm reaching my 30s..." 30s? Wait until your 50s or 60s! – Michael C Feb 19 at 9:52
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Your question indicates you already know the answer: Get a different bag that distributes weight differently, across your shoulders and hips. The sooner you find something with better ergonomics, the sooner you can learn to work with it efficiently. The longer you delay switching, the more likely an injury will eventually force you to switch.

Messenger-style bags with with canvas straps should be used for short periods of time. Longer than about 15 minutes, long enough to walk across a small campus or to enter a building from a vehicle, causes excessive musculoskeletal strain. As we age, our bodies are less able to tolerate minor damage, and "normal" activities can cause pain, as you've noticed. This is your body telling you that (potentially serious) injury is imminent and it's a bad idea to continue.

A temporizing measure you can consider is to replace the strap with one containing neoprene, which can absorb energy before it is transferred to your body. This would allow you to use the bag longer before experiencing discomfort. However, I strongly suggest you switch, sooner rather than later, to a different style of bag that is designed to be used for longer periods of time.

  • Do you maybe have any ideas if it's possible to modify my already existing bag? – Qohelet Feb 18 at 11:46
  • A Thinktank Retrospective 7 (thinktankphoto.com/products/retrospective-7) – Qohelet Feb 18 at 21:58
  • Do you have any strong recommendations @xiota? I've been thinking if there is a way to somehow tie it to the rucksack rather than my shoulder – Qohelet Feb 19 at 10:00
  • What rucksack do you have? Some have systems for attaching additional compartments/bags. But since your messenger bag isn't designed to be attached that way, you risk having it come detached and damaging equipment. Also, it could throw off balance of rucksack, possibly risking injury to yourself. – xiota Feb 19 at 14:37
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Try a "slingshot" bag. Some have extra straps to balance the weight on the two shoulders when going for long walks. You can usually roll the whole thing around your shoulder to bring the bag in front of you for easy access to the contents.

  • Not sure if that's the right one for me as I'm usually wearing a rucksack already. Even though the idea is not bad. – Qohelet Feb 18 at 14:00
  • You can use it "backwards" with the bag in front of you, and the strap in your back under the rucksack. – xenoid Feb 18 at 16:41
  • Sounds unfortunately more like a workaround rather than a solution :/ – Qohelet Feb 19 at 9:59
  • @Qohelet Your desired solution does not exist. You're going to have to find something that distributes the weight more evenly over your body in a symmetrical way. – Michael C Feb 19 at 10:04
  • @MichaelC - not sure if symmetrical is actually required. From my perspective it's more a question on where the weight is distributed rather than how. Most modern rucksacks try to put the weight on your hips rather than on the shoulders. – Qohelet Feb 19 at 10:11
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You need to find a way to distribute the weight more evenly over you shoulders and/or abdomen and/or hips. The more symmetrically the weight is distributed, the better.

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