We expect a lot from our gadget bags. They have to be comfortable, durable and fashionable, but still versatile enough to hold everything we want to carry. They must protect our equipment from impact and the weather, plus do it in such a way that our gear is easily accessible. Every type of bag has its strengths and weaknesses. A backpack makes it easier to carry heavy loads, but harder to get at a lens when needed. On the other hand, a good ultralight bag, generally smaller and built with thinner padding, offers sufficient protection, excellent accessibility and the ultimate in comfort.
Tamrac Model 3537 Express 7
Some Choices Thirty years ago, Jim Domke was a staff photographer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He came to the realization that a gadget bag is useless unless a photographer can get at his or her equipment instantly, without lowering the bag from the shoulder. That theme lives on in the current generation of world-famous Domke bags, built for comfort, speed and accessibility. TheDomke F-6 Little Bit Smaller Shoulder Bag (black or sand) is constructed of waterproof, abrasion-resistant canvas and military-specification hardware. It has nine compartments, including two full-length zippered pockets and a padded insert that supports a camera and four lenses. In the opinion of many, this smaller version of the original Domke delivers the ultimate in accessibility. Dimensions: 12x6x7 inches. Estimated Street Price: $85.
National Geographic 2475
After years of designing tactical equipment and body army for elite military and police forces worldwide, the founders of Kata applied their acquired knowledge of flexible, lightweight protection to create some of the most durable and innovative high-tech bags ever made. The Kata GDC SB-907 Reporter Shoulder Case is roomy enough for two D-SLR bodies and up to eight lenses, plus a flash, several accessories and a good-sized sandwich. Modular dividers allow you to create customized internal compartments, and the yellow interior material makes it easy to find small items. Kata’s famous TST (Thermo Shield Technology) provides the highest level of protection against impact and is highly abrasion-resistant, but still very light in weight. Dimensions: 13x21x13 inches. Estimated Street Price: $185.
Available in six sizes to accommodate every need a photojournalist could have, the time-tested Lowepro Stealth Reporter series offers minimum weight with maximum protection. Made of tough ballistic nylon and high-density closed-cell foam, Stealth bags feature heavy-duty metal snaps and fittings, an all-weather cover and attachment loops for optional SlipLock add-on accessories. They also have a handy luggage trolley strap to facilitate use with a rolling bag. The Stealth Reporter D100AW measures about 11x8.5x7.7 inches. The internal padded camera cradle can be removed for a lighter carry. Estimated Street Price: $89.
Sometimes, how much a bag weighs when it’s empty is as important as how much it will carry. Two carrying solutions from Mountainsmith, the Reflex II and Focus II, weigh little but offer a lot in terms of protection and convenience. The Focus II comes in three sizes and resembles a scaled-down messenger bag. The largest version boasts internal dimensions of 8x8.5x2.5 inches and offers highly functional pockets, including a zippered organizer and a back slot that accommodate a reporter’s notebook. The Reflex II has more conventional gadget bag styling and easily holds an SLR and a couple of lenses. Both are perfect examples of ultralight bags that provide plenty of protection without adding additional weight to your load. Estimated Street Price: $80 (Reflex II); $35 (Focus II).