Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Gadget Bag: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...
When you're traveling and you have lots of gear to move through airports, along sidewalks and anywhere else in the urban jungle, a roller bag is a welcome companion
Some rolling bags have multiple personalities, and each persona offers a convenient carrying mode, depending on your mood. Some have tuck-away shoulder straps that convert the unit into a backpack. This is a great feature when the terrain changes from smooth to rugged. Be sure to check how much the bag weighs empty—bags that are inherently heavy can become unmanageable when filled with several pounds of camera and glass. And all bags should have a comfortable, padded handle. The importance of the lesser comfort features, such as zippered outside pockets, seam-sealed rain covers, adjustable tow handles and mesh-net water-bottle holders, are all matters of personal taste.
Ultimately, protection is the most important function of any bag. Examine the unit from the outside in. Does it include a rain cover? Are zippers flapped and self-healing? Is the structural shell durable enough to withstand the tortures of a baggage conveyor belt? Sooner or later, you'll be on a flight that limits carry-on baggage to one piece, and you'll have to decide between your briefcase and rolling photo bag.
The internal design normally includes moveable dividers that are held in place by hook-and-eye fasteners. Check to make sure that the dividers can be repositioned to accommodate the gear you commonly pack and that the camera cradles support bodies with lenses attached. If you often shoot with long zooms, you'll need a suitable configuration in which to store them. Padding can range from flimsy 1/8-inch thick, open-cell foam covered with nylon tricot to the exquisite Thermal Shield Technology material found in Kata bags. The rigid TST components are tough without being heavy, and the Super Nylon exterior material is waterproof, dustproof and abrasion-resistant. Inside, closed-cell foam protects against impact and shock and provides insulation against temperature extremes and moisture.
Last, but by no means least, appearance plays an important role. Many bags are selected solely because of their great looks, not their practical and functional attributes. Follow your taste, but make sure that the bag delivers all of the convenience, comfort and protection characteristics that you'll want to have at the end of the day.
Rolling Bag Selection
The Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker AW takes portability to a new level by offering multiple carry modes. It's an ultra-lightweight, compact all-weather backpack (complete with a disappearing shoulder harness and a waist belt), plus it's a rolling bag with easy-rolling wheels. As a roller, it makes use of sealed bearing wheels to provide smooth, easy rolling and shock-absorbing comfort. The extendable tow handle is a single-tube design that's less bulky than its double-tube competitors and is curved to provide ideal balance. Inside, you'll find several pockets and compartments for storing camera equipment and accessories. You can safely stow a 12-inch laptop in the removable padded sleeve and still have room for a D-SLR, four or five lenses, plus a flash and other items. The adjustable padded dividers can easily be reconfigured to handle a wide range of camera body, lens and accessory combinations, while the individual pockets provide convenient storage for smaller items, such as PDAs or GPS systems. The Rolling CompuTrekker AW also includes Slip- Lock attachment loops for add-on accessories and a tripod holder on the backpack's face for hands-free carrying and balanced weight distribution. Estimated Street Price: $199.
From the Kata Global Digital Collection comes the OC-84 Photo Organizer. It will hold two to four D-SLR camera bodies, six to eight lenses and several large accessories, plus a 17-inch notebook computer. It offers superb protection, thanks to the application of advanced materials like TST (Thermal Shield Technology), impact insulation, cross-linked foam and synthetic thermo-rubber shock absorbers. There's a handy external pocket for small items and an internal accessory pocket arrangement for larger ones. And it has shoulder straps, a pair of nicely padded handles and two straps for attaching a tripod. The wide wheelbase provides rolling stability, and the outer skin resists moisture, UV light and other perils. Estimated Street Price: $200.
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