Gadget Bag: Ultralight Carry Solutions

Keep things light without sacrificing protection for your cameras and lenses
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gadget bag
Kata GDC SB-907

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, good ultralight carry solutions, generally smaller and built with thinner padding, offers sufficient protection, excellent accessibility and the ultimate in comfort.

gadget bag
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. The Domke 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.

gadget bag
National Geographic

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.

gadget bag
Tenba Shootout

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 11×8.5×7.7 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 8×8.5×2.5 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).

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gadget bag
Lowepro Stealth Reporter D100AW
gadget bag
Think Tank Photo Skins

To prove that you can merge fashion, protection and deep respect for the environment in one bag, the National Geographic Earth Explorer Photo Bag collection combines the ultimate in modern protective carrying technology with a traditional “explorer” look and feel. They’re spacious, nicely padded and finished with the finest snaps and fasteners. Equally important, all bag materials are environmentally friendly and made from naturally sourced, renewable materials. The National Geographic 2475 Medium Shoulder Bag holds a D-SLR, small camcorder and notebook computer, plus lenses and other accessories. It features a padded internal camera cradle, four external pockets and detachable bottom padding. The concealed storage pocket (just right for airline tickets or other documents) makes it great for travel. Dimensions: 11x6x10 inches. Estimated Street Price: $99.

A pioneer in lightweight protection, Tamrac offers so many well-made and useful bags that it’s tough to decide which to carry. For under-the-radar convenience, the elegant new Model 3537 Express 7 Camera Bag provides time-proven functionality in a modern, stylish design. Sort of a cross between an attaché case and a messenger bag, the Express 7 allows quick access to gear without skimping on protection. Adjustable, foam-padded dividers protect and provide customizable internal compartments while front and back pockets give ample space to store smaller accessories. There are several other matching models in the Express series, including backpacks and lightweight shoulder bags. Dimensions: 13x6x10 inches. Estimated Street Price: $49.

gadget bag
Domke F-6

The Shootout series from Tenba includes everything from backpacks to rolling bags to media card wallets. Tenba describes them as being “light on your shoulders but heavy on protection, accessibility and features,” and if you’ve ever worn one, you know that’s dead-on. The Tenba Shootout Small Shoulder Bag measures 11x10x8 inches, yet it provides protection for a D-SLR with a mid-range zoom attached, two additional lenses and miscellaneous accessories. It also looks great and provides handy front and side pockets to store small items. Estimated Street Price: $90.

gadget bag gadget bag
Mountainsmith Reflex II Mountainsmith Focus II

They’re not bags exactly, but they certainly are light. And they live up to their name, Skin, because they’re durable and weather-resistant, but include no fat or padding. Think Tank Photo’s Skin is a modular system of cleverly designed bags, pouches and cases (five in all) that are worn on a dedicated belt. They can be used as a set or in conjunction with any of Think Tank’s other waist-worn carry solutions. In addition to distributing the weight of your equipment in the most comfortable way imaginable, the system keeps your vital accessories and lenses literally at your fingertips. Each piece is flexible so it collapses out of the way when empty. Thesystem accommodates larger lens such as a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, and all cases include seam-sealed rain covers for added protection. Estimated Street Price: $149.

Shoulder Bag Backpack Waistpack Ultralight
Comfort Medium Very High Very High Very High
Protection High High High Medium
Accessibility High Low Very High High
Versatility High Very High Very High Low
Durability Very High Very High High High
Fashion High Medium Low High


Domke (Tiffen)
(631) 273-2500 Kata (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500

(800) 800-LOWE

(800) 551-5889

National Geographic
(Bogen Imaging)

(201) 818-9500 Tamrac
(800) 662-0717
(914) 347-3300 Think Tank Photo
(866) 558-4465