Long ago I found the commercially available camera backpacks to be over-engineered, too heavy and cost too much. Sure, encased in pounds of high density foam, your equipment would likely survive a drop of 30 feet. But, I asked myself, how often is this an issue.
My 4×5 equipment lives in a Dana (RIP), front loading Pack with the camera and lenses all safe in Gnass Gear (RIP?) cases. The pack is made for backpacking and other backcountry uses and easily carries 35-40 pounds. The camera infrastructure, the pack and the dedicated bags, weigh just 6 pounds (contrast this to the roughly equivalent Lowepro Photo Trekker which is nearly twice as heavy.) I figure it’s good for no more than a twelve foot drop. No, I’m not going to test it.
As I collected digital camera gear my first impulse was to go the build-it-yourself route. Once again, I needed a pack that was designed to carry well and was a front or panel loader. These are scarce and the ones that are available all had the same flaw – the front “rainbow” zipper stopped far short of the bottom of the pack
As Mark Dubovoy discovered and writes about over at Luminous Landscape the folks at RPT have a nice solution for large format types. The combine a modified Kelty Redwing Pack and custom lens cases into a decent carrying, lightweight system. And, to their everlasting credit, they modify the Redwing Pack so that the front panel zipper extends from the floor of the pack. But the system is intended for large format use…
So I bought one intent on making it work for DSLR cameras and lenses. A visit to the local Real Camera Store ™ solved the problem. Pelican makes a padded divider case that fits perfectly and they had one in the back. No I don’t have the model number but here is the link to the Pelican Case Accessories Page. It’s there somewhere.
The RPT Modified Redwing Pack with the Pelican Case padded divider weigh very little, provide plenty of protection for gear and look like this:
But, this nice carrying, light weight combo is too big to fly internationally.
So I fly with a Lowepro All Weather Mini Trekker and collapse the RPT/Pelican Pack and ship it in the belly of the plane. At 6’2″ the Mini Trekker is simply unwearable in the field. The pack is too small in every way but in particular, the waist belt is useless so your shoulders take the entire load.
Note how much longer the torso is on the RPT Kelty pack. Also, it is nicely adjustable and has a real, glad to help with the load, waist belt.