Photo bag setup
This is the setup I take with me aboard ship or other vacation I go where I want my photo equipment. It consists of a Tamrac 5375 - Adventure 75 photo backpack, a netbook strapped to the front of the backpack, and various Tamrac MAS modules strapped to the sides. While it is a bit bulky in this configuration, the only time I am lugging this around is when we are boarding the ship on the first day. After the initial boarding, I split the components up. I came up with this system after owning at least 5 different types of photo backpacks, none of which seemed to work very well (eBay is a good place to sell used ones). They were either too large, too small, or did not carry what I needed.
The netbook bag has a custom strap I made, which can be disconnected from the main backpack in seconds. As any time you go through a x-ray machine you have to separate a computer, externally mounting the computer to the outside of the backpack makes this task easier. The bag also includes the power supply, an iPod charging jack, a small mouse, and for some reason, a small camera tripod. I really like the netbook, while I have a larger (and more powerful) laptop at home, I find the netbook is a lot easier to carry, and while it is not that powerful, I can at least download photos from my cameras and do some editing. The netbook won't run Photoshop, but beyond that it does surprisingly well. And if its lost or damaged, I am only out $250.
One extreme advantage to this method is carry-on aboard an air flight. Tamrac does make several bags with internal laptop pouches, however, they border on not being carry-on capable. In fact, I did try a CyberPack 6, but found it was on the borderline of being too large to take on-board. With this setup, since the netbook is detachable, there is no issue with it's ability to be carried on a flight.
Although I have several different modules, these are the typical modules I attach to the backpack. From left to right;A Sunkist Model 20038 Backback Umbrella; my underwater camera, consisting of a standard Nikon S200 point-and-shoot digital camera fit into a Fantasea FS-200 underwater housing, which is contained within a Tamrac MX-5341 Lens Case; A Nikon SB-600 SpeedLight flash with batteries in a Tamrac MX-5383 case, and finally, my iPod Touch with headphones and microphone in a LowePro Rezo 30 case. I have learned that the Touch can be indespensible, as the Apps I have loaded include "Nikon School"; a set of photo guides, a PDF reader, so I can carry all my camera manuals as well. In addition, the Touch has WiFi, so I can use everything from e-Mail to Skype from this device. While I can also do this from the netbook, the touch is easy to carry, and often, I will remove the Rezo 30 case and clip it to my belt. If you are not familiar with the iPod Touch, its basically an iPhone without the phone part; and without GPS, and without the Camera. I could do without the camrea, but it would have really been nice to have a GPS receiver in the device.
On the front side, Tamrac has a smaller strap system for the shoulder straps. Here, I keep a Nikon Coolpix S560 digital point-and-shoot camera in a Tamrac MXS-5680 pouch. Like the other modules, this one can be removed, and its small enough I can attach it to my belt or simply put it in my pocket.
After all of the attachments and modules are removed, I am left with a Tamrac 5375, Adventure 75 photo backpack, which forms the heart of my setup.
The photo bag contains all of the equipment you see here. It includes; a Nikon D70 DSLR, Canon FS-20 digital flash memory video camrea, 18mm~70mm zoom, 55mm~200mm stabilized zoon, 70mm~300mm zoom, 10.5mm fisheye, and 50mm prime lenses. Also I carry several filters, battery chargers, cables, cleaning kits, a Think Tank flash card pouch full of memory cards, and other stuff. For some reason, I feel all of it is necesary.
Depending on my vacation, I may take different items, so I have about a dozen different modules so that I can take what I want. And even more useful, I take a small sling-bag that these modules can attach to as well. Tamrac calls their module systems (Modular Accessory System) and SAS (strap Accessory System) which are just catchy labels for the ability to add storage pouches to either the backpack sides (MAS), or on the shoulder straps (SAS).
There is an upper and lower MAS attachment point on each side of the backpack, which is nothing more than a 2" wide nylon webbing sewed to the pack horizontally. The module then has a vertical flap, closed at the bottom with with Velcro and canvas snaps that fasten the module to the pack.
To carry my desired equipment, I have modified the backpack by fitting several "D-rings" to existing loops sewin into the bag. Why Tamrac didn't add these to the bag to begin with is a mystery to me, but by buying heavy duty non-welded rings, I was able to bend the backside enough to slip them on. I then bent the backsides back into position,and the D-Rings look like they came from the factory on the bag.
Another modification I made was to protect the lower straps on the bag. The bag has shoulder straps with a sternum strap, and lower waist straps, which are actually located a bit above your waist. I rarely use the lower straps, unless I am carrying the bag a long way as it takes that much longer to don the bag. So these straps tend to hang loose. But there is a danger here, as many x-ray machines have rollers and other items that can catch and bust either a strap or the plastic buckles. So to protect the lower strap when I put the bag into the machine, I devised this cover. It merely consists of a bit of ballistic nylon with some binding around the pheriphery, and some velcro to hold it closed. Since we bought a commercial sewing machine to maintain the canvas on our boat, we have found all sorts of other things to make with it. The cover I made simply wraps around the lower strap to keep the ends from flying around and getting caught on something.
I even found these cool Rainkist Model 20038 Backback Umbrellas, and created a strap so they can be attached to the bag's MAS and SAS mountings.
Finally, I do not take the bulky photo backback when I am sightseeing, its simply too large and bulky. If I am driving, I leave it in the trunk of the car, and just take out what I need. I also often pack this small Tamrac Velocity 6x sling bag, which will hold my DSLR with a lens, as well as a few accessories. And if I need to, I can add two MAS modules to the bag. I usually pack this bag empty in my check-in luggage so that I don't have to bother with carrying it. If it becomes lost, its just a few dollars, and being empty, no equipment is lost or damaged.
Conclusion: I created this system from the need to be versatile, and have found that if part of the system is lacking; I'll just modify or make a component - its not that hard. Additions I may include in the future are a Tamrac water bottle module, and finding some way to attach my monopod. But you could go overboard with adding stuff to the setup, so I don't want to do that.
Tamrac photo bags
LowePro photo bags
Underwater housings for Nikon and Canon cameras
Think Tank professional photo bags