If there’s one thing I don’t like when I’m working it’s being weighed down with loads of stuff. As much as I can I like to be out in the field with one camera, one or two lenses, and that’s it. I finish at the end of the day completely covered in dust, with rips in my jeans and mud on my face from crawling on the ground or climbing something without really paying much attention to anything else but getting a good shot.
Usually I can leave my bag in the car, but sometimes it needs to come with me into the field and for that I've always just used my every day backpack. But at the beginning of this year when I invested in some new equipment, I tried traveling with my old bag and worried the whole time about the state of my camera. It goes through so much already in the dusty places I work, traveling along the bumpiest roads you can imagine, getting caught in the rain, intense heat waves and general wear and tear – the last thing I need is for it to meet its end in a flimsy backpack.
So I did my research on proper professional camera bags, and I just couldn’t find one that I liked! Either I didn’t have enough equipment to fill them or they just screamed “there’s a camera in here for anyone who’s interested!!!” by their appearance. Or they just weren’t tough enough.
Eventually I had an idea that maybe I could just create my own camera bag. A few brands come to mind when you think of outdoor bags, but Fjällräven has always been a favourite of mine. They were kind enough to let me test out one of their bags on my last trip to India and it worked perfectly. I chose Rucksack No. 21 Large and went for the Autumn Leaf colour.
I bought some camera bag inserts off Amazon and set about constructing a camera bag set up that worked for me and all the lenses and lighting equipment I use. And a few days later I was off to India again to put it to the test!
And of course it did everything I needed and more. I thought I would miss having lots of pockets, but that just meant I spent less time trying to find my memory cards and remember where I put things. I was worried it may be a bit too small to fit two lenses, flash equipment, water, food, clothes, a torch, chargers, my laptop, and a whole long list of stuff but it turns out the Rucksack No. 21 is a bit of a Mary Poppins bag with a secret extension.
(^^perhaps most importantly, having an awesome field bag leaves your hands free to cuddle baby goats^^)
It also offered lots of support for my back which I really appreciated - all this stuff is heavy! And it’s waxed canvas exterior meant that my equipment was protected from the dust and the rain. Also it was really easy to get in and out of which is necessary when I needed to access my camera in a hurry, and also for the four internal flights I did in a week on this particular trip to India where I needed to get my laptop out each time for security.
But most of all I love owning something which will be a part of who I am as a photographer for years to come. These bags are built to last and just having that peace of mind knowing my equipment is safe makes my job a whole lot easier. And while it may not be a traditional choice for a photographer’s bag, being able to build my own bag interior worked great for me and I would highly recommend it, because each photographer’s setup is unique to them.
All photos of me taken by Jamie