My “In the Field” Photography Gear Bag


I had a few people ask me yesterday (after the Story Behind the Photo post) about which bag I carry when I’m out in the field. That’s easy! I’ve had the same bag for years now and, no matter how many other bags I try, I find myself going back to this one. It’s called the Boda Bag. I first found this bag about 5 years ago from my good friend Jeff Revell. I bought my first one right after that and as soon as they came out with version 2, I bought that one as well.

It was designed by Jim Garner (a wedding photographer), but I find it suits my hiking, outdoor and landscape shooting, as well as it does my portrait shoots.

It’s A Lens Bag – Not A Camera Bag
The first thing to know about the Boda Bag is that it’s a lens bag, not a camera bag. So you’re not meant to pack everything into it. For the most part, you’re supposed to be carrying your camera and just storing lenses and any small accessories in the bag. However, for me, since I generally only have 2 lenses in the bag, I can get the camera in there too if I need my hands free. It’s a little snug (really snug if you have a battery grip), but it can still be done.

It’s Not A Travel Bag
It’s also not a travel bag. When I travel I swear by the ThinkTank Airport Airstream. I pack my Boda bag full of clothes and stuff and put it in my big suitcase. Then, when I’m going out into the field, I load what I need into the Boda Bag.

For my landscape work, I make it a point to travel light. One camera body and (usually) two lenses. Maybe a few filters, an extra battery, memory cards and a bottle of water. So this system works perfectly for me because it fits all of that, and everything has it’s own little place.

I Am On The Lookout For Something New
All of this said, like every photographer out there, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect bag. We all probably have 3-4 of them (maybe more) in our closets right? ;) As I get more adventurous in my outdoor photography goals, I think I’m going to need something more backpack-like. The Boda Bag sits around your shoulder and tends to dangle if you’re moving around. It’s almost like a messenger bag, so you can picture what happens as you start climbing up and down things. So far I haven’t found anything better though, and regardless of what bag I may eventually choose, the Boda Bag will always be one of the ones I go to if I’m just walking around and want to travel light.

But… if you have any good, light, and easily accessible suggestions I’m all for it, so please let me know. Thanks!

  • http://500px.com/TripleMMM Manfred

    Hey Matt,
    I swear by the Kata Bumblebee 222 UL! It’s basically a hiking backpack made into a camera bag, with all the benefits of both worlds.
    You got enough space for a lot of gear (I can pack my D90, Tokina 11-16 2.8, 35 1.8, 50 1.8, 105 2.8 macro, 18-200 zoom, Tamron 17-50 2.8, 2 speedlights, filters, batteries and still have space for more), an additional space for hiking stuff (spare clothes, food etc), a tripod holder, a holder for a water bottle and several small compartments for little accessories.
    The bag alone is super light (UL stands for ultra light, and it’s not just marketing blah blah) and very sturdy, perfect build quality. It has a mesh at the back for ventilation of your back and an aluminium frame that keeps the shape, so it’s very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I use it for travelling long distances and hiking in the mountains (in Swizerland) and really enjoy carrying it!
    Hope that helps!
    Love your blog,
    cheers
    Manfred

  • Dave

    Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW Backpack is a great bag for day trip activities. I’ve hiked Mt Rainier on a rainy day, mountain bike 28 miles in Moab (with 1 over-handles-wipe out), and many other outdoor excursions. It also has a hydration sleeve which is essential. Sweet bag with a decent price. Thanks for your blog.

  • http://gravatar.com/skazzwalker Skazzwalker

    Hi Matt, what do you think about convertible belt bags? I hate dangling too, so I bought a ThinkTank Speed Racer. It can be used like a messenger bag, but can also be secured with a belt-like system. The only problem is that is really HUGE!

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      It doesn’t look like it frees me up much more than what I have does now. I see it converts to a belt, but if you’re really moving around that would get just as cumbersome as the shoulder bag would I think. Thanks though :)

  • Dennis Zito

    Hi Matt, I’m still on the search for a good travel camera also. I have the Lowepro sling back pack and It’s awkward get it on and off my back. I spend most of my time carrying it by the handle on top, which after a while it gets really heavy. In the last two trips, I’ve taken my camera vest and load it up with what I need for the particular shoot. I’m looking for a light wait double strap back pack that will carry two camera bodies, two additional lenses and misc. filters, cleaning stuff, extra cards and etc. Anyone out there have any suggestion? Your Boda back looks pretty interesting I’ll check it out.

    Thanks,

    Dennis

    • http://gravatar.com/skazzwalker Skazzwalker

      Maybe ThinkTank Shape Shifter?

      • http://www.davidstaggsimages.com David

        Shape shifter not really easy to work out of. I am thinking of trying something from fStop with their internal bag and then has storage for food and other items when hiking on the trail

    • http://laurenlindley.wordpress.com Lauren Lindley

      Hey Dennis! I used to travel with a lowe pro sling and I found that the restriction of having it on only one shoulder was really messing my back up. I swapped to the medium sized Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag and it’s been the best choice ever. Holds my camera + 2 1/2 (on small 35 mm) extra lenses and I can fit a flash across the top if I want and the best part is that the insert comes out so I can pack it flack in my luggage, use the messenger on the plane as a carry on for reading or whatever other materials, and then load it up when I get to my destination. I also like that it’s not a camera company bag so it’s a bit less obtrusive and obvious when I’m in foreign countries or dicey areas.

  • http://gravatar.com/wgchinn William Chinn

    I understand that it isn’t used as a travel bag, but a tripod goes where? What then needs to be asked, if you don’t carry a tripod, when you need one what is your first method of substitution?

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      I generally carry the tripod. If I’m on a shoot the camera is attached to the tripod as I walk around with it over my shoulder. If I’m moving around between shoots, the camera goes in the bag and I hold the tripod.

  • http://www.joecolsonphotography.com Joe Colson

    The Think Tank Airport Accelerator (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/airport-accelerator.aspx) works for me. It even fits inside a Pelican case if you need to check it for airline travel. It’s a perfect size for a carry-on and has an outside pouch for an iPad or 15″ laptop.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Looks like a great travel bag. Way too much for hiking and shooting outdoors though. I’m pretty happy with my travel bag – I guess I’m hoping to find something that moves around outside with me easier.

  • http://www.martinschiff.com Martin Schiff

    The LowePro Slingshot 200 is ideal for me. I can fit my Canon 5DMKIII with 24-105L lens mounted, and with battery grip, a 70-200 f2.8L lens (or the 100-400L zoom), a couple of smaller prime lenses or wide zooms, a 580EXII flash, other small accessories and they are all accessible without taking it off. Just let it sling around to the front. I can carry it around on my back all day, easily, and I’m quite a bit older than you. ;-) And the new AW version also has a mount for a tripod.

    I was in the bow of an open boat on the Panama Canal, and it looked like it might rain, so I had put my gear in the bag, and pulled out the built in rain cover. Just after I did that, a big barge crossed in front of us, and my wife and I were completely drenched with a bow wave. Everything in the camera bag was dry as a bone.

  • Karyl

    I agree with the first poster, Manfred. I also have the Kata Bumblebee 222 UL and I love it. Being a rather small female (5’3″) it is a beast when packed full of gear but it distributes the weight very well, and is comfortable to carry for extended periods. I used it for for my Nikon D300, flash, 70-200 2.8, 17-55 2.8 50mm 1.4, 10.5mm and a few other usual accessories found in most camera bags . Now that I upgraded to full frame with the D600 I have to fill in some gaps in my lens assortment so I am not carrying as much. Even when I pack all my gear for travel I still had some extra room to pack personal items. It also has a nice size laptop sleeve in the back.

  • http://gravatar.com/accessnancy Nancy Winkelmann

    Well Matt, after searching months for the right camera bag, I ended up with a non-camera bag. I use (and love) the Osprey Warp shoulder bag (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOCbMyDjJSY&feature=relmfu ) The youtube video doesn’t do it justice. It has loads of space – I can carry my 80-200 and 70-300 in the main compartment, and still have lots of space in the remaining compartments/pockets for accessories. It also has an exterior mesh water bottle holder. I love the sling style – I can easily access my stuff without removing the bag – just slide it around to the front, then back. Nothing ever touches the ground. It also has a waist belt to keep it from slipping/bouncing around – great for when I’m running along the sidelines following the action. It’s not padded, but the main section is large enough to accept a removable padded insert, for those wanting more protection. Because I wear my gear, I don’t have to worry about it, and it’s alway there when I need it. I use it for sports shooting, but it’s great for street shooting, hiking, etc. Also, because it’s not a true camera bag, it doesn’t scream “photographer”, and thieves may not give it a second look. Much cheaper option than any other camera bag too :) Highly recommended, still looks great after a year of abuse, and I would buy it again in a heartbeat.

  • Lynn Rogers

    Hi, Matt – I will be very interested to see what you choose. I recently did a similar search. I couldn’t decide between one of the smaller Kata Bumble Bee Ultralites or one of their 3-N-1 bags. I opted for a Kata 3-N-1 22″ because it has a sleeve that fits over the handle of my Think Tank Airport Airstream and has a laptop space that will accommodate a water bladder for hikes. It fits my D800 with battery grip & 28-300 lens along with a 16-35 and a 105 micro with plenty of extra room. Along with filters, extra cards and batteries and lunch/snacks, I’m set. Very comfortable to carry as a backpack. I forget I have it on. I’ve have only used it as a backpack but I like the choice of the sling option. I’m still torn about whether I should have gotten a Bumble Bee but I’m very happy with my choice.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Lynn. Thanks so much. I’m going to be in NY next week and I’ll be at the B&H store. I’m going to try one out but this is looking like the bag I’ll go with. I’ll probably go with the 3N1 20 bag instead of the 22 since I don’t need the laptop compartment. But it looks great. Like you, I’ll probably use as a backpack more, but once I start shooting I may put it on as a sling so I can get in and out of it easily if I need. Thanks again!

      • Lynn Rogers

        Another nice benefit of the 3-N-1 is that since you work out of one side, if you put it on the ground you lay it on its other side; so the part that goes next to your back doesn’t get dirty.

  • Heather Zakary

    Hi Matt,

    I’m also on the lookout for a new travel camera bag – I’m off to Africa on a photo tour next Sept. At the moment there are 2 brands that I am looking at. The first one is fstop (http://fstopgear.com/) and the second one is Gura Gear (http://www.guragear.com/). I have a friend who uses one of the fstop bags and swears by it. At the moment that’s the way I’m leaning but I haven’t completely decided.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      They look great! I’m really digging the reviews and look of the Kata 3N1 though. Just watched some youtube videos on it and it looks like exactly what I need. Backpack if you want… sling bag if you want. Easy access when you need it. Plus, the price is good. I’d probably go with the 3N1 20 rather than the 22 since I don’t need to fit a laptop in it.

  • http://muratkazdal.wordpress.com muratkazdal

    Hi Matt,
    Did you ever tried Tamrac Velocity series? I use Velocity 7x and I’m very happy with it. It’s lightweight, fits good to body shape, slings easy, you can carry it back, side or on your chest which I use the most. You can have your camera ready to pull from chest position always. It has some dangling problem when you are in extreme move, but is easy to fix with integrated belt. I bought one large and one medium lens bag to extend it to both sides when needed. I was also searching for a more dedicated hiking photo backpack but later decided to use my normal hiking backpack for hiking gear and use the Velocity on my chest for the camera. It works for me.

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      I haven’t seen it yet but I have to say it looks interesting. The only thing I don’t like is the sling-pack fitting with the bra-like strap. Not crazy about those. Looks like it’ll have the patented man-boob formation as a result of the way the strap goes around you ;)
      I’ll definitely have to check it out though. Looks like a great bag.

  • http://rayjusticephotography@facebook.com Ray Justice

    Hey Matt,
    I just purchased the 3n1-20 as my day trip backpack. It is great. I also have the 3n1-35 for long weekend trips, but can get very heavy when packed. Pay careful attention because Kata has updated the 3n1-20 and B&H show both versions in stock. The new version is more sleek and does not feature the clips to open the side compartments, only has zippers. I have the new version in the 20 and the older version in the 35. Here is a good review on the new version, http://walkingwithcamera.blogspot.ca/2012/08/kata-camera-bag-review.html
    B&H numbers for review are as follows:
    KA31SMB – older version priced at $78.00
    KAKTDL3N120 – new version priced at $99.99
    I don’t know why I went with the new version over the older version, maybe my warped mindset of thinking newer meant better…
    Hope this might help…..
    Thanks
    Ray Justice

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Awesome! Thanks Ray!

  • http://www.studio-toffa.com Thorstein K. Berg

    I swear by Lowepro DryZone Rover. I can fit a 28mm non AI, a Tamron SP 28-75mm f2.8, a Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8, a 2x teleconverter, a pouch with small accessories and a SB-28 speedlight in the camera compartment along with my D800 with a vertical grip attached. In the upper compartment I can store a light windproof jacket, some lunch and a small thermos with coffee and my filter wallets with nd-filters, grad filters and polarizers. There’s also a spot to hang the tripod along with a monopod.
    This bag is what I use when I’m on just a daytrip and go hiking. No need to have a raincover with me if the weather should be bad, since the camera compartment is waterproof. There’s also a included hydrationsystem from Hydrapak (yes I know it’s not as good as Camelbak). The bag has good fit and a good waistbelt.

  • http://www.flysign.ch Olivier Pagès

    Hi Matt,
    I was looking for a long long long time to find a “small enough” but “large enough” bag to carry my MacBook Air, iPad, WacomPad, D4 + SB910 + 3-4 objectives and accessories… I even almost give up finding THE product…
    But honestly, Kata did something amazing with the Revolver bag
    http://www.kata-bags.com/News+%26+Events/News/KATA+Announces+the+Revolver-8+PL+Backpack/27603375
    which I bought last monday here in Zurich and honestly? FABULOUS!!!
    To rotating module to place (5 objectives, inkl. a 70-200 Nikkor) is just incredible.
    Two pockets on both sides allow me to take loads of small stuffs, on top, the 3rd pocket is large enough for all my documents and business cards.
    the look is great too, the weight, just perfect. Price ~$450, but worth it!
    :-)

    • http://mattk.com Matt Kloskowski

      Looks very cool! Just a little too big for what I’m looking for though. And I don’t want my laptop with me so that’s not really a selling point. Remember, this is a field shooting bag for me, not a travel bag. My laptop will most likely be safely back at the room ;)

  • Malka L

    Try lowepro passport sling. It doesn’t look like a camera bag, is gender neutral and almost weightless. I carry a micro 3/4 w up to 3 lenses, a flash other gear plus personal stuff all on a daily basis. My other alternative is a shootsac lens bag and/or photovest depending on what I am shooting with my camera on a sholder strap or fixed on a tripod. I recently traveled via Amtrac and used a Shootsac tote as a combo carryon-purse-camera bag.

  • http://www.jaymitchphotography.com JayM

    Thanks Matt. You may have cost me $200. ;-) I’ve never heard of Boda, but the V3 looks like it would be a great complement for sports shooting. I’m using a Kata 3-N-1 right now which is kind of a PITA (fits my D3s and 70-200 well enough, but hangs awkwardly off my shoulder as I don’t like using a backpack).

  • John Swarce

    Hey Matt:

    I absolutely love my Boda V3 (I bought it on your recommendation on LightroomKillerTips.com)! One of the best bags I own. I did purchase the waist belt for it, but I find it’s not too comfortable when the 70-200 is stored in the bag, It kind of drags down on my hip, so I keep the shoulder strap on….much more comfortable. I may pick up a Boda V3 Jr., as it looks to be a good size when I don’t need to carry many lenses. Adorama has great pricing on the Boda line right now, too!

    The Kata bag you’re looking to get should fit your needs perfectly. I have the Kata 467 (since updated), and it’s built like a tank, very comfortable, and the yellow interior makes everything easy to find.

    Great waterfall post, btw! Love the blog….

    –John

  • Jerry Schwartz

    Matt:
    I also couldn’t find a nice way to carry the camera accessories that I needed in a light weight bag. I think most of us do the same thing; as soon as you reach the site, the first thing you do is remove the camera from the bag and keep it ready to shoot. When I joined the Sierra Club, they sent me a neat canvas back pack, with a large center section, and a few outer pockets. I found it to be great for the camera accessories. I just use the cases that the lenses came with, and put them into the pack. They are easy to get to, and you almost don’t know the pack is on, it is so light. It carries the Sierra logo, so it does not look like it contains camera equipment. I usually use Op/Tech straps to hang the camera right from the shoulder straps of the back pack, eliminating the pressure on my neck.

    • Steve Beck

      For hiking and outdoor I use a lowepro flipside 500aw. Big but not to big. Hold my d800e, d800 and my d600 if I have to but usually my Olympys OMD. Along with 4-5 lens depending the size and which I take, batteries, filters, tripod.

  • http://gravatar.com/mpgillespie Mark

    I’ve been using a non-camera bag for the last couple of years from Orvis. The “Businessman’s Backpack” (I didn’t name it, so don’t flame me) comes in dark green heavy-duty canvas with a lot of leather trim, and has plenty of side and interior pockets. Either one of the shoulder straps can be detached and tucked in to the back pocket to make it a sling bag, and there’s a slip-through port to run the handle for a rolling bag through.

    Padding? There’s a padded pocket that will handle iPads, but I bought a Tenba bag insert at B&H for $20 that gives me fully padded slots for a Canon 60D body with battery grip, two lenses, and all of my audio gear.

    Best of all, it doesn’t look like a camera bag, so it doesn’t get the wrong kind of attention. It does get the right kind, though. I carried it onto a US Airways flight earlier this year as the pilot was coming down the jetway…he did a double-take when he saw it, asked where I got it, and said it was the best-looking backpack he’d ever seen. Pilots carry a lot of crap around in those rolling briefcases, so they know a thing or two about bags.

    Mark

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  • Roger Audy

    Matt, if you’re still looking for a backpack you gotta check out what F-stop has to offer. Great fitting, VERY comfortable all day pack. They have a unique ” Inner Camera Unit ” system that you can customize to fit however much gear you are taking on a particular day. You load up the ICU and slide it in and out. Cool looking packs too, don’t look like typical camera gear packs.