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|| News Item: Posted 2009-11-09

Travel Smart: Using A Daypack: Trying Not To Say Steal Me
By Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo

Photo by Lily Fisher / Think Tank Photo

Photo by Lily Fisher / Think Tank Photo

Vince Laforet (right) inspects the Shape Shifter in San Francisco while Doug Murdoch (left) and Edmund Terkopian ask questions. P
For most pro photographers, especially photojournalists, the idea of heading out on a new day-even a day off-without carrying at least one camera is unthinkable. The carrying solution most often used is a daypack, either one designed specifically for photography or a simple off-the-shelf bag. Each has its flaws.

Daypacks designed for photography traditionally feature too much foam padding. For thieves this is like a "steal me" sign for this easily identifies it as photo backpack.

When asked, I sometimes recommend that photographers buy a regular daypack (any brand you want) and fill it with modular components that can later be used to hold your photo gear. Here are the advantages:

1. It doesn't look like a photo backpack. Even when modular components are put inside, the bag will wrinkle and sag like a normal daypack.

2. You can choose a brand that not associated with photo gear, something stealthy, like The North Face or Osprey.

3. When the padded modular components are put inside, the bag will remain extremely flexible and will easily change shape when you want to put it into the overhead compartment or under the seat on an airplane.

4. Because the bag does not have any built in dividers or foam, you can get more gear into it.

Some people in the photo industry consider it blasphemy that I would recommend something other than a "photo" backpack. But the truth is that it works: Many photographers use this technique because it is a viable, simple, and inexpensive solution.

For example, you could load your camera bodies in a Chimp Cage or a Digital Holster, a wide angle in Lens Changer 50, a 24-70 in a Lens Changer 35, and your strobe in a Lightning Fast, and simply put the components in the daypack. Some photographers attach the components to a belt, and put the entire belt pre-loaded into the daypack.

The Shape Shifter is a good example of a hybrid between a regular daypack and a photo backpack. Because your camera bodies and lenses go into dedicated neoprene pockets, there is no foam around the edges of the bag, or movable dividers. Even when fully loaded, the Shape Shifter it looks like a regular daypack.

The truth is if you are carrying something that looks like a foam box, potential thieves are going to know that you have electronics in it, regardless of its color or the logo on the bag. A viable alternative for carrying your gear is to use a regular daypack, or a hybrid daypack like the Shape Shifter.

(Doug Murdoch is president and lead designer of Think Tank Photo. You can see the full line of TTP products at the company's website:

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