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|| News Item: Posted 2005-11-30

The Perfect Bag?
By Bob Deutsch, USA TODAY

Photo by

Mountainsmith Tour Pack
Ok, maybe not. Actually, definitely not. Every one of us is always looking for that perfect roller, or belt system, or backpack. And we sure spend lots of money looking for it ... just one look at Bert Hanashiro's garage will confirm that.

But I've learned that there is no one bag that will work best in different situations. So the answer is to specialize. Get several and use the correct tool for the correct job. That means spending cash, or convincing a budget weary ME to cough up precious dollars, but so be it. Otherwise, it's bad backs, missed pictures, lost gear.

On a plane, it's a backpack or roller. But ask me which, and the answer is "yes". You want one of each. For a heavy load, with big overhead bin: gotta be a roller to save my back. A good one.

Same for flying on commuters, like the CRJ: only a well made roller will survive the "gate check"... no room in the overhead here. But if there is any chance my case will not make it in the overhead due to a smaller compartment or Mrs. Brunhilda being cranky, and have to go through the normal baggage, I'll give up the roller for a slightly smaller backpack, like my Lightware Digital Backpack. It's a fine line as to which will be best, depending on the planes. Plan ahead and check out what you are flying.

Same for the three choices for carrying gear while shooting. Like fine wines, each has its own time. I love my Mountainsmith Tour pack, and use it for the job where I can wear it on my waist or over shoulder till I get to my spot, then put it down ... like a basketball game or baseball game. But not when I'm moving around.

If I'm in and out of a car, as in campaign style coverage, then the "Chest Vest" is the clear winner, since fanny packs or belts are hard to squeeze into a packed van sitting next to that fat guy from the network. But if you are in a sensitive security situation, other than with Secret Service agents who are used to it, the Chest Vest can scare the heck out of everyone, hence it's nickname of "Jihad" vest. I once wore one to a game, loaded with remote gear and batteries on the way up to a catwalk, and had a red Paramount push button cord sticking out. Panicked fans were giving me lots and lots or room as I walked around.

Photo by

Think Tank "Pro Modulus" belt system
My favorite solution these days for jobs where I'm moving, like football, is the Think Tank "Pro Modulus" belt system. The belt itself is very well designed, and will stay on my waist while running up and down the sideline.

There is nothing more embarrassing than having the fanny pack slip down around your legs and taking a flyer in front of 60,000 drunken fans. And the individual items are terrific ... each designed to hold a piece of gear securely but letting you get it in and out fast. Of all my bags and packs, it is my favorite. And one new piece in the line is so cool it is worth singling out: the "Lens Drop- In". It is a small case just for an extender, with a drawstring top, that allows you to put away and retrieve an extender with minimal effort and maximum speed. For football and baseball, where I am constantly putting on and taking off the extender, the "Lens Drop-In" is brilliant! I'd recommend getting one of these even if you can't get the's that good.

Also new, The "Whip it Out" case (you gotta love the names) is made for a 70mm - 200mm zoom, and is also well designed to quickly but securely store and retrieve a long zoom. It has a zipper on the side to make the fit snug, providing balance between a tight secure fit and easy access to the lens in a hurry. It works really well. The Think Tank designers have spent the time to research and build in the quality to make out jobs easier.

So if you ask me what's the best bag, be prepared to pony-up and specialize. Or get a guided tour of Hanashiro's garage.

(Bob Deutsch is a staff photographer with USA TODAY. He is a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter and despite his ribbing of Bert Hanashiro he is one of his best friends. Allegedly.)

Related Links:
Deutsch's member page

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