Friday, 5 December 2008

Carrying Cameras

The latest edition of TGO magazine (January 2009, even though it’s early December) includes my review of a selection of camera bags (there’s lots of other good stuff including an excellent piece by Ed Douglas about the ridiculous media storm and the idiotic and disturbing statements by people you might think should know better such as the Cumbria director of public health on the recent Original Mountain Marathon). Unfortunately I could not include my favourite camera bags, which I’ve been using for over 25 years, because they are no longer made. Camera Care Systems (CCS) began making camera bags in the early 1980s and in my opinion nobody has bettered their designs. I’ve lugged their bags many thousands of miles through desert and forest and snow on long walks and they’ve always protected my cameras well. I’ve even had them bounce down a few thousand feet of ice and snow without damaging my cameras. But CCS are no more so for new bags people have to look elsewhere.

Writing about camera bags reminded me of a query that comes up regularly on outdoor and photographic forums, which is how to carry a camera when hiking. There are many options, some involving complex tangles of straps and buckles that look far to restrictive and time-consuming to me. I worked out a solution that I find comfortable when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail many years ago and wanted two SLRs – one for colour film, one for black and white – easily accessible but protected in padded bags. After attaching the bags to my pack hipbelt and shoulder straps in various ways I discovered that it was best to keep them completely separate from the pack. I slung them bandolier style across my body on wide straps so the bags rested below my ribs and found this didn’t restrict movement and actually felt quite comfortable. I’ve carried my SLR cameras like this ever since, though on most trips I only carry one plus a compact as backup. This simple but effective carrying system can be seen in the photo, taken on the GR20 in Corsica a few years ago when I carried two SLRs again – one for digital, one for film this time. The cases are CCS ones but the method works well with other bags. I’ve recently carried LowePro, Zing, Ortlieb, Kata and Crumpler bags like this and found them comfortable.

Photo info: On the GR20 in Corsica. Canon EOS 300D, Canon EF-S 18-55 lens @22m, f5.6@1/100, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.


  1. Think Tank seem to get good reviews, but never seen one!!


    PS Must ask my local shop where my TGOs are, they seem to have stopped!!

  2. For those who just carry compact cameras in cases with thin carrying straps which can be uncomfortable under rucksack straps, a good way to carry them is by creating a simple loop in the strap to make it shorter and fastening it around the waist. Simple but effective.

  3. I have to confess that during my own PCT hike I simply slung my D-SLR over my shoulder, on the supplied strap.
    During rain I'd stash it into a drybag in my pack but it spent most of the six months hanging loose.
    On two occasions the strap broke - both times at the thin piece of webbing where it attaches to the camera - it'd been worn down by the constant bouncing on my chest.
    Fortunately on both occasions I was wearing my pack and the rest of the strap was caught beneath it so though the cameras swung wildly the pack caught it and it never hit the ground.
    I do have a CCS bag (Hippo?) but hate the constraint of having to get my camera out, then put it away, then get it out again...
    The camera does still work perfectly though the lens suffered from occasional moisture ingress once I got into more humid Oregon and Washington.
    Congrats by the way on the OWPG award Chris - great piece to win the award for too.

  4. You're a braver man than me John! Actually when I expect to be taking pictures frequently and I'm on a good path I do carry my camera out of the bag.

  5. At the moment I use a Lowepro Toploader using the belt loop on the back of the loader onto the waist belt on pack, use a carabiner to hold it in place - only really works well on an Aether pack, due to metal pole to clip it to. Hope to try to fragment something similar to a smaller lighter Atmos 50, but don't think it will be as good. Couldn't possibly just sling it on my neck in front of me - that swinging back and forward (of camera) would drive me wild. Can't put it over my shoulder / neck as in your pic, Chris, as it cuts off my blood to my head (no bad thing). So to be honest - still working on it, once I give up the Aether.... can't see that much, even for a day walk, all I do. Yep, I know mad as a hatter ;-)

    PS - the newsagent hasn't dfelivered a TGO since August, yet still on books, not charged me, thankfully. When is the last date to get a copy of the article?

  6. Hi Chris, is there anyway to get a spell checker working on a blog, hate messing up your blog, just spottted a misstake above - sorry ;-)


  7. I had an old Camera Care Systems bag which after many years' use finally gave up the ghost. On the off chance I might be able to get a replacement, I found that they're back! See

    1. Unfortunately not. If you click on dealer locator it says "The owners or Camera Care Systems have now retired all of the remaining stock has been sold to RK Photographic Unit 7 Devonshire business Centre, Cranborne Road, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. EN6 3JR

      Tel: 01707 643953
      We have kept the dealer locater in the chance that you local dealer might have the case you require. "