Solution to day packing heavy photo gear

Started Sep 20, 2013 | Discussions thread
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soloryb
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Solution to day packing heavy photo gear
Sep 20, 2013

I have been trying for several years to come up with a way to comfortably hike in the mountains with heavy photo gear. None of the many photo daypacks I've tried could do the job - for a full day. Either they were too small to carry what I wanted or lacked a comfortable waist belt and suspension system. So, I decided to buy the best hiking day pack I could find and convert it into a photo pack.

I've been reading about such conversions for the past few months. The trouble is that I could never come up with a really good padded pack insert that would meet all my particular needs. That is, until now.

The pack I started with is a Lowe AirZone35 Centro. I've hiked and backpacked for several decades and have never found a more comfortable pack. It's incredibly light and well supported and balanced (actually shifts the pack weight forward). It's also the only torso adjustable daypack I could find.

Then I had to find a padded insert that would fit the pack and be deep enough to protect and support a camera with an attached long lens. This was no easy task as there are many different camera pack inserts on the market. The last two pictures show a PacSafe camera insert for a DaySafe 200 pack (available from TravelSafety or Amazon). This insert fits inside the Lowe and is deep enough (12") for protection. I added an extra padded ring (shown in yellow) for when I pack a really long lens with body attached. Otherwise, the insert alone would easily hold a body, 24-70 plus hood.

With the camera and main lens inserted, there's still plenty of room for additional lenses and the top, bottom and left side of the pack are available for plenty of extra food and clothing. There's even a hydration pouch inside the pack and two external mesh canteen pockets . My tripod rides comfortably (read: Doesn't pull you backwards!) in the rear external accessory pouch.

Although this conversion is easily capable of hauling 20 plus pounds of gear all day in comfort, it's not perfect. Access to the camera is through the top compartment which means removing the pack and pulling out the camera for a shot. (I also have a Kata 3N1-30 which slings around quickly to access a camera, but unfortunately it lacks sufficient capacity and balance for a full day's mountainous trekking, so it's compromise time.) I'd rather be comfortable and well balanced, even at the expense of quick camera availability.

I've field tested the above rig over a course of several weeks in hilly terrain. It's all I could hope for but I am still tweaking the way I load it.

Getting ready for a week-long photo trip in the Whites of NH.

Now I'll have to stop myself from carrying too much gearĀ 

soloryb

Lowe AirZone 35 Centro (fully torso adjustable and extremely lightweight).

With tripod in external accessory pouch

Camera body attached to a 70-200 plus teleconverter (and lens shade if you like). Note extra padding ring.

Empty. The extra padding ring is just resting on the insert. Not needed for a shorter lens on camera.

Hydration pouch ( Insert has been removed)

Insert (the way I've configured it for my particular needs)

Insert and extra camera body padding (for long attached lenses)

PacSafe Insert (7.5 x 12 x 10.2 inches; 13 ounces) One flap is built in and the other is velcro attached.

PacSafe wide view.

 soloryb's gear list:soloryb's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Nikon D800E Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikon AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D +9 more
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