Carrying Your Camera Gear
Photo backpacks are by far the easiest way to carry your gear from point A to point B. They offer space to carry large lenses and lots of accessories in a fairly comfortable manner, but can be cumbersome when you have little space to work from. If you share a seat in a safari vehicle, space will be at a premium when you need to lay your bag flat in order to access your gear in a hurry. If you are hiking, there is no better way to carry heavy equipment for long distances than on your back; the problem is accessibility. Some backpacks give you a small access on one side of the pack. Photographers deal with this problem by carrying one camera and lens in your hands while carrying the rest of the gear in the pack. This way, if a photo does present itself, you have a chance to capture it before it is gone. The biggest problem with backpacks is that they give you room for lots of gear and we tend to want to fill it. Think about how much you will carry in the pack throughout the day and how you will feel when the day is done. If you have only one bag for traveling, the backpack is probably the most convenient bag there is.
Hip packs are ideal for both comfort and access, but the amount of gear they carry is limited. Their carrying capacity can be increased with extra pouches attached to your belt, but there is only so much you can carry in this manner. Some photographers use hip packs in combination with a backpack for better access and to distribute the weight more evenly.
In terms of easy access, the most convenient is the shoulder bag that opens from the top and gives you complete access to all your gear. They come in different sizes, but there is a limit to the amount you will be able to carry on one shoulder. They are terrific for working from a vehicle, but cannot handle larger lenses like a backpack can. Shoulder packs are the most uncomfortable to carry for long distances.
Photo vests are another way to carry gear, but I prefer to use them for only one or two items that I am using at the time. They offer the least amount of protection from being banged around or from rain or snow. There are padded vests that offer more protection, but these can be hot when working in warm climates. I also don’t want to worry about what I am carrying in my vest or what will fall out of my pockets when I quickly lie down on wet ground to photograph a frog or other critters. Wildlife looks best when photographed at eye level, so if you end up on the ground to get the shot of the tortoise passing by, you’ll be lying on top of your expensive gear. This can be crushing to your equipment and uncomfortable for you. Vests are handy and they can hold lens tissue, extra film, and even the occasional extra lens. The pockets are easy to get into and can keep you organized, but just because the vest has 23 pockets you do not have to use them all.