One bag to rule them all

search for the holy grail.


Hey there, well its been a while since my last post, I have struggled recently with the work life balance in so much its been more work than life! Over the past month I have found it difficult to get out in the great outdoors with the camera other than a couple of extended dog walks. During these times I don’t stop thinking about photography so I turned my attention to my gear and to considered if there was anything I needed (need and want are entirely interchangeable here) to change or add.

At some stage I will post a staple “whats in my bag” update, but until then in brief I shoot Fujifilm (X-T2, X-T1, X70) and can’t be happier with my current camera set-up. I have lenses to cover most eventualities except macro, but I don’t do much in that genre, and they deliver exactly the quality I expect from Fujifilm. Any loss is quality is purely user error not equipment! As a primarily landscape photographer I also carry a host of filters, cable releases and various other accessories. All of which do the job, although I would like to trade up some of my filters in the coming months from Formatt Hitech to Lee, they are just better!

I can’t imagine I am the first photographer to suffer with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and certainly not the first to have acquired more camera bags than anyone could ever need over the past couple of years. I have managed to contain my desire for new kit to just acquiring bag which I thought would be the answer to all my prayers. I find it a familiar topic of conversation on workshops and photowalks, “What’s the best camera bag for …….?” Well here’s the cold hard truth, there isn’t one!

In all honestly theres is not one bag which answers everyone’s prayers in one package, in the past 2 years I have tried and got on with 6 or 7 bags but all had compromises, so recently I started looking again for the holy grail. I took the plunge and sold all my old bags which were worth anything and invested in a what I think my be the best bag on the market for my needs. Although I haven’t been out with it yet!! The bag I went for was the Lowepro Whilster 350AW and here’s why.

Before I took the plunge there was a list of 4 requirements which my ideal bag would have, not a long list but they are the bare essentials of the ideal bag and I wasn’t prepared to compromise. so the list is as follows;

  1. Back panel opening – this is a must for any landscape photographer who values a clean dry back on the long hike back to the car after a shoot.
  2. Enough space for camera, lenses & filters – this is surely a given, and with me using a mirrorless system any rucksack really should tick this box
  3. Space for hiking stuff – landscape photography can be tough to pack for, you can go from vigorous exercise to standing still in the wind and rain at any moment so you need to pack for all eventualities, waterproof jacket, insulated gillet, hat, gloves etc are a must.
  4. Tripod mount – less important than the other 3 as I don’t mind carrying my tripod but as I get more adventurous I’ll need my hands free more!

initial searches threw up a few results which looked promising, the Whistler (here), Lowepro’s Flipside Trek series, Mindshift’s Backlight (here) and of course F-stop’s offerings, the Rolls Royce of bags. Straight away the F-stops were discounted for a number of reasons, first price was much more than I wanted to pay, availability and I wasn’t sure F-stop was the kind of company I wanted to give my money to. If you haven’t already read this it makes interesting reading, story. I then got rid of the Flipside Trek, having seen it in person it just wasn’t big enough for me, it wouldn’t fit all my gear in and certainly not all the hiking stuff too. Don’t get me wrong its a good bag and will be great for many but for me its only good as a day bag for a short hike in predictable conditions, not what I look for!

Now down to a shortlist of 2 I then begrudgingly removed the Mindshift, a great bag, light, compact, ticked all the boxes, endorsed by a photographer I respect and admire, Paul Sanders. However availability was inconsistent and once I set my mind to something I want it straight away!! In all seriousness I would really like this bag but compare it to the Whistler and the Whistler pips it in all areas in my view.

So what has the Whistler got that the others I mentioned above and my previous bags haven’t? Well, it will easily fit all my gear in the camera section, 2 bodies, 6 lenses, filter holder, filter rings, filters in my Lee field pouch and my Fujifilm X70. thats a lot of kit, I’m not saying I’ll always have it all in but on some shoots I’ll want it all. It also fits everything else I would ever carry, Gore-Tex jacket & trousers, insulated gillet/jacket, hat, gloves, buff, spare socks and everything else I need to carry. I’m truly astounded about how much i can fit in this bag without it being bulky and cumbersome to carry.

It’s not all smooth sailing though there are some drawbacks, but they aren’t in the big 4 so I can live with them. firstly its heavy, not terribly so but heavier than you’d expect from an outdoor bag. secondly there is no space for water, either a bottle pocket of pace for a bladder, not a show stopper either as Lowepro do a bottle holder attachment which isn’t expensive.

I’m really looking forward to getting out in the mountains with this bag and will do a full review when I have a been using it for a while.

cheers for reading, let me know what bag you use and does it do everything you need.


Author: jdurhamphotographyblog

Hello i'm Jon, I'm a Landscape and Travel photographer based in the North West of England, you can usually find me up a fell, walking along a ridge or knelt by the side of a tarn. If you like what you see, many are available as prints to your requirements. If you'd like any further information please contact me via my website Jon

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