Backpack or pack frame for 7x17 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello, oh group of sages,

I purchased a Canham 7x17 camera this past summer and have been on a search for a method to carry the camera since then. I have not been able to find any panel-loading backpacks that are large enough and I thought I would solicit the advice of anyone who may have solved this problem for themselves.

Let's get this straight, yes, I want to actually carry a 7x17, lenses, film holders (probably four), accessories, and a tripod all on my back. Yes, this represents a huge amount of weight, but I'm strong enough to do this, and I will be able to make a reasonable distance with the setup on day hikes and lightweight overnights that don't require a bag or tent.

The traditional camera backpacks are woefully underdesigned for this purpose, and are not large enough. I am expecting that I will have to have a few padded cordura cases made with connecting points to latch them to a quality pack frame. If this is the case, who should I be talking to about getting some made?

All the large backpacks out there that I have found are top loading, and, while this works just fine for my regular backpacking trips, I don't think a toploader will be adequate for so large a camera.

Does anyone out there have any words of wisdom on this subject?

Thanks to all,

-- Michael Mutmansky (, October 27, 2000



One of those traditional Cargo backpack frames, used traditionally by hunters and trappers for carrying large loads in the bush, are the best way to carry all this stuff. You can just lash your various bags/tripod to the bare frame. These cargo packs have a strong frame with a shelf, with very efficient and effective padded hip belts and shoulder harnesses. Cabelas sells them, and I think REI does too.

BTW, was that your image I saw in View Camera Magazine this month? Nice work.

Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, October 27, 2000.

Liteware and Tenba make semi-soft nylon cases of all shapes and sizes with dividers of all shapes and sizes. And I believe you can still buy pack frames without the pack....simply tie the case onto the frame, along with your other stuff and have at it.

I attached shoulder and waist straps directly to a Liteware case that is fine for day hikes and short overnite trips but If I ever did anything over 10 miles I would want a frame. If you choose to go this route, let me know and I'll send you some JPGs of the strap attachment. bw

-- Bruce Wehman (, October 27, 2000.

Get a Llama :) I think the hunters/prospector backpack frame, plus one or two case may be the way to go. I've carried some pretty awkward loads on those in the past.

Tim A

-- tim atherton (, October 27, 2000.

Whatever pack you end up with, I recommend not putting the tripod on/in it. Instead, carry the tripod in your hand, switching from side to side as necessary. This approach helps me distribute weight better and, when arriving at a site, enables seting up the tripod first and then leaning the pack against it.

-- Sal Santamaura (, October 27, 2000.

Some of the larger panel loadings backpacks are travel convertible packs rather than backpacking gear. As far as backpacking gear is concerned, the best panel loading I have seen is the Dana Designs Swiftcurrent (I own one). It is fairly large (approx 6000cu). The beavertail pocket is good for the tripod. It carries very well. You could also contact Dan McHale ( and see if he could make a custom backpack for you. It might not be much more expensive than his regular offerings, which are customized to your size. I used one of his packs (top loading) to carry my 5x7 gear on a week-long backpacking trip in the alaskan wilderness this summer.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, October 27, 2000.

There are several front panel loading backpacks in the market. Eagle Creek makes the "Endless Journey", and "World Journey" these are about 84 Cu Liters. Another is the Odissey III by Jack Wolfe and the Galileo by North Face, both at about 67 cu Liters. Of these, I thought the Jack Wolfe Odissey III was by far better designed and built of any BPs. I also looked at Kelty other brands but there were no front panel loading with internal frame among those, as you found. Front panel loading BPs seem to be more likely among luggage retailers than among hiking stores. As for volume, bear in mind that when using regular backpacks some of the volume is used up in wrappings to cushion safely the equipment. These can take considerable space. I came to the conclusion that there is no weight saving in using regular BPs and that photo BPs are more convenient. One of these is the Lowe Pro Super Trekker. Is is quite large enough for your camera and lenses plus accessories. Because of its size, the dividers do not give the pack's body the same shape retention as in smaller packs of similar design. To make it work, the secret is in how you divide the available space and also using spare dividers for capping the cubicles. I am happy using the Lowe Pro Pro-Trekker with 4X5 and will find other use for my Super Trekker. These photo BPs are essentially front panel loading BPs, with the additional convenience of dividers and padding. I gave up on the idea of regular packs because of the inconveniences. When using regular PBs you must provide the padding which is totally absent. Some people wrap lenses in bubble sheets but the idea of packing and unpacking lenses each time seems to me to go against the idea, after all, LF is slow enough as it is and regular BPs would only make a bad situation worse. As a BP, though, the Odissey would be my choice. It is of German design and is readily available in Canada and possibly the US. As for carrying the tripod in the BP, that imposes the kind of tripod which is hardly recommended for large format i.e. one with many sections and therefore shorter. As Sal, I prefer to carry the tripod on hand, like a rifle. It comes in handy from time to time in difficult terrain as a walking stick.

-- Julio Fernandez (, October 27, 2000.

Thanks, Everyone for the input. I'll check out the packs mentioned above. Maybe one will be large enough to accomodate this beast.

In response to Sergio, yes, that was one of my photos from the Mammoth Camera Workshop.

In responce to another poster, I will agree that I prefer to carry a tripod in my hands if it is a short hike, but for anything more than a few hundred yards, I much prefer to have the tripod on my back. I have always secured the tripod to to the center of the pack vertically, so the weight is evenly distributed. I feel that having a heavy object in my hands is a somewhat dangerous performance compromise because I can't quickly adjust my arms to maintain balance, and if I were to fall, I would have to first deal with the tripod before dealing with the ground.

Thanks again for the input,

-- Michael Mutmansky (, October 30, 2000.

Lois Conner uses a Canham 7x17, I believe, and has backpacked it all over China. A book of her China photographs is about to be published. I'm sure she would be able to answer your question. Email me if you need her address. .

-- Stewart Ethier (, October 31, 2000.

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