which backpack for 4x5 and accessories?

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Hello folks,

I want to buy a backpack for my Super Speed Graphic in the next weeks, and I wonder which size would be necessary if I want to carry the camera with the standard lens, two additional lenses, Polaroid/4x5/Rollfilm backs, meter, changing back, films and tripod, as well as food and clothing for a daywalk and a small 35mm rangefinder with standard lens. It should have a well-made carrying frame as the weight will probably be 8-10 kgs. I would prefer a vertical tripod attachment, the best would be one on the back, and not one on the sides. Would a LowePro Photo Trekker AW be sufficient for this load? I hope that you can help me. LowePro are probably the only common manufacturer for photo backpacks which you can buy in Austria, so it would be helpful if you could help me in terms of LowePro products ;-)


-- David Haardt (david@haardt.net), May 24, 2001



The subject of backpacks has been discussed several times. The equipment you describe should fit inside the Lowe pack. I have one of these and use it for transporting gear in vehicles, planes and short distances. When it comes to serious mileage, I resort to a real backpack; the Lowe photo backpack just isn't very comfortable for carrying a heavy load many miles.


-- Pete Caluori (pcaluori@hotmail.com), May 24, 2001.

While it might be a little big for your application, I heartily recommend the LowePro Super Trekker AW, which I just bought about a month ago. The next smaller version might be a good choice, as it's not quite so huge (probably a better fit for the amount of gear you describe) and you still get the good harness on it. I have a Mamiya RB67 w/3 lenses & polaroid back, Nikon F3, Nikon F4, 6 35mm lenses, 2 meters, film, etc in mine and while it weighs in the neighborhood of 50 lbs, it's a pretty comfortable carry.

One note on the tripod mount on the Lowe backpacks. If your tripod is a little on the heavy side (10+ lbs), you might want to do what I did and add a regular nylon strap or two to the mount as the shock- cord type attachments that come standard were a little unstable at times.

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), May 24, 2001.

You do not say whether you expect to take your pack as carry-on baggage on the airlines. If so, then the Photo Trekker is the largest LowePro bag that is guaranteed to make it through the xray templates. The Pro Trekker should make it through but I heard from LowePro that some people have reported problems. The Super Trekker will definitely not make it.

Another issue is the harness. The Super and Pro Trekkers supposedly have a much better harness system than the Photo and Nature Trekker. I have a Nature Trekker and I can tell you that long hikes with a lot of gear and a heavy tripod were not easy. I have not tried the Super or Pro.

I suggest you search the archives as there are a number of threads on backpacks. Look in the "Carrying Equipment" category.

Peter Shier

-- Peter Shier (pshier@mindspring.com), May 24, 2001.

From reading the various threads in the archives, you will see two schools of thought:

1) Photo-specific backpacks such as Lowe Trekker series, f64, OutPack.

2) General-purpose backpacks (usually panel-loading, as opposed to the more common top-loaders).

When I examined the photo-specific packs, I did not like them. While they had nice compartment systems, I did not think that the suspensions and overall comfort compared well to general-purpose packs.

I am carrying: an Ebony 4x5 folding camera (wrapped in dark cloth), two lenses, quickload holder, box of quickload film (sometimes two), Pentax spotmeter, loupe, some small accessories. I want room to add extra lenses and accessories in the future.

After research I narrowed my choices to these packs: Osprey Eclipse 42 (successor to the Backside Pro), Gregory Fury, Gregory Reality. All three offer panel-loading, consisting of a zippered opening down the middle of the back. The Gregory zipper is in a horseshoe or "U" shape.

I could not find an Osprey dealer within 300 miles of home who had an Eclipse 42 in stock to look at. I then eliminated the Fury in favor of the Reality, because I preferred the overall fit of the Reality.

At first, I thought that the Reality might be too large. I am 6'3" tall, so I bought the large model, which sports a capacity of 4650 cubic inches. That is way more volume than I need for the gear listed above. However, the compression strap system makes it quite easy to adjust the pack to the load.

I have just finished a ten day trip to the four corners area (U.S. desert southwest) using this pack. I was able to use the Reality pack for short overnight backpacking. Along with my camera gear, I stuffed in my sleeping bag (which is exceptionally bulky), stove, food, headlamp, rain jacket, water, and then bungied a tent, sleeping pad, and pillow to the pack's daisy chain. The pack managed this load very comfortably.

I usually carry my tripod (Gitzo 1227) in my hand. For attaching it to the pack, there are two options: bungie to the central daisy chain, or use the side compression straps and webbed pockets. (Given the pack's capacity, you could also stow a tripod inside.)

I am still trying to figure out the best way to store everything for quick access. I am considering fitting a foam block, or some sort of divider system.

What I like about the Gregory Reality:

- Exceptionally comfortable.

- Can carry small and large loads equally well.

- Appears to be very durable and well-made.

- Doesn't scream "photo gear" (except for the tripod in my hand).

The only drawback is the lack of a pre-made compartment system.

-- Michael Chmilar (chmilar@acm.org), May 24, 2001.

Here is my take on the subject.

I am now at my 4th backpack. First was a Tamrac 757 which I quickly sold for a LowePro Photo Trekker AW (first model). This bag was great especially with the large outside front pocket which was very convenient for storing reflectors, food, clothing. I unfortunatly sold it for the larger and newer LowePro Photo Pro Trekker AW. The Pro Trekker is well made but heavier and thicker. It fits on airplanes overhead compartment but barely. It doesn't have the external front pocket. It's heavy, yes I already mentioned it but it's worth emphasizing that point. I finally sold it because of its weight and size. My latest find is the Domke Outpack. I bougth it used on e-bay for $120 and like it a lot so far. Instead on a large front opening door it has 3 front doors making it convenient to extract a lens or camera with the bag in vertical position and not having everything else fall to the ground. It's very flexible in the way you can arrange the load making it great when you switch from a 35mm system to an LF one. Its dividers are thinner so the space is more efficiently used. If you have a Domke shoulder bag you probably know how good that is. For some reason the simpler, no thrill Domke bags always seem to work better. Good luck

-- Georges Pelpel (gpelpel@home.com), May 24, 2001.

Hello David: In Austria they should sell the Wolfe packs made in Germany, one of these is panel load, wonderfully built. On my back it fitted perfectly. I tried it because some people in this forum recommend regular packs. They do fit better than photo packs because the curved shape of their metal struts. I gave them up as the packings needed to keep the contents safe add bulk and weight and never achieve the practicality of the photo packs. Switched then to the Super Trecker. This is a large and heavy pack. If you are tall, young and strong you might be happy with it. It is large enough for more than you plan to pack. I switched then to the Pro Trekker. A little smaller but just right for my master technika, lee filters/hood 5 lenses, 8 holders, an umbrella a drink, food and and focus cloth. I carry other things in a fanny pack: meter, loupe, special glasses, recorder and viewfinder. I carry the tripod like a rifle. Any good tripod and head for 4X5 are too big and too heavy for any pack. I have used this for about a year and find it perfectly workable and recommend it. It is substantially lighter than the Super Trekker. The photo trekker is a little too small for me and I think for your equipment.

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@ora.auracom.com), May 24, 2001.

I have used the pro trekker AW for the last few years to carry a Toyo field camera, lenses, etc. The pack with equipment usually weighs 30-35 lbs., and by typical hikes are 3-6 miles. I have been very pleased with this pack, and would highly recommend it for "short" hikes such as this. For much longer hikes a true (non-photo) pack may be more comfortable, but the internal dividers and tripod carrier of a photo pack are very useful. The AW packs have a seperate cover built into the pack which deploys to cover it (except for the back where the straps attach). This is a great feature and has kept the pack dry even in heavy rain (I did spray the cover with a water-proofing liquid).

-- Alan Eisenberg (alanmind@bellsouth.net), May 25, 2001.

I have a Tenba that I like for MF, I believe it's the large. It has it's own suspension system, and I like the two supplementary zipped pockets located on the cover of the pack. I can store the camera gear inside the pack and other items like my film, filters, shutter cable, and light meters in the outside enclosures.

The best pack that I've owned and continue to use was never intended for photo gear. After scouring L.A., I bought a simple rectangular pack with no special pockets, enclosures, etc. It has a zip-down cover that, when fully open, allows me to access to the entire contents of the pack. I inserted a 7" thick piece of foam cut to fit the inside of the pack that has all the cutouts for my 4x5 system. The entire outfit is light, it's sturdy, and all my gear is safely stowed inside. Unfortunately, except on wheels, you don't see these types of packs anymore. I've looked for them. The new packs all have the many pockets, sections, etc., that the mfg. thinks the user requires.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), May 26, 2001.

Like Georges, I've used the Domke Outpack for about five years. Unlike Georges, I don't like it a lot and as soon as it wears out I'll replace it, most likely with a Kelty Redwing. All of this is obvously a matter of personal preference. As Georges mentions, the Domke doesn't have a single front opening and instead has four separate zippered compartments. This does have the advantage that Georges mentioned but I find it a pain to unzip one compartment to get at the camera, unzip a third compartment to get at the darkcloth, film holders, and lens (all of which I store in the top compartment), and unzip a third compartment to get at the light meter and loupe, then rezip all three compartments when finished. I look with envy at my friends who unzip a front opening once and have everything laid out in front of them.

Apart from the pain in the neck, the other problem with multiple zippers/compartments is that it's pretty easy to forget to rezip one of the compartments, which means that anything in the unzipped compartment falls out when you hoist the pack on yhour shoulder. Eventually you remember to carefully check all zippers before putting the pack back on but my camera has twice fallen out of the pack for this reason and the learning experience was expensive.

The Domke does have some advantages. It's relatively inexpensive by dedicated photography back pack standards (I think I paid around $150 for mine new), it isn't especially heavy, it's lasted a long time though I don't subject it to heavy use, and the shoulder straps are nice and wide, making it relatively easy on your shoulders.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), May 27, 2001.

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