The most comfortable backpacks for LF : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm in the process of doing research and to purchase a new backpack for my LF camera and my main concern would be comfort of the pack while on my back with it loaded down.I hate to spend alot of money on a pack and find out it is uncomfortable and hard to carry. Does anyone have any suggestions on a good quality brand name that will hold up with regular use and that you would highly recommend. Thank you in advance for your responses.Robert C.Warner

-- Robert C. Warner (, February 10, 2002


LowePro's the way to go.
I find that the Trekker series packs are excellent.

-- Matt O. (, February 11, 2002.

I found myself in a similar position a few months ago. I went for a Lowepro Super Trekker. Some might say overkill, but when loaded it feels much lighter than expected - superb harness system and fully adjustable for different torso lengths. The Pro Trekker is smaller and has the same harness.

-- paul owen (, February 11, 2002.

I'm with the others in their praise of Lowepro - very sturdy, and an excellent harness system. My only complaint is the way they open fron the front - it makes it difficult to lay it down on wet or muddy ground, as it eventually ends up on your back.

-- Michael Mahoney (, February 11, 2002.

I think your LF camera is a folding one, the Lowepro is really the best, but it's too expensive fo a rucksack. I have done one by myself, it's a Jansport, made originally for a portable computer(very cheap and well done). I modified it by sewing cloth and foam, at the end, it costs only 50 USD. My Gandolfi(almost 4 kg) fits very well in it, and I feel very comfortable with that equipment. regards.

-- Daniel luu van lang (, February 11, 2002.

The Tamrac X-Pack was also designed for a notebook computer, but works well for a large format camera. See my Review of the X-Pack. My 8x10 Deardorff fits perfectly in it. I've since made some mods (not shown) that enable me to use it with a 4x5 as well. Price: $129.00.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, February 11, 2002.

i have used several Lowe packs, but this winter i bought a Burton F-stop pack that i am thrilled with. Burton makes snowboard equipment and accessories. it is so confortable fully loaded. the problem is finding the packs. use your search engine. they also make a smalller pack called the zoom. the pack is designed for carrying a large format outfit AND a snowboard. the list on the pack is about $250. "those who can't ride, shoot". it says in the catalogue.

-- vincent bilotta (, February 11, 2002.

Maybe I am old fashioned, but paying God knows how much for these specialized backpacks is overkill. I grew up out West with external frame packs that would handle anything from firewood and cameras to large water jugs and elk quarters. Right now I have two Kelty standard external frame packs for long trips and one smaller one for day stuff. Inside they have webbing to segregate fragile components and they also have a bottom metal ledge that works for lashing a tripod and head and/or a sleeping bag. I tried to strap the tripod to the back and the side and it was unsatisfactory for me. I put each lens in a wrap and then put them in a small box I got at an arts and craft store to keep them from being unintentionally damaged and knocked around. I would recommend going to a mountaineering store and try each on for fit, balance and flexibility. Another trick. After you find out the brand and model you are interested in, find out where they have a seconds store and call them. If the stitching is off a bit that caused them to sell it as a second, you can save 30 % or more depending upon the time of year and the popularity of that model. I got two packs for the price of one and also found my tent the same way.

Good luck.

-- Michael Kadillak (, February 11, 2002.

Robert, how tall are you? Tall (> 5'-11") may find many of the traditional photo packs too short when using the pack for many hours at a time. A taller frame enables the user to have a pair of shoulder lifter straps, which is standard in taller mountaineering internal frame packs. The problem now is the airline restrictions, which keeps many popular packs to a height of 22" max. We (Kinesis) make the Journeyman pack. It is 22" tall & is primarily designed for 35mm gear. An optional taller pack frame can be added if needed for taller people or for overnight trips.

-- Richard Stum (, February 11, 2002.

I am quite new to LF but now have a backpack that works well for my 35mm equipment as well as my 4x5. As many others I tried several backpacks. First started with a Tamrac which I found heavy in relation to the offered internal space. It was solid but the dividers were very thick and taking a lot of space. I quickly moved to a LowePro Trekker AW. This one was great with a good compromise between weight and space. I especially liked the big, wide front outside pocket were I could store collapsible reflectors, a lunch, a jacket... I sold this one to go larger, may be I should I kept it as it has been redesigned and lost the front pocket. Anyway I sold it for the newly designed LowePro Pro Trekker AW, a very solid and well constructed bag, however heavy. The ProTrekker is deeper, taller but, again, very heavy. It barely fit into airplanes overhead compartment, you have to press it a bit to fit but it works as lond as the bag is not over loaded. Anyway I sold that one as well because it had the same inconvenience as most other backpacks: the bag needs to be laid down before you open it and reach for something. I wanted a bag from which I could grab just a lens very quickly without exposing my whole equipment. I also wanted to get a smaller and lighter pack and still wanted space. I also liked the idea of having several distinct compartments for storing items such as snacks, clothing... I ended up buying a used Domke Outpack. So far, after a year of usuage, it has been a pretty good choice. If you are familiar with Domke shoulder bags you probably know that they are renowed for very thin, yet effective dividers, and able to store a huge amount of gear in a rather small bag. The Outpack fit the same idea. It is much lighter and thinner than the LowePros yet fiis an amazing amount of gear. Its harness is not as thick as the LowePros either but I still find it comfortable to wear. I kind load it with my 4x5 with 4-5 lenses, 10-15 film holders, spotmeter, loupe, and darkcloth, and still have room for a 35mm and some lenses. The design of the Outpack is completely different than other backpacks in such that it has multiple opening doors instead on one large one. So, as long as you are organized and remember where each piece of equipment is stored, you only expose the wanted item(s). That's a plus if you shoot in the desert. One of the doors is larger than the others and perfectly fit my 4x5 with darkcloth, and spotmeter. Another long door perfectly fit my lenses with a flexible separator, it can also fit a lens pouch such as the ones from Gnass Gear. All in all this bag is extremely versatile. It won't fit an 8x10 or a monorail 4x5. But if you have a foldable 4x5 field camera it is worth looking at. And as a bonus you can usually get them for less than $150 on e-bay in perfect condition.

-- Georges Pelpel (, February 11, 2002.

If compartiments, padding, and quick access are a priority, i'd have to recommend the lowepro trekker bags (several sizes to choose from) which have a better suspension system and construction than other photo backpacks I have seen. If comfort is a priority, try a regular front-loading backpack. I like the Dana Designs. When going on a long hike when most of the time is spent hiking, I am use the Dana Swiftcurrent, otherwise the Lowepro Super Trekker.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, February 11, 2002.

I haven't taken my 4x5 backpacking, but I've carried it on day hikes. I use a Jansport 40 liter top loading pack I picked up at REI for $60 or so. It's got a decent harness, is light, and is pretty comfortable. I thought about a Lowepro, but couldn't justify the money.

The drawbacks are that it isn't padded, and gear can only be accessed from the top. However, when I'm in a wet area, I only have to put the bottom of my pack down, rather than the back. The other drawback is that it isn't padded. I wrap my camera in the darkcloth, put my lense in a wrap, and my holders in an arctic zone insulated bag. My meter and loupe go in an outside pocket, and I tie my tripod to the back.

If I were a little more compulsive, I'd put the lens, meter, and loupe in a tupperware container, and put closed cell foam around the camera.

This setup worked well for me this Christmas in Olympic National Park.


-- Dave Willis (, February 11, 2002.

I second the use of external frame backpack. I bought a Dana Design K2 (Dana Design's workmanship is very good) from an auction for $60.00. Then I bought a plastic storage box from Walmart for $3.00. I place my field camera/lenses/meters/polaroid film holder inside this storage box for protection again 'bumping' and at the same time waterproof my equipments in case of rain. I have enough room to even put a tripod (BOgen 3021/extra clothing/food in this pack for day hikes.

-- Peter Obaldo (, February 12, 2002.

Robert, I purchased a Tenba pack. It was advertised as the largest carry-on backpack for the airlines. I like it and suggest you look at one. Joel

-- Joel Brown (, February 12, 2002.

As someone else noted earlier, what is most comfortable can depend on how big of a person you are. The most comfortable pack I've found so far is the LowePro Super Trekker AW. It's an enormous pack, but I can fit my Linhof monorail system, a few lenses, filters, film holders, meter, etc in it and carry the whole lot respectable distances (done up to 12 miles) comfortably. The whole pack when loaded up weighs about 45 lbs, and when you consider that I weigh abot 142 lbs, that's a good 30% of my bodyweight. The construction of the pack is extremely good- very rugged and the expedition quality harness is superb. I was able to make the pat fit my torso very well- not surprising considering the kind of experience Lowe has making packs. At 5'7" I'm probably shorter than you, too, but a friend has a Lowe pack and it fits him comfortably, and he's 6'3". If you live near any kind of large camera store, you should try going in and trying on different packs. First hand experience really seems to be the only way to guarantee a comfortable fit. Let us know what you decide.

-- David Munson (, February 12, 2002.

I found that the Chevrolet Suburban made the best back pack, The straps were comfortable and the dual zone airconditioning made the hottest days inthe Fraser River Canyon area of British Columbia bearable. The weight was extreeme at 6000 LBS but the self powered ability was appreciated.

-- Ed (, February 12, 2002.

I have a Tenba and I believe the model is a 264 PBL. I just got back from a trip to Death Valley (about an hour ago) and the back pack worked out quite well for my 4X5 system. Worth a look but on the expensive side.

-- Ben Hopson (, February 14, 2002.

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