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Ask Slashdot: Laptop + DSLR Backpacks 282

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-my-research-for-me dept.
I typically travel with a laptop and camera, but usually with a bag for each: a backpack for the laptop and a lowepro top loader for the camera. I'd really prefer a single backpack for both a 17" macbook and a DSLR with a larger 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens attached, as well as perhaps a few spare lenses and accessories. I've seen options from Case Logic (the SLRC-206), Kata (the DR-467), the Streetwalker Hard Drive, and LowePro (the CompuDay Photo 250, the CompuPrimus AW), but I'm not seeing a clear winner. I'm guessing a few of you have opinions on this subject, so share them so I don't buy a piece of garbage.
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Ask Slashdot: Laptop + DSLR Backpacks

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  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday August 15, 2011 @10:50AM (#37095208)
    If you haven't checked out the bags from Think Tank [thinktankphoto.com], then you're missing out on the good stuff. They do it right, and charge accordingly. Several flavors of bags/packs well suited to the sort of mix you're talking about. Their ShapeShifter is worth some study, as are some of the Urban Disguise models. I use lots of their products in one way or another, and swear by them.
    • Here's a better idea. Get a cheap airline ticket to New York City. Go to B&H Photo / Video [bhphotovideo.com], wander around the acre of backpacks and such and find the one that works best for you.

      Then slowly back away from everything else, otherwise you may find yourself needing 2 backpacks and a Pelican case.

      Really, it's such a personal decision and there are so many choices. NYC is really nice this time of year....

      (Personally, I use a LowePro DryZone 200 (It's completely waterproof) and ditch the Lapzilla for a 13 i

      • by hedwards (940851)

        For a thousand dollars and several days off work, one can afford to buy the wrong back pack and even after buying a couple others still come out somewhat ahead financially.

        • by JazzLad (935151)
          WTF do you live that it will cost $1000 & take several days to do a simple NYC round-trip?
    • by etnoy (664495)
      +1 for Think Tank products. I use several of their products, including the aforementioned Streetwalker Harddrive. Like you, I lug around some serious SLR gear (plus laptop, accessories and heavy tripod) and this bag has performed well and has got very good build quality. Of course, it's quite pricey, but so is your gear.
  • Nice backpack for lots of stuff [danscomp.com]. Lots of body hugging stuff too. /flame on!

  • I've traveled all over the place carrying all that gear (that's actually my exact list of typical stuff) and I've used a Tamrac "Aero Speed Pack". I actually have the older version (unfortunately orange), but the newer one has a side zipper to get that camera out of there faster. I've never had to complain really. And ditching the laptop is hardly a possibility sometimes. Sometimes you just need all that stuff.
  • by KeithH (15061) on Monday August 15, 2011 @10:55AM (#37095302)
    Honestly, I can't see the argument for a single bag. I travel with similar equipment and the last thing I want to do is add the weight of a laptop when I'm out photographing. The laptop stays in the hotel or car. What I do carry with the camera is a small USB drive which holds one of my three backups (in case my laptop is stolen.)

    Keep in mind that the laptop requires a power adaptor and, internationally, a plug adaptor. If you're like me, you might even include a mouse and other USB cables to charge phones and MP3 players. In other words, you might as well have a dedicated bag.

    For bag advice, I strongly recommend that you go to a dedicated site such as dpreview. I've received excellent advice for people there.

    Regards,
    Keith
    • Honestly, I can't see the argument for a single bag

      You only have two hands. I could add to this argument, but it really comes down to this. Sometimes you need to have your bag in your hand plus have one hand free.

    • by crath (80215)

      You definitely want one bag: leaving your laptop in your hotel room is a bad idea unless you can be certain that you can robustly secureit while you're out sight-seeing. Some will argue that keeping everything in one bag is less secure because everything can be stolen in one "grab"; but, I manage that by simply wearing my camera plus laptop backpack at all times (unless I'm in the car). If I do have to put the bag down (like sitting in a restaurant) then I put one of my legs through a shoulder strap.

      As a

    • by whysanity (231556)

      Just because you can't see the argument for a single bag doesn't mean that there isn't one. For example, when I recently traveled to Peru, I rarely let my backpack out of sight—I didn't random hostels enough to leave thousands of dollars of equipment there, nor did I have a vehicle. That said, I did very well with a single piece of luggage, the Calumet BP1500 Large Backpack [calumetphoto.com]. It fit my 13" Macbook Air (with plenty of room for a larger laptop), my DSLR with a couple lenses and requisite accessories, in

    • Honestly, I can't see the argument for a single bag. I travel with similar equipment and the last thing I want to do is add the weight of a laptop when I'm out photographing. The laptop stays in the hotel or car.

      But first you have to get the laptop *to* the hotel...

      It also depends on shooting conditions - if you're headed out for a dedicated shooting expedition, leaving the laptop behind and/or having two bags sometimes makes sense. But a single bag does make sense if it's "daily use/daily carry"

    • That just doesn't work for me. When I'm at conventions, I don't have ready access to a car or hotel room. Free time happens in spurts during the day, between events, and that's when I need the laptop. And I might need the camera at any time.

      I really liked this bag when I saw it at the SXSW trade show this year:
      http://www.amazon.com/National-Geographic-NG-2475-Explorer/dp/B000FJ2OTG [amazon.com]
      It would hold two camera bodies and a few lenses along with a 15" laptop, but it wouldn't hold a 17" MacBook Pro.

      Does anyone

    • by pz (113803)

      You don't travel internationally much by air, I'm guessing. There are much stricter limits on carry-on bags in Europe than in the US (although the US has recently started to get a little stricter). You are not able, for example, to carry a briefcase for your laptop, a camera bag for your camera, *and* a roll-aboard. You would need to have at least one fewer pieces with you, sometimes two, depending on how strict the enforcement is, and how big your camera bag and briefcase are.

      Having one bag for laptop a

    • by kimvette (919543)

      Honestly, I can't see the argument for a single bag. I travel with similar equipment and the last thing I want to do is add the weight of a laptop when I'm out photographing.

      You put too much faith in hotel staff and even hotel safes.

      Also, keep in mind many DSLR users carry three or more lenses since ultrazooms are a compromise at best; not good at landscape shots, not good at telephoto, and not good at macro. So, even if you choose quality zoom lenses, figure on one wide zoom for landscape shots, one zoom t

      • by KeithH (15061)

        You put too much faith in hotel staff and even hotel safes.

        No, I do not put too much faith in the hotel staff; that's why I include one of my backup disks *with* my camera bag.

        The simple fact is that if I had to carry my laptop in addition to all my camera gear when I'm hiking up a mountain side, I simply wouldn't be able to cover as much ground. I'm not a professional so I can't afford a sherpa to help carry all the gear.

        I'm prepared to lose my laptop. I'm not prepared to lose my photos.

  • by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:00AM (#37095386) Homepage

    Go to your favorite store that sells knapsacks for hikers and students. REI is great if you don't mind the price premium.

    Bring all your gear.

    Load all your gear into each and every pack they have, and put the pack on your back. Include the packs which you're sure wouldn't work.

    You should be able to find something that comfortably fits everything and which doesn't scream, "Mug me! I'm carrying around thousands of dollars of easily-fencable equipment!" Instead, you're going after the "I'm a poor student lugging around waaay too many textbooks" look.

    If you don't have cases for the individual items, you can get padded cloths with velcro to wrap them in; your local pro camera shop should have some. Winter socks also work great for lenses. The goal here is just something that'll keep stuff from scratching as it rubs against each other plus a very little bit of shock protection. No backpack will provide more than that, so there's no point in pretending. If that's what you really need, get a Pelican case and a custom foam insert -- and forget about carrying it on your back.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      I agree. There's an almost universal pattern - backpacks that are "camera-oriented" have vastly inferior frames and suspensions to good hiking backpacks. There are a few exceptions but they are rare.

      I strongly recommend a frontloader pack and not a toploader - unfortunately in larger sizes this is rare. The Kelty Redwing is one of the exceptions. It's an excellent frontloader that is VERY comfortable.

      Put your padded cases inside, or possibly go "all out" and convert it to a dedicated camera backpack by

    • Go to your favorite store that sells knapsacks for hikers and students. REI is great if you don't mind the price premium.

      I have to disagree - those stores are wonderful if you're hiker, student, or someone who needs a backpack for use on the trail or for daily use and who incidentally wants to carry a camera along. They're much less useful for the photographer who wants to carry a camera and incidentally some other stuff.

      Visit REI or some other serious backpacker/hiker/student type store *first* in

  • by tonywong (96839) on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:02AM (#37095408) Homepage
    I've got LowePro, Kata and Clik Elite bags and I'll probably wind up getting more.

    None are perfect but they all are pretty good, depending on your needs.

    LowePro: quality construction, high price, thick padding. Photo Trekker AW has water resistant zippers. Bag (not me!) survived a tumble out of a minivan on the Kalahari desert when the hatch wasn't latched properly. Only damage was a slightly decentered 50-500 OS lens, 1DIV, 5D2, Sigma 12-24 and TCs flash guns unscathed. Bag didn't flinch with 42 pounds of gear. Bag is on it's way out with plastic stiffener bits coming out after 8 years of heavy weight use. No tears or rips in the fabric and looks perfect externally though.

    Kata: lighter weight, innovative design. Love their sling bag 3N1-20. Just doesn't hold enough for me. Also evaluating Bumblee-222 and front pack but probably not the one I should have tried (220). Front harness system looks less functional than the Clik Elite, but the frame ventilation system seems the most comfortable and coolest (but takes up valuable space). Padding seems adequate but choosing the lightweight series makes me question the protection.

    Clik Elite: lower pricing than LowePro, less padding, slightly lighter weight. Average fit and finish. Clean and innovative design. Pro Express bag not wide enough (center row lens hood gets squeezed with lenses in the outside lanes) compared to LowePro design but guaranteed for airline compatibility. Front harness system integrates well to pack.

    I'm going to look at the Tenba shootouts as well, and the newer LowePro replacement for my older Photo Trekker, the 400AW (pricey, especially in Canada).

    I carry around an iPad and a 13" MacBook Air so I don't need a 17" laptop carrier.
  • by geogob (569250) on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:03AM (#37095426)

    I have a Fullframe DSLR (implying large large and heavy lenses) and a MBP 17". Fits perfectly in the FP 350. I really like the good and quick access to the camera, that can be taken out without fully removing the backpack.

    Negative point is that only slim laptops fit in it. Don't expect to put anything thicker than a macbook.

    I've had almost 15 kg of gear in it, and was still comfortable. Fitted nicely, MBP 17, Western Digital mybook (one 3.5 HDD format), 1 extra tele lens, 1 extra fixed focal lense (small) , flash and various accessories (power supplies, cables, etc). The bag is still compact for all that content. The compartments are well organized and optimized.

    Largest drawback is that you can't nicely strap a tripod or monopod to it. I miss that a lot.

    http://products.lowepro.com/product/Fastpack-350,2087,14.htm [lowepro.com]

    • by vondo (303621)

      Similarly, I have a Slingshot 300 that I love. I can stick a DSLR with either 24-105 or 70-200 lens in the "holster" part, put a few more lenses and flash in if I want. They make a 350 which is about the same size but with a laptop pocket as well. Should be good for traveling and then when you are out shooting, leave the laptop behind to save on weight.

      These bags are really nice because they sit well and keep the camera in the bag, but you can have the camera out of the bag and ready to shoot in just a few

    • by HFShadow (530449)

      Similar here. I have a 15" dell that's a little thick that fits in (it's tight) with a 7d and lenses / misc gear quite well. Works well as a carry on bag, but I find it too big for a day pack. Day pack, I use separate bags.

    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      Second the vote for the Fastpack 350 [amazon.com].

      We were looking for something for travel, and this did just what we were looking for. My husband's 17" ACER laptop even fit in there, albeit it was a snug fit (i.e., we tore the flimsy zipper extender tag off while zipping it up...but it fit, and it wasn't going anywhere!). Lots of room for a couple of lenses, external flash and cables, even with the bulky battery extender/grip installed on the Canon Rebel. What I liked best is that we could stow the camera with a lon

    • by Rifter13 (773076)

      I'm going to pile on here. I have a 15" HP laptop that fits in it, plus my Canon XSI, plus 4 lenses, plus flash, plus filters and other crap. I took it to Washington DC on a plane, fits in the over-head bin. This is my main photography pack. (I also have a much smaller sling bag from Lowepro). My pack has worked GREAT for me, for about 3 years now. It has fallen out of a car, more than once, and kept things safe. I really, REALLY can't recommend this bag enough.

      Oh, and with their sling design, it is

  • by Splab (574204) on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:06AM (#37095492)

    Their backpacks are designed for this exact combo. Got my laptop, filters, lenses and body in one backpack.

    Look for the "c list celebrity"

  • I think you're looking for something like this:

    http://www.crumpler.com/us/Camera-Bags/Camera-Backpacks/C-List-Celebrity-L.html?LanguageCode=EN&SKU=CLC001-B00170

    You can go smaller too, but that should carry everything you could possibly want and then some.

  • Manfrotto had a numer of very good bags. They not only carry a laptop and DSLR, but also can carry the short Manfrotto tripod.
  • Try the Tenba Messenger series. Great bags. And I own a lot of bags, so I speak from quite a bit of experience. I actually own the "Mini" size, which holds my iPad or MB Air (actually both if I try), and can fit my Canon 7D without grip, plus a couple of lenses and a flash pretty easily. That's the mini... there's a small, and a large also. It will hold your gear. You can check this thread [dpreview.com] to see how it will work with a 70-200 attached (hood reverse, obviously).
  • by no_opinion (148098) on Monday August 15, 2011 @11:12AM (#37095548)

    I have & like the Lowepro Fastpack 350, and I think it will meet your needs. There's a full sized laptop sleeve along the back. The bottom part of the compartment will hold a DSLR+lens and 4 other lenses or 2 lenses+flashes. The camera compartment can be opened from the side, so you can get your camera out without taking the backpack off. There's a side pouch that can be used to carry a tripod (be careful with the mesh) if you add a strap at the top, or you can strap it to the bottom/back. The top compartment is large enough to hold a light jacket + other random stuff (MP3 player, chargers, mouse, grad filters, cleaning gear, filters, etc). Take a look at the pictures on Amazon to get a better sense of the layout.

    I visited a local photo store to check out options before ordering this one, which met my needs and was reasonably priced relative to the alternatives.

    • by erice (13380)

      The Fastpack 350 is a good pack. I used it on a six month trip to India and a four month trip of mostly Madagascar. It does, however, have some significant issues:

      1) Like virtually every other camera pack, security is a non-thought. Before I left on the first trip with it, I had a luggage repair shop replace all the zippers with metal lockable kinds.

      2) The waist pack is a great, in theory, but it is not adjustable. Unless *you* are just the right size, all weight will be on your back rather than on your

  • This is the first photo backpack I have been satisfied with after using for an extended period of time. All the others I found something to dislike after a while.

    My recommendation is to not get one of those sling-shot-thingies, they are going to get uncomfortable if you are out walking for a while. Get a proper backpack. The LowePro FastPacks combine the one advantage the sling-thingies have, namely fast access to your camera, with comfortable carrying. It was on my back more or less constantly for a week i

  • I gave up on the idea of carrying both in one bag myself. I went back to a backpack for my dslr, which also includes tripod straps and a regular laptop bag with shoulder strap for the laptop. Leaves me with plenty of miscellaneous storage space, everything is easier to reach, and when I need to travel a little lighter I just leave the laptop bag in the room/car/whatever. Most of the time when I'm out on a shoot I don't use the laptop anyway (exceptions would be something like outdoor portraits).

    I don't
  • I picked one of these up a couple months back, and it's been great so far. I don't have a ton of gear, but that means that I have quite a bit of flexibility in deciding what goes where. I have three main configurations:

    Light. This is mostly for around town.
    Canon 450D w/ Sigma 50mm 1.4
    Canon PowerShot S90
    18-55mm kit lens in case I want a wider angle
    Luma Loop
    iPad in the laptop pouch
    MiFi
    Cables, adapters, etc in the various pockets

    Heavy, for when I leave town. All

  • They make a variety of bags that look and don't look like camera bags. I use the urban disguisel line myself.

  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/SWISSGEAR-IBEX-NOTEBOOK-RUCKSACK-17/dp/B000VSFLCI [amazon.co.uk]

    this has room for my laptop and my DJ decks and external hard drive and associated accessories. nicely padded and protective from a solid reliable brand
  • I notice that probably 90% of laptops are carried in bags made by the manufacturer (I see lots of Dell backpacks) or companies who focus on laptop bags (caselogic as an excellent example). When you're carrying such a bag that is clearly designed for carrying a laptop, you are pretty well advertising to potential thieves that you are carrying a laptop.

    Maybe you live in a utopian world where laptops are never stolen, and you have nothing to worry about - if so, congratulations. I would otherwise suggest y
  • I have an R-103 and it is about ... 6 years old now. Been hiking with it in Hawaii, honeymoon in Jamaica and countless other places and is in perfect shape. The bag itself is pretty light for the padding and construction. What I travel/keep in there most of the time. Canon Rebel XT (yes it is old but invested in my lenses), battery grip, 17-85f4, 50mm 1.4, 70-200 f4 IS, 580ex flash, plus spare batteries. All that is just in the inside compartment. There is still the oustide and inside zipper compartment.
  • Just get an iPhone! You are not supposed to carry a giant laptop and a huge camera anymore. Take crappy photos on a cell phone and send them to the cloud!
  • Others have recommended plenty of non-cute backpacks, so here are some more fashionable alternatives....

    At Targét, this gal found the perfect solution [blogspot.com] for her laptop, camera and a few lenses, and for only $20!

    Trey chic, this cotton bag [techiediva.com] with pink lace design Techie Diva found doesn't offer as much padding, but squee, cuteness!

    Here are several other options [thefuntimesguide.com] Lynette compiled for us, not just purses, but messenger bag style as well, which would be easier to carry over the long haul.

    For the future, just che

  • Has several nice camera back packs that have laptop areas. Best of all, they're compatible with Tamrac's modular component system. So you can buy additional lens and accessories pouches and mount them on the back pack for expansion.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/544650-REG/Tamrac_558701_5587_Expedition_7x_Backpack.html [bhphotovideo.com]

  • I carry a Nikon D7000 and a 15" MBP every day in this: http://www.tamrac.com/3447.htm [tamrac.com]

    The bag does well protecting its contents and also has enough storage for camera and computer stuff. I like this bag and I am glad I got it.

    • by kb_one (615092)
      And I FAIL at reading comprehension. My suggestion is neither a backpack nor will it fit a 17" MBP. Sorry Internets for wasting your tubes. Sorry Slashdotters for this post and the previous one!
  • I've got three Lowepro bags, for different situations.

    1) An old holster-type bag, with a shoulder strap. Similar to the Toploader Zoom 50, but much older. I use it for day trips to the fair, things like that -- it'll take my SLR (with or without grip) with an 18-125 lens, and I can fit a 50mm in the outside pocket with a few extra memory cards and a spare battery.

    2) A slingshot 200. This is my tool for all-day walks. I spent a few weeks walking all over Italy with it, I take it for day hikes, and I carr

  • I really liked this bag when I saw it at the SXSW trade show this year:
    http://www.amazon.com/National-Geographic-NG-2475-Explorer/dp/B000FJ2OTG [amazon.com]
    It would hold two camera bodies and a few lenses along with a 15" laptop, but it wouldn't hold a 17" MacBook Pro.

    Does anyone know of a similar-looking bag that could hold a slightly larger laptop?

  • Love my ThinkTank Urban Disguise: http://www.thinktankphoto.com/search.aspx?find=Urban+Disguise [thinktankphoto.com]. This is a briefcase-look bag, which you wouldn't think held camera gear. Can get a harness for backpack use. Word to the wise: this is a LOT of gear to be hauling. My bag weighs a ton without ANY laptop, and my 15" MacBook Pro makes it a strain on a shoulder. Travel lighter than me, please.
  • You need to take your stuff to a proper store and figure this out.. I have gone through a ton of bags before being reasonably satisfied w/ the lowepro 250 (which is fine with the 70-200/f4 and the 17" macbook pro), which is my day trip and airplane travel bag. Even with this I also use an old velocity 7 for wandering around with because it is lighter and I can leave my laptop @ the hotel / home. For international 3rd world travel / hiking I use the velocity bag as an insert to a normal camping bag. This giv

  • Tenba sells inserts [google.com]. Other manufacturers might too. The problem I had with specialized camera + laptop bags was that sometimes I didn't want to bring the camera or the laptop. That resulted me in buying two bags - one for when I want just the laptop, another for when I want the camera+lenses (with or without laptop). The photo-centric design of many bags meant they frequently can't take a laptop, necessitating a third bag for camera+lenses with the laptop.

    The insert lets me do it with just one bag.
  • Then get a "laptop sleeve" for your laptop.
    When hiking around, stick both laptop (in sleeve), and camera (in its small camera bag) into your backpack.

    Added bonus: there's also space for your lunch box, an extra set of clothes, water bottle, or whatever else you might need on a hike. And when you reach a scenic stretch of trail, take your camera out of the backpack, and put it around your neck (or on belt), so it's easily accessible without having to stop every 20m to take your camera... And when you reac

  • My solution to this was to use a generic looking messenger bag that had a padded computer insert, and add an inexpensive camera/lens insert for around $20-25.

    For example:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/509016-REG/Tenba_638_251_Pro_Digital_2_0_Photo.html [bhphotovideo.com]

    That way, I can customize the bag for whatever I need to carry and save weight when needed. Let's say I'm going to a conference for work and sightseeing a few days afterwards. For the trip out, I put both inserts in the bag. When I'm at the conferenc

  • Most bags are great, the big deal will be if you're doing a pro body (or standard body + grip) or a standard body. Lots of options that will depend on if you're hiking or hitting airports. I had to go the Lowepro route due to the pro body - and it'll fit a 70-200/2.8 and 3-4 lenses.
  • Sorry: forgot to log in and posted this anonymously a few minutes ago.

    And I've been reasonably happy with it. As you can probably guess, all of these bags are compromises. You can carry your laptop, and your DSLR, but you aren't going to carry much more. I've got my Canon 350D (with my "go-to" lens, the standard Canon 27-135 IS lens) mounted on it in the top spot in the camera area, then another 5 lenses (ranging from a Sigma 75-300 to a Canon 50 mm prime), along with a Sigma shoe flash stashed in camera ar

  • Not the cheapest option, but this rollaboard is also a backpack -- it's basically a backpack inside of a rollaboard, so you get the best of both worlds, plus a bonus that if you buy a bunch of stuff while traveling, your one bag turns into two. I recently purchased it for business travel, and couldn't be happier.
    http://www.amazon.com/Lowepro-Pro-Roller-x100-Camera/dp/B0027JM3B6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313439687&sr=8-2 [amazon.com]

  • On the off chance that the laptop is only there to move the pictures, I thought I'd mention the eye fi cards. I haven't bought one yet, but I'm thinking they might be interesting to use with a smartphone, send pictures from the camera to the phone to an online storage site. [www.eye.fi]

    Anyone know if there's some way one could automate cloud storage via such a system? I take a picture with my DSLR, it automatically sends it to the phone, and the phone automatically uploads it to flickr? Seems like there could be s
  • I am exceptionally happy with my Tasmanian Tiger Mission Pack MC. They're made by Tatonka, a German manufacturer of quality outdoor/camping gear. The pack is comfortable, spacious and each storage area differs from the rest so as to be flexible and practical.

    I bought my Mission Pack MC at a military gear-specific post exchange at the Kandahar Air Field and paid $200 US for it, which is about 52 dollars less than what it goes for from the manufacturer. I've had it for about three months here at my base

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