The Camera Backpack I’ve Been Searching For: FOUND!

I’ve been complaining on twitter for quite some time that I want a functional camera backpack that doesn’t look… ugly. I have a functional camera backpack that is ugly. It’s super functional and it works just fine. But did I mention it’s ugly? And really, it’s too long for my torso, but it distributes the weight the way that I need it to with my degenerative back (meaning one-strap bags hurt me), so I take it with me to blogging conferences instead of cute little one-strapped bags (of which I have quite a few). It’s a bummer. I wanted something cute.

Some high end ones recently hit toe market but after spending $200+ on another brand’s camera bag to have it break in a three month time span, I’m gun-shy. I don’t want to shell out over $150 on a bag. I just don’t. Not after that experience and the total lack of customer service. Not happening.

Enter my friend Nicole. She recently started selling Thirty-One, a customizable bag company (based in Ohio, for the record). I have an insulated tote I bought a couple of years ago (that we use solely to take our beer down to the beach on vacation; I kid you not) and was interested in having a party before Christmas. I looked through her new catalog over coffee one Wednesday and nearly spit my coffee everywhere. Thirty-One now makes a camera bag! AND IT IS A BACKPACK!

They call it an “organizing pack,” as the padded insert(s) can be removed and you can use it for… organizing things. But don’t worry about what they called it: It’s a camera bag. And it’s mostly awesome. I got it last week, giving me a weekend with one photoshoot, one soccer game and one traipse around the neighborhood to see what I like. And what I don’t.

First off, it fits. Hallelujah. As I said, my old one is functional, but it runs my entire back all the way to my butt. It bounces oddly when I walk, especially with my laptop in it, so it can be painful despite proper weight distribution. As the Thirty-One bag was made with women in mind, it actually fits my smaller stature. No weird bouncing when I walked.

My Thirty-One Photo Backpack

As you can see, however, it is a one-strap backpack. I knew that prior to getting it, and was worried about it. Would it distribute the weight evenly, like I need it to? Or would it just be another camera bag that gets ignored because it hurts my back? The good news is that it works quite well. The strap is thick and aligned across the back properly so the weight is still evenly distributed. I struggle a little bit to get the camera bag off my back as I have the strap tightened down (to keep it as close to my body as possible), but I have learned to loosen it a bit for the up-and-over process.

So how does the strap sit across my chest?

Thirty-One Camera Backpack

Of note: I’m wearing a typical sports bra in this photo, so I’ve got some uniboob going on — and it still fits comfortably. Also of note: The recent weight loss has also made some of my boobage disappear, so what was Double D is now somewhere in a C. When wearing a normal bra this weekend, the strap fit comfortably across my chest, falling into that weird spot of not quite in the middle of my cleavage but not uncomfortably smashing underside boob. Again, I think it has to do with the weight distribution across the shoulder and back and the thickness of the strap. It didn’t bother me, but your mileage may vary.

Let’s look inside.

The bag boasts five compartments with the padded insert. You’ll notice I used a singular word there: Insert. While a lot of the camera bags on the market have removable inserts, plural, the Thirty-One bag has one insert. Meaning that the compartments aren’t really customizable to size. It’s not the worst problem ever, but still. My Nikon D90 with a battery pack and Tamron 28-75 2.8 attached on the front fits perfectly in one of the compartments. I say perfectly, because that’s the next problem: The inability to adjust the compartments because of a one-piece insert combined with the fact that the bag has a lot of room means that smaller lenses move around in the compartment. Not a fan.

Thirty-One Camera Backpack

My long lens (300) stays put just nicely, and I’ve added my speedlight to that compartment to keep each other company and motionless. My collection of other little lenses? Won’t hold still. My 50mm 1.8 keeps trying to jump ship all the time, though she hasn’t actively made it from one compartment to another. She’s just wiggling around in her assigned spot, which makes me nervous. Lenses shouldn’t get to move around. I’m thinking about moving a removable insert from another bag and adding padding to my “other lens” compartment.

There’s also room inside for my wallet, phone and other stuff, though there’s a zipped pocked on the front if you didn’t want your “other stuff” in with your camera. I do like the fact that the front zipper part has straps that keep it from flopping all the way open — just in case your 50mm is running around inside. There’s also lots of little mesh zippered areas for things like memory cards, card readers, remotes, what have you. Two pouches on the outside (water bottle, whatever) are also convenient.

My favorite part is that it also has zipper access from the top of the bag, which has a handle — and that’s how you access the laptop compartment. And my laptop fits. Hallelujah! I can use this as my take all bag for traveling (don’t check your camera equipment; carry that on with you, people!) and conferences.

Thirty-One Camera Backpack

Are there things about this bag I would improve? Yes. I really would add that second strap. I would make the inserts fully customizable. I would add a bit more padding to the front zippered access which would probably eliminate all of the move-around-inside-the-bag woe. But am I going to use this as my go-to bag right now? You betcha. My back was singing the praises of this bag after the soccer game yesterday. I love that I am free to shoot without pain now while still carrying everything I need without all the bulk — and ugliness — of my other bag!

Oh happy day!

Only problem about this whole thing? The Organizing Pack is a Hostess Gift. Only. So you have to host a party in order to get this piece of photography goodness. But the good news is that the price for the hostess is only $40, which is about, oh, $190 less than some other bags I’ve had my eye on. Additionally, they are valuing it at $120, and of course, as with any home-sales parties, you can earn that puppy for free. Yay!

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6 Comments

  1. I cannot wait to get my bag!

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for writing this!!! I’m not a photographer by any means so it’s difficult for me to explain the pros/cons about this bag to my customers. I’m excited to share this with them so they have an idea what to look for in a bag. Much thanks again!!

    Reply
  3. Like.

    Reply
  4. I had never considered a one shoulder backpack for a camera bag, but that actually seems kind of perfect. I’m still lugging around the giant Canon lunchbox my husband bought with my camera. I’m going to have to look this up at the next 31 party I go to!

    Reply
  5. I noticed that you have a Nikon D90. I have been loosely shopping for a DSLR camera on and off for months now. My dad has a D90 and my MIL has a Canon T3i. I have always been a Canon girl, albeit only with little Powershots, but I’m torn between those two. No matter which one I go with, though, I need to just bite the bullet and spend the money. Any advice or suggestions?

    Reply
    • I was a Canon girl when I got my first DSLR. I switched to Nikon in 2009 because of the newspaper — and I’ll never go back to Canon. That said, Canon was REALLY easy to learn on, where I’m not sure Nikon is as beginner user friendly.

      Reply

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