It’s 2013: we can carry hundreds of books on a pocket-sized device, video chat anywhere in the world and order nearly anything to be delivered to our door. So why do we still use paper luggage tags and rely on outmoded technology to track our missing bags? British Airways has teamed up with Designworks to test an electronic luggage tag this month that could eliminate disposable paper tags and allow smartphone users to track their bags. The reusable bag tag would automatically update after check-in with your flight information, saving time to print and attach new tags with every flight. Now if only they could prevent bags from being lost at London’s infamous black hole Heathrow Airport.
Feeling nosy? Then you might enjoy today’s Photo of the Day. Flickr user and designer Lacko Illustration provided an extremely detailed look inside his bag. There’s even a legend on the bottom to accompany the objects in case you can’t tell from the photo. Judging from the razor blades and Glock drives, he probably doesn’t take this on planes, but it’s still fun to look inside someone else’s bag, especially an artist. There are some fun details to find, like some “zombie bait” and Lacko’s own “Chewie is my Co-Pilot” sticker.
Man, do I see a lot of luggage. Roll-aboards. Day packs. Laptop/iPad/digital whatever storage solutions. And honestly, most of them don’t quite make the cut. Part of the reason I have so many of these things is that I continue to quest for The Perfect Bag. Light, versatile, the right pocket for that one thing that always gets loose and floats around inside my luggage.
I’m impressed when a bag designer really thinks about how a bag will get used. Attention to detail, that makes all the difference. (See also, this bag by Tom Bihn.) The folks behind the Airporter by Guerrilla Packs have given a great deal of thought to putting their bag together. They’ve made a well designed backpacker/round-the-world bag and if you’re in the market for such a thing, you should check it out.
The Airporter is one of those system packs with a clip on day pack. Gravity isn’t always your friend with these things, your balance gets out of whack because where the weight sits is just wrong. The day pack on the Airporter is small, so that helps. Pack smart and keep most of your gear in the big bag, just use the day pack for stuff you need to access frequently and you’ll be fine. Then, when you’re day tripping, use the bag for whatever you need — stowing your swimsuit for that snorkel boat day, shopping, whatever.
There’s a sleeve for your laptop in the back, a pull through for your headphones, some internal pockets and key loop. Plus, hey, that’s nice… picked up too much stuff while out shopping? The day pack expands, just open the wrap around zipper. Clever. What’s missing? A water bottle pocket. Sure you could stow your water bottle inside the pack, but that’s beside the point, no?
The main pack has a couple of external pockets — two smaller zip pockets on the top and water bottle/dirty hikers pockets on the side. There are lashing straps for your sleeping bag or raincoat or whatever, and a bunch of tie on loops along the top. In the bottom, there’s a rain cover that’s sewn on; you won’t lose it unless you cut it off.
Inside the body of the pack, there are two attached padded pockets — ideal for your pocket camera, and a clip in place padded laptop sleeve that you can use as a shoulder bag. The sleeve just fits in the day pack if you’ve got the day pack expanded. Another useful feature? The entire front panel of the pack zips away for loading. Those top-loader packs make me crazy, the thing you want is always at the bottom.
A removable lightweight plastic frame helps the pack hold its shape. A zippered back panel hides padding for your back and the padded shoulder and waist straps. That panel stows in the same place where the rain cover is hiding. It’s nice to be able to stow those straps when you’re checking your bag for a flight, or tossing it into an overhead bin on a plane or train. Grips on the top and side mean that you can handle this just like any other duffel — though there’s no additional shoulder strap. Oh, and yes, it’s the right size for a carry-on, because really, who wants to check a bag these days?
Besides the lack of a water bottle pocket on the day pack, I found little to criticize on the Airporter. Tougher hardware would be nice, but that would add more weight. There’s only one of those “keep your stuff in place” straps inside, but packing cubes would fix that. Truth be told, I look at this thing and kind of wish I was graduating from college all over again, with a Eurail pass and a boundless sense of optimism.
The Airporter retails for $129.00. It’s super versatile, has a lot of genuinely useful features, and designed for the urban backpacker who travels light. Check it out here.
The classic Timbuk2 messenger bag. I’ve got one, it’s in Rasta colors because, dude, I rode a bike everywhere and I live on the West Coast, man. It used to be all I needed to carry around with me (before I went mainstream with actual income and a car and a phone with a data plan) was my driver’s license, a pair of Chuck T’s, and some beer money. (If you think I’m making this up, you didn’t live in Seattle in the 90s. What? I’m old.)
I loved that bag, though I stopped carrying it when I needed to drag around a camera with a big-ass lens and a laptop everywhere I went. The husband kind of took it over and would use it when we went rollerblading down at the beach, tossing in a water bottle and the car keys and, so we could call 911 if I broke an elbow, that same phone with the data plan.The bag. The bag. It’s been redesigned as the Snoop Camera Messenger. that’s where I was going. It works great for all that stuff your modern life makes you carry around and it doesn’t look life you’ve cashed in all your urban cred for a lawnmower. Though I totally have, even if our mower came from Craig’s List. The bag. I was talking about the bag.
To keep your photo gear safe, there’s a padded velcro insert like any classic camera bucket. You can move the dividers around to organize your kit the way you like it. I had no problem stowing the camera with the 28-300 telephoto, the compact video camera, a pocket camera, a removable flash, and the netbook. There was still space for things like my phone, the Moleskine notebook, business cards… you get the drill. And that was all in the smallest size of the Snoop. So, yes, it does hold all your gear. All of it.
There’s a shoulder strap with an adjustable pad, plus, a waist belt to add on if you’re really going to cycle with this thing — that helps keep the bag in place when it’s fully loaded. There’s a clear pocket in the front, maybe for your transit pass or your press pass. There’s a “photoggy” thing I’d not even considered before: silencer tabs on the Velcro that keep the noise down when you’re opening the bag to switch lenses (or whatever).
I had to fuss with the strap and the shoulder pad to get it to fit right but that’s easy enough to do. I really liked the quick release buckle that adjusts the strap length, and once I had everything set, carrying all that gear around got a lot easier. It’s all secure, it doesn’t slop around in the bag, and it doesn’t look like a camera bag at all. Nope, it looks like a messenger bag from my bad-ass days of riding a bike everywhere.
Any downsides? I wanted a handle on the top so I could move the bag around when it’s not on my shoulder. The front pockets seems like they’ll hold a bunch of stuff, but that’s only true if it’s all fairly flat. An interior pocket for your valuables and a D-ring or clip for your keys would be a nice addition. Other than that, no complaints. It’s good looking, holds a lot of electronica securely, and it’s totally messenger chic. I like that.
Get your own from Timbuk2.
Selecting a camera bag can be a daunting process. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of options, and even bags that aren’t specifically designed with cameras in mind can be altered and repurposed for use with your setup. Kata is a respected name in the bag industry, offering quite a few travel packs and a handful of dedicated camera packs. Where they stand out is their rigidity and flexibility. The company’s packs are stronger, stiffer and more rugged than the average bag, and the prices show it.
The Kata 3N1-33 is its highest-end sling / torso pack that’s designed for hauling around a robust DSLR rig. It’s not nearly as bulky as some of the backpacks we’ve seen, but the internal compartments are arranged in a way so that you can carry around a 15.4-inch (or smaller) laptop, a DSLR (with or without battery grip), a long-range zoom lens, five or six other lenses, a camera flash and a handful of chargers, batteries, pens, keys, business cards and any other small essentials that you typically would carry on a business or travel shoot.
But what truly sets this bag apart in our mind is the handling capabilities. You can wear this pack a half-dozen different ways: as a standard backpack, as a left or right-handed torso pack, or in a x-strap configuration that’s a hybrid of the two.
Wondering how this bag fares against the competition, and if it’s really worth the $130 or so that it’s selling for? Read on for our full review.
%Gallery-112423%With one look at the 3N1-33, you’ll know that it’s a very different pack. There are an interesting arrangement of straps, hooks, and pads in which to conceal those straps on the rear. Kata thankfully includes a small booklet which describes the many ways this pack can be worn. We particularly enjoyed two of them. Wearing it as a standard backpack was extremely comfortable. There’s a sufficient amount of padding on the rear, and adjusting the straps to bring it closer to your frame is a cinch. The torso / sling approach is quite useful as well. This combines the flexibility of a messenger bar hold with the stability of a backpack hold. You only use a single strap in torso mode, but the pack remains upright on your back; when you want, you simply slide the pack around in front of your stomach, and the side compartment is right there for easy access. Left and right side compartments are here to support left- and right-handed shooters.
Internally, there’s tons of room, and it’s all well arranged. You can easily fit a flash along with two to three lenses on each side compartment, along with three to four more in the center. Accessing those requires the bottom to be unzipped, but it’s not a hassle. There’s also a separate and dedicated top portion; we love the compartments here. Keeping things separate ensures that items don’t slide into a section as you’re shooting, and this approach worked very well for us in the field.
There are two side pockets along the top edge that are separated from the core of the bag; these work very well for holding lens caps, keys, wallets, cellphones, business cards, etc. Of course, the padded laptop sleeve is its own compartment as well, and held our 15-inch MacBook Pro snugly and without issue. You can squeeze two in there back-to-back, but it’s really tight.
Overall, the attention to detail here is just impossible to ignore. The pack is rigid from top to bottom, and it’s almost impossible to knock over. The padded compartments are all easy to access, and we truly felt as if our lenses and peripherals were in good hands within the pack. The ability to wear this in so many different ways gives the 3N1-33 a huge leg-up over the competition, and while it’s compact enough to slide beneath the average airline seat, it’s able to hold quite a load due to it not slimming from bottom to top as most traditional backpacks do.
Just to give you an idea of what will fit in here with ease: a 15-inch laptop, power adapter, 2.5-inch external hard drive, seven USB / connector cables, a Nikon D3s DSLR, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, 50mm f/1.4 lens, 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, an included Kata rain bag (to protect the entire pack if it starts raining), a bulky D3s charger, two Lensbaby creative lenses, an SB-700 flash, car keys, a stack of business cards, a smartphone and at least two more medium-sized lenses if I wanted. All of this fits in with ease, and while you’ll need a strong back to load it around, the Kata remains comfortable for hours on end, particularly when you can change how you carry it every half hour by just swapping a few clips and redistributing the weight.
This particular Kata has earned our highest recommendations, and that’s saying something. The only people who may not be fond of this bag are those who routinely carry very small camera setups. This is a bag intended for professionals or enthusiasts that enjoy carrying around a robust lens collection and loads of accessories. Kata makes a few smaller versions of this very pack that still maintain the multiple carrying options, so we’d recommend having a look at those (3N1-10, 3N1-11, 3N1-20, 3N1-22 and 3N1-30) if you need something that’s more compact.
At around $130, the 3N1-33 isn’t cheap, but it’s a good value for what you get. Packs are easy to find, even cheap ones. But good packs are hard to come by, and you definitely pay a premium for good design, rigidity, stability and flexibility. This particular bag is also fantastic for traveling; the dedicated laptop compartment as well as the standalone top compartment help to keep things moving when rolling through airport security. Rather than having to dig into multiple places and under mounds of accessories to get your laptop and Bag ‘O Liquids out, you can keep them in their own sections for easy access. For the hardcore travel warriors, there’s even an optional wheel attachment that’ll allow you to roll this bag from gate-to-gate. Our advice here is to skip that and invest in a rugged roll-aboard while keeping this on your back.
If we had any complaints at all (more like recommendations for the next revision), we’d say that there’s a need for a dedicated zippered window on the front compartment, so you don’t have to unzip around the entire bottom just to access some of your lenses that are stored more towards the center of the pack. And while the zippers were as rugged as they come, we’d prefer the yellow found in the interior to be pulled over to those zipper pulls. When you’re shooting a dark reception, having well-lit zipper pulls makes accessing your gear a lot easier. Other than that, we can’t really find anything to nitpick, but we definitely see a need for an even larger version to house 17-inch laptops and even bigger lens collections.