I have yet to find one camera bag that works in all situations! I have just had a quick count up and discovered that I currently own fifteen different camera bags and cases! Perhaps more surprising is that all of these see regular use (obviously some more regular than others). Some were obtained for specific trips or assignments, some to hold specific items of equipment and others as general everyday camera bags. Here is a rundown of the five bags I use the most:
Thinktank Airport International V2.0
This is a roller bag that cannot be used as a rucksack. I use this bag mainly for safari type trips where I will only be working within or close to a vehicle and where I need a long telephoto lens. It excels for this purpose. It carries loads of equipment and makes travelling through airports so much more comfortable. The bag itself is not lightweight but it does provide my equipment with a good level of protection.
Thinktank Urban Disguise 60 V2.0
This is a large laptop bag that can also carry a ton of camera equipment. I use it for air travel whenever such a bag is permitted in addition to a standard carry-on. It works particularly well in combination with the Airport International V2.0, as it slots over the rigid handle so that you only have a single item to wheel behind you. It carries my laptop, chargers, leads, one camera body and a couple of lenses.
Tamrac Extreme 787
This has been my main everyday camera bag for over 20 years (I'm on my third). It might be an old design but it works really well. It's comfortable to carry long distances, fits in the overhead compartment of every aircraft I've travelled on and holds a ton of equipment. In fact it's deceptively large, which is great when travelling by air! It also provides very good protection. Although it doesn't have a dedicated laptop pocket, my 15" Macbook Pro easily fits into the outer pocket of the bag whilst inside a protective sleeve. The harness of this bag is particularly good. The heavy duty main zip is another plus point and is the main reason that I stuck with this particular bag in the early days of photo backpacks. The only downside is that it doesn't come with a waterproof cover, so I tend to use one from another bag. I also use Tamrac's excellent belt system to carry extenders, batteries and memory cards when walking around with a long telephoto lens.
Gura Gear Bataflae 32L
This is my newest camera bag, bought to accommodate my 600mm lens when travelling. It does this with ease, along with loads of other gear. The best think about this bag is the weight. When empty it weighs considerably less than any other similar sized bag I have seen. The compromise is that the padding is thinner than that in my Tamrac and Thinktank bags. However, the foam is dense so it probably provides similar protection. It is a very well designed bag made from high quality materials. Again there is no dedicated laptop pocket in this bag, but my Macbook Pro fits very nicely inside when placed on top of all the other gear. It conforms to aircraft carry-on sizes. The harness of this bag distributes weight surprisingly well and the bag is very comfortable to carry over long distances.
Andy Rouse Viper Long Lens Bag
Although this bag is no longer available it remains my favourite bag for carrying a long lens when not travelling by air. It can easily accommodate a 600mm lens with a camera body attached. It works even better with a 500mm lens, which can be carried with camera body attached and lens hood in the shooting position. You can simply lift the whole lot out ready to shoot! It is a particularly capacious bag that is capable of carrying a 600mm, 500mm and 300mm f2.8 (and other stuff) all at the same time….the only problem then is lifting it off the ground!