Why You Need a Great Camera Bag

Like a trusted friend, my Domke F2 bag--only the third one in over 25 years!--does its job simply but superbly. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Like a trusted friend, my Domke F2 bag--only the third one in over 25 years!--does its job simply but superbly. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

I’ve written a few times in the past about how much I like my Original Domke F2 camera bag, and why: it’s extremely simple, sturdy, holds all of my stuff, is very easy to get into and out of; did I mention how sturdy it is?

Well, let me add another critical feature: it’s very, very water repellant!

Last week while hiking and photographing in western North Carolina, we made one trip to Gorges State Park, a new park in the mountains south of Cashiers, N.C.  There was reputedly a gorgeous series of waterfalls on the Horsepastures River accessible after only a 1.5 mile hike. The day was sunny and hot. We ate lunch and started down the trail. I had my gear—a Canon Mark IV, 16-35mm zoom, 50mm macro lens, 70-700mm f2.8 zoom with extra camera battery, extra CF cards, filters, timer, microfiber cloth—all in my trusty Domke bag; that, along with my Leitz Tiltall tripod and a bottle of water, made up my load.

The trail led down, down and more down. It was gradual and easy but I knew this would be a different story on the way out. As is frequently the case, 1.5 miles turned out to be longer than we anticipated, and we weren’t sure how far we were down the trail—at least an hour into the hike—when we heard the first rumblings of thunder, off in the distance. Should we turn around? I thought, hell no! Rain had been spotty and isolated all week; what were the chances we would get hit? We kept going.

Another 15 minutes or so and we could hear water over rocks—the Horsepasture River—but no sign of any imminent waterfalls. We made a turn and found the river, small but beautiful, but no waterfalls, but now at least we were walking parallel with the stream. But the rumblings were growing louder and louder and now I knew there was a good chance we might get wet.

Just about then the first big bolt of lightning struck, a lot closer than any of us liked. Time to turn around! OK, bad decision on my part: down the trail with lots of expensive camera equipment  and NO RAIN GEAR. My most excellent poncho was sitting high and dry back in the car at the trailhead. However, I wasn’t really too worried because I knew I had my fantastic Domke bag over my shoulder!

When the first raindrops fell, I sprung into action: all cell phones and cameras went into the Domke bag along with the lenses. Then I took my Fotosharp rain cover out and laid it on top of all the kit, underneath the outside flap of the bag. I closed and snapped the top flap shut. And the bottom fell out of the sky!

With all gear stuffed down into the Domke bag, I took my Fotosharp rain cover and used it as an added layer of protection, up under the main flap of the bag. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

With all gear stuffed down into the Domke bag, I took my Fotosharp rain cover and used it as an added layer of protection, up under the main flap of the bag. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

We got wet. Really, really wet! I’m talking down to your underwear, inside the soles of your shoes wet! It was a complete and total drenching. Squishing and sloshing our way back up the trail, we were too wet to care. At least the rain cooled everything off…

Once back out to the car and on the road, we stopped at a discount store and bought a bunch of big, cheap towels. By then the sun was out and we were simply steaming. I used a towel to dry the pooled water off the top of the Domke bag, and took a peek inside…Hallelujah! Every bit of the gear was BONE DRY. All of it was completely, totally fine.

Back at our little rental house, I unpacked everything and aired it all out. I took the bag apart, removing its interior dividers, and left everything out to dry. Being canvas, by the next day it was completely dry and ready for repacking.

So a quality camera bag should be one of your first investments. Although my Domke is certainly not the only good camera bag out there—I also like the bags from Think Tank and Kata —make sure whatever you use can stand up to some serious weather.

It could mean the difference between heartbreak and hallelujah.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

1 Comment on "Why You Need a Great Camera Bag"

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  1. Has says:

    I’ve been toting around an F-2 bag for the last 20 years or so. There are a lot of nice camera bags out there, but somehow the old Domke has always been more than enough for me.

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