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Making a camera bag, what do you think
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Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Making a camera bag, what do you think on 12/28/2011 08:00:29 MST Print View

A little while back I bought a new camera, a Sony NEX-5 with 18-55mm lens. I don't have a camera bag for it yet and because the existing ones are either too heavy, too expensive or just not what I really want, I've decided to make one myself.

What I need from a camera bag:
-Extra space for batteries and other small accessories
-Extra space for small tripod (Gorilla pod type)
-Attachable to hipbelt or shoulder strap

My current plan:
I'm planning on making a rectangular box out of silnylon with CCF for padding on the inside. The camera will be facing lens down/screen up, so there will be a corner of space next to the lens. Here I can put my spare batteries.

I already have a thin (about 6mm) CCF mat that I don't use. It's probably overkill for what I plan on using it for, but since I already have the stuff, it will do. I can cut out an L-shape and fold that so it covers 5 sides of my box. Do I need to make small cuts in the corners so that it will fold more easily? I can also glue a small piece of CCF as a small "wall" inside the box that will form the accessory compartment.

This CCF box will then be placed inside a silnylon bag with a roll top closure. I may put a piece of CCF inside the roll top closure (maybe 2 small pieces, one on the front and one on the back) that will fold down as a lid to cover the screen once the roll top is closed. For the roll top closure I plan on using 1 cm webbing to stiffen the opening. It will be closed with 2 buckles attached to the side of the bag.

For the attachement to my backpack I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I might make something similar to what Lowepro uses on their Apex series ( On the other hand, I may just make 2 loops on the back that will go around my hipbelt.

Right now, I don't know yet what I'll do with my tripod. I may just use a strap of velcro to attach it to the outside.

What do you think of my plan? Any advice or criticism is welcome.

Steven Adeff
(TinCanFury) - F

Locale: Boston
Re: Making a camera bag, what do you think on 12/28/2011 08:20:05 MST Print View

I bought my mom a camera bag from REI that is very similar to what you'll be doing, though with a zipper top. and of course, probably 3x the weight. I used in in Argentina (not backpacking, just touristing) and found it excellent.

It had both belt loops and strap rings built in. I don't know if I trust a velcro system like that, but I don't know if I'd trust a silnylon slip whole for sliding a belt through either. I guess it depends on how you reinforce it... My other thought is that when I did use it on my belt it was very awkward for moving around freely. What about something that is more like a chest-bag setup so it sits up higher and doesn't limit mobility as much?

Christopher Zimmer
(czimmer) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Making a camera bag, what do you think on 12/28/2011 08:22:10 MST Print View

Hey Mark,
One thing I would think about changing is your material choice. I would go with a Xpac material to make a much more durable pack, sure it will be heavier then silnylon, but xpac will hold a shape much better and I think will make a nicer pack to carry around expensive camera equipment. For padding the bag you also might want to think about using 3D mesh, it will not have as much padding as foam, but will be easier to work with. With 3D mesh you can sandwich a layer of mesh with a layer of xpac or silnylon and sew them together and then make the pack so the padding is not floating around the inside of the pack. Adding padding such as foam to a smaller bag can be a tricky thing to do, so if you go that route I look forward to see what you come up with.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Making a camera bag on 12/28/2011 09:26:33 MST Print View

Thanks for the quick responses!

My brother and several of my friends have a Lowepro bag with this velcro system and they actually work quite well. However, this camera is quite a bit heavier (it weighs nearly 700 gram with all the accessories) than the camera's they used. Even so, I don't think this system would fail quickly if made properly.

On the one hand I think it would be nice to use the camera bag as a chest pack. That's what I originaly had in mind. On the other hand I'm affraid that a chest pack might get too hot/cause bad ventilation in warm situations. Also, I don't really see a good way of attaching the camera bag to my shoulder strap (yet). Any suggestions? Thirdly, this is not a SUL package. I'm affraid that hanging the camera bag from my shoulder will put more weight on my shoulder than is comfortable.

The straps to attach the camera bag to my pack is probably the last thing to be made, so I have some time to think about this. Any information or experience regarding shoulder strap mounted bags and the (dis)comfort that comes with it is welcome.

I already have the foam and silnylon for another project is also on it's way, so those will be the materials I'll be using. I agree that the foam is overkill as far as padding is concerned, but it also has some stiffness to it that will hopefully keep the bag in it's shape. X-pac is nice, but heavy and expensive. The silnylon may be a bit weaker, but I don't intend on treating it roughly. It should be durable enough.

I do intend on attaching the foam to the nylon bag with a couple of stitches. It won't be floating around.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Lowepro on 12/28/2011 10:06:22 MST Print View

Did you lookhike into the Lowepro Compact Courier 70 and 80 which are both pretty stellar options for the Sony NEX, they attach to the hipbelt or the chest very easily. Weight is insignificant. I used the Courier 80 for the short time I owned my GF2 and it had room for camera, extra lens, and battery. How I attached it was simple, removed stock webbing from Courier case, then I attached a Niteize S-biner on each end and then clipped those to the D-rings on my packs shoulder straps. I find that I shoot more photos when the camera is easily accessible. The setup above rode comfortably and simply, weight was dispersed evenly.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Re: Lowepro compact courier on 12/29/2011 06:26:43 MST Print View

I had not seen that bag yet. It looks like a nice bag, but it's not perfect. It's only water resistant, not water proof. There are some other things about that bag that don't feel right to me as well, but I can't put my finger on it yet. I will think about your idea of using carabiners. I may very well end up using a system like that.

I do wonder if using carabiners makes the camera bag swing around a lot. It seems very dificult to me to make a system with carabiners that remains firmly in one place. With velcro you can tie the camera bag firmly to something else. What are your experiences with this?

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Reinforcing roll top on 01/01/2012 06:30:04 MST Print View

Construction of my camera bag has already started and is going well, but when I started looking closely at roll top closures from store bought bags I noticed something. They have all been reinforced with something. At first I thought this reinforcement was just from the webbing, but it seems this is not the case. It seems that some sort of fairly tough plastic was used (tougher than webbing) along the edge of the roll top to provide some stiffness.

Do I need something stiffer than webbing for my roll top? If so, what do you use?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Reinforcing roll top on 01/01/2012 13:56:33 MST Print View

IF (IF) I understand you correctly, I think that bit of plastic is to make rolling the top down easier. But webbing works just as well.
So why plastic? Maybe cheaper? Maybe bad marketing design?


Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
You understand correctly on 01/01/2012 15:15:43 MST Print View

You understand correctly, the plastic is there to make rolling the top down easier. Do you think 1cm wide webbing would work or is that too narrow? I have quite a bit of this width lying around, so it would be nice if I could use this. Otherwise I'd have to go out and buy some wider webbing.

john w cochran
(ciphoto) - MLife

Locale: South East
Sound good so far.. on 01/02/2012 10:08:34 MST Print View

Your bag sounds good, look forward to seeing pics when its done. I've thought about doing one and have it like a chest bag, attached to the should straps, and then have rods holding it out some attached on the hip belt...

But I've got a few other things on my DIY list ahead of that...

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Still working on it on 01/07/2012 16:30:38 MST Print View

I'm still working on my bag, but it's nearing completion. I made the ccf box by glueing all the panels together instead of folding it. It keeps it's shape very nicely. The silnylon bag is also almost complete. Right now it's a normal dry bag with a roll top. I still have to sew loops with clickers/closures (what do you call those things anyway?) to the sides so that I can close it.

For suspension I'm going to make it hang from a single strap with carabiner to the top of my shoulder belt. Then I'm going to use a velcro loop to attach the bag securely to my shoulder strap. I still have to make this.

The bag isn't finished yet, but so far it weighs about 37 grams. I'm expecting it will weigh about 45 grams once it is finished. My brother's camera bag weighs approximately 120 grams and it is about half to 2/3rd of the size of mine.

Edited by Markacd on 01/07/2012 17:08:24 MST.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Still working on it on 01/09/2012 23:43:10 MST Print View

Im interested in how your project turned out. I am currently debating on how to carry my epm1. My current plan is to use the pockets on my circuit but that doesnt address how i will carry my camera for day hikes.

I think for day hikes i want a shoulder pouch but i am still unsure. None of the comercial solutions seem to be what i want.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
I'll let you know... on 01/10/2012 06:40:13 MST Print View

...when it's done. I still need to make the suspension system, but I need to find some time first. Also, I'm wondering about what the best/strongest way is of attaching a loop to the relatively fragile silnylon. I wouldn't want the bag to rip apart because it can't handle the camera's weight.

In the mean time, here are some pictures of the unfinished product.
The ccf box:
ccf box 1ccf box 2

The ccf box inside the bag:
box in bag

Roll top closed:
roll top closedLoop

In the last picture you can roughly see where I want to put a small loop (it will be a lot smaller than what I show in the picture). I will make one on the other side as well so I can attach O-rings and a sling if I'm not using it with my backpack. This loop will also be where a strap towards my shoulder belt will be attached. On the panel that's covered by my hand I will attach a velcro loop that will go around my shoulder strap and stop it from moving too much.

Edited by Markacd on 01/10/2012 06:41:15 MST.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
It's ready for action! on 01/30/2012 10:53:50 MST Print View

I don't have time to make and post pictures now, so you'll have to wait for those. The camera bag is now ready for action. It is completely waterproof and very lightweight (only 46 grams on my scale)!

The ccf box can still be removed from the bag. I'm still thinking about reinforcing some of the stress points by permanently attaching the bag to the box. I'm not sure if I should or how I would do that though. I can't sew the nylon to the ccf with my machine and it's difficult (not to mention messy) to do it by hand. Do you have any idea how I could do this? Maybe some silicon glue might work?

Stephen Burgess

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Making a camera bag on 01/30/2012 19:33:13 MST Print View

I recently went through the same process. The commercial products available did not address my needs: waterproof, dustproof, lightweight and customizable. Sometimes I carry upwards of 3 cameras, the largest being the Panasonic GH2. I finally hit on a system made for UL users that addresses all the above, plus is non bouncy...I Have actually run with it on. In a nutshell, it is an altered chest pack (more volume) from ZPacks where I constructed (like you) an inner container out of foam board and duct tape. The chest pack itself is made of a cuben/nylon hybrid material and has a waterproof zipper. If I need to reconfigure the interior, I just get out the scissors and foam sheets and duct tape away. A complete write up of the process can be found here on my blog: front pack: customized
This system is very secure as it incorporates straps tied into the backpack. Although I use a ZPacks Zero pack, the additional straps can be used with most packs.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Pictures on 01/31/2012 05:29:06 MST Print View

Here are some pictures.

the bag
Velcro closure
Hanging loop
Attached to pack
Easy access

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Making a camera bag on 01/31/2012 07:15:02 MST Print View

Hi everyone.

Looking at this project and the following pictures reminded me of a camera bag solution I put together last summer. For years I had been trying out many different kinds of camera bags to carry my DSLR with one zoom lens and the few supporting accessories like extra batteries, filters, cleaning fluid and cloth, remote control, etc, but nothing ever worked very well. Bags that hung off the shoulder straps of my backpack were ungainly when I wanted to remove the pack and some of my packs, like my Mariposa, just didn't have the strength of provisions in the straps to accommodate a camera bag very well. I also tried various waist packs, but they always got in the way of my legs when climbing and the waist belt always dug into my back under my backpack hip belt. Also, most of the camera bags were not waterproof and I always thought having to carry an extra waterproof cover for a bag that already had its own material seemed like redundant weight. So therefore my Ortlieb bags seemed logical, except that the roll-down opening get quite cumbersome when trying to access my camera quickly for a fleeting shot.

Then, just by accident, I came across the Mountain Equipment Postman Mini Bag, a very lightweight, lightly insulated, completely waterproof small shoulder bag:

ME Postal Mini Bag

The bag itself as is wasn't very good for unencumbered walking with a camera, but it did come with a whole array of snaps and buckles and hooks and straps that were meant to allow you to attach the bag to your backpack shoulder straps. The bag has four plastic D-rings originally designed for use as the shoulder strap attachment and waist strap attachment, sort of like the 4 D-Rings on the Lowe Pro AW Nova bags. I tried them, but nothing worked.

Then I hit upon a very simple solution: get two lightweight, 3/4 inch wide nylon camera bag straps with two plastic hooks each (I used the shoulder straps from my waterproof Ortlieb camera bags), attach the hooks in a cross fashion to the 4 D-Rings on the bag, and slip into the two straps as you would a camera harness, so that it makes an "X" at your back. Voila! A very simple, very lightweight, and very stable carrying system. I can climb the steepest hills without worry about my camera bag swinging forward, it carries a little above my navel so that it's not too high on the chest or too low over the crotch (you can adjust this), and best of all it carries independently from my backpack, so I can always have my camera with me and the camera doesn't swing down and hit rocks and such when taking off my backpack. I did get an extra foam insert to protect the camera, so that brought the weight up a little. The entire bag with foam insert and two nylon straps, weighs 365 g.

Here are some photos:

Camera Bag 1

Camera Bag 2

Camera Bag 3

Camera Bag 4

Camera Bag 5

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Re: Mountain Equipment bag on 02/01/2012 05:29:00 MST Print View

I had thought about making something similar to Miguel's bag, but I don't like having things on my chest or stomach. Not because the bag might get in the way, but because it reduces breathability. In the end my solution is also quite a bit lighter. At 46 grams it only weighs about 1/8th of that heavy beast of yours ;)

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Mountain Equipment bag on 02/01/2012 05:45:27 MST Print View

At 46 grams it only weighs about 1/8th of that heavy beast of yours ;)

Too true! But remember, I'm carrying around a DSLR! Too light a material and it can't support the weight. Of course I have to see if I can get lighter materials.

Living in Japan the worry about very high heat and humidity is part of the logistics of backpacking here, so for me having things against my chest is also a problem. Therefore the bag carried at about navel level. The straps make the pack loose enough (and you can loosen it more without too much trouble with stability) that I never had problems with sweat build-up, and no problems whatsoever with breathing.

Anyway, it's a solution that works very well for me. I'm not sure I'd be happy with a big lump sitting on my collar bone and obstructing my view as I walk.

To each his own, aye?

Stephen Burgess

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: camera bag carrying options on 02/01/2012 10:27:28 MST Print View

The ZPacks chest pack weighs 30 grams (2.8 ozs) plus my insert of foam board and duct tape, so the total probably doesn't exceed 50 grams, and I feel comfortable carrying a DSLR with a good prime lens plus 2 helmet cams, plenty of protection. Unfortunately for those who don't like chest packs, I have found that for practical use on the trail I need access without having to drop my backpack and dig a camera out; this usually equates to some system where a camera is available either on a pack strap, a hipbelt strap or a chest pack. For larger cameras a chest pack is mandatory (for me). I have schlepped cameras around for years and find no problems with breathing (I run with them on) or bouncing on this latest iteration. Everything is a compromise so you just have to figure out what works for you when it comes to comfort and accessibility. Smaller, lighter cameras certainly give you more varied options.