Brian's Photo Blog — Article 136
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A Tale of Four Backpacks
Friday 27 July 2012   —   Category: Equipment
This is a tale of four backpacks. Once upon a time, way back in March 2011, I was pondering what would be the best backpack for taking all of my camera equipment out hiking. Not only did I have to carry a significant amount of photo gear, but I also needed room for plenty of water, as well as food and other hiking equipment.

After much research and comparing, I finally settled on a Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW photo backpack. I ordered online, and when it arrived, it seemed bigger than I had expected. When I put it on, I felt like one of the astronauts on the moon with a Primary Life Support System on his back!

It seemed like this pack, although very nice, was just too big and heavy for practical use. Therefore, I sold it, and after some more research, tried a Lowepro Primus Minimus AW backpack (which is no longer available). I don’t know what I was thinking — or if I was thinking at all! — because this backpack was WAY too small! Strike two — back it went!

I started to realize that I was going to waste a lot of time and money buying backpacks on the Internet, and then returning them because they weren’t right for me. Therefore, I drove the 75 miles north to Pro Photo Supply camera store in Portland. From what I can tell, I think they have the largest selection of camera bags in the entire state of Oregon.

It was there that I discovered the Kata Ultra-Light Bumblebee 222. I don’t think I would have ever chosen this pack by just looking online, but once I tried it on, I was completely convinced it was the one for me. Finally, after two false starts, I found my dream photo backpack!

I've owned the Kata pack for about thirteen months now, and have taken it on numerous hikes. I still think it’s the best backpack I have ever owned — it’s definitely the most comfortable. It’s also lightweight and quite roomy. I could easily fit all of my camera equipment, along with my other supplies and enough water for a half-day hike in hot weather. But for an all-day hike, I would need more water, and it’s at this point that it starts to feel a bit small.

At the beginning of this year, during the interminable Oregon rainy season, after much pondering, I decided that I needed the Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW after all, for those long, all-day hikes. So I purchased another one — chagrinned that it was my second identical pack in less than one year, after I had already decided it didn’t suit me. Would the second time around turn out any better?

As I reported at the beginning of March — see Getting In Shape For the Coming Season — I put two sandbags in the backpack as well as a few other item to bring the total weight to around 45 pounds. Then I went for walks on the treadmill in the garage, and around the neighborhood, trying to accustom my body to that much weight. It was quite a load, but I figured that if I trained enough, my body would get stronger and more used to it.

Because of the long, Long, LONG Oregon rainy season — did I mention that it’s interminable? — it wasn’t until the summer solstice that I was able to take my first all-day hike with the Lowepro pack and all my gear. As you can read in my account of that outing — Silver Falls Summer Solstice — it didn’t go very well. The fully-loaded backpack was just too heavy for me, and I didn’t see any way that I would be able to physically rise up to the challenge.

It was this negative experience which led to my Great Camera Quandary, which was resolved by my abandoning my current APS-C camera system, and moving to a new Micro Four Thirds camera system. As I shared in my last blog entry, ALL of my Sony camera equipment — as well as this Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW pack — is up for sale. This will be the second time I've sold this pack as unsuitable for my needs. In all this trial and error, hopefully I have learned what I needed to know, and won’t repeat the same mistakes!

Thus ends the tale of four backpacks. I have a lot more to share about packs, cases, and taking my camera equipment on hikes, but that will have to wait for a future article.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 136
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