Whenever two or three are gathered together in the name of photography then they shall talk about camera bags.
The perfect camera bag. It's probably out there somewhere. Like the Ark of the Covenant. Although easier to find.
It will have the properties of Doctor Who's TARDIS (the perfect camera bag, not the Ark of the Covenant). It will be small on the outside, infinitely spacious inside. It will be perfectly balanced, no matter how haphazardly packed. It will distribute weight so precisely as to feel weightless. It will be robust enough to withstand the negligent treatment of photographers more concerned with getting the shot than with pampering their gear.
This, my friends, is the closest I've found to the Holy Grail of camera bags. I give you, the F-Stop Satori Expedition Bag.
Fitting neatly into an aeroplane's overhead locker, it's become my go-to bag for most assignments, especially those where I need to carry more than just camera gear.
Last week I completed the final leg of the Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Viterbo to Rome. Carrying two camera bodies, lenses and assorted paraphernalia for the equivalent of a half-marathon each day for a week was going to be challenging enough. Doing so with a bag that was uncomfortable or awkward would have made the experience so much less enjoyable.
I need a bag that distributes weight evenly, will withstand my nonchalant treatment and protect my gear whilst leaving it readily accessible.
The Satori really delivers on all counts. In the interests of full-disclosure, I should point out that I'm one of F-Stop's Global Icons but, like all my affiliations, I only say nice things about gear that I feel sufficiently delighted with. Regardless of my affiliation, I'd choose a Satori for much of my work. You'll find all the technical specifications on the F-Stop web site but, for me, the things that count are the robust build and attention to detail. You'll find heavy gauge YKK zips, plenty of compression straps and helpful details like the whistle that's built-in to the sternum strap and the convenient trash pocket for your pecorino cheese rinds and olive pits - or whatever your lunch de jour might be.
It's important to feel confident in a bag's build quality. When you grab a handle to yank the bag onto a moving train or into an overhead locker, when the bad weather sets in and threatens to soak your kit, when you need to get another lens in a hurry... you want the bag to perform as reliably as your camera gear in every situation. I was able to walk 120km+ whilst carrying all the gear I required for several full days in succession. When I reached The Vatican City, my final destination, I wasn't experiencing any discomfort from dozens of hours carrying the bag.
Good, reliable gear is always worth the investment in my opinion. I don't like to compromise on quality because I believe that it will have an impact on my work at some point. Perhaps the measure of quality gear is whether you miss using it when it's not to hand or whether you curse the prospect of having to go back to it. I can honestly say that I'd gladly pick up the Satori again tomorrow. Indeed, I'm heading to Sri Lanka so as soon as I've written this sentence, I'll be repacking the Satori for the next assignment. Marvellous!