Avoid being a target by announcing your fancy schmancy SLR
Like most avid travellers, I too own an SLR, a Nikon D90 to be precise. When I first got my camera, I was excited. I was a photographer! I could take pretty pictures and make the image sharp and the back blurry, or artistically blur the front and make the back sharp. You know, fancy schmancy things. I went all out and bought all the gear I thought I may need. A super zoom lens, extra memory cards, and of course a proper camera bag.
Now a proper camera bag may protect your camera and carry your gear well. But that’s about as far as it goes into functionality. Most of the time, it doesn’t fit anything else that you own, like your wallet, a bottle of water, some maps, your phone, a book, your sunnies. The works. You could of course get the super large Lowerpro backpack with the words Lowerpro emblazoned across the back, but the design of the bag itself is enough to make you a walking target in some cities across the world, did you really need to increase the advertisement?
Over the years I have actually changed up my bags a bit. I started with the:
1) Sling Lowerpro bag (followed by a brief lapse of judgment and switching to the Lowerpro backpack), which enables you to slide the bag across your torso for easy reach, and easy changing of your camera bag. Pros: Easy sling indeed, and sits on your back snugly. Cons: Doesn’t really fit anything else unless you take out your extra lens. The back padding is thick which really makes you sweat in the heat, and honestly, does not go with a bunch of dresses, or cardigans or anything since it tends to move your clothing quite a bit
(Pic: Road tripping to Uluru, Australia – don’t mind the fly net hat)
2) Then I went on to the Crumpler saddle bag. It was red, and so was at least a little more fun. Pros: Had padding, protected camera , and because it was a saddle, didn’t rub my back and could be worn like a long handbag. Cons: Nothing else fits (this was a medium size one, perhaps the larger would be better), the shape was ok though not very exciting, and I guess it still looked like a camera bag!
(Pic: At The Peak, Hong Kong)
3) Moving on, I switched up to the Longchamp handbags (Le Pliage line). So I guess this is pretty much where in life I hit my tipping point. There was no turning back after this. Using a steady handbag as your camera bag was amazing! You looked for the most part like just another woman on the street. As long as you acted like you knew your directions, you didn’t have to set off any ‘tourist tourist’ alarm bells. Pros: You could easily reach your camera, and stuff your handbag with other things i.e. water bottle, wallets, keys, cardigans. The straps are very strong. I abused mine by using it everyday non-stop for most of my two week trips for almost two years and it was fine. Cons: You MUST be aware of how you handle the handbag, given that your camera would be at the base, remember to lower it gently to the ground for the most part. The Le Pliage though itself being very light (and foldable!) has a fundamental issue of not really being designed for everything a woman owns nowadays. There is only one pocket! To have easy reach of your hotel keys, and wallet and cellphone can be a bit troublesome.
(Pic: Walking around Plaza Mayor – Madrid, Spain)
4) I played around with using a handbag for my camera bag for a bit. Different Le Pliage sizes, testing out the new Tumi totes. But one day, in Amsterdam I came across a bag I knew would make a difference. A bag that was screaming my name. A bag that married both function and fashion. I give you the Esprit (Sadly I have no idea what the collection is called). It has a slight padded bottom to give you some comfort of thought (but slight, so you still have to remember to gently place things down). You can stuff it silly with your things. It has tons of pockets (including two front zips) making it easy to access your stuff. And it can be used as a tote, a crossbody bag, and a saddle. Plus! Come on! Yellow trim and black and white herringbone?! Awesome!
(Pic: My travel fav; Surviving Queen’s Day – Amsterdam, Netherlands; travelling to Caxias, Portugal)
You can of course always go ahead and stuff all your things in a slightly more inconspicuous large designer leather bags; like the Balenciaga motorcycle bag. But seriously, would you really want to stuff all that in and lug around a $3,000 handbag? Plus, the leather bag alone tends to be quite heavy. As for other players, like the Louis Vuitton Neverfull, it’s a beautiful bag, but non-zippered enclosures are a no-no for me when travelling. Plus again, do you really want to advertise money money money when travelling?