With some new gear comes a need to store it all safely away. Previously I wrote about my Lowepro 200AW and how uncomfortable it was for me, as well as being too small for the amount of stuff I've accumulated in the early stage of this obsession, er...I mean hobby. The Lowepro is long gone, having fetched a decent price on Ebay. Since then I've only had the Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home (6MDH) for day trips. That bag has been perfect for its purpose so far and I definitely call it a keeper. For long trips and flights, I needed something to carry everything from home to my destination, while also bringing the 6MDH for walking around once I got there. As usual, I researched the crap out of everything, looking at all the backpacks out there in my desired price range. I read reviews, discussion boards, and read reviews again. Among the brands I looked at were Tamrac, Tenba, Crumpler, and even Lowepro again (a different one of course!). There may have been others but it's all a blur now. I finally decided that the Tamrac model 5586 in the Expedition 6x series had everything to meet my needs right now and allow a bit of extra room for future stuff.
I just received the 5586 a little over a week ago and I can't help smiling and feeling impressed every time I look at it. The build quality is outstanding. Let's start on the outside and work our way in:
On the outside are two "wing accessory" pockets for memory cards, batteries, chargers and any other small knick-knacks you want to put in there. I can stuff a lot of compact flash cards in there and they even have a management system with red flaps to let you know which memory cards are empty and which are full. The lower pocket is meant to hold part of a tripod's feet while two straps in the middle hold the tripod secure. There's another strap on the top that wraps around the upper part of the tripod for even more support. My Slik Sprint Pro tripod with Flashpoint F-1 ballhead fits nicely here. You can't see it in the photo above, but there's a padded laptop compartment right behind all those front pockets and it is sized for a 14.1" screen. I don't plan on taking my laptop with me, so I stuff this pocket with my Cokin Z-Pro filter holder, a pouch holding some 4"x5" graduated neutral density filters, a B+W 77mm MRC UV filter, and a B+W 77mm Kaesemann circular polarizing filter.
Moving on to the inside:
The Tamrac 5586 is capable of holding two DSLR bodies with medium-sized lenses mounted and six additional lenses in the main interior compartment. I suppose you could get one DSLR body with a long telephoto zoom along with another body sans lens too. I don't know that I'll carry all these lenses on a long trip, but it's nice to know I can fit them all in. Everything is well padded and well supported. On the inside of the front flap are two large transparent pockets that I use for my remote switches, USB cord, miscellaneous filters, adapters rings, and my Whibal card too.
The shoulder straps seem very sturdy and feel comfortable, even with 21 lbs of camera gear hanging off my back. A sternum strap provides even more adjustment and support to the shoulder straps, and a waist strap rounds out the great support package. I'm probably not in shape to carry this pack a long distance, but that's not Tamrac's fault. I'll get back into the exercise routine right after the holidays, I promise!