A Short Course Book
Curtin's Guide to Digital Cameras
And Other Photographic Equipment

Camera Straps and Bags

Tenba makes a welldesigned photovest.
Tenba makes cases for lenses in many sizes and shapes.
Bags are available for slinging over a shoulder or wearing as a fanny pack.
Some camera bags and cases, like this one from Kata, have a separate compartment for a notebook computer.
The Pod from Roadwired has room for your camera and all of its cable and other accessories.
A Kata backpack with optional cart
Rain covers let you keep shooting while the rain is falling. Tenba makes rain covers for various sized camera and lens combinations.
Aquapac makes waterproof enclosures that let you shoot under water or in the rain. They also protect your camera on canoe and other boating trips.
The problem with most cameras is that they don't fit in a shirt pocket. That means they have to be carried, protected, and stored in some manner. There are all kinds of cases for digital cameras. All are basically bags with padded compartments and straps. What determines your choice is what you will be carrying and how far you plan to carry it. For example, a camera bag that hangs from a shoulder strap is ideal for short distances, but for hiking a fanny pack or even a backpack would be more comfortable
The number of camera straps and bags available is mind boggling. In this section we'll discuss some of the many types, but you should visit a camera store to see them first hand. Unfortunately, as with tripods, most camera stores carry a very limited selection.

Neck Straps

I once read one of the typical lawyer's warnings in the front of a digital camera manual. What surprised me was that they warned against using the camera's neck strap to hang the camera around your neck! I thought it was funny at the time, but have often thought of how easy it would be to get hung up in the back country if you slid. I still use one, but I'm more conscious of it now and don't use it when in a precarious position. If you use one, you know that the one that comes with your camera seems to have been designed to cut into your neck after a while on the trail, especially if carrying a heavy lens. One answer is a wider, more padded strap. Many come with quick release connectors so it's easy to remove the strap when you want. Some backpacks also have straps to hang the camera from so its weight shifts from your neck to your shoulders.

Chest Straps or Harnesses

They may look funny, but if you've ever jumped off a ledge only to have your camera swing and smash into a boulder, you'll know the value of a quick release chest harness. It keeps the camera firmly in place while climbing or fighting your way through brush.

Op/Tech makes straps for both light and heavy camera loads.
When you see a picture, it just takes a moment to release the camera. One of these also takes the weight of the camera off the back of your neck, something that's always welcome.


I wouldn't be caught dead in a photographer's vest, but often pay dearly for my vanity. The point of a vest is to give you lots of pockets to store the things you need. On a long hike I'm always taking my back pack off to get at the things that could be much more conveniently carried and accessed in a vest's pockets.

Lens Pouches

If your camera has interchangeable lenses, they probably cost you hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars. It pays to spend a few more bucks to make sure they are protected, especially in storage and while traveling. One way to do this is in a padded camera case. Another is separate pouches for each lens.

Shoulder and Hip Bags

Many popular camera bags have shoulder straps that shift the weight of the load from a handgrip to your shoulder. These bags are most useful when storing your equipment or traveling short distances. Carry one all day can be tiresome, but they do have one advantage over a backpack type bag, you can get to your things without having the hassle of taking the pack off. Another variant lets you use a belt to strap the bag to your hips.

Camera Backpacks

For heavy loads or long treks, there is no substitute for a backpack. They shift the entire load to your shoulders and some have waist straps that shift much of it to your hips. Although it can be a bother to take the pack off, remove some gear, and then put the pack back on, it need not be that way. Most photographers carry the camera around their neck and only remove the pack when they need to changes batteries, lenses, or what have you. These packs are usually not 100% waterproof so you may want to look into a poncho or pack cover if there is a chance you might get caught in the rain. I always carry a light poncho that doubles as a ground cloth if I need to kneel or lie down on damp or tick-infested ground.
Kata makes bags that have separate rain covers and Lowepro makes waterproof backpack bags called "Dry-Zone". The Dry-Zone bags have a waterproof lining and zipper and are said to keep your gear dry even during complete immersion. In less extreme conditions, you can fasten the inner zipper and the top clip, and leave the waterproof zipper open for faster access to gear.

Rigid Cases

Rigid cases made from aluminum or other materials such as high-impact plastic are usually used for shipping cameras, as when checking them into baggage on a flight. You might as well label them "Steal this Case" in big neon letters. Rigid waterproof cases are perfect for canoe or kayak trips, but be sure to strap them to a thwart so they don't sink or float away if you capsize. Some not only have waterproof seals, but also a pressure system. You pump up the inside pressure so water can't get in even if it can find a way around the seals.

Camera Pouches and Cases

Camera pouches and cases come in all shapes and size, just as cameras do. Some have neck straps and others belt loops. I've never tried a belt mounted camera case but it should work quite well with a small camera.

Camera Bags

Camera bags usually contain a number of adjustable, self adhering padded dividers so you can customize the interior layout for your digital camera, table top tripod, notebook computer, lenses, batteries, filters and power pack. There may also be pockets designed for memory cards, pens/pencils, business cards, manuals, and CDs.
A camera bag

Tripod Cases

A tripod case comes in handy when you are checking it into baggage. It may also be easier to carry a tripod if you use a bag that either has a shoulder strap or hooks to a backpack type case.

Waterproofing while Shooting

Just because it starts to rain is no excuse for packing up and going home. What you need is an umbrella or other way to keep rain off the camera and lens. If there is wind, you might reconsider, but in light rain and still air, great pictures are waiting.
Lowepro makes waterproof Dry-Zone backpacks.
Seahorse makes an entire family of watertight cases.

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