I have two camera bags, a Lowepro Mini Trekker and a Lowepro Photo Trekker. Now the Photo Trekker is a great bag; robust, well made, water-proof, plenty of room for all your bits, but has one problem – even when empty, it is very, very heavy! By my scales, it is nearly 5 kilos empty, before you start adding camera bodies, heavy lenses, filters and all the bits you need to carry. The other problem with it is that it seems to have been designed for a short torso; let me explain…
When fitting a back-pack or rucksack, you need to have one that fits the length of your torso, regardless of how short or tall you are, it is the length of the torso that is important. This is to ensure that the fit is comfortable and that the weight of the pack can be carried by your hips and not your shoulders/back.
To find out the length of your torso, measure the distance between the top of your hips and the 7th vertebrae (bony lump at the top of your back). Typically a short torso is between 15-17 inches, a medium between 18-20 inches and a long torso over 21 inches. So if your torso is 19 inches long you need a medium sized backpack.
Now my torso is 22 inches, so I would need a large backpack. Now I am not sure what torso size the Photo Trekker is designed for (I seem to recall someone telling me it was 18 inches), but I do know (even with its adjustments) it doesn’t fit my back. There is just no way I can fit this pack comfortably with the hip-belt on my hips; therefore all the weight is going through my shoulders and back. Two years ago, I put up with this, but now I don’t have that luxury.
So, I needed to rethink my approach to carrying my equipment and started to look at real backpacks / rucksacks. After a lot of looking and talking to various people and manufactures, I purchased an Osprey Aether 70 litre pack. Empty this pack is half the weight of the Photo Trekker; weighting in at 2.2 kilos.
I then needed a way to secure my equipment, as the Osprey is really just a sack on a clever suspension system. So, I took my Lowepeo Mini Trekker and removed the shoulder straps, the zip covers and the rain-cover; basically anything that added weight or got in the way. In the end, what I turned the Mini Trekker into was a cartridge bag which simply slides into the Osprey pack. When I need to access my equipment, I simply unzip the front of the Osprey pack and then unzip the Mini Trekker and access my gear. If needed, I can pull out the Mini Trekker and carry it around by the carrying handle I left on the top.
Now with this bag set-up I can carry my gear in a proper fitting backpack that puts all the weight in the right place and also have room to carry water-proofs, drinks, food and other odds and ends; something the Photo Trekker didn’t have the room for. It is much lighter than my old bag and gear and I can easily carry everything for over 10 miles if need be; 2 miles (and aching shoulders) was my limit with the Photo Trekker.
An added bonus, is that as I am still using the Mini Trekker, I still have the great padding and protection the Lowepro bag gives my equipment; but now I can actually carry my equipment properly!
Update: I also wanted to be able to carry my Gitzo tripod on my Osprey pack; something I couldn’t do easily with the Photo Trekker as the tripod was too big. On the Osprey, there are two large pockets on each side of the pack and the legs of the tripod can fit in one of these pockets easily.
Then, after a quick email to Osprey customer services, I got a spare set of clips to extend the side straps on the pack. Once extended the side straps allow the top of the tripod to be secured to the pack, making it very easy to carry and access the tripod.