A Proper Gig Bag

Crumpler Complete Seed

As much as I’d like to maintain my laid-back and carefree attitude towards photography, there comes a time where I think I need to be more professional, specifically when working with actual professionals. as much as I love using my Crumpler Bag for carrying my gear comfortably, it’s bright orange top flap doesn’t exactly scream “treat me as a professional”. Since working with some full time photographers, I’ve been on the search for a proper gig bag. Now there are plenty of good options, every brand seems to offer some kind of large-volume storage in a variety of styles and options. I looked at the Think Tank Airport Security bag, which had a lot of interesting features that earns it plenty of praise on the internet. At a little over $300, you are definitely getting a full-featured bag that everyone seems to love.

The LowePro Roller 1 is another option which a photographer I’ve worked with uses. He loves it and it has plenty of features including an external tripod holder. I like that there is a divider between the padded dividers area (where you’d put your lenses and bodies) and the handful of pockets. it looks like a normal carry-on suitcase, which earns it big “stealth” points with me. I like the idea that it is inconspicuous enough for normal travel. At $140, it is definitely in the right price range for me.

And then I was introduced to the Pelican 1510 Carry-on case. I’ve always liked Pelican and Pelican-style cases for their ultimate durability and toughness. There are plenty of youtube torture test videos of the pelican case, this one is my favorite:

At about $160, they are still within my “bag budget”. Although this bag is definitely not “stealthy”, it makes up for it with its “peace of mind” factor. Pelican cases are all known for their impact resistance, watertight-ness (note: not water-proof), and durability. Whenever I fly with my camera gear, I always make sure I pack as little as possible so that if I was forced to check my carry-on, I could at least take my camera out and put it underneath the seat in front of me. I’m definitely scared of putting my camera below deck, especially after reading this about baggage handlers. Basically I wanted some assurance that if I was carrying more than 2 lenses and my body, I would be slightly at ease if my case had to be checked at the gate.

So as you can tell, this is a hard-shelled bag. When closed, you can sit on it and it doesn’t appear to flex very much at all (I’m about 185 lbs). The two 2-stage latches make opening and closing the Pelican case very easy, and when it snaps closed, you can just feel how secure your valuables will be. According to this guy, you can even drive a truck over it!

I got the Pelican 1510 Case with padded dividers because I knew I would need a bag that would adapt as my equipment adapted. Although the pick-and-pluck foams appears to provide a more custom fit and better impact resistance, I didn’t want to commit myself to one configuration (although there are people out there who have re-pieced together plucked foams). I am still planning on some upgrades, so I wanted to “future-proof” my bag by getting the hook and loop-attached dividers. After a couple tries, I got the dividers where I wanted them, making so I could fit all my lenses, flashes, and accessories.

Pelican 1510 camera case

The list of everything in the bag:
– Canon 40D with BG2-EN grip attached
– Canon XTi
– Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L
– Canon 50mm f/1.4
– Canon 100mm f/2.8
– Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
– Canon 580EXII
– Canon 430EXII
– Gary Fong Lightsphere I
– Giottos Rocket Bulb (Med)
– Joby DSLR Gorillapod
– Honl Bounce Card
– Lumiquest 80-20 Bounce Kit
– Opteka snoot
– Nikon LensPen Kit
– Remote trigger/timer
– 3x Radio flash receivers, 1x transmitter
– spare batteries
– XTi, 40D and AA/AAA battery chargers
– flash puffer

The only things I’m really missing from here is my actual camera belt and any tripod or umbrellas. I figured that the tripods and camera belts are less sensitive and didn’t have to be a part of my gig bag, I would likely just pack it separately if I needed them. I am thinking about drilling some 3/8 in. holes on some of the ribs of the case so I can hook some small bungee cords and carry stuff like a lighting disc or raincover.

So far, I am very excited about this bag. It was really the over-the-top durability that sold me on a Pelican bag over a more traditional looking carry-on.

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