As en enthusiast hiker, I have long been looking for a photographer’s hiking backpack. Many manufacturers sell camera backpacks with varied features.
However, as many hikers will tell you, a backpack needs to be selected with care, and not all backpacks will suit every person. What’s more, camera backpacks rarely offer features that hikers find useful, such as a hydration pouch, waist and chest support, extra-strong zippers and so forth.
Backpack from a sports or camera store?
Because of this, I much prefer to select a backpack in an outdoors sports store instead of in a camera store. I found a backpack that I love, and can’t see why I should pay more than a hundred dollars for a dedicated camera bag that’s not designed as well.
The bag, like most hiking bags, has a pocket for a hydration pouch. The side pockets can hold my tripod and has many smaller pockets to hold accessories. It is weatherproof but lets air circulate; in short it’s perfect…except that inside it obviously does not protect the photo gear.
So after finding my perfect backpack for me, I now had to find an insert that matches it. Not an easy task, since not many manufacturers sell inserts without a bag.
I finally decided on the Domke digital SLR camera insert. It is the insert that best matches common 35 or 40 liters backpacks.
Just the right size for most DSLR & lens combos
The Domke is eight inches tall, which is just the right size for most DSLRs and lens combos when placed vertically. It has two square (3×3 inch) divisions, perfect for regular-sized lenses. It also has two small rectangular divisions (about 3×1,5 inches), which can hold smaller lenses, flashes or accessories.
The main division is shaped like a T, so the camera and lens can be placed either vertically or horizontally. The insert is flexible enough that it will adapt itself to the shape of your gear. It occupies about half the size of my backpack, leaving room for other things like a jacket and food.
I can also attach a small Point and Shoot camera bag to my hip and use it to store one extra lens that I might use often. There is no need to remove the bag to swap lenses that way.
Sides are well padded, the bottom is not
The sides or the insert are very well padded, and the padding can be removed or replaced if needed. The internal divisions are more lightly padded but offer sufficient protection.
The only flaw of the insert is that the bottom, for some strange reason, is not padded. This is an important flaw. However, it can be solved easily by placing small foam pieces inside the divisions, or a larger foam sheet at the bottom of your bag.
I am glad I found this insert. My hikes will be much more fun and much more comfortable that way!