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Old 9 Aug 2008
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Camera gear in backpack or on bike

I'll be riding from Buenos Aires to TDF and back in November and will be taking a digital SLR (Canon 20D) plus four lenses (including a 400mm 5.6 for wildlife). That's too much gear for a tank bag (besides I hate tank bags). Do I carry it in a backpack (where I risk damaging myself in an "off") or in bag attached on the pillion seat (where may very well get shaken to bits on rough roads)?

Your advice please.

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Old 9 Aug 2008
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I haven't any experience with the photo rucksacks, but they are supposed to provide quite a good protection. I instead hate backpacks, esp. when they are heavy And your equipment does sound heavy...

The positive argument for tankbags is that it is fairly well protected when dropping that bike. Besides that, the camera is within easy reach. Additionally my camera is packed into a padded Ortlieb camera bag for white water canoeing, thus the expensive gear is well protected against dust, moisture and shocks. The less used lenses could be stuffed safely in the luggage. Check out the bag here: ORTLIEB product description

Alternatively I tried strapping the camera bag on the rear of the luggage roll, but that wasn't any good. Not quick enough for fast photos

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Old 9 Aug 2008
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I'd say on your back, for a few reasons
- least vibration
- always with you
- could be full of knickers for all a thief knows; alum boxes seem to attract unwanted attention
- bike drops & small crashes won't land you on your back so safer for the kit
- easier to get access to in a hurry?
- easier to move as a whole inside a tent when raining hard
- if you slack off the shoulder straps you can rest the weight on the seat
- you might want to be away from the bike when taking photos

My only concern would be padding to prevent them hurting you in a serious accident, but any injuries would probably be secondary to the severity of the off in the first instance.
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Old 9 Aug 2008
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Pelikan case on back

If a pro, hire an assistant in a car to carry your kit.

Last edited by mollydog; 26 Mar 2009 at 19:09.
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Old 10 Aug 2008
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Thanks for the suggestion for a tank bag. But I'd need a large bag (if they make them) and this would be too cumbersome.


I appreciate your comments about the amount of gear. The trip is only for a month. If I was travelling further and longer, I'd leave the long lens behind.

I will take a point and shoot digital along, in a pouch around my waist. This will allow quicker shooting (and I won't need to take my helmet off to frame the picture). But I do want to take my DSLR as the smaller cameras just don't cut the mustard for image quality - no contest. I'll be using the DSLR mostly in the morning or evening when not riding and when the light is best. I'm a biologist and part of the attraction of Patagonia is the wildlife, hence the long lens. The P&S will be fine for snapshots.

I rode around NZ's North Island last summer and the South Island the previous summer. I took my Canon 20D and a 10-22 and 28-135 zooms in a small Lowepro camera bag in a backpack on both trips. That worked well and was quick enough to access the gear. It didn't offer much protection for me, but I considered that the risks were low. The chance of an "off" will be higher in Argentina.

I looked at the Lowepro camera backpacks and didn't find anything that really grabbed me. I was interested in the models that carry a laptop between you and the camera gear. I thought about putting a sheet of high density foam in here for (my) protection.

I have considered a Pelican case, but this is quite cumbersome and slow to access gear. I remain unconvinced that it will sufficiently isolate continuous road vibrations. I may be a little paranoid about that, but I had a Canon 300mm lens shake apart on a ride around Australia.

Interested in your comment about the backprotector built into the jacket. My jacket (DriRider Nordic 4) is an excellent jacket, but only has some skimpy foam along the back.

Thanks for the feedback,
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Old 12 Aug 2008
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Just A Question !

Would like to ask:

You are riding in a nice atmosphere and surroundings. Seen an interesting/nice landscape or happening. What will you do?

Stop first, get off the bike. Take your rucksack off you or open the bag at the rear (if it is Pelikan or such a bag). Take the camera out. Take the appropriate lens. Take the picture.

Or, stop. Open the zip of tank bag without getting off the bike. Take the camera and the nacessary lens which you carry for all day round purpose. Shoot it.

Which one look more sensible?

You must have the wish of taking picture and should not miss any opportunity of taking nice pics.

Think twice...

Enjoy your pics.
"where the traveller goes, nobody knows ! "
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Old 12 Aug 2008
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I used to use a photo-backpack to carry photo gear around when I did it for a living. They are the best way to carry gear, IMHO, off the bike. But I would never use one while riding. All that gear weighs a lot and isn't going to help your comfort on long days in the sadlle. Also, in an 'off' you risk the gear getting damaged and worse, you too.

I use individual cases and pack my gear in a pannier with a foam bottom to it. When I get off the bike I take what I want with me in an ordinary day-sack. I've had major spills without suffering damage to the gear. A peli case top box might be a good way of carrying your kit, nice and handy. A friend of mine does this and managed to find a Lowepro camera case that exactly fits in his peli case. He can access the camera while its sitting on the bike, or just lift out the bag and take it with him. A neat system.
I've bounced up and down for many miles on very bad roads and none of my gear has come to harm. My gear is Nikon, but both of the 'big two' make very robust vibration resistant gear.

To be honest I think 4 lenses is excessive. I took a short medium and long zoom (17-22, 28-70, 80-200) on my 'big' trip and found it plenty. Barely used the long zoom, either. Don't take it these days.



*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 12 Aug 2008
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DaKine Sequence

Just a thought but if you go with the backpack option I thought it was worth throwing this in….

I had a look around for packs on a recent trip to Afghanistan – this was my first photo thing and I bought a DaKine Sequence pack. Similar in style to the Lowprowe’s etc but more geared (in theory) towards snowboarding / hiking etc. They are pretty compact but you can get in all the kit you mention in it. They zip on the back side though so you’d have to take it off to access gear. Hard to get a hold off though (I got it via the States and shipped to UK through ebay).

But they do have an internal camera bag (DaKine Camera Block) that you can take out completely….and buy separately if you can find it - £30 in the UK. Dakine Camera Block, facewest.co.uk

On my first bike trip last week (was only a week) I had this camera case stored in my pannier and never took the rucksack. It has a strap on it so you can carry it over the shoulder. I wanted a tank bag to hold stuff and make it more accessible but was spending too much on stuff I never knew if I *really* needed it or not. I found having the camera in the pannier prevented me stopping to take pics and used my point and shoot much more….

If you had a larger tank bag you could pop the camera block in it then pick it up and go.
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Old 25 Aug 2008
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Thanks for the suggestions. I've flagged away the backpack and gone for a tail pack that will sit on the pillion seat and be protected from some of the shocks from the road and not be tossed around as much as in a top box. The Oxford First-timer tail pack holds my small Lowe Pro shoulder bag that holds my 20D with 28-135mm attached and the 10-22mm unattached. My 400mm 5.6 will go in a Lowe Pro case alongside the shoulder bag in the tail pack. The 50mm and a flash will live in the top box with my clothes. I will also carry a Canon point and shoot in a small fanny pack for quick shots.

The only optional piece of equipment is the 400mm. Its small for a 400mm and will give me access to wildlife I've missed on trips around NZ when I've left it at home. If the trip were longer than a month, I might leave it at home.

I'll let you know how I get on!
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Old 25 Aug 2008
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Tankmounted Lowerpro, small enough to not interfere with your legs when standing up:

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Old 25 Aug 2008
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For very simple security reasons, IMO, DO NOT put your gear into your backback while riding. Especially if you have lenses from heavy side (i.e. 400mm etc).

I can easily come up with a crash scenareo in my mind when bits of your heavy photo gear stick through your spinal cord or lungs on a very serious rolling-crash...

I keep my medium-format equipment in my takbag (over 6 kilograms for body+lenses), it's the closest to the centre of bike thus it's the least-vibrations storage place. Combined with tanbag cover it's completely rain and weatherproof. I get a quick access to my photo gear even without coming off the bike. Tanbag zips off as a backpack - so I can take it with me if going for sightseeing, into hotel etc away from my bike. So a decent tankbag (that also works as a backpack) for photogear - safe, practical and convenient, IMHO.

And NEVER-EVER put your expensive photo gear or any other electronics into top box if riding bad roads or offroad - the most vibrating place on the bike - the farthest away spot from the centre of the bike. I've lost lot of stuff coz of top boxes, including blowed s due to vibrations, even when you soften them with clothes as much as you can . Roads are very bad around here. Top boxes are only good for smooth roads in developed western-world, as soon as going gets rough - it'll vibrate and shake as hell, also affecting the bike's maneuverabiltiy considerably worse. I much prefer waterproof elastic luggage roll now, and I only put the soft stuff there that take alot of room - tent (most below position), sleepingmats, some clothes - keeps the weight down, centre of gravity low, more space than any top box (my roll is up to 105 liters, and I can roll or fold it as small as I like), better waterproofness than any topbox (I've completely drown my roll under water with no leaks) and much better maneuverability of the bike (lower CoG and elastic "self suspension") than with any shaking solid top box. Also in a crash cenareo it is much safer - elastic roll mostly filled with soft stuff will act like a soft "pillow" rather than rock-solid case hitting your back when your bike does a salto in the air and decides to land on your backbone (been there, done that!). The only pro for top box is security (for city-communiting etc), but on a serious long travel every time in a new-unknown place, you rarely leave bike alone in a crowd of people around your bike. For rolls they also sell security net you can put around it and lock it on to the bike, but I've never found a need for it on my travels.

Ride safe, Margus
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