M-Rock makes several backpacks and sling packs (more on those in a moment), but only one that rolls. The McKinley 526 has a built-in telescoping handle and wheels—two more great features found on many bags these days. For traveling pros, moving gear is a big pain, and wheels make it much easier. Beyond functionality for air travel, though, a roller bag that’s also a backpack goes from city to backcountry easily, without sacrificing convenience or protection on either count. M-Rock’s 526 also is designed to work as part of a modular system—another innovation in modern bag design.
Manufacturers understand that photographers’ needs are constantly changing as their camera arsenals evolve. With a modular system, multiple smaller bags can be combined together into a belt-pack system (the fanny-pack style of camera bag that takes the weight from the shoulders and moves it to the hips) or added on to backpack systems. Tamrac’s M.A.S. (Modular Accessory System) can be utilized in addition to a traditional backpack or shoulder bag, or it can form the foundation of an entire modular belt-pack system. The best thing about modular setups? They can hold as much or as little as you’d like, depending on the needs of the job.
Hard Cases There’s another way to carry camera gear, but it would be hard to classify it as a bag. It’s the hard case, and it is to camera bags what the Hummer is to station wagons.
The Pelican brand is renowned for its comprehensive line of all-weather, practically indestructible hard plastic cases. They’re so durable, in fact, that they come with a lifetime replacement warranty.
Pelican cases are the first choice for photographers who need to travel with large quantities of gear, as well as those who put their equipment through extreme conditions. Hard cases with wheels and telescoping handles make the cases easy to manage in the airport. They’re also durable enough to be checked as luggage, ensuring complete protection for the delicate equipment inside. (The built-in barometric relief valve works to equalize air pressure at high altitudes, minimizing the chance of damage due to pressure differentials in the tightly sealed cases.)
Because Pelican cases are guaranteed to be 100-percent watertight, many outdoor photographers rely on them for secure protection against the elements—even if the case makes its way into the elements themselves.
The inside of Pelican cases can be fitted with custom-shaped foam for form-fitting protection or utilized with divider-style inserts in much the same way as any other camera bag. But make no mistake: A hard case isn’t just any old bag. It’s military-grade, 100-percent weatherproof, lifetime protection.
As for the sling packs mentioned, ever notice how high-school kids throw a backpack over one shoulder for convenience and comfort? Well, many photographers do the same thing. Bag designers took note and invented the sling bag. Much like a backpack, sling bags like the Tamrac Velocity series hold gear safely in a backpack form, but with custom-fitted straps that don’t require wearing the pack over both shoulders. The bag is worn much as a shoulder bag would be, but instead of resting at your side, it rides on your back—like a backpack.
This versatility is common to many of the latest designs. Not only are ergonomics factored in (with angled buckles that position straps appropriately, or nonslip grip materials and extra-cushioned shoulder pads, even harness straps and belts that help distribute the load), but so are the many uses a photographer may need from a single bag. It’s clear that today’s shooters require more flexible camera bags.