Article and Photos by Gary Cox
The Tenba Shootout Backpack 32L
Planning camera gear for an extended trip to Africa with location changes every two or three days starts with a solid transport solution. I don't like anyone carrying my equipment, figuring that if someone is going to break stuff, it should be me. For my most recent trip, I chose the Tenba Shootout Backpack 32L (Tenba, 75 Virginia Road, North White Plains, New York 10603, +1 914 347 3300, www.tenba.com, firstname.lastname@example.org), and returned home happy with the decision and the performance of the bag. This is not a general purpose pack with some foam dividers stuffed into it, this is a backpack purpose built from the ground up for the photographer on the go.
My backpack has shoulder straps and a padded belt to distribute weight to the hips when worn.
The exterior of the backpack was made from water repellent twill and gray rip stop nylon. The interior compartments were built with rip stop nylon and soft tricot fabric, padded with perforated foam to minimize weight (six pounds empty). The center of the bag is for camera storage and featured water resistant pockets on the panel for storing memory cards and small items. It has full height pockets, one large on the front and one on the side for thin items. The other side has a half height pocket and an opening into the main chamber for quick access to a camera without unzipping the entire bag. There are some small organizing pockets on the front for miscellaneous items.
The padded handle allowed me to carry the load comfortably.
The side pocket gave me access to the main compartment and had a mesh pocket to store small items securely.
Near the handle on the top, there is a solid compartment to store fragile items. During the trip the compartment kept my sunglasses from being crushed. There is also a set of straps and a harness to attach a large tripod on the outside of the bag. A zippered compartment on the bottom holds a waterproof cover that can be pulled up over the bag like a little raincoat to keep it dry. Between the main compartment and the padded back brace and frame, there is a slot for a laptop or tablet. The zippers to the main compartment and front pocket can be locked with a small padlock, not included. The backpack, made in China, came with a small microfiber cloth and memory card wallet.
Opening the front pockets revealed more pockets for small items.
On safari trips to gather data on properties for the Simon and Baker Travel Review, I cannot afford to have any gear sidelined, so redundancy for key items is critical. On one trip, my wide angle lens bumped into the iron plating on the game viewing vehicle and broke. Apparently these are not in high demand for the average traveler in Botswana, and it was several days before I could get a replacement lens. I learned multiple lessons, pad everything during transfers and carry spares. The next challenge is the variety of shooting situations and the volume of photos I take. My go-to lens for general wildlife photography is the Canon 100 to 400 millimeter. It is versatile and a reasonable trade-off between weight and capability. On this trip, I included a 70 to 300 millimeter lens with the backup camera body.
The camera equipment for our trip to Africa
I laid everything out before packing and started to wonder if the pack came in a larger size. Two camera bodies (Canon EOS 7D), two telephoto lenses, two wide angle lenses and a 28 to 130 millimeter for general purpose shooting. Flash, straps, batteries, chargers, memory cards, special purpose filters, macro adapter lens, cleaning supplies and iPad rounded out the final mix. It was a little tight, but everything fit and was well organized thanks to the bag's dividers and pockets, including the handy well at the top for my sunglasses and mp3 player. With this load the backpack weighed over 30 pounds.
The main compartment held most of the camera gear
The fully loaded pack was comfortable to wear and distributed the weight across my shoulders and back. I am not a small guy and the straps had plenty of length, something I often find deficient in camera packs. The handle on the top of the bag was sturdy. The loaded pack rested upright and did not fall over when I set it on the ground. The padded belt could be a little annoying when I placed the bag into a cabinet or closet, but when I wore the backpack it was a godsend for balance and load distribution.
The Tenba Shootout Backpack 32L is padded and has a built in frame for stability.
The side of the bag has an easy access pocket to pull out a camera, but I never used that feature because my gear was too snug in the pack. I liked that the bag had lots of room for small things. It made it easy to keep organized. I used the pockets inside the main compartment for most of the memory cards and other valuable items. The outer pockets were handy for quick access, and ended up full of things I picked up when changing locations and then tidied away once we had rooms again. The tall side pocket was just right to hold my travel tripod. For the long haul flights I packed it away and only used the side pocket feature when changing properties in country. The zippers had nice easy to grab attachments and none of them became jammed or stuck.
A strap allowed me to attach a tripod to the outside of the backpack.
There were rings to attach external items on the shoulder straps
The bag held up well in extreme and varied conditions. For example, for the first 10 days we had intermittent rain and many opportunities to get muddy. The other three weeks were dry and dusty with a total of 12 property changes on planes, cars, vans and open safari vehicles. Everything inside my bag stayed safely clean and dry the entire time, and backpack arrived home looking new in spite of the opportunities to get muddy and dusty in the field. While pushing the luggage cart to the car in the parking lot at the airport at the end of the trip, the cart jammed solidly into a grating and the camera backpack flew off the top of the pile of bags landing on the parking lot surface. I assumed that a five foot forward flight and a four foot drop onto concrete would mean something was broken, but when I opened it at home, nothing was cracked or damaged. I would not recommend testing the backpack in that way, but it was good to know that when I let my guard down, the bag kept the contents unharmed. The Tenba Shootout Backpack 32L is my new choice for an expedition backpack to keep my gear safe.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
Lounging on the porch with my iPad and the RoamingMan hotspot in the Thornybush Nature Reserve
On our most recent safari trip to South Africa we took a 353 gram RoamingMan (RoamingMan, Ucloudlink (America), Ltd, 119B Hester St, New York, NY 10002, www.roamingman.com, email@example.com) hotspot device, to connect to the internet with our electronic devices (laptop and tablet) using the nearest and strongest cellphone signals. Although most of the lodges where we stayed offered complimentary WiFi, many of the networks were unsecured, allowing anyone with a WiFi card and some basic skills to become an amateur eavesdropper. Others required a password known by many staff and guests. Because cellular 4G networks are encrypted and require expensive specialized equipment to hack we often felt safer using our personal hotspot than the property's WiFi. The RoamingMan device also provided internet access while we were transferring between properties, which was often a good time for us to go online and check emails.
Operating the device was easy. We turned it on and connected to the WiFi using the password on the screen. The 4G connection was fast enough to be useful for web browsing and emails. The hub, manufactured in China, was a little larger than a deck of cards and solidly built with a few simple controls. It weighed about eight ounces, came with a charging cable and was packed in a zippered case. The internal battery, rated to last up to 15 hours, held its charge when powered off for several days.
The RoamingMan WiFi device came with a charging cable and a zippered case.
Almost every device we travel with requires USB power to charge these days, and the charging cable had a pass through plug on the back, allowing multiple devices to charge from a single adapter. It performed double duty, as a WiFi hotspot and a standby battery pack for emergency charges, able to charge a cell phone or mp3 player in a pinch, a feature that came in handy a time or two.
RoamingMan rented the small Android based hub for a daily flat rate with unlimited data. The device we used was a customized version of the GlocalMe, with support provided by RoamingMan instead of the manufacturer. The WiFi hub used a cloud based SIM technology to allow global roaming, supposedly finding the best rate and connection, but what was critical to us is that it mostly worked well in South Africa. There was one day when we drove through the mountains in the Blyde River Canyon where reception was poor, but that was the exception. Connectivity was good in most places we tried.
While sitting by the dry riverbed at The River Lodge I connected to the internet with the RoamingMan hotspot and my tablet
Delivery was of the hotspot unit stateside was efficient and convenient. The company shipped the device before we departed and activated it on the date we requested. When we returned home, we packed it into the shipping box, placed on the return label they provided and dropped it off a local UPS pickup spot. We were glad to have it with us, for the extra security of using cellular data without the challenges of figuring out the costs. This is one simple to use device that we will consider packing for future international adventures.
Article and photos by Aaron Lubarsky
The Tenba 15 Cooper Bag was made from a light grey canvas material with black leather accents.
The first thing I noticed about the Tenba 15 Cooper Bag (Tenba, 75 Virginia Road, North White Plains, New York 10603, +1 914 347 3300, www.tenba.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) was that it is handsome, movie star handsome. Made from a light grey canvas material with black leather accents, the minimal design is at once sophisticated and restrained. Style-wise it was a big upgrade from my bulky black Lowepro camera backpack.
I counted ten pockets
I recently put the Cooper 15 through its paces during a documentary shoot in San Francisco, California. I flew from New York, and as a carry-on bag it’s a class-act with enough exterior pockets and pouches to handle all of my needs, from a water bottle to a Kindle to a boarding pass. Tenba says the bag has “tons of pockets” but I counted ten, which was sufficient for me, including two slim expandable side pockets. The compartment for the laptop was easily accessible and just padded enough to comfortably hold my 15 inch MacBook Pro.
The bag’s interior was deceptively large.
Made in China, it's light weight (3.6 pounds) with a peach-wax cotton canvas water-repellent exterior. The base is leather and waterproof, a feature I appreciate, although it doesn’t feel like the kind of bag that I would take out in rough weather conditions, even though it should be able to handle it.
The bag’s interior was deceptively large. Its dimensions are 15 inches wide by 11 inches tall and 6.5 inches deep. I was able to pack all of my regular gear (including sound gear) with room to spare. Surprisingly, it held as much as my larger, bulkier camera backpack. It has a removable padded camera insert, which I configured to my taste. Because the storage area is one large deep pocket, I had to stack things on top of each other. When I had a lot of items it was necessary to do a little unpacking to grab what I needed, which wasn’t ideal for run-and-gun situations.
It held as much as my larger, bulkier camera backpack.
A shoulder bag that fits in anywhere
But, I wouldn’t categorize the Cooper 15 as a run-and-gun workhorse. This is the bag I take with me to a meeting with a high-end client. It’s a shoulder bag which meant I wore it over my shoulder (go figure) or carried it like a briefcase. It has a useful trolley strap, but there were times I wanted to toss it on my back, making me miss my go-to camera backpack, which makes me look like a third grader coming home from school, but at least left both of my hands free.
I like its zen-like balance of style and function.
The only part of the design I found irksome was the top-zipper. The idea is nice: to grab my camera quickly I unzip the top of the bag and voila I should be able to reach my camera. But two layers of zippers made it cumbersome to reach my gear. Once I tucked in the interior layer I solved the problem. Another thing to keep in mind: dirt and stains showed easily on the light gray canvas. To keep this bag’s dashing appearance requires some maintenance, but it’s easy to wipe clean.
The main thing I like about this bag is the zen-like balance of style and function, appropriate for an out-of-town shoot. Even though it was designed as a camera bag, it could suit travelers without cameras who need a large, stylish briefcase. I’ll be taking it with me to my next uptown meeting.
Living in the Age of Airplanes*
For most of mankind’s 200,000 years of existence, walking was the only way to get around. Today, only 175 years after the introduction of the steam engine, airplanes are an essential way of life across our planet. In Living in the Age of Airplanes, a 47-minute film released in the United States recently, Brian J. Terwilliger, director, illustrates how the airplane has changed the world. The film is available for purchase online.
From Living in the Age of Airplanes
Narrated by Harrison Ford, a licensed pilot, and featuring arresting cinematography, the film has an original score from Academy Award winning composer James Horner, and takes viewers to 18 countries across seven continents.
Terwilliger and his crew traveled to 95 locations for the film. He has produced, directed and raised financing for three aviation documentaries. The movie was produced by Terwilliger and Bryan H. Carroll. The director of photography was Andrew Waruszewski.
*Photos Courtesy of Living In The Age Of Airplanes
Click to buy Living in the Age of Airplanes
The RFID-Blocking Luxe Neck Stash in Olive from Lewis N. Clark
On a trip to Europe this spring our contributors took a $22.49 RFID-Blocking Luxe Neck Stash in Olive from Lewis N. Clark (owned by LCI Brands, 2781 Katherine Way, Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60007, +1 312.455.0500, www.lewisnclark.com, email@example.com). The slim made in China nylon neck bag, 8 inches by 5.5 inches, performed well and only weighed 5.5 ounces. It hung from a thin adjustable neck cord and could be tucked beneath clothes to conceal it.
While they did not require Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) blocking for credit cards and passports it was good to know the Neck Stash had it should the need arise. Pluses included the discreet olive color and size as well as its single see-through window and dual zippered pockets. A central Velcro flap pocket that opened at the top was ideal for passports. The neck bag was convenient to carry important documents and cash around cities, and for easy document access at airports and while traveling. The durable, ribbed TravelDry fabric was designed to resist shrinking, odors, and mildew. It showed no signs of wear after six weeks.
Article and photos by Gary Cox
Using the Clutch I held the camera in position, ready to shoot during a cliff side hike
I had a chance recently to field test the Slide and Clutch camera straps from Peak Design. Prior to using the new straps, the Canon EOS-7D SLR I use when traveling sported the manufacturer supplied neck strap and I rarely gave it a second thought. It was a bit annoying when using the tripod to have the strap hanging off the camera, but it was too much trouble to remove or even adjust the old fashioned length clips, except in extreme circumstances.
When walking around to photograph a property or a destination, the strap provided a measure of safety to avoid dropping the camera, but I had to be alert and hold the camera in my hands to prevent the lens or body from smacking against something and being damaged. When hiking, I usually place the camera into a padded pack or case. With the camera securely packed away, I noticed a tendency to only pull it out and use it at particularly special spots, sometimes passing up shots that I would regret later. Holding the camera with the Clutch make it more likely for me to take those spontaneous photos, and for that I was glad.
The Slide shifted the weight of the camera away from my hand during long walks
The Peak Design straps offered some noteworthy innovations that made it easier to carry the camera securely and be ready to take a shot at anytime. The Clutch was a surprising pleasure to use. It allowed me to hold the body securely with my hand positioned to shoot. I adjusted my grip using its small strap to fit my hand snugly in place. Adding the Slide strap made it easy to carry the camera along on a hike, ready to shoot at all times, while shifting the weight to my neck. The Slide strap was sturdy, made from the same material as vehicle seat belts, and reinforced with padding in the center. It was simple to adjust the length of the Slide by opening the clips, moving the strap through them and locking it securely.
The quick release clips made length adjustments easy
The Anchor Link quick-connectors attached the Slide to the camera body and the bottom of the Clutch. The top of the Clutch attached directly to the camera, with a quick release spring to prevent accidental release. A plate provided with each strap could be mounted onto the bottom of the camera body using a standard screw. Multiple quick-connectors could then be attached to the plate. I prefer to use my custom fit plate from Kirk Photo on the camera body because it allows me to turn the camera sideways on the tripod and provides a stable surface to set the camera onto (provided the attached lens is not too heavy). Fortunately, my Kirk Photo plate includes a nice little slot to mount the quick-connectors. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the sleek lines of my single plate which is custom shaped to the Canon body and will not twist or turn when I adjust the camera on the ball head.
The plate supplied with the straps provided four mount points
My Kirk Photo custom plate also provided a useful mounting point
The quick-connectors allowed rapid attachment and removal of the straps, perhaps my favorite feature. They gave the set-up solid feedback, and could support 150 pounds each, according to the manufacturer. The interlocking of the lozenge shaped anchor into the clip provided easy visual confirmation that the strap was secure. With a few extra Anchor Link quick-connectors on hand, my spare camera body can be ready for action quickly. All it requires is that I move the straps. I liked being able to remove the strap when placing the camera onto the tripod, eliminating one potential tipping hazard. I never found it necessary to detach the Clutch, other than when I was playing with different configurations of the Sling, a few of which used the top attachment point on the camera body.
The Anchor Link quick-connectors attached the straps to the camera securely
It was a matter of moments to set up the Clutch attachment to the camera
Peak Design took the mundane camera strap and updated every aspect of it. They improved the method of attachment, how it is adjusted, the options for carrying the camera and enhanced my overall experience as a photographer. I plan to continue to use those straps as part of my ongoing equipment configuration. The Peak Design mission of enabling "photographers, adventurers and outdoors enthusiasts to better capture the beautiful world around them" appealed to me. I was pleased to discover the products fulfilled this mission for my purposes. Peak Design, 2325 3rd Street Suite 410, San Francisco, California 94107, http://peakdesignltd.com
+1 312.203.8427, firstname.lastname@example.org.