Large-format backpack, DIY style

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by David Nebenzahl, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. David Nebenzahl

    David Nebenzahl Member

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    In reply to previous questions about gear to tote your big-camera stuff on your back, I wanted to show what I made to do this: my own humble custom-made-for-LF-camera-and-stuff pack.

    I designed this around my camera (4x5 Crown Graphic) and my big metal tripod (Velbon). Coming up with something to hold camera, film holders, etc., was easy, but I scratched my head for a long time trying to figure out what to do with that damned tripod. Finally I hit on this design (see sketch below), where the tripod lives in its own compartment in the center, held vertically by adjustable straps. As it turned out, it was even halfway comfortable (I won't lie and say that it's a pleasure to carry it, but it is manageable, even while riding a bicycle).

    I made the frame out of an old piece of 1/8" paneling I had lying around. After cutting the pieces, I drilled holes along all joining edges and used soft iron wire (baling wire) to "sew" the whole thing together, applying white glue to the joints as well. The resulting carcase was remarkably strong. I then covered all bottom and side surfaces with thin foam rubber.

    I wired two adjustable nylon straps to the center "column" to hold the tripod (these would be tucked under the fabric covering later).

    For the covering I found some leftover upholstery fabric at a local recycled-goods store, along with a ratty old backpack that had good shoulder straps that I cut off.

    The next phase of construction was waaaaay beyond my capability; after a good deal of searching, I found a local seamstress who, after many puzzled looks at my drawings and crazy idea, took my frame, some material, some zippers, and a couple weeks later handed me a beautifully-made backpack. It turned out even nicer than I had hoped, and she only charged $75 for her work.

    So the total cost was well under $100, and I have a completely customized pack that carries everything I need, including my solenoid battery pack, dark cloth, even a couple sandwiches.
     

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  2. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Member

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    Super job David. Looks like you thought it out well. Glad it worked out for you. Now take that idea to Tamrac or Lowepro and collect your millions!
    Just out of curiosity, how come you didn't go for strapping the tripod horizontally under the backpack? That might have made the pack narrower aswell. Hope you're not knocking your head/helmet on the tripod while biking.

    I had a similar dilema on carrying my gear on motorcycle trips. I ended by using a hiker/camping style backpack. Lots of pockets for everything. It had straps under it for strapping a sleeping bag, but they worked great for stapping the tripod to horizontally. I also use the PhotoBackPacker cases for my camera and lenses and they all velcro to a common board that I can pull out as a whole unit, very convenient.
    The good thing is that it balances well weight wise and comfortable for all day trips, even when hiking it.
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I applaud your creativity. Perhaps eventually some re-working can take it from manageable to a pleasure to carry. I have to admit that image #3 reminds me of the the fellow with the rocket-powered hang-glider that flew over the English Channel.

    Vaughn
     
  4. Kilgallb

    Kilgallb Subscriber

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    I use a BRIO 70 litre pack from mountain equipment Co-oP. (www.mec.ca)I use the center ICE AXE holder part to hold the tripod.
     
  5. Bob Eskridge

    Bob Eskridge Member

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    This has been mentioned before.

    It is possible to carry a small to medium size large format CASE by strapping it to a US Army surplus Alice pack frame with the shelf attachment. These are cheap (around $20 or so) and are very good for occasional use.

    As to a lightweight case - I used keep my Sinar Norma 5X7 in a case made from a cardboard box. (Gluing dividers inside the box gave it rigidity.) And then covered it with self-stick contact paper.
     
  6. David Nebenzahl

    David Nebenzahl Member

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    Good question, and I had to think back to remember why I chose the design I did. I think that I decided I'd rather not have the whole thing be as wide as it would be (30") with the tripod stowed horizontally; potential for hitting the sides of doorways, etc. Pretty much a judgement call, and the attached sketch shows it could really go either way (this is based on the dimensions of my pack as-built).

    As it is, the tripod doesn't get in the way at all. It does look funny, but as big-camera users we're used to that, right?
     

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  7. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Regarding systems to carry LF gear, I am about to sell my Photobackpacker original Kelty back pack in which I carried a very complete Canham 4x5 kit with lots of lenses, dark cloth, film holders, etc., etc. Reason: I need a backpack that will allow me to carry my 8x10 Deardorff. The backpack I am selling is no longer offered, and is completely air line legal as a carry on. If any are interested please contact me privately for photos, additional information, etc. By all means please visit photobackpacker.com for information about the concept that Mr. Laughton brought to fruition. I would prefer to sell the back pack without going through EBay, and thus I will likely offer the pack via the classifieds here, or on the other LF site.

    Ed
     
  8. Venchka

    Venchka Member

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    Interesting. I just took a mid-90s Osprey panel loading internal frame pack out of my closest and put my stuff in it. I did purchase a Photobacpacker case for the camera and two Fishpond fly reel cases for lenses and meters and filters. Thetripod straps on the back. Everything works fine.
     
  9. Rob.B

    Rob.B Member

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    I use a Lowepro dryzone 200, tripod stoved vertically down the middle. The only issue is that it is bright yellow!

    Graflex Crown, dark clotk, six DDS and a graph pack (6 sheets in septums). plus some odd bits and pieces.

    Rob.B
     
  10. coigach

    coigach Member

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    Here's an answer I contributed elsewhere about rucsacs - it's not specifically about L/F but I reckon that this sac would do the job (if you've the legs to carry LF on long hikes that is!!). After trying all sorts of combos for carrying kit and tripod on backpacking trips I've come to the conclusion that a climbing sac with two ice-axe loops and crampon bungee cord is the most stable way to carry. Anyways, here is the info I mentioned:

    "For long hillwalking days with a camera I use this rucsack - Macpac are a New Zealand based company who make great quality outdoor kit. This is very comfy to carry long distances, and the crampon bungee cord and ice axe loops make it easy to carry a tripod in a stable way. (In fact, it works a lot better than my Lowepro Dryzone which I use for my Pentax 67 kit):
    http://www.northwestoutdoors.co.uk/s...ct&product=599

    I have cut a cheapo foam camping mat to size the inside of the rucsack to stop the tripod bashing camera gear, and I put my climbing camera (Fuji GA645zi) in a camera bag then inside a fold-over drybag. Has been tested in rain, hail and snow this winter and all works well..!

    Drybags are great, really handy for making camera bags / cases totally waterproof. I keep my 120 film in one too. They come in lots of different sizes. See
    http://www.northwestoutdoors.co.uk/s...drybag&x=0&y=0

    Cheers,
    Gavin

    PS- Also, on the North West Outdoors website, they use some of the cracking landscape pictures of Scottish photographer Ian Cameron. Here's a link to his site:
    http://www.transientlight.co.uk/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2009
  11. blokeman

    blokeman Member

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    I'm impressed! Centre is the best place for the tripod too.
     
  12. David Nebenzahl

    David Nebenzahl Member

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    Do you mean center vertically or center horizontally?