I picked up a single-strap backpack at a bargain store for $5 or $10 a few years ago. It's big enough to hold one or two camera bodies and about as many lenses.
The drawbacks, to be honest, are that it's not quite big enough for my liking, and I would kind of appreciate some padding built in. I added a little padding to cushion some of the shocks, but I suppose I got enough for the price I paid.
The really nice thing about this pack (apart from the Canadian flag stitched on it... ) is that you can swing it around to rest on your tummy in crowded subways etc. and when it's in the front position, the zippers are very handy for removing gear without taking the pack off. This one is pretty much worn out, so I imagine in the not to distant future, I'll have to invest another $10.
Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
Ansel Adams had the Zone System... I'm working on the points
system. First I points it here, and then I points it there...
Thanks. There are some good suggestions here...I should perhaps elaborate. I'm going to Peru and am trying to not look like I have anything worth stealing. I think that anything that looks like a lap top bag might be in the same category as a camera bag...I have an old back pack that I used last time but it is such a hassle to have to put it down, open it up and balance it while trying to swap a lens (for example). I want to be able to grab a camera out of the bag, shoot, and quickly return camera to bag.
I like the Domke F-6 "Little Smaller" bag...but, not if it's going to draw attention.
A tool bag from the Army/Navy surplus store might fit the bill...
You might want to go into your local Babies R Us (or equivalent) and check out the diaper bags. They look like the only things they're holding is diapers, they often have an insulated pocket (nice for film) and you can add cardboard and foam dividers and cushioning with velcro as you see fit.
Some pictures of my non camera bag looking bag:
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
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Not attracting too much attention in a foreign country is a more complex issue. An army surplus bag is a good idea, but you might also not bring too many clothes and buy clothes and a bag there, don't speak in a loud voice, etc.
I have the same issue. For years I've been using a small sling style messenger bags where I add my own padding or use padding pirated from my domke backpack. I recently have tried a laptop bag (Ogio) and a domke f803. The laptop bag is too big and ill formed to carry my stuff, the domke is about the right size but a bit narrower than I'd like and will only accommodate a minimum setup.
I've looked a the crumplers, but the ones I like require the bucket insert. The normal bags are just Ok, the messenger bags using the insert are great and if I get one bag and 3 inserts i can manage most of my needs. The problem with the crumplers is that what they lack in camera bag appearance they make up for in trendiness -- its hard to be an inconspicuous grump when sporting a trendy bag. If I get the crumpler bag that will accommodate three different kits (one bag 3 insert buckets) the bag will be larger than I need for my most common kit. As it is I'll use the Domke and keep my eyes peeled for ideas found in threads like this and stuff posted on ebay.
Another Domke suggestion, but not for the bags themselves, is the padded inserts. I use several of these in a Domke Reporter's Satchel and nobody knows I have a camera in there, it looks like any old messenger bag. I'm on a college campus or around town most of the time, so it's not conspicuous. I agree that these days the canvas bag look has a certain "cachet" it didn't used to have... However, you could just as easily adapt these inserts to fit all sorts of nondescript bags other than the Domke ones.
Hi: My carry around bag for a 35 rangefinder and two more lenses is called
"Oscar's Little Day Bag" - from Artisan and Artist. Very well made, roomy and does not call attention to itself. You'll find it at their web site or link from Camera Quest.com.
I too have many bags...far too many ...but this one is very neat.
I just got my second crumpler and both have served me beyond well. Here's some pictures: