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TB - Packing Cube Shoulder Bag... Camera Bag!

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  • TB - Packing Cube Shoulder Bag... Camera Bag!

    I thought I would share my recent camera bag experience for those that may want or need something similar.

    For summer, I needed an inconspicuous camera bag to carry my Canon T2i/550d w/15-85 + backup Canon G10 around SE Asia while doing my thesis research. I had several requirements for a camera bag.
    • It should to be lightweight.
    • I didn’t want something that looks like an obvious camera bag.
    • Has to be tight against my body for when on the run - back of motorcycle taxis, hopping in and out of buses/taxis. Also safer in tight spaces.
    • No noisy velcro and clanky metal buckles/hinges.
    • No flaps, easy access.
    • A soft liner, no abrasive nylon.
    • And most importantly... the bag’s gotta be looking good enough to pass through the hip metros of Bangkok, while not marking me as a vulnerable rich westerner in the disgruntled southern provinces. (^_^)

    I searched far and wide, finally coming to the conclusion that I just needed to be a little creative... or not be so stinking picky ; ) A while back, I purchased the very nice and lightweight Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in Dynamo Steel, but really hadn’t found much of a use for it since I use the Medium Cafe Bag most of the time. So I decided this would make the perfect shell, now I just needed to find the ideal insert. After searching here and there for several weeks, I found a padded insert that was spot-on perfect for dimensions, and met every-other requirement above. The only problem was that it’s pretty expensive (made in England). Ah, but I got lucky and found a used one off Craigslist, and off I go ✈✈✈✈

    The insert is called the Billingham Small Hadley Insert, I’m pretty sure B&H Photo as well as others carry it. The quality is excellent and fit’s into the Tom Bihn PCS Bag like they were made for each other. Overall, I think the combination is a complete success!

    Here’s a few photos -


    Last edited by marblejbc; 03-15-2010, 05:23 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    This is just amazing and totally marvellous! Did the shoulder strap work for you with the weight of the camera???


    • #3
      Great Idea!

      I think the same could be done with the inclusion of Padded Pouches for small cameras and mini camcorders.

      If the Camera Insert is that same dimension, it could work as well.


      • #4
        If I may say, marblejbc... I think you just won at this forum.

        AMAZING... and what luck!!! Thank you for sharing!


        • #5
          Shiva - it's funny you ask, as I was thinking I could easily get by with a lighter less heavy-duty shoulder strap and feel perfectly comfortable. That's just the minimalist in me though, I think the strap is pretty sweet as is comfort-wise...

          backpack - I think you're right on, a perfect sized bag for other camera needs. I also really like the quick simple easy access through the top, perfect for camcorder etc. - nice and simple basic design and durable to boot... If TB made an insert that fit this bag that's also less money than what I used = winner!!!

          Thanks Just! Hands in the air (^-^)


          • #6
            I forgot to say, Great Pictures! And nice modeling to boot :)


            • #7
              Neat idea.
              Owner of : Imago, Aeronaut, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, Synapse, Co-Pilot


              • #8
                I was thinking of trying something similar with an Imago and a Kata insert, but I could not find the insert locally. While I know that Tom is working on his insert, it will not be as small as your design. Do you find it hard to get your equipment in and out of the zipper opening? I use an E=MC2 as an insert in my Imago along with a Lowe Pro lens case, but it s not as nice as a working bag as my Domke satchel. But, your design has me motivated to try again until Tom releases his insert (for my ID).



                • #9
                  The Imago looks like a nice choice for one who needs a little wiggle room. While the Tom Bihn insert gets its finishing touches, you may look into Tenba, Domke, and some of the other (less expensive) Billingham inserts if you haven't already.

                  Accessing the camera through the zipper top works nicely. The trick was to position the camera so that the lens is at the far end of the bag, leaving the grip (body) of the camera towards the middle. This way when I reach in and grab the grip, it pops up and out through the middle, where the biggest opening is. It really would work fine positioned any way as the opening is just fine, though I like it to be super snag-free - and I'm a pickyhead...


                  • #10
                    Courierware's camerabags might be an option.

                    Or, they make a specialized camera bag for photographers, named the Bare Bones Bag (BBB). Google it!

                    To me, and IMHO only, it stands out. Mind you, I live here (the Philippines), and for almost two years straight. I know what possible in SE Asia, from experience, the hard way. You're already going to stand out as a American, thats a given. But you want high priced camera equipment to 'dissapear'. In some countries, you're going to have a lot of eyes on that bag (what is he carrying? Is it valuable? How much could I sell it for?) and on you. So, being able to carry a non-descript bag that will blend in is pricless. Good luck!

                    Dave in the Philippines


                    • #11
                      Thanks dbradford, I appreciate your suggestions, and I agree about the bag still standing out. I think when I travel to the south, I'll use my Courierware Incognito Camera Bag instead. This bag is a little larger/heavier, and doesn't have the soft camera insert that I like about the TB/Billingham combination, but I think it's a safer bet. I'm actually kicking myself for not purchasing a BBB bag instead (Courierware makes Stephen's BBB), as I like the absence of buckles and shiny metal strap adjusters. I'm also think the padding in the Courierware bag is a little too heavy and I don't like the velcro contacting the equipment in the main compartments. I do like that the padding is easily removable though...

                      You've got me thinking out loud now... When traveling to the south from my base in Bangkok, I'll put the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag Camera Bag into the end of the Aeronaut, place the Courierware bag flat (without padding) into the main compartment, then when I arrive - pull out the PCSBCB :) and slip it into the Incognito Bag! Here's a few photos below to help with the mental imaging -

                      woo hoo it's spring break and I'm going bag crazy...



                      • #12
                        Well, marblejbc

                        I stand corrected! It looks like you're all sorted, as the Brits say. Congrats on the great looking bags, and best of luck on your trip!

                        Dave in the Philippines

                        P.S. I had you mistakenly pegged for an North-Eastener, then I saw you were from Moscow. I wanted to have rural property in the 'Banana Belt' somewhere, maybe Garden Valley years back, maybe have some llamas. One of my best friends and his family lives in Kuna near Boise. I loved seeing that part of the country, and the people were nice. Cold though!
                        Last edited by dbradford; 03-17-2010, 02:19 PM.


                        • #13
                          Rexburg, Idaho here!


                          • #14
                            I've only heard about it, good things though!

                            Seems like Idaho is being well represented, both by people who live there, and wannabees..Now, I'm stuck in "The Land of the Little People" LOL!

                            Cheers guys,
                            Dave in the Philippines


                            • #15
                              I didn't see anyone link to the actual Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag product web-page, so here's the link.

                              This thread raises a few questions for me: can the TB PCSB be used as a hip pack? Is there a way to set the PCSB up with a belt so it could be worn on the hip like a Tom Bihn Side Effect can be?

                              Since I bought my Side Effect, I constantly use it as a hip pack. It's not large enough to use as a camera/camcorder bag, though.

                              The camera inserts linked in this thread are very interesting! What is the largest insert one can fit into a TB PCSB?
                              Owner of: Brain Bag backpack (Black), Field Journal Notebook (Blue), Snake Charmer (Small, Orange), Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.