I have collected a lot of camera bags over the past few years and have bags from Domke, Lowepro, Crumpler, Tamrac as well as a host of no name bags I have picked up on my travels or in the bargain bin of a going out of business camera shop. Each bag has something I like but none are what I would call "the ultimate bag". The bag I use the most is a messenger type bag I picked up for €12 in a clothing store in Finland. It has no padding and is not really designed for holding camera gear but it is very discrete and doesn't look like it would be holding anything of value. I have used Velcro to temporarily attach a smaller camera bag inside to hold my Canon 40D but for the most part, I just use it to carry my Voigtländer rangefinder and for that purpose the bag is a little bit too big.
So when I saw the Bare Bones Bag from Indian Hill Image Works, I decided to see if yet another bag would work for me. I actually decided to go for the latest evolution in the BBB called the Bare Bones Bag Stealth. I'll get into the "Stealth" part in a minute.
First of all some background: Indian Hill Image Works is run by Stephen Schaub in Vermont, USA and provides various services to photographers and artists. In addition to those services, they have been creating some innovative products for photographers and the Bare Bones line of bags is one of those products. I suspect that these bags came from a desire to also find "the ultimate bag". The bags are actually hand made by nearby Courierware who have been making courier bags for over 20 years.
The BBB-S is the medium sized bag in the range and is 9 inches deep, 10 1/2 " long and 3 1/2" wide. There is one main compartment surrounded by 4 smaller compartments on the inside. On a recent jaunt around town, I used these pockets to carry the following:-
- Voigtländer Bessa R4A rangefinder with Nokton 35mm lens in the main compartment.
- A Color-Skopar 21mm lens in one small pocket.
- 8 rolls of 35mm film in another small pocket.
- My "backup camera" (Olympus XA2) in a small pocket.
- Two filters in their boxes in the 4th pocket.
None of the pockets were completely filled and there was plenty of room for more gear or film if I needed it.
The bag also has two pockets on the front under the flap that could be used for carrying a notebook or a phone and there is a large flat pocket on the back of the bag that would be perfect for maps, or even tickets if you were traveling somewhere.
The reason the bag is called "bare bones" could be to do with the padding or lack there of. There is a 1/4 inch piece of neoprene at the bottom but that's it. If that frightens you then this is not the bag for you but the lack of padding really cuts down on the weight and bulk and is what attracted me to the bag. The neoprene is accessible from the back pocket so could add more padding if you wanted.
The adjustable shoulder strap is unpadded and 1.5 inches wide. For what I was carrying, the strap was fairly comfortable but for heavier loads the optional shoulder pad may be a good purchase. On the top is a small and discrete handle. This handle is never in the way but is right at hand when you need it. Inside is a piece of webbing with a small metal carabiner for holding keys.
The most interesting part of the bag for me is the closure mechanism. One of the complaints from users of the original BBB was that the Velcro closure was noisy when opening the front flap. So this "stealth" bag does away with the Velcro and instead has a strap that goes across the front to hold the flap in place. This is a very effective method for keeping the bag closed but is not as secure as other closure methods. But, as long as you are not turning your bag upside down and shaking it, it feels secure enough for normal use. So you don't miss any photo opportunities, opening the bag is very quick - just slide your hand down and pull up the flap.
Other features include:-
- Two D-Rings for clipping on other items.
- Discrete all black color.
- No name tag or logo on the outside.
- Weather proofing.
But there's more...
I have discovered that the BBB-S is also prefect for my Asus 1000HE netbook with a 10 inch screen.
There is room for the netbook, power cord, mouse and also my XA2 or some other compact camera.
So is this the ultimate bag I have been searching for? Since I have just got the bag it may be too early to tell but I will say that the signs are very, very promising.
For more information, check out http://www.indianhillimageworks.com/ or see a video of the bag at http://figitalrevolution.com/2009/09/04/the-bare-bones-bag-stealth-bbb-s-and-bbb-s2/
Update: At the weekend I tried out the Bare Bones Bag Stealth with my Canon 40D DSLR. Attached to the camera I had the stock 17 to 85 IS Lens and the bag performed admirably. I was also carrying my Olympus XA and a few rolls of film and there was plenty of room for a few more extras. Good to know I can use this bag when I want to go digital too.
Update: If there was one thing I'd like to change it would be to make the flap about 1 inch longer. When the bag is full, the end of the flap is very close to the strap across the front and I feel the closure mechanism would be more secure with one more inch of flap.