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Hakuba's PSBP-30 Backpack
by Gary Stanley

Funny thing about photographers, give a group of them a choice of five good photo bags and you will probably get a different opinion from each one. Well that's okay, because I have my opinion too. I have tried all the major brands of professional backpacks and can speak from experience, none of them are perfect! But this one comes awful close.

There is good reason for this of course. We as photographers are all a little different, and have different needs with regards to equipment, comfort, style, and use. I remember trying to help someone pick out a new bag for a trip to Africa. I suggested a bag that would allow you to access all of your equipment from one compartment, it would be quicker. 'Hey, it's easy, and you don't have to remember in which compartment you put a particular lens'. The man looked at me and said, 'it's dusty where I'm going and I don't want to open up everything to the sand and dust'. Well you can't argue with that kind of logic.

I suppose that's why there are so many different models to choose from. Hakuba of course makes several different models as well. So, what should I look for in a camera bag for my needs? Well here is where the experience comes in. I have developed certain pet peeves that I consider important enough to influence my purchase.

1. Zippers: If you spend half your time tugging and struggling with those zippers, somewhere along the way you're going to miss an important shot. Thankfully the Hakuba zipper systems work like a dream. They seem rugged and I could easily work them with one hand, and that's important to me when I'm in certain situations. My last 'Pro' bag always took two men and a boy to operate. The comment made to me was, 'It's because of the way it's weatherproofed, the zipper is better protected'. Then why does the bag come with a rain cover? If weather gets that bad I'll cover the bag anyway.

2. Size: I know you have a lot of equipment, but hey! I still want it as a carry-on and that means not trusting it to the airlines luggage handlers. I would much rather loose my clothes than my camera gear. Once again this bag from Hakuba has more than enough room for all my important equipment, and yet is still more compact than the competition.

3. Comfort: If you spend any amount of time with a pack such as this on your back, it should be comfortable. If straps begin to rub parts of your body raw, it won't be much fun by the end of the day. I've used Hakuba's backpack now for several months and am more than satisfied with the comfort


4. Design: There are Pro bags out there that are very well padded and if dropped from a Camel I'm sure they would survive. My last one was designed by a photographer friend of mine, who is as big as a Camel, okay a Moose. This bag could survive a landmine, it weighs more empty than my bag does full (not really, but it feels like it). The waist supports look like the arms of the robot from 'Lost In Space'. They're always in the way and very unhandy. For his size it probably isn't a problem, but for me no thanks. Yes, it is well made but I still hated it.

The bottom line: Don't buy a bag because all the pro's use it. There is much more at stake than having the same bag as everyone else. It has to work for YOU! And I am happy to report that both Pam and I are thrilled with the performance of this bag. We just got back from a week in Northern Maine. She had her 500 f/4 Nikkor, her new Tokina 24-200, the 105 macro, the 300f/4 Nikkor, camera bodies, and all of her other basic accessories with room to spare. Not bad, and, she can still lift it too!

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