We’ve objectively tested the most cameras bags for photographers of any publication or outlet currently available. Most folks in the photo industry will agree. What’s also undesputable is just how good many modern messenger bags are. But for what it’s worth, backpacks aren’t given the same level of attention. Don’t get me wrong, modern backpacks are excellent, but they’re not near the level of perfection messenger bags are. With that said, I decided to modify one of my favorite camera bags: the Oliday Journeyman. This bag checks all the boxes: affordable, stylish, comfortable, and made in America. I previously wrote about why I bought it again after my original one broke. Now I’ve modified it to be even better.
Let me be frank; I’ve never said anyone is making the perfect camera bag. The staff and I all have begged manufacturers to do certain things, but they don’t listen. So when I really like certain camera bags, I sometimes modify them myself. When it comes to camera bags, I’ve grown closer to backpacks in the past seven years. They’re better on my back, let me carry more gear, and can be very comfortable. But sometimes they’re just not stylish enough. And when they are stylish, they miss out on some key features. If I’ve learned anything from reviewing camera straps, it’s that camera bags can be both stylish and functional.
I’m going to be candid here again: the Oliday Journeyman isn’t a perfect camera bag by today’s standards. It forces you to stuff a tripod in the side, the sidepockets aren’t useful, and I wish it were a rolltop. I can’t change most of those features. The support straps leave me wanting. There’s a very good waist strap, but no sternum strap. And this is what I found odd. Tenba and Manfrotto believe that camera bags of this size need sternum straps but not waist straps. These companies take the opposite approach.
I, on the other hand, want the straps to be on both the sternum and the waist.
Sometimes, I hunt around on Amazon, eBay, Adorama, and Etsy for the camera bags I want. But sometimes I end up ordering parts to modify bags myself. And in this case, I added a simple sternum strap. Like most modern sternum straps, I asked a bag repair person to make it adjustable so I can move it up and down. It ended up costing me $10. I’m sure bag manufacturers can do it for even cheaper and on more scale. This is fascinating to me as Oliday makes the Journeyman for only around $155 and it has surprising durability. The last time one broke on me it was because it was overpacked and the shoulder strap ripped off.
Still it brings up a few questions for me as a journalist:
- Can these and other camera bags really be made in America in a sustainable way?
- Why do brands say that they can’t do canvas and leather in a comfortable way when this company did?
- Bags like this can surely be made more affordably than lots of others out there. But at the same time, something like the Journeyman should cost more, yet it doesn’t.
I may never know the answer to these questions, but I still think the idea of modifying a camera bag beyond just adding your own divider system should exist.