How to Turn Any Bag Into a Camera Bag

Photo by @alexlostak on Instagram

You see that bag up there? I love that bag. It is one of my favorite and most dear possessions. Since my girlfriend originally gifted it to me in 2016, I’ve taken that bag to almost thirty different countries, over mountains, through jungles, you name it. Like the adult equivalent of a kid’s favorite blanket, I take this backpack with me everywhere.

There’s a lot to love about this backpack. It’s handmade, high quality leather, I would deem it to be “cool”, and it’s got a unique look. It’s got the vibe of another era. It’s great. One thing you may not think when looking at this bag from the outside, though, is that it’s just one big pocket. Which sort of complicates things for me as a photographer.

The Double Edged Sword

Photo by @alexlostak on Instagram

In a lot of ways, just being one pocket is a great thing. It basically makes the backpack a blank canvas. Need to fit a ton of clothing? Just jam it all in there. Need to fit books and a laptop? They slide right in. One thing this backpack doesn’t do, however, is hold camera gear very well.

Being a photographer, having a backpack that can hold camera gear is pretty much a requirement, because when I’m traveling I need my lenses and camera to be secure and protected. One big pocket means all my gear is just loose and piled up at the bottom of the pack. And I can’t have lenses and camera bodies just banging around in one giant pocket!

You may be thinking that I should just get a normal camera bag for my camera gear. Unfortunately though, I’m not a fan of most camera bags. They don’t look great, often times they’re bulky, and they’re also expensive. There are companies like ONA, Langly and Peak Design that make fantastic camera bags that don’t have those flaws, so there are some exceptions to the rule. That being said, I don’t want my backpack choices to be limited to three companies. I want to be able to use any backpack as a camera bag; particularly this bag.

Luckily, early on in having this backpack I found the solution. Now, I can turn any bag into a camera bag, with one simple trick.


Photo by @alexlostak on Instagram

The solution to my dilema was this thing. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call it a camera insert. What it is is a standalone version of the dividers you would typically see in your standard camera bag. So you can take this and put it into anything!

Want to turn a grocery bag into a camera bag? You got it. Toss this in there and you’re done. What about a messenger bag? That works too. And in my case, want to turn a dope rolltop leather backpack into a camera bag? Consider it done.

How I Know It Works

Photo by @alexlostak on Instagram

I’ve been using this setup for my travelling camera bag for the past four years and have found this solution works perfectly for me. In addition to the camera insert, I also carry pouches with my other camera gear that I switch in and out of the bag according to what I need on any given day. And the roll top on the backpack is a great place to stash a tripod or a blanket. The combination of having one big pocket and the camera insert provides me with the perfect blank canvas to tailor my backpack to what I need on any given day.

I know that a big advantage with a lot of camera bags is the variety of features they bring to the table, but what I’m personally looking for in a bag isn’t 300 pockets and the ability to open my bag from every possible angle.

Having this camera insert as an option gives me more choices in bags I purchase moving forward. So when you’re shopping for your next camera bag, widen your search and see if there’s a unique approach you may not have thought of to hold your gear on the go.

I hope this article helps you in your ventures ahead! If you need any of the equipment I talked about in this article, I’ve left some links to my tools for the job below. Full disclosure, the links provided are affiliate links.

If you want more content from me feel free to follow me on instagram or checkout my website!

Instagram: @alexlostak



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