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Taken with my lovely camera phone, my camera being inside the bag.

Taken with my lovely camera phone, my camera being inside the bag.

I recently acquired a new Streetwalker photography backpack from Think Tank Photo. While I am not the target market of pro-level photographers I still feel that this backpack is perfect for a photographer like me.

Something I should mention about myself and this review: I do part time work for Think Tank and I am friends with a lot of the people working there. However I am not fully biased in their favor, I still think that my Jandd daypack and suitcase are the best bags ever.

Professional camera bags are designed for professional photographers and their needs and so most of the information available about a give bag is related to camera gear, airport specification and the like. Well I figure all of that information is readily available for the Streetwalker and since I am not a professional I decided to test the bag out for other uses.

As a footrest the bag is stiff enough to use when it is balanced upright. On the side it feels a bit too mushy and on the face I don’t want to be resting on my gear. Though I suppose if it was filled with other stuff moreso then camera gear and of the side would do as a foot rest. I would like to note that I am doing all these tests with the dividers in their original position. They could be rearranged to improve these unofficial uses.

A Streetwalker a poor pillow makes. While it is soft on the tapered part at the top of the bag the support is granted by the dividers and so the head is elevated a good six or seven inches above the floor. Unless you  like that of course. I will stick with a pair of shoes or a jacket as my make-shift pillow.

I would not recommend using it as a chair or stool in any circumstance.

The bag is a surprisingly good back rest. If non-valuables or stiff items are place at the very bottom of the bag and in the front pouches it works. Without any walls or stairs to lean against the back can be used to recline comfortably at at 45 degree angle or so. Good for sitting in lawns watching performances or perhaps gazing at the stars on a warm mellow night. The supple padding for the back really pays off in this regard.

For the exterior design of the bag those familiar with Think Tanks other offerings will notice a radical departure in style. This bag has a touch of bright blue highlights instead of the standard black on black with a little light black of previous bags. I like the slim accents of blue in contrast with the otherwise deep black of the bag.

So what fits inside? Camera gear is top of mind but we all knew that. Just go to the website to see cameras fitted inside in alternating configurations. What if you are thirsty? Or perhaps need a clean pair of underwear? How about a light paperback novel while you wait for the lighting to be just right? I tried what came to the top of my mind and this is what I found:

  • Spiral bound notebooks: one can fit very snugly but not easily. Scavenging alternative dividers could alleviate this but I truly hate sorting out dividers. All that velcro.
  • Lab sized notebooks: Two can fit with three pushing it. 
  • Water bottles: can fit one on each side, standard bottles, 27oz Klean Kanteens, Nalgene bottles, soda cans can zip inside the side pockets or fit inside the stretchy pockets.
  • A wine bottle can fit in the side as well.
  • In the inside divider spots I can fit two pairs of socks in one.
  • A rolled cotton t-shirt.
  • A pair of thin trousers folded and rolled can fit in a slot.
  • Three pairs of underwear
  • A Nintendo DS Lite can stand perfectly in the bag (so the interior is one Nintendo DS Lite high)
  • A Mass Market Paperback cannot stand up in the bag.
  • 15“ laptops definitely do not fit in this bag. Without or without dividers it is a no go.

Of course changing the internal dividers will open up space but then what if you need to quickly add in several lenses?

On the outside of the bag are a straps for a myriad number of unknown uses. A couple or for buckiling around the waist or across the chest, one is used to hold a tripod onto the bag (something I want to experiment with alter). One could be for holding a small shrub for camouflage in nature shoots. I guess a fishing pole could be fitted to the bag like a giant antenna. I guess an antenna could be fitted if you don’t want to leave your CV Radio at home.

What about wearing the bag?

The curved shoulder straps fit well when adjusted, they even fit well when not adjusted but I am not picky. They are narrow straps so the bag can be swung around in front without pinching or squishing of the self. When the bag is swung around in front, or mostly in front, it can be opened and about a half to a third of the items easily accessible. When holding the camera the space where it rides can be used as a makeshift stand to change lenses. 

The water bottle holder I mentioned before can be reached (assuming a basic flexibility) while the bag is normally worn and they can be put back. It is important to stay hydrated. And if you are too hydrated the Streetwalker does come with its very own rain cover so at least one of you stays dry.

Overall I highly recommend this bag. There are a few things I would like to change in it but by doing so I start to approach to larger Streetwalker Pro or Streetwalker Hard Drives which are too big for me needs. I just wish I could fit some letter sized spiral bound notebooks and maybe an actual book along with everything so I can go to class and have all of my gear. And the bag is a bit black for my tastes (I like blue or green bags).

If anyone wants to purchase a Streetwalker or any Think Tank product now or in the future I am an affiliate leader for Think Tank. This means that if my code is entered before purchasing a purchase of $50 or more will get you a free product (like a Lens Changer). My code is AP-213 and it can be entered on their website here. Before you start looking the bags do not sell at a discounted rate anywhere due to the policies of the company. So a free product along with the bag is closest one can get.

Now to see how the bag holds up to several months at school with me.

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Some things are too heavy to carry.

Some things are too heavy to carry.

Having the right things with you can make or break a trip. Every pound matters when trekking between train stations and hostels, especially when you find yourself with four hours before the hostel opens for checkin. I prefer traveling with only one carry on bag. In that bag I fit a messenger bag for the day and all of the clothing and supplies I need for the entire trip. Many websites and guidebooks say not to bring jeans due to their weight, size and slow drying feature. I scoffed at this advice and took a pair with me to Europe (in early spring so I needed warmth), I also brought a pair of lightweight quick-dry pants (or trousers) and some long underwear. I wore the pair of jeans for the entire trip so I never had to pack them away. 

No matter where a trip is going to go clothing is an important decision. Everything from weather and local custom influences what to pack. An example is white socks in England. Short white socks are normally worn for sport and exercise only and not for day to day activities. I had been living in Scotland before my trip to Europe so my clothing did not make me look like a tourist (the backpack gave that away), I wore relatively plain brown shoes, blue jeans, long sleeved shirts (dark blue and green) and if it was cold or raining black gloves and a black rain jacket. I did not have any bright colors or t-shirts with prints on them. For particular countries guidebooks are handy for helping with ways to blend in.

Weather also plays a role in what to wear. While a wool scarf helped greatly in Copenhagen in December it would have just taken up room for Ireland in May. My best friend in all my trips no matter the country or season was a small, thin, bright green umbrella. It easily fit into bags and jacket pockets. A bandanna also helped as a very utilitarian item: tablecloth, hand towel, small sack, packing cushion, sweat rag and I suppose it could double as a head band as well. Flip flops are good for sketchy hostel bathrooms.

Other items that are useful:

  • Locker lock – needs to be thick enough (3/8″ or 1 cm)
  • Security cable – a discreet cable to lock bags to bed frames (make sure the bed frame is secure!)
  • Fabric wash – Small bottle or a solid to get through airport security
  • Clothesline – Clothes need a non-dusty place to dry
  • Ziplock bags – For leftover food, preventing leaks or to keep papers dry
  • Alarm Clock – I forgot this on my first trip, I never did again
  • Flashlight – For searching through bags in a dark hostel room
  • Reusable water bottle – Save money by drinking tap water, I use Klean Kanteen (Can carry on airplanes if it is empty).
  • Money belt – Never worry about your bag if you have your passport and credit cards with you at all times

Of course you don’t need any security items if you don’t bring anything worth stealing. The only valuables I had were on my in my money belt, with the exception of my camera. I have seen some people bring laptops with them and I could not imagine ever doing that. I can only see the need for a laptop for two reasons: downloading photos and e-mail. It would be cheaper to either buy more camera memory or utilize photo download services, there are kiosks and stores everywhere that will download all your photos to a CD or DVD for you for a small charge.

As for e-mail internet cafés are in every city if not in the hostel. Many hostels have a free internet terminal, some tourist information centers (Rothenburg is one) have free internet, public libraries are a great place for free internet (Amsterdam has a good one) or pay a few euros to use the internet every few days. The only exception for cheap internet was a small town in the Swiss Alps, that was not cheapest but still cheaper then lugging a laptop around with me.

Another packing tip: bring enough socks and underwear for at least four days, then wash and dry while wearing the last pair. Any sink will work for washing clothes, use a drain stopper or a rolled sock to hold the water in. I suppose a laundromat could work but I see no reason why a bathroom sink would not function just the same. Though be prepared to miss a laundry day or two if there is no place to do laundry, while wearing the same underwear and socks more then a day or two in a row may seem odd, no one will know (unless you wear socks for three days or more days in a row, then someone might notice).

Now what to put everything in. I have been using the same bag for the past thirteen years, a durable green Jandd bag. I prefer soft-sided bags with should straps without an internal frame. Waterproofing or at least water resistance is important, rain can strike at any moment (notably in Scotland). I also use a messenger bag from Timbuk2 as my day bag, it is less obvious then other means and holds just the right amount of stuff: camera, water bottle, guidebook, journal and some food. For my camera I used a small plain black case, but as my travels went on I just threw the camera into the bag. Recently though I upgraded from a superzoom camera to a Nikon D60 DSLR camera, for this new camera I am going to get a camera bag from Think Tank Photo (I also currently work there, mostly for organizing inventory).

A final tip I picked up from a travel site or a guidebook: pick up every item and think whether if it is worth bringing or if you can buy it abroad if the need arose.

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