I hate bags, not because of their lacking any general utility but rather because no single embodiment of the ghastly creation seems to have been sewn into existence without some or other design flaw. I cannot think of one bag that I own which entirely meets my needs and, believe me, I have a lot of bags. Our storeroom, which doubles as a shrine to every pastime I have ever entertained, is primarily a disorganised repository for bags. From the humble suitcase for travelling abroad to laptop bags, backpacks, daypacks, rope bags, pannier bags and, on top of that, a collection of small black bags designed to fit inside other bags so that packing is somehow easier. It’s absurd!
The other bane of my existence is cables, and by ‘cables’ I mean any rubber-shrouded copper that plugs into any one of my electronic devices for any reason whatsoever. Again, I have so many cables it’s staggering and I distinctly remember a time when the original USB connector was meant to be society’s “saviour.” No longer would the back of a computer be a polygamous collection of pins and sockets; now there would be just one type of socket to mate with one cable and it would provide both power and data, but that dream was short-lived. As I write this, I count five incarnations of the USB connector on my desk and not one of them looks remotely like any one of its siblings. If planet Earth ever had to commit suicide I’m sure it would hang itself – not sure from what, though – with a noose cobbled together from cables. Hell, there sure are more cables today than there is any kind of rope!
Given my distaste for bags and cables, I believe I can be forgiven for thinking that photography is a cruel mistress. It is a discipline that has heartlessly brought together the worst of these two worlds. Contemporary camera bags are crafted from the finest materials money can buy and stitched together with an assortment of adjustable pockets, straps and clips. They are designed to provide the ultimate in purpose-built flexibility and yet, as with every bag I own, camera bags have a flaw too – what do you do with the cables?
For many of us, photography has become about much more than simply cameras and lenses. Packing for a photography expedition of any substance is likely to mean a full arsenal of gear. Laptops, iPads, GoPros, drones …; you name it and you’ll want it with you. The trouble is that every one of these gadgets could potentially require a separate cable for charging or even a cable simply to make it work, leaving the question, Where does all this sundry stuff go, in the camera bag with the camera? Personally, I’m not inclined to want my camera’s battery charger with me while hiking to the top of a hill which only ever sees the kind of electrical power provided by Zeus, and I am even less likely to want my laptop.
The only solution to this problem is to decant equipment into other bags and this presents its own tangle of problems. Surrogate bags are typically not purpose-built, making any form of cable control impossible, increasing the likelihood that the one cable you truly need won’t have made it on the trip. Having been caught out myself by the absence of a desperately needed cable, I sought a solution and, it shames me to say, the solution came in the form of another bag, the Lowepro ViewPoint BP 250 AW.
The ViewPoint is a bag designed for action photography and videography, a genre of art built on the back of small pieces of electronic equipment and all the associated cables. It is a bag that might seem like an improbable choice for someone wielding a DSLR but, remember, I wasn’t looking for a home for my camera, just a home for the related paraphernalia.
The ViewPoint does an exemplary job of this menial task, largely thanks to the small removable inner bag that occupies the lower half of the BP 250 – yes, my favourite, a bag within a bag. The inner bag is laced with tiny detachable partitions and a good number of elasticated straps for holding cables. I have dubbed the inner bag my ‘charge station’ since every charger and every type of USB cable I need has a place within it and, importantly, each item is separate and highly visible, making any absenteeism obvious.
The top half of the BP 250 is also useful given that it is quite expansive for what is a low-profile bag. There is enough room for a full-sized set of headphones or, as I personally have it, a small 12V inverter. The inverter allows me, as long as I am near a wall socket or a vehicle, to charge all the electronics necessary for hunting landscape photos.
Finally, the back of the bag features a slot designed for a 15″ laptop and it is really this that sets the BP 250 apart from other small bags that might similarly be useful for cable management and storage. By having my laptop in the BP 250, I have effectively created a two-bag photography system. My primary camera bag is used exclusively for the equipment necessary to take photos, and every other piece of gear I need in support of that quest is neatly stored back at base. At no point am I carrying more than I need to and, equally, the probability of me finding myself in some way cable-deficient is also greatly reduced. I would go as far as saying that if I were to measure the performance of all my bags in terms of how well they met their intended purpose at the time of purchase, the Lowepro ViewPoint BP 250 AW is the best bag I own!