Sling Pack – Some situations they suck
I love my Case Logic DCB-308 sling pack. It has been around for years and when used properly it really shines as a fantastic camera pack. It costs only $50 bucks on Amazon and if you are just starting out I would highly recommend it. I do have some reservations about this pack however and that is what this post is all about. Lets get started.
The good sling pack situation
Whenever I plan on going to a city or countryside or forest or lake, really anywhere to focus on honing my skills, my day usually starts like this. Empty out my carry EVERYTHING bag the Lowepro Trekker 450 and start to pack the essentials into my smaller sling pack. My essentials will vary based on what I think I might run into but it usually ends up like this.
- Camera body
- backup battery
- a couple filters (ND, UV, Polarizer)
- backup memory card
- cleaning cloth
When I am out with this gear this is usually what tends to happen, I pack all of my gear in this sling pack and head to the location. Once I am there I usually start with my 24-70mm lens on the body. I take the body and lens out of the sling pack and put the camera strap around my right shoulder. This leaves my 70-200mm lens, backup batter, filters, memory card and cleaning cloth in my pack. This setup weighs 3-4 pounds max. Whenever I need to swap to my telephoto lens then this sling pack truly shines. I spin the pack around, open the the side panel, make my lens swap, close up the pack and swing it back into carry position. It really doesn’t get much easier. Now this, this is great. If you are using a two lens setup to shoot then awesome you now have $50 bag that is going to get the job done, and get it done well.
The bad sling pack situation
Let me paint for you the bad sling pack configuration. I own just two packs the Case Logic sling pack and the very large Lowepro Trekker 450. My 450 is the carry everything bag and there is just no way I am going to take that one out hiking or city exploring. It gets incredibly heavy and it is cumbersome to get into it and swap out lenses. So when I go on a trip my only option is stuff the sling pack full and take it. So in addition to the good sling pack contents I now have to add my 16-35 wide angle lens, a 600ex-rt flash, backup batteries for the flash, sync cables, cleaning kit and battery charger. Although it is busting at the seams it all fits. My first problem is this particular sling pack does not have adequate protection when it is stuffed this full. Its like a brick wrapped in cloth. If it drops from my shoulder loaded up this way something is going to break. I have zero confidence that this pack will absorb the damage. The second issue is the very design of all sling packs. Yes, it is very convenient to swing the pack around, grab what you need and swing it back but the very thing that makes this possible is also its biggest downfall. My issue lies with the single strap that crosses your chest. My left shoulder was incredibly sore during a 4 day trip to Texas. In fact by the end of day 2 I was regretting that I only had the sling pack with me and by the last day I did not even want to think about carrying that bag. It dug into the same place hour after hour. I did my best to offload as much as I could but even with just the essentials in the bag and the body and one lens on my other shoulder it was still incredibly uncomfortable and by day 4 I stopped looking for photo opportunities. This is never a good attitude to have when you are supposed to be enjoying your trip, your photo taking and looking to expand your portfolio and/or skills. I seriously couldn’t help it. Before you think maybe my body might not be up to it because of the way I am built let me tell you that I am a 200 pound 6ft tall grown man. I played every sport in high school and still compete in sports to this day. I am an athletic large man and that 6-8 pound sling pack brought me to my knees.
When to use the sling pack
The sling pack is best used when you can minimize what you need to carry. This will help keep the weight of the sling pack light. The sling can also be good if you want to go a tad heavy but you will only be using it for a single day. I will still be reaching for this compact sling pack when I make day trips to San Francisco when I know I will be employing just 2 lenses. For longer trips or when I need more gear I have vowed I will only use a two strap bag for now on. As a matter of fact I made a purchase for a two strap pack that is marketed towards the active lifestyle. It has two straps of course plus a waist strap and sternum strap to help move the load off your shoulders. It has a hydration pocket to stuff a hydration pack for keeping fluids in your body and it can be accessed from the side, almost like a sling pack. It should be a fantastic pack for my next adventure that is coming up in a few weeks. I will be reviewing my Photo Sport BP 300 AW II as soon as I
finish my trip to Zion National Park and I put it through its paces. So in closing, a sling pack is great for light loads and under 6 hours of carrying but horrible when weighted down and you are using it for multiple days. Hope this helps you with your buying decisions.