I considered a couple of options, but decided on the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive. (Buy it on Amazon.com)
After several months of use, I can highly recommend it. It holds all my gear comfortably (see sidebar for details) and provides great protection.
The bag itself weighs around 4 lbs without gear. Add all your stuff and it gets really heavy. Thankfully, the straps are well padded and sturdy. When loaded up, the bag alters your center of gravity significantly so you’ll find yourself leaning forward to compensate. It’s obviously not a flaw of the bag… just something to consider.
This is a pretty comfortable bag… maybe not the best ever, but definitely NOT uncomfortable. It’s such a capacious bag, I have a tendency to overload it. The center channel (the light gray area below) is recessed so air can circulate.
Like the Kata and LowePro, the Streetwalker easily holds my 15″ Macbook Pro. The zippers do touch the laptop as it goes in and out, but I haven’t noticed any scratches in several months of use.
Make no mistake… this is a camera bag that happens to provide a place for your laptop. Its main purpose is to transport camera gear. The zippers are heavy duty and the construction material is very durable. The interior dividers are thinner than other bags, but I have found them to be more than adequate to protect my equipment. It’s not a “quick unzip and grab your camera” bag… it’s best to lay the bag horizontally before unzipping.
Camera Grip Expander
If you have a camera with a grip attached, you can adjust a “hinge” so it fits better. The down side is you take up some of the laptop compartment in doing so. I think a 17″ laptop would have trouble fitting in the same bag as a camera with a grip.
Pro SLR Body Hinge
D300 with grip turned on side. It can also hold a camera “vertically” so the hot shoe faces up, but the hinge must be dropped lower.
Laptop compartment with hinge slightly extended.
Unlike the Kata and LowePro, the Streetwalker HardDrive provides a nice place to hide the waist belt when not in use.
Size Compared to LowePro Fastpack 250
These two bags aren’t really competitors, but I thought it might provide a point of reference.
ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive on left, Lowepro Fastpack 250 on right.
The Streetwalker HD (left) is a little thicker at the base.
The top of the LowePro 250 (foreground) is tapered and not as rigid so it tends to collapse. You can see the Streetwalker HD maintains its shape regardless of the contents.
I had seen some complaints about the thickness of the partition dividers. Below, you can see the ThinkTank divider on top, and the thicker LowePro divider below it. After several months of use, I have NO complaints about the thinner dividers. They do a fine job protecting my gear.
The Streetwalker HardDrive has lots of pockets. Some are useful to me, others aren’t. Your mileage will vary. Here are a few highlights.
The shoulder straps have stretchy material that holds an Iphone or iPod nicely, but if you lay the bag horizontally, whatever is in the pocket is pressed against the surface.
The stretchy side pockets will accommodate a mid-size flash unit.
The top front pocket is not padded and is best for items less than 1″ deep. The bottom front pocket (not shown) allows for smaller, thicker items and has a padded front for protection.
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