I have used and reviewed dozens of camera bags/backpacks during my career as a photographer and want to say that through the years, only a few bags fail over time. Zippers and cheap threads may be the Achilles heel of all bags.
I’ve had some Lowepro inserts that simply give up and become useless because their cheap threads, also some of their plasticized exterior fabric disintegrates after years of use, literally, it disintegrates and leaves stains as if you were melting plastic. With Lowepro, you have to ensure that you register your product when you purchase it, or their warranty will be void. I still use multiple products from them, not all have failed and in fact, some are my go-to travel gear such as the Whistler backpacks and gray with orange GearUp Pouches that match perfectly.
A backpack from Ona came with an insert and its zippers seem to also have given up over time, especially those made of plastic. I tried asking for a replacement/fix since they are proud of their “lifetime warranty” but never received a response from them. I assume I have to try again, but after one failed attempt you simply stop trusting the company’s customer service as I believe it should be fluid as when you make a purchase.
There are other general brands that use mediocre plastics, they just never seem to last long years of use. Especially those general brands flooding the Amazon market. I don’t have a problem with inexpensive bags, but is the time when they fail and your gear goes to the ground that I do not find appealing.
I trust Porta Brace polyester fabrics like cordura (nylon) which is built to last for so many decades of camera abuse. I have two of their lighting bags and one large tripod case backpack. During my early career, all of the ENG people used and abused Porta Brace gear and always seemed to be the perfect protector case for all, it was and still is the standard brand. This comes with a higher price tag, if you go online and compare prices, you will see that Porta Brace is on the $200 and up tier. Cordura 1000 fabric is highly durable and water repellent. Their bags are manufactured in the USA and additionally they can create customized bags for you without a minimum volume requirement.
There seems to be a good reason for this highly priced gear, it simply works, it lasts, it protects and simplifies your life because it is designed for you. Pay once and abuse for decades.
Enter Hold Fast gear, I learned about their brand around 2013 when they showed me a very classy but overpriced canvas camera strap and some time later I saw their dual camera harness system called the Money Maker (it sure makes them money) but as I mentioned earlier, highly priced gear should last for decades of everyday use and simplify your life and that is exactly what the whole Hold Fast system does. Being able to attach your camera to their bag, attach your satchel to their harness, attach pouches, belts, etc is a solid system for event photographers on the move.
Heavy waxed canvas and bison leather accents, extremely durable metal hardware and solid stitching will keep this bag in top condition for many years to come. While it is advertised as weather resistant, I would not trust it under heavy rain or in a heavy sand storm without covering the entry points with a simple poncho or something similar. Sand, water and zippers are not a good mixture!
Classy looks and solid, another reason that attracted me into buying this bag is their quick attach system. Let’s take this scenario for example: I am in a venue or any location session and bring my main heavy bag loaded with gear, I do not wish to carry this heavy bag on me at all times, instead I set the big bag on a safe place and take the smaller bag with the essentials such as batteries, maybe a speed light, extra lens or extra camera body and keep the weight at a minimum while being classy and coordinating all of my gear.
Before this Small Sightseer bag, I carried an Ona Bowery made of waxed canvas and leather top, similar to this Holdfast Sightseer. While the Bowery can also be used as an insert, it lacks the ability to attach to my backpack or other satchels, it is still a gorgeous and useful bag but it is meant to be used alone, not part of a system in the same way that Hold Fast does.
Leather and waxed canvas isn’t the best idea for trying to reduce bag weight, but is the most stylish and gorgeous way.
Do you want to get your own? these come in small and medium size and manufactured by Hold Fast in Oklahoma, USA. Both are almost the same high price (why? I assume it takes almost the same time to fabricate each) just remember that you are buying into a professional system of bags and backpacks that will last a very long time, they include a lifetime warranty.
If you already own one of these sweet bags and want to rejuvenate them, use this Saphir Medaille d’Or Pomade on the leather, it will restore its original softness and add natural color to any faded leather plus adds natural water repellent layers, you can even use it for your leather shoes.
For the waxed canvas, simply use a blow dryer to remove scratch stains or add some Otter Wax and then use your blow dryer for a super finished look.
Buy yours from these ad links at Amazon USA: