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Buying a bag might seem like a minor decision, and certainly some people don’t understand my desire to get several bags for different situations. But having the right bag can make a big practical difference to your everyday life, never more so than when you’re travelling with a DSLR and camera equipment.

In searching for a new camera bag, I was trying to replace a really functional black denim messenger bag I bought in Seoul, South Korea. Despite searching for this online (it has the name ‘Lucas’ on it, but this yielded no results), I hadn’t found anything similar. So I began to look elsewhere, and also started considering camera bags specifically designed for that purpose. Before my trip to Portugal earlier this year, I bought the Lowepro Exchange Messenger. This did the job, but its lack of pockets inside and on the back was annoying, as you always carry more than you think. Also it was a tiny bit small, so it wasn’t suitable for use on longer trips, such as my upcoming visit to Thailand and Burma. It holds a DSLR with lens, plus another lens, but this doesn’t leave much room for inevitable ‘extras’ – water, a novel, a guidebook, sunglasses and so on.

I considered a number of bags before finding the one that fitted my needs perfectly. First was the Lowepro Event Messenger 150: pros, ample pockets, good camera protection, good size, water bottle holder on the outside, cons: a bit ‘boxey’ (as messenger bags specifically designed to be camera bags often are), dealbreaker: the strap was just way too short for me (and I’m only 178 cm, not exactly hugely tall). Then I looked at the first entries that came up on Amazon when I typed ‘camera messenger bag’ – this included the Acme Made Union Photo Messenger Shoulder Bag (good protection but small, lacking in space / pockets, and I really don’t like the material it’s made of, or the design) and the Manfrotto Stile Unica V Messenger Bag (lots of pockets, interesting bottom section ostensibly for a tripod, but not exactly the nicest design, and way too big). Neither blew me away, so my search continued …

Next up were a couple of options that would eventually lead to my final choice, designed by Eastpak and Think Tank respectively. First the Think Tank options. These bags – the Think Tank Retrospective 5 and Think Tank Retrospective 7 both looked like dream bags – with a price tag to match. But actually, after watching a few YouTube reviews, it occurred to me that the reason I couldn’t decide between them is that neither was the right size. Both have an amazing array of pockets, great camera protection and they aren’t too boxey. But the 5 is too much of a ‘man purse / bag’, while the 7 is really big and heavy. I wanted something in between – and I also didn’t want to spend over £100 for something I wasn’t completely happy with.

So, my final options were from Eastpak. I went into a John Lewis department store and looked at the Eastpak Delegate Messenger Bag, but disappointingly it was way too big and didn’t have any specific protection for cameras. This made me realise that perhaps a bag specifically designed for cameras was a better choice after all. I couldn’t find my final option – the Eastpak Pary Shoulder Bag – in store. But after looking at the dimensions on Amazon and noticing that they closely matched by beloved ‘Lucas’ messenger, I decided just to buy it and return it if it disappointed.

I needn’t have worried. The Eastpak Pary Shoulder Bag / Messenger Bag is the ideal camera bag for me. It’s mislabelled as “Eastpak Women Pary Shoulder Bag” on Amazon UK and has no reviews, but I can already tell that it’s solved my camera bag problem for a long time to come. I could only find one online review of this bag, and I’m pretty surprised there aren’t more, as it seems to be at an ideal point in this market. It might sound silly to say this bag doesn’t have a higher profile, but there are actually hundreds of YouTube reviews with thousands of hits, all for photographers who are searching to find the best bag for carrying their gear – and none mention this bag.

The Eastpak Pary comes in two colours – grey and black, and has space for a DSLR and two other lenses, or a DSLR and one lens, plus extras. It has a pocket at the back, at the front, and a padded inside pocket. It has the padded protection of a camera bag but isn’t too boxey as most camera bags are. It’s also very plain and unassuming, ideal for when you don’t want people to know you’re carrying expensive equipment. It is worth the price I paid for it (£55)? Well, in absolute terms probably not. But having said that, it’s the ideal bag for my needs, and I can already tell I’ll use it for a long time to come. So in that respect, it’s definitely worth it. The only minor things I don’t like are the lack of an external water bottle holder, and that the pockets on the front and flap are slightly too small. But these really are minor issues, and to my mind it’s definitely the pick of the bunch.

It will hold (if I need it to): my D5100 DSLR with 18-55 lens, my 55-200 lens, my 35 1.8 lens or 50 1.8 lens, a novel, a guidebook, papers, documents and passport, gorillapod mini tripod, charger, and other accessories.

The Specs:

Exchange Messenger 33 x 23.9 x 14.5cm

Event Messenger 34.3 x 26.6 x 15.8

Acme Made 33 x 22.2 x 15.9

Manfrotto V 42 x 30 x 19

Think Tank 5 24 x 19.5 x 11.5

Think Tank 7 50 x 30 x 20

Eastpak Delegate 43.6 x 32.8 x 6

Eastpak Party  34 x 24 x 7.5