Leo Laksi’s Bangkok And Back

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Crumpler Camera Backpack – Customary Barge

with 2 comments

Nearly everyone that buys a DSLR reaches a point when they have to buy a bag in which to carry the camera, lenses and accessories.  Sometimes, it’s also necessary to carry a laptop.

Years ago I relied on my Billingham bags.  One larger, one smaller.  Classic old school look, tan in color, and well-made.  About eight years ago I bought my first backpack, a Lowe I still have.

When I started carrying my MacBook, I knew it was time to buy a new pack.  I settled on the Kata DR-467.  This backpack, though slightly  small, became a real workhorse, mainly because it was comfortable while at the same time lightweight.  I still use this pack but felt that I needed a roomier pack. [Check out Juan’s Not So Mundane Blog for her recent review of the DR-467.)

Wide open

Wide open

I started looking at the Crumpler line, mainly the Customary Barge and the Karachi Outpost. I decided that the Outpost was not convenient as it required taking the pack off and laying it on its back in order to unzip the pack.  Picture a turtle on its back.  Way too much work to open, too heavy and too big.

Pockets galore

Pockets galore

The Barge is a typical two compartment camera pack with the main compartment in the bottom of the pack and another on top and too the rear for the laptop and accessories.  I tried it on at the Crumpler store.  It was comfortable for the two minutes I tested it in the store and I bought it. After using it for several months, I have decided that the purchase was a big mistake.

Crumpler logo

Crumpler logo - fine detailing

Good points:

1.     Well-finished and constructed of the finest material.  I’ve never seen a bag that exudes “quality” as much as this bag. Great detailing.

2.     Numerous zippered pockets for organizing those little accessories that you always carry.

3.     Very comfortable shoulder straps.

4.     Large compartment for a laptop.  Seems a 17 inch Mac Book Pro will fit.

5.     Pocket for documents.

6.     Lower compartment well-padded capable of holding DSLR with lens and a second lens.  Medium zooms like the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS will not fit.  (Though can be carried in the upper compartment.

Bad Points:

1.     The shape of the lower part of the pack causes the weight of the camera and lens to “sag’ away from your body so that the weight does not hug the body.  After wearing this back for short periods of time, your back begins to ache.  My much cheaper Kata, as well as my old Samsonite laptop pack (carrying camera equipment), is more comfortable, regardless of whether I’m using one or two shoulder straps.

2.     The bag even when empty is very heavy compared to other less expensive packs.  Even with only a camera and an extra lens, you feel like you’re carrying a lead weight.  Forget about carrying this pack on one shoulder.

3.     The silhouette is not slim.  It is not an attractive looking pack.

4.     You can not remove this pack quickly to unpack your camera or something else, like a lens.  This pack is so heavy with its weight center low and away from its spine that it’s inertia (and momentum) has to be dealt it when removing it.

So now this pack is collecting dust in my attic.  I’m still a believer in the quality of Crumpler products and I do have a couple of messenger bags that I use when shooting.  But I am not a fan of the Barge.


Written by leolaksi

September 6, 2008 at 9:12 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thank you very much for your thorough review of this backpack. A friend of mine from Europe recently showed me her Crumpler backpack that she bought from the UK. It’s a model we cannot get here. I found the quality of construction to be superb, just as you said. Hers was of a more ergonomic design, with general backpacking as the primary use and camera holding secondary. Weight distribution is excellent.

    When I tried to look for an equivalent backpack in the USA, I thought the Customary Barge might be a good candidate. Overall, I wasn’t warming up to the shape. It does look a bit like a “bloated barge”. And my intended use would be multi-purpose–toting a camera with gear one day and hauling heavy miscellaneous items the next. From what I can see in the design, I can understand your comments about the weight distribution problem. I wouldn’t have noticed this if it weren’t for your review. Thanks very much for posting this. I’m no longer considering the Customary Barge. Instead, I’m seeking out the bag I want directly from the UK. I’ll pay a bit more, but it’ll be worth it. 🙂

    Gary in NYC

    March 8, 2011 at 10:32 am

    • Gary,

      Appreciate your comments. The Thinktank line has several outstanding models. I would stay away from the Rotation though.



      April 13, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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