I sure have done a number of posts about packing. However, since I consider myself a professional packer as much as a professional photographer it is not surprising. I am off to India in a few weeks but I have this pesky broken neck. So, how I am going to carry my camera gear has become more intriguing than usual. (Update: My back is 100% thanks to Rolfing, Acupuncture, Electromagnetic Therapy and Satanic Rituals. My C2 neck break is happily healing well, ensconced  in a fashionable brace wrapped with all those scarves I buy in Asia that I finally get a chance to wear. Have Brace Will Travel…off I go!)

Originally I was going to try Lowepro’s Slingshot 302AW (since my trusted Orion AW has been discontinued… curses!). But….. I really can’t carry my usual 20-25lbs of gear around all day. I am going to take it all with me but only walk around with a lens or two at a time. I have a number of small shoulder bags but even minimal weight on my shoulder is not a great idea. Luckily Lowepro just came out with a update Street and Field Series. Brilliant! I will use a padded waist-belt that can attach a collapsible (perfect for travel) lens pocket for an extra lens, if I want, and pouches for my flash and accessories. It was a cinch to figure out what pouches I needed (and there are lots of choices!). And, the BlackRapid RS-W1 (yes, they now also have designed one for women) camera strap is so much more comfortable than the usual strap that hangs down on the neck.

And, I thought I should bring a photo vest in case I wanted to use that instead of or in tandem with the belt system. This is where I came grinding to a halt, and hours have been spent online. I have a Domke Photo Vest that was “the standard” for years, but even though I have a small size, it is long, huge, and heavy with outdated Khaki fabric. I also have a Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest, (on sale now for $58) which is fine, but too heavy for India. So I started searching and searching and searching online. I looked at Vested Interest: no way was I going to wear a vest with padded pockets, definitely a guy thing. I checked out Humvee Safari Vest but it looks too big and hot (and there was also the Humvee Combat Tactical Vest Khaki Multi Pack!!!!). It became very clear that vests are made primarily for men (not surprising) and they are large, heavy, with a zillion pockets (I begin to lose things when I have too many choices). Actually I thought the BigPockets Tropical Vest ($89) looked the best of all of them; even though it is for birders I think it would also be great for photographers. But it might be more than I really need if I am using the S&F belt.

So I thought “Okay, forget about Photo Vests, look at Travel Vests. It may not be able to hold a lens but it can carry money, accessories, sunglasses, etc. That would be good with the Street & Field belt.” So back online for a few more hours. Last year I tried a ScotteVest Travel Vest for Women (a real nifty$100 vest with all kinds of pockets for electronics); but it became clear on the plane that it was going to be too hot for Thailand and India. I couldn’t even wear it in the airports; I was roasting, especially with fleece around the collar. I used to have a great TravelSmith travel vest but I lost it in Laos years ago and of course they don’t make it any longer. The Tilleys Different Drummer Legends Women’s Traveller/Carry-On Vest looks good but it is a $150 and I can’t tell how lightweight it is by the description online (it does say it dries overnight). Yet it is GUARANTEED FOR LIFE NOT TO WEAR OUT. You have to love Tilley products. The TravelSmith Women’s Voyager Vest ($69) looks okay and is a contender at 12 oz (but not sure I need “hand warmer pockets”). Then I saw Magellans Travel Vest for $52 that had the magic word “ultralight” (8oz), doesn’t have a collar, and seems to have all the pockets I would need for access and security. Sot that is what I ordered.

After the vest and the Lowepro S&F arrives I’ll give you a thumbs up or down about my choice.

And, if you ladies out there have any other suggestions. I’m listening! After what I learned,  I want to design my own vest. Someday I’ll get that WierGear rolling!