After over 25 years with my family's construction business, it looks like I'll be hired for a corporate office position with a regional manufacturing company. I have mixed feelings about leaving the family (we consistently enjoy a reputation for quality, sticking to our price quotes, and customer satisfaction) but I'm eager to join this new firm and tackle a new challenge.
After I've settled into my new job, I'm going to go shopping for needed business and personal clothes, as well as what I call "luggage items", which I define more broadly as not just travel bags but also EDC (everyday carry). Since I joined these boards in 2009, I've flirted with the idea of getting a backpack but there was never enough money to get the kind of high-quality pack that I wanted. So I've been hopping from one cheap-junk backpack or shoulder bag to the next. None of them serve my needs or last long enough to be acceptable.
Even though my new job will likely be a quasi-white-collar office job, I'm still very much an outdoors person. One of the common charitable activities I performed over the years with my family (both as a business and as individuals) was volunteer work on recreational trails projects and also outdoor historical projects. I also enjoy hiking and volunteering for outdoor events. Of course, even though I may not be with my family's business anymore, I do expect to go to construction sites and other outdoor venues in the future.
Here is a possible packing list for a backpack:
- Either a writing notebook, or a large clear organizer pouch containing a tablet and writing utensils, or a vertical Freudian Slip
- compact binoculars
- either a point-and-shoot digital camera, or a digital SLR, or two SLRs (occasionally I might substitute a camcorder)
- walkie talkies or ham radios (I just got my FCC amateur radio license in March)
- GPS receiver
- iPod with car kit and kit-pouch
- compact first aid kit
- sometimes a water vessel for drinking (could be a small thermos in cooler weather)
- little bottle of hand sanitizer
- maybe a small flashlight or headband light
- possibly self-contained food items in something like a LunchBots container
- work gloves
- roll of streamer material
- possibly an Olympus LS-10 digital audio recorder
- maybe some batteries in reserve
- maybe a cheap open-face Tracfone (pay-as-you-go cellphone), possibly with car charger adaptor
- at least one Joby GorillaPod micro-tripod
- maybe a clipboard for some oocasions, usually with a tablet in a large clear organizer pouch
Some of these items are not EDC. I may include them for special excursions. So some items may typically be swapped out. I have absolutely not desire to carry a computer in a backpack. That's what my SuperEgo and it's included Brain Cell are for.
I'm looking for a backpack that I can set on the ground when not being carried and hopefully it will stay upright while loaded. Not a biggy if it's not perfectly balanced. I can also see myself taking this pack on recreational trips visit state parks and also for picnics and volunteer meetings (where it would probably be used as a portable office).
If this were the old days with the family business, there would be no question that I would have the backpack as a constant EDC companion for work, play and everyday pursuits for everything from shopping to meetings to visiting relatives. Lately, since I haven't had a decent backpack (and I wouldn't carry my SLR in an unpadded pack anyway) I've been using a Canon 2400 Gadget Bag instead. Shoulder bags do not work well as a primary pack in backcountry, especially if you have to stoop over to tend to a dog who's along for the occasion.
Currently, my camera of choice is a Canon Digital Rebel T3, which a family member gave to me as a birthday gift last year. It was purchased an QVC as a bundle, with the 18-55 kit lens, a 75-300 telephoto lens, the aforementioned gadget bag and memory card. In the future I would like to add at least one new compact point-and-shoot, like maybe a Canon S100, for those excursions where the bulkier Rebel is not desirable. I may also buy another Rebel like the T3i, making one SLR the wide-angle SLR and the other one serving as the telephoto. On hikes and other road trips, I love to shoot photos of wildlife, scenic vistas, people enjoying the outdoors, or other sights I may encounter. I also like to use digital photos on volunteer outings to keep a record of either problem areas that need work or of the work the volunteers are doing.
If you look on YouTube for "Nutnfancy" for first aid kit videos, you'll find this guy who's a really militaristic survivalist but he seems to know his stuff about creating his own home-made first aid kits. I'm not into the kind of extreme backcountry hikes and camping excursions that he's into, but seems to have some good ideas for first aid. I'd like to use his smaller first aid kits as a possibility for something I could EDC.
The three tentative finalists for this backpack pageant are the Tenba Medium Shootout Backpack, the Red Oxx Airborne Ruck, and the Tom Bihn Brain Bag. The Tenba is both the strongest contender and has the greatest weaknesses. All are expensive, but the Tenba seems to offer the most comprehensive overall package geared for backcountry excursions of photographers. But it's heavy and I don't know how well it's built or who would stand behind it. I have experience with Red Oxx and Bihn customer service, so they have a huge advantage. The Red Oxx ruck pack isn't geared to be a gadget bag, nor does it offer o-rings for bihn accessories. Neither the Red Oxx or the Tenba offer Bihn's poron-filled grab handle. None of these packs seems to be outfitted for snowmobile travel, so I'm really not sure what to do there. So despite the fact that Brain Bag is not explicitly an outdoor or work pack, it seems to be the leader of the pack at this point.
Does anyone else on this forum use the Brain Bag in lots of everyday outdoor situations, hikes, and maybe even outdoor work sites? What are your experiences and how do you outfit it for your exploits? I realize that if I got a Brain Bag it would have to include one of the new Camera I/O setups, as well as probably a vertical slip, key straps, and pouches. If this purchase were based on price alone, I would likely go with the Tenba since it is already set up for cameras and offers weather protection (although I have no idea how effective or necessary their protection would be). Quality, who stands behind the pack, versatility and accessorizing are also major factors for me. The Brain Bag looks huge, but it seems (so far) to make the most sense.