Exploring has made me into aself confessed bag whore and I’ve been on the search for the perfect exploring bag for years and years, the thing is there isn’t really any such thing. As long as what you’ve got gets your kit where you need to go without falling apart or damaging your stuff then it doesn’t matter.What is true though are certain bags are better in certain environments, for example in tight, flooded or really muddy spaces I prefer my Sitka Gearslinger as I can spin him round and access whatever I want without taking it off or let the bag touch the ground…..quite useful if you are in four feet of water :-)Every now and then I get an itch to try something new though but invariably they are on eBay within a few days as I’ve not done my homework properly or some ‘feature’ of the bag has annoyed me and I’ve fell out of love with it. My ‘daily driver’ up until recently has been my Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger as he can carry my Canon, various flashlights, Gas Detector, batteries, bits of climbing gear and a side mounted tripod. More importantly its f**ing Bomb Proof which I like in a bag. I’ve had it years but it’s probably not quite as big as it should be……I hate carrying big bags but should probably upgrade him to a Kodiak Gearslinger which is the exact same design just a touch larger…
The last few weeks I’ve been taking out a Lowe Pro Flipside 300 AW that was gifted to me. He’s great in some respects, light, totally customisable and padded inside so I can get my Canon, GoPro, lighting rig, flashlights etc. in plus it has a really neat tripod carrying solution….BUT….the shoulder straps feel VERY flimsy compared to the OTT build qualityoftheMaxpedition stuff and you have to take the damn thing off to access anything inside.
The main two I keep going back to though are the Sitka Gearslinger if I’m somewhere out of sight or if I’m trying to blend in a bit the 5.11 Rush 12, he’s great as I can get the camera and tripod inside the bag so is much less conspicuous. For silly ass wet/flooded sites I take an Ortlieb heavyweight dry bag in an attempt to not kill another DSLR.
The new kid on the block is a Maxpedition Colossus which I’ve not taken out yet but like the fact I can drop the Canon/Tokina rig straight into him and access it quickly. I’m hoping it will be perfect for handheld only trips where the tripod stays at home but I reckon it will take a side mounted tripod quite easily if I needed to.
If you follow this blog you might be aware of an incident that caused me an amount of problems, sadly the upshot of that day has since had even worse fallout and has been the reason for radio silence on this blog…
The place is really my nemesis, we’ve been going there for a long time and it doesn’t reveal its secrets easily, hard work and an often dangerous environment are required to get any payoff. We have found really neat stuff in far flung corners that makes all the slog worth the effort. In fact certain things, that have become obsessional, still elude me and it was just this said ‘thing’ that was on the menu when karma dealt me a sucker punch.
Its true my wad0rs split and I dropped a few quids worth of Lensers into the murky depths but the damage was far far worse as I was to find out. The Thrunite is now working, although it took several days for it to dry out, the ‘sinking tripod’ issues turned out to be the column clamp failing on my Velbon E-540 of which I am waiting to get a spares/repair price for.
The icing on the cake was when my 40D stopped working….yep…d-e-a-d. All of the buttons apart from the shutter had stopped working, the display had gone and the camera just sat there with the autofocus chattering away to itself trying to focus on an invisible/imaginary subject in the distance….FUBAR!!
It was left to dry for a week or so but still refused to play so it got shipped off to the camera doctors while I started searching for a new Canon body (just in case). Two weeks later and several hundred pounds worse off it got couriered back to me having been totally stripped, lovingly rebuilt (with several new parts) and calibrated to Canon factory standards, oh and they cleaned all the mine gunk off it for me too 🙂
The repair slip said my camera had suffered ‘contamination and corrosion’ LOLZ
So, I’m nearly back in the game…stand by for updates in the coming weeks 🙂
For the last year and a bit I’ve used a Velbon Luxi M tripod, mainly because it is VERY compact (34cm closed) and quite light (1.2kg) but recently its been pissing me off a lot due to one of its ‘features’. Velbon call it ‘the unique and patented Velbon “Twist Lock” leg system – a simple quick twist and pull allows you to extend each leg, with another twist to lock the leg’ .
This might well be fine in ‘nice’ conditions but on many recent underground trips one leg has refused to twist and lock back when collapsing the tripod and was doing so with more and more regularity. To be fair to Velbon I am sure they didn’t design these legs to be used in glutinous mud, submerged in water and smashed on rocks so its probably my own fault for picking the wrong tripod for underground use…As much as I love these legs for their size the Twist Lock issue was starting to get to me badly so I got me some new legs in the shape of Velbon E-540. The 540 is still very compact as tripods go (40.7cm closed) and even with the PHD-41Q head is still under 18″ collapsed so can easily be hidden out of sight in a smallish rucksack for those trips when you don’t want to look like an explorer…
They are VERY solid and robust, although much bulkier than the LUXI M’s so more like a conventional (read big and heavy) tripod. Weight is still only 1.25kg (headless) which is impressive and down to all the fancy composite junk these are made from :-)They have yet to be used in waist deep water but soon will be…