[DIY] The DIY $30 Rolling Camera Bag

[DIY] The DIY $30 Rolling Camera Bag

I have been on the look out for an affordable rolling camera bag for some time. Thinktank, Lowepro, and Pelican all have great products, but when it comes down to it I really don't want to drop $300+ on a bag. What is so special about these "specialized" camera bags anyway?

After looking at my normal carry-on bag, I was determined to find a cheap alternative. While I was browsing, these Calumet inserts for rolling bags popped up.

I quickly grabbed a tape measure and did some checking on my current bag. The calumet insert is 11.5" x 7" x 17.5", my carry on was slightly larger at 12" x 8" x 19". The idea of saving hundreds of dollars but still getting the exact bag I wanted was coming together, and I was excited to see how well this was going to work in person.

The next day I skipped out early on the day job and dropped by Calumet photo to buy the insert. It was even better looking in person. As you can tell from the website, it has pockets on both sides of the flap, a velcro strap to keep it securely closed, and a ton of padding for your camera gear.

After I got it home, the situation only got better.

I have to say this is one of the best camera mods / DIY projects I have found. For once everything worked out, and it does not look like a cheap, ghetto item. I would proudly roll into any job with this behind me. Even if you do not have a carry on bag, you can buy one for around $30-40 and you local Ross, TJ Max, ect. Just double check the measurements and make sure this insert will fit correctly. This setup even has some advantages that make this better than the name brand camera bags:

-I have an additional $250 in my pocket
-I don't have a logo on my bag that the NYC photo thieves / US Airways can see
-The bag has dual purposes and saves tons of space in my basement apartment
-I can slide a laptop into the bag (I know some rolling bags can do this, but not as cost effectively)
-Lightweight compared to the Pelican cases

-I don't look as cool without a name brand on my bag
-If I do need to travel, I am short a carry on
-Not as protective as a Pelican case, but a hell of a lot lighter

What do you think of my new DIY, affordable case? I am really curious if anyone can think of other disadvantages, and if you try it out, let me know how this DIY project works for you!

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Previous comments

I have one lying around in Miami. Shipping to Europe ist to expensive, so I'm giving it away. If anyone's interested, I will gladly send it to you. All you'll have to pay are the shipping costs.It's brandnew and unopened. 

Just wondering if you got rid of your insert ? Would you ship to Canada ?

Hi Bryan,

I'd love to ship it to Canada, but the quote i got for shipping is something around 300$, exactly the price I'd have to pay to get it shipped to Europe. That's ridiculous.

Let me see if there's another way.

Will you be willing to ship to Texas?

If you still have it, I'd LOVE it! I'm in Vancouver, WA 

I rather enjoy this DIY. As i have been looking for some thing larger to hold the camera gear and the video gear.

This is INCREDIBLE. I was just searching for rolling bags -- after years of lugging gear on my shoulders? The shoulders are retaliating. I have, for a WHILE - when traveling - just put my every day gear bags into my carry on. One of the things I was most nervous about was having gear or bags that screamed "EXPENSIVE CAMERA GEAR IS WITH THIS 5'4" CHICK -- come'n get it!" This is absolute perfection -- AND, it saves me a TON of money! A total win-win. Thank you!

I happened upon this while searching for Pelican carry on luggage. I think it's a great idea, the only issue I have is, Pelican luggage is NOT actually that heavy, comparatively. The Ebags and Costco/Kirkland signature (with a lifetime warranty) 22" rollerbags that are popular in the airline industry weigh 11.25-12 lbs. Nearly as much as the Storm/ Pelican IM2620 (12.5lbs) I am considering purchasing. Unless you get a featherweight brand most well built/ lasting luggage runs around the same weight as a pelican case! I know it's insane, but it's true. I have a lot of photographer friends and just know that cheap bags do NOT hold up over time (especially if you're doing lots of traveling.) It's worth it to invest in a bag (not necessarily a "brand name") that will stand the test of time, unless you think spending 40$ every 3 years is cheaper then 200$ upfront for a bag you'll never have to replace.

Wish I had read this BEFORE I just dropped $400 on a Thinktank roller

Dimensions are too big for WestJet carry-on. WestJet says 9" max. This insert alone is 10". :(

I saw USAirways and had to laugh. I've had more stuff ripped of by these guys than you could shake a stick at. Over half a million miles with them and probably 3 insurance claims totaling well over 3K

To be quite honest, I'm surprised that this many people are happily forsaking the protection and long-term durability of what is a relatively affordable (certainly not $300) case for what could likely add up to $10,000 worth of gear. This never ceases to amaze me, that people try and skimp on protecting their stuff that costs ~50x more. It's kinda like spending $3,000 on a camera and then trying to save $3 on a memory card by going with the sketchy, off-brand generic SD card that will probably go corrupt and lose all your photos in a few months.

Simply put, just remember that Pelican cases are the industry standard for a reason: They're practically indestructible, and therefore they last forever or at least a decade or three.

Maybe for a "light duty" photographer this may not be an issue, but if you have 50-100 jobs per year and they all require some form of transportation, you' WILL wear out your crap. Fast.

So this might be a good choice for the occasional traveler who usually never needs a rolling case and only uses this solution 1-3 times per year. However anyone who uses a rolling case on a regular basis would be very, very wise to just pony up the ~$150 for a nice Pelican.


With Calumet's demise, anyone have any suggestions on a good alternative insert?


Does anyone know where i can buy on of these? I can never find it on the website it takes me too

This is just what I was looking for but when I contacted Calumet they said they don't sell inserts. :-( I have an insert from PacSafe that I purchased several years ago but this one looks much better. Back to square one.