How To Photograph Real Estate and Vacation Rentals

Style or Function... Why Not Both?

As a traveling photographer, I live and die by my travel gear. Certain situations call for different solutions and you just have to be prepared for all of them. My custom Pelican cases I once posted about get me just about everywhere, but those other times where I need to either be lighter on my feet or take less gear I have to look elsewhere... and that's when I found my Dakine Reload 30L.

I've had tons of photo backpacks throughout my career. From a basic Canon 200 to all different Lowepros. As my stash of gear and on location needs grew, so did my need for a carry all backpack. The problem being, that as the available backpacks got bigger, they got more awkward to carry and even more awkward looking. I eventually got tired of looking like a turtle with a huge shell every time I entered an airport, so I had given up and tossed my backpacks in a closet in favor of my Pelicans.

While I love my Pelicans and there's literally no place they can't survive, there are a few situations where they're a tad too much to carry. For example, spending a weekend in the woods covering the Rally America racing series, it helps to be as light on my feet as possible. Being able to throw a bag over my shoulder and take off to keep up with the event is much better than dragging a wheeled case around. However, I was still stuck with the prospect of carrying a huge, ugly bag on my back. After complaining about all this to a friend, he suggested I check out Dakine's newest photo bag.

I had checked out Dakine products before, (they make clothes, bags, and accessories for action sports for those who haven't heard of them) but I had never thought to look for a photo bag from them. Photographing action sports is incredibly demanding and often requires as much physical labor as the athletes themselves between carrying gear and hiking up to find a spot to shoot from. Dakine's ties to action sports must have allowed them to notice the need for a big bag that was also easy to carry, (and didn't look terrible either), because they seem to have answered the call.

Dakine Open

The Reload 30L is, in my mind, one of my best recent pick ups. It carries everything I need to take out on a shoot, while not being super bulky. I love being able to head to the track or the woods and work out of a single bag rather than a collection of rollers. It also helps me keep organized because in the heat of the moment, covering an event I can be pretty forgetful and would honestly walk off without my bag if it wasn't on my back!

If you're in the market for a new backpack, take an honest look at this pack. Something from outside the typical photo equipment makers is a welcomed change of pace.


Dakine with tripod

Dakine Reload 30L Specs:

Photo Specific main compartment
Padded laptop sleeve
Fits most 17" laptops
Tripod Carry
Multiple internal pockets
Deployable rain cover
Padded waist belt
Compression molded back panel
Water Bottle pocket
Adjustable sternum strap

What I like:

  • Holds a ton of gear without making me look like I'm ready to climb Everest
  • Fits perfectly in airplane overhead bins
  • Sits comfortably on my shoulders even though I'm a bigger person


What could use improvement:

  • Laptop sleeve isn't padded on the back side, so if your camera bodies stick up above the dividers, it can be a pain to get a laptop in without opening the camera compartment also (think TSA checkpoints)


Check it out on Dakine's site here.

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Randy's picture

Same problem here as all the other backpacks - too much camera function and not enough life. I'd like to see a bag that allows the backpacker/photographer traveller to have one solution - I can't easily carry two backpacks. I have a similar bag - EVOC 35CPL and same issue.

Deter Pinklage's picture

Time to hire a crew to carry your gear around :D

Randy's picture

A team of sherpas would be nice.

Scott Jennings's picture

check out the f-stop mountain series bags (specifically the guru) i haven't got one yet but it is the only bag i have found that nicely bridges the gap between holding enough gear and holding all the other stuff i travel with.

Randy's picture

I certainly will check them out

Bj Cavill's picture

Tamrac Evolution has a do-it-all compartment on top of the camera storage, which may be an option. Not a lot of "backpack" room, but a spot for a rain jacket or snacks. It's going to be hard to find a good cross without losing big on one side or the other.

Randy's picture

Yes, I've been chatting a little with ThinkTank about options but nothing yet. What I do is actually take carabiners and attach a ThinkTank retrospective to the front of my travel bag. I'd just love to see them take the bag attaching options up a bit to make this easier. The Retrospective 10 is great to attach to the front straps of a 35-45 ltr bag... but I just have to be overly selective of what gear I take.

Brian Ceci's picture

I have this bag and it's awesome. Looks like a backpack (which Lowepro and Crumpler cannot seem to figure out) Has lots of space and is not even that bulky. Fits in every single airplane overhead i've ever been on. There's smaller versions of this Dakine bag which are better suited if you don't have enough gear - Check them out. They're legit.

Dan Speicher's picture

I started using a Burton bag a while back. But its just not quite perfect. For those days I want to go low profile, I use the burton sleeve in a llbean backpack, only issues then is nothing is accessible

Deter Pinklage's picture

I'll take a bag without the big logos.

Brendan's picture

In my mind that thing is still not what I'd call stylish, just a bit more slick and less laden with ugly branding. My ideal bag would be this (I have a lot less gear).

Although the nicer look comes at the cost of function... and more money.

Charles Davis's picture

F stop bags are the only way. Dakine bags have bad hip straps and support all the rest are just as bad.

Brian Ceci's picture

These are sick too! Nice

Kevin Hatcher's picture

I have a f stop loka and its amazing. I can carry camera gear as well as lunch and waterproof gear...most camera bags just hold camera gear which is not very useful when you are hiking. :-)

Zack Williamson's picture

I've been eying these for a while, their swappable camera units are really appealing

Felipe Corvalán's picture

How will it you compare it to a Thinktank Airport Accelerator?

Samuel Dubbins's picture

I've had the previous version of this pack and must say, I was left unsatisfied. With that said, that's because when I travel I typically bring more than just camera equipment—clothes, toiletries, rain jacket, etc. If you only need a backpack for camera equipment, this is the pack for you.

However, if you are looking for more versatility and options, my suggestion would be a Dakine Blade backcountry pack combined with an F-Stop photo block inside. Dakine packs are top-notch when it comes to quality and durability (I've put hundreds of thousands of miles on mine), and the F-Stop insert allows you to take just your camera bits if necessary.

Backcountry, I can bring two bodies, 4 lenses, two speedlites, tripod, monopod, snowboard, snowshoes, sticks, extra gloves, socks, hat, goggles, water bottle, lunch, and still stow away my jacket if it gets too warm.

Kevin Younger's picture

Save your $$$ and buy a pack from f-stop first instead of buying several different bags and then eventually getting to the f-stop (like I've done). DaKine makes some really good products but in this market there is no substitute for the f-stop packs.

Norm Cooper's picture

Holy Geargasm batman... $250-$400 are you kidding me?!

I'm glad you all have bottomless budgets, but the pricing of these packs are ridiculous, slap "photo" on it and jack the price up? and made worse that these are effectively single-duty, what with all of the padding (unless removable) they are just glorified camera bags.

I recently packed ~70 pounds of gear into and out of the Grand Canyon in the rain..., tripod, astro tracker, two bodies, 5 lenses, etc etc in my $90 REI sale 85L Mars backpack... and I can also use for ... ummm.. backpacking, too!

My everyday pack, used for moutainbiking, jogging, motorcycling is a 5.11 Moab tactical sling, and I can throw a $25 amazon padded photocase into it whenever I want to toss the camera, a couple lenses and filters, strap the tripod to the outside

check out campmor, REI outlet, sierra trading and buy a high quality pack FIRST, then convert it easily and cheaply to an excellent photo-pack at a fraction of the cost...

Jan Lukeš's picture

Well, if you make money by photography, you should be able to buy 200$ bag, otherwise you are doing something wrong.

Andrew Link's picture

Um. It IS just a camera bag. That's what this whole post was about, reviewing a camera bag on a photography site. Why would the fact that I couldn't use it for anything other than carrying cameras count against it?

jelmer's picture

im still very happy with my burton snowboard/camera bag that opens on the place that rest on the bag. for me very handy because you will not forget to close your bag.
and for robbers impossible to get in when your in the tube..

Bjoern Lubetzki's picture

To me this backpack is ridiculous. It isn't really what I call stylish (it's more as stylish as the new Tamron lens....) There may be persons out there that like that design. I don't. It screams "Photo backpack".
And worst off it is huge but the depth is a joke. 14cm???Seriously?? A D3 is 15,7cm....
A D700 with battery grip is 16,7cm and without the grip it is still 14,7cm
So in other words: It is a really nice backpack if you like the style and you don't own a professional camera. But you have to pay 240€ for that thing.

I checked the Tenba Shootoute Backpack Large, the Lowepro Pro Trekker 600, the Tamrac Expedition 9x and in the end I bout an F-Stop Tilopa BC. I had all the backpacks at my home and wrote blog entries about them. It wasn't that I simply saw them in the shop.
The Tilopa was around 310€ I believe with the Large ICU.

Matt Blasi's picture

I love F-Stop gear too but I think a lot of people reading this are really missing the point. F-Stop Gear bags are large and made for long treks, being out or traveling more than just a few days which is great if that's what you're doing.

Andrew's not comparing that, but on the need for a backpack to carry your gear on say a vacation where you're returning to the hotel each night, or just going out for the day but want to take a lot of gear this is a much better solution. A lot of backpacks are awkward, as they try to be trendy and gimmicky, where the Dakine seems to have taken that into account.

All bags could use some improvement, I have yet to find a bag I like better than all others. That said the Dakine is a very good option for the use it's been designed for.

Bjoern Lubetzki's picture

There are a lot of different F-Stop backpacks. The smaller ones are made as a daypack only and are in the same range (size wise) than this guy. But they are deeper. 16.5cm and not just 14...

And the Dakine backpack is by no means a small,backpack. It is 30liter!! The dimensions are 55x33x22

For about the same price you get the

That one slightly bigger way more stylish, lighter, deeper (with the Pro ICU) and you get way more options (the different sizes of ICUs).

Matt Blasi's picture

No its not a small backpack but it is for a day trip better form fitting than the Loka to me - I have both and I have 2 different ICUs for my Loka. The Loka is bigger and a bit bulkier than the Dakine. And yes the Loka gives me options with what gear I carry but I don't use either bag when I don't want to carry a lot of gear, and those options come at a cost - I think each of my ICUs was around $80-100.

F-Stop gear bags were designed for more than just carrying the camera alone, the Dakine is meant just for the camera gear. This is where the right bag for the right use comes in.

I use the Loka when I go hiking, camping, trips where I have no central secure place to leave gear and thus have to take it all with me. The Large Pro ICU holds roughly the same as the Dakine, That said I can put at least 2 days of clothes into my Loka which I can't do with my Dakine.

As such the Dakine I use when I'm covering a local race so I'm not needing to take any clothes, when I go exploring for a day and want to carry a few different, when I visit family for the holidays and I'm taking a separate suitcase for my clothes anyways.

The Dakine also has a less conspicuous look to it for walking around town. Yes it's big, I also have a Vangaurd Hi-Rise, a Lowpro Flipside and a Think Tank Shape Shifter, to be honest I almost never use the Hi-Rise or the Flipside anymore, and the shapeshifter has it's own selective use for it's own reasons.

It's all about what you're using the bag for, where you are going, what you need to take. While I like and have both bags, honestly neither does everything I need in a reasonable fashion but they both fit different needs that I have.

Bjoern Lubetzki's picture

Less conspicuous look?? Seriously! That thing looks like any other more or less stylish camera backpack out there. It practically screams "rob me".

The F-Stop bags look like trekking backpacks. Sure I own the blue version and I get quite a few looks but never bad ones. In fact the blue from F-Stop seems to calm people. You aren't the black photographer anymore that. That guy that lurks in the shadows. In stead you have a bright blue backpack. But you also get it in a color that is less bright.

The biggest problem I have with the Dakine is the price and the depth. 14cm is just to darn shallow!! Especially if it is a 240€ backpack. For a small backpack, designed for an entry level Dslr and 1-2 lenses 14cm is totally fine.

But for an backpack that size, designed for that many lenses with that price...
As I said in another post here. I watched at a lot of backpacks before buying the Tilopa BC. I needed a big backpack. I own a Vanguard UpRise 36 for the smaller stuff (which I never use since the F-Stop).
I tested the Tenba Shootout Large (2 of them and both had defects), The Tamrac Expedition 9x, the Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 (two of them the first arrived defect) and finally the Tilopa was THE backpack. Is it absolutely perfect? Nope but it is pretty close. I like a bit more space. Should have waithed for the Satori EXP but that's just me.

Matt Blasi's picture

Actually I was quite serious, it looks like a regular backpack, while I would prefer the branding not be there I prefer that on any bag. Fact is that it holds my D800 just fine, so I'm not overly concerned with needing more depth, I don't typically leave the battery grip on it nor do I even always take the grip with me.

Any time I have my F-Stop bag I almost always get asked what gear I have in it - it's one of those now where people know the look and the branding where as the Dakine no one has ever considered it was a camera bag.

Color is even more a personal preference, my Loka is a pale-ish green (can't remember what color they call it) and all my other backpacks are primarily black.

With your biggest gripe being the depth you're making the assumption that everyone shooting professionally is running around with the grips attached 100% or even a majority of the time. I'm sorry but yes we are all different. Or that everyone shooting professionally is only shooting the pro bodies like the D3 and D4.

Even that being said you're complaining about the price and comparing it to a bag that cost significantly more. The Dakine is yes $250US (I got mine on sales for a bit less), the Tipola is $345 without the ICU, and the Loka is $280 without the ICU - so yes they are deeper (depending on the ICU you buy) but you pay more for that. Even the other bags you mention are for the most part more expensive - you get more when you pay more that's kind of the point. The Trekker 600 is more than $300, the Expedition 9X is like $350, The Up-Rise is even a cheaper bag but it's the same depth until you open it further but it can't carry as much gear in it.

I considered the Tenba myself since it is deeper and my hope was it would be a good backpack option for carrying my 300mm 2.8, but honestly it was bulky and uncomfortable for me.

As I said man different bags for different things, if you've found one that works great for you congrats, I still have yet to find one that fits what I do.

Bjoern Lubetzki's picture

The Tilopa is 345 WITH the ICU.
Yes, depth is one thing but it isn't the only thing. It may fit an D800 but you may get a Problem with a bigger camera like a D3-D4.....
There are a few different things that I don't like beside the depth:
- It opens on the outside (the F-Stop open from the back)
- It doesn't have a super rugged Hypalon bottom pat (which I found really useful if the ground is wet, especially with salt water)
- The F-Stop has a better harness system (aluminum frame)
- You can transport way more than just your camera gear
- You have more freedom to adjust it to your needs (buy a smaller ICU if you have less camera gear but need more cloth....)
- The F-Stop backpacks have "nifty little things" like a zipper garage.....Things you don't necessarily see but if you need them....

You have to consider street prices:
The Pro Trekker 600 is about 280€
The Expedition 9X is about 240€
The Tilopa BC is about 310€ with the Large ICU
The Dakine is 240€

And value for money it wouldn't be worth it for me. As you said. You also own the F-Stop.
I believe you that the Dakine is an awesome extra backpack. But to spend an extra 240€ on an "extra backpack"??
I just wouldn't buy it as my only backpack. But that's just me. For me the F-Stop backpacks are better from all the things I read about the Dakine (and no, I'm not getting payed from them). I wish I would.
Maybe I would change my mind if I would own that thing. But as I said, as a second backpack....

Matt Blasi's picture

Like I said I have many backpacks, the prices I listed are US prices here I don't know the conversion and it's really not worth my time to figure out the conversion to other currencies. I know In the US the Tipola is $345US as just the shell, with 1 ICU it's $405 (according to F-Stop Gears website).

I've set my Dakine down in wet grass at the track without any issue, and if you're looking for a bag to carry more than your camera gear please go back and re-read my original comment and consider why are we even going back and forth on this.

I don't always want to carry more clothes, so it all depends, and I wish one of them would pay me too :)

Andrew Link's picture

The depth isn't a problem. I carry two 1DX bodies and a 5D3 all with really right stuff L-plates attached without any problems.