I make camera bags for the harshest conditions. Walking around a city for 16 hours? 110ºF in the desert? Torrential downpour (anywhere)? In a boat on the way to a deserted island in the middle of the night to look for nesting sea turtles? Yes, and anything else you can throw at them.
But/and, that toughness is only incidental, a by-product of using good materials and decent sewing technique (good seaming, gusseting, layering, etc). The real killer feature of our bags is that your stuff is available almost instantly. There’s no substitute for having the camera already in your hand, but not having layers of garbage in the way, or needing to store it in a way that’s not ready to shoot are all detrimental. Open the flap, grab the camera, press the button. That should be it.
The same goes for the other stuff in the bag. Nothing is ballast, ideally. Careful organization means it’s possible to carry a very dense, small satchel with everything you need, available right now. This is why I’ve been put so much work and thought into the Small Object Organizer, to help eliminate some of the confusion that happens in the exterior pockets of bags so often. Normal pen slots are just a flat piece of fabric; the SOO is made to fit the dimensions of what you’re putting in it; so pens get a loop that fits them without distorting; the Leatherman gets a three-dimensional leatherman sized slot, and so on.
We offer several basic shapes: The Small One, mk 1 and 2, depending on how much you need room for small objects (I prefer the 2, but I use smaller lenses). The Businessman’s lunch, which is a briefcase style satchel. The Half Moon, if you have endless small things to organize. The classic Messenger, if you need to haul a lot of stuff for some reason (I use mine for longer bike rides, or when I need to carry a layer and lunch and extra water). Most of the shapes can be scaled down or up to fit requirements; I tend to design around what kind of computer I want to carry, and then work outward from there; what camera system, what lenses, etc.
First, you have to decide: What do you need to carry? What shape will work the best for the environment you’ll be working in? Does it need to blend in, fade, or look impressive? Does it need to fit in a certain size envelope (airplane restrictions, low key getting into places, etc)? Does it need to match your outfit? These are all things I take into consideration when I’m making a bag.
The start of the bag can be rather formulaic; I know I want it to come out to be about AxBxC inches, and so it’s a lot of working backwards from there to the pieces I need, working out the angles, adding seam allowances where they’re needed, plus a little margin for error. But/And, I also end up doing that thing that anybody that makes stuff does, and throw out 2/3rds of the plan in the middle to improve on the design as I put it together. So you don’t end up with exactly what was patterned, like it came out of any of a thousand high quality sewing studios; instead, you get the best possible iteration of that bag, starting from a good idea and continually improved over the course of making it. That’s why instead of an hour or two to cut, and 3-4 to sew, I’ll spend ~20 hours assembling a bag. It’s worth it, in my estimation.