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07-18-2014, 08:32 AM   #1
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Backpacking lens storage: Pelican case or insert?

I need advice from those of you who take along multiple lenses while backpacking. I'm wavering between getting an insert (these from F-stop caught my eye Medium Slope ICU - Slope ICU - ICU - Products )
or going the up-armor route with a Pelican case. (FWIW, I'm not looking to "do wildlife" on my hikes, so ease-of-access isn't really an issue for either camera or lenses.)


The insert has a lot of advantages for me--I can leave the hoods on the lenses easier, so there would be less faffing about under field conditions--but I'm concerned as to whether it would be burly enough bouncing around in my ruck. The Pelican case obviously has the advantage here, but the number of cubes/weight it would add to my load-out is intimidating to say the least. (The fact that they're precisely the wrong shape for a traditional top-loader pack-bag is a pain as well.)


No doubt this a classic backcountry paradox where there will be trade-off's each way, but I'll appreciate your sharing your thought process if you've found a system that works for you.

07-18-2014, 10:03 AM   #2
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A lot of inserts are kind of light for backpacking IMHO but some are up to it. I have the Manhattan Portage one. I got it for about half in the Amazon Warehouse one time. It's pretty tough. I think it's good in a backpack and it's a lot lighter than a Pelican type case. It's not soft sided like some are. But it's a little expensive compared to some too.
07-18-2014, 10:04 AM   #3
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Knees are shot, so backpacking is not in my current list of activities, but for years I packed with a fairly simple kit:
  • Ricoh XR7
  • Pentax-M 50/1.7
  • Tamron 70-150/3.5 (20A)
  • Tamron 28/2.5 (03B)
Everything in the kit was compact and I used the two rigid leather-clad cases that came with the Tamron lenses. They fit nicely into the side pockets of the pack for easy access and did very well in that role. In fact, I still have those cases and they still look pretty good. I still have all three lenses and they also look good and function as they did when new. The key was that there were only three lenses and one was always on the camera.

Modern lenses are a little problematic in that they tend to be less compact and may have a few more "thingies" like switches and motors and huge plastic hoods, and stuff. Modern packs are similarly problematic in that they tend to simply be big bags. Still, though, I currently pack even my newer lenses in their soft cases loose in my day pack padded by clothing. For the view camera kit, I use plastic left-over containers for the lenses and pack the body in a zip-front padded lunch bag.

I guess my philosophy has been that if something happens to the pack (usually attached to your's truly) that is violent enough to hurt my photo gear, it is unlikely that I will survive to express my grief at the loss.


Steve

(...really like the rigid Bakelite screw-lid cases that my Soviet rangefinder lenses came in...)

Last edited by stevebrot; 07-18-2014 at 10:14 AM.
07-18-2014, 11:09 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by magkelly Quote
A lot of inserts are kind of light for backpacking IMHO but some are up to it.

Thanks for putting the Manhattan Portage insert on my radar...I'm thinking its "vertical" orientation might be better for someone who shoots a lot of long zooms, but it does seem a little more robust than similar designs I've seen from, say, MountainSmith.

---------- Post added 07-18-14 at 11:15 AM ----------

that is violent enough to hurt my photo gear, it is unlikely that I will survive to express my grief at the loss.


Ha, no doubt the right philosophy. But related to the "bad knees" issue, there are some downhills on rocky, horse-eroded trails that loosen my fillings anymore, so I doubt I could not worry what it was doing to sensitive optics. (And like the PWN, river fords--not to mention the occasional torrential downpours--are usually on the menu, too.)


Last edited by CreationBear; 07-18-2014 at 11:16 AM.
07-18-2014, 11:42 AM   #5
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I would not use a Pelican case. even if you say quick access is not a requisite, it's still quite useful. Plus a Pelican case will be very heavy, and is unlikely to fit nicely in a backpack.

I personally used many brands of inserts and settled on the Cubeze by Ape Case (cheap on Amazon). They're the best I've seen, well padded, lifetime warranty, many sizes.

that being said, make sure you get an insert that fits correctly in your bag. What I do for short hikes is take a 28 liters bag with bottom and top compartments. the Ape Case goes at the bottom, on its side, so that when I open the zips I get direct access to my gear. I slip a piece of foam underneath the insert just to be on the safe side. That particular configuration holds a K-3 with tripod mount and a Sigma 17-70 mounted, a 100 macro WR, DA21, DA40 on the sides, a flash and some odds and ends (spare battery, lenspen, etc).

If I really need to take my 60-250 it goes in its own pouch in the top compartment.
07-18-2014, 12:08 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
I personally used many brands of inserts and settled on the Cubeze by Ape Case

Thanks for the reply--the Cubeze seems to be a lot like the MountainSmith insert I already own, so if it's met your needs, so much the better.


A question: can you adjust the internal dividers so that the lenses ride securely in all orientations? (I like your horizontal mount idea.) One thing that I was paranoid about was having the outside of the insert provide enough padding while all that expensive glass inside jostled about like a bag of marbles.
07-20-2014, 11:41 PM   #7
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Pelican cases is the better option, i love to have while on travel as well as photography trip.

07-21-2014, 07:25 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Harshal321 Quote
Pelican cases is the better option

Harshal, thanks for your reply--is there a particular size that works for you, especially if you're not toting your camera body as well? I remember one web post where a gentleman was getting three "Limiteds" in the relatively small Pelican 1050, but that might be a little tight for my beefier "K's," especially with lens hoods.
07-22-2014, 03:04 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
is there a particular size that works for you
I have used Pelican 1010 Micro Case, you can opt for other from same series i.e. 1020 and 1050 is also good but overstuff will be a problem !
07-22-2014, 07:40 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Harshal321 Quote
good but overstuff will be a problem !
Ha, I can see you're a backpacker then! Thanks for your insights.
07-22-2014, 07:59 AM   #11
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I use Pelican 1510's almost exclusively these days, but not to be worn about the body in any way.

Mine are purely for vehicular transportation modes, car, truck, bus, plane etc, I decant kit out just what I need for immediate use to Crumpler or the like for shooting.
07-22-2014, 01:19 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
I decant kit out

Thanks for the reply (and that particular verb is a great homage to your country's most famous, eponymous product.) That's actually how I envision using the Pelican (with myself and pack being the "vehicle)--I've the smallest Crumpler that I like keep handy with my K5 plus my best guess as to the "focal length of the day."
07-22-2014, 02:15 PM   #13
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I think a Pelican case would be too heavy and rigid to work well on a backpacking trip.

For day trips I use a Mountainsmith insert that has a couple of Velcro dividers in it. Easy to access, good protection, but still kind of bulky for backpacking I think.

When I'm going overnight(s) I usually take a carefully selected few small lenses in Clik neoprene lens wraps and then put those in a small dry bag in the pack. Usually I'll also wear the camera with one lens on a Black Rapid Sport strap while hiking for quick shots. I also have a Clik camera wrap if I decided to put the camera in the dry bag with everything else. Much more than the covers and dry bag just eats into my carrying capacity for important stuff like food and shelter.
07-22-2014, 02:25 PM   #14
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Matt, thanks for the reply--as you said, Pelican's will no doubt suck up a lot of cubes. The Clik lens wraps hadn't been on my radar before, so I definitely will try to think through how I might use them--being here in the wet Southern Appalachians I've amassed quite an assortment of drybags, so that won't be a problem on that end.
07-22-2014, 02:48 PM   #15
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I use the F stop inserts and pack.

The ICU has about 8-10mm of padding around everything (about the same as most other camera bags I've owned).
unless you really throw your pack around, it should be OK.

I would still reverse lens hoods for travelling though to avoid damaging them, then you can use the smaller (shallow) ICU's and end up with more space in your pack.

Hope this helps
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