Camouflage Camera Bags modified from Duck Blind Bags

     Don't bother trying to find a camouflage camera bag at a camera store or photography supply. I've only seen one, and it was in a hunting supply store. It was made to carry a small digital camera, not a DSLR and lenses. I really wanted a good camouflage camera bag or two for my nature photography.

      While looking for some camo blind material, I stumbled across this Avery brand duck blind bag in a Walmart on the Outer Banks. It happened to be duck hunting season, and I guess I got lucky. There were several styles, but this one seemed suited to my needs (a single camera body and two lens, flash, batteries and assorted small accessories). Now that I knew these were available, I finally had some idea where to look. Soon I found a couple more suitable duck blind bags at a Gander Mountain hunting/fishing retailer.

      The only problem with these duck blind bags was that they had no dividers like you would find in most camera bags, so it now became a do-it-yourself project. The Avery bag shown here is that first purchase, bought in the middle of one of my photo expeditions to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I used it for a week "as is" and it worked out great, though I knew it would work even better with a divider in it.

     I made a divider the right size for my equipment by covering some cut and folded corrugated cardboard pieces with 1/8 inch foam for a little padding. Then I covered them with the camo material I had. It didn't have to be camo on the inside, of course, but it's what I had on hand. The left photo shows the bag with the divider set inside and the far right photo shows the bag and divider with the equipment inside

      The next bag I purchased is this "Guide Series" model at (shown below) from Gander Mountain, a hunting/fishing outdoor retail supply. It is very similar in design and construction to the Avery Outdoor bag above, but is larger, with about twice the inside volume of the smaller Avery bag. This serves well when I need to take more photography stuff for a longer day. It also had no dividers, so I made some.

      This divider project was a little more ambitious, as I used thicker padding on the bottom and sides of the dividers, and added velcro flaps to allow different configurations for larger lenses. (I figured I could never have too much padding around an expensive lens.) I won't try putting such thick padding on corrugated cardboard again, as this was a bear to sew. I think next time I'll just cover the padding and the hard divider panels separately. The above photo shows this larger bag with the divider panels and padding inserted.

      The third was purchased from Gander Mountain also. It's made by Flambeau Outdoors, shown in the two photos below left. This one is a little different in design and shape, with larger pockets on the outside, though it's about the same volume as the large bag above. It also happens to be in the Advantage Max-4 HD camo pattern, which is a match to the other camouflage clothing and items I use most.

     Initially I used this as an all-purpose bag for gloves, manuals, hats, extra clothing, extra electronic gadgets, etc., just as a camouflaged bag to augment my camera bags when necessary. It has a hard plastic bottom "pan" made onto it to guarantee waterproofing on wet ground, although the other duck blind bags are also supposed to be waterproof. Some even claim to float, though I would never try such a thing on purpose with camera equipment. I did not make any dividers for this last bag since it was not really meant for use as a camera bag.

      Later, when I added my prime lenses to the collection, I suddenly did not have enough room for all of them. I soon realized this taller bag would be ideal for my newest equipment since the only way I was going to get all my stuff in one bag was to pack the lenses vertically instead of trying to stack them in horizontal layers. Digging them out from under each other would have been a real hassle.

      This third bag, shown finished at right, proved to be just the right height to stand them all on end. It's large enough to hold my 7D and 5D mkII (one of them with lens mounted), plus four lenses (300mm f/4L IS, 70-200mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L IS and 17-40mm f/4L). Also in with the lenses are two 1.4X TC's, a set of 3 Kenko extension tubes and my flash unit. The side pockets carry USB cables, remote cable release, battery tester, AC/DC charger, LED headband lamp, GPS, extra camera plate and wrenches, AA batteries, polarizer filter, and other assorted accessories. Obviously the 500mm would have to be in its own bag, which had already been taken care of in this project.

     I had learned a thing or two from making the dividers for the first two bags, and this time I ended up with a bag I'm especially pleased with. I used some nice black nylon material to cover the foam dividers, which looks almost exactly like what you would find in a commercially made bag. It's slick and smooth, and the lenses slide in and out silky smooth. Everything sits on a 1-1/2 inch thick foam pad in the bottom of the hard plastic pan base for excellent protection.

     The one drawback of the bag was that it came with just two slim pockets in the lid, only thick enough to hold perhaps a note pad. One side had a zippered net pocket too, but none of them were suitable for batteries or memory cards. After some thought I came up with a solution. Thin stuff goes in the zippered net pocket (lens cloth, camera internal backup battery spare, small note pad, etc.). I used the two slim pockets to mount two flaps onto the lid. On the left side of the lid I put a padded foam flap over the net pocket that velcro's shut. This pad cushions the camera body for extra protection and keeps items in the net pocket from rubbing on the body.

     On the right side of the lid I put a flap with elastic pockets to hold batteries and memory cards. I added green and red ribbon to mark pockets for charged or discharged batteries, and full or empty memory cards. They will easily hold four batteries and four cards, or more if necessary. This battery/card pocket flap is held shut with a simple elastic strap so it doesn't flip open when the lid is opened or shut. I'm particularly pleased with how well it worked out.