Product Reviews

Pack the self-stowing camera bag

April 4th, 2016
Photographers who carry a lot of kit are often challenged by the lack of flexibility of their camera bags. JOEL DORFAN finds out whether the Tenba ‘self-stowing’ bag is up to the challenge.
Tenba BYOB 13 Insert Only

Since 1977, Tenba has been making innovative carrying case solutions for professional photographers and filmmakers. Its products are of high quality and are generally well accepted by amateurs and professionals alike.

Last year it introduced one of is more unusual products, the Packlite, described as “the World’s First packable, self-stowing camera bag”.

I received both the Packlite Travel Bag for BYOB 13, and the BYOB 13 insert for any travel bag – the acronym stands for Bring Your Own Bag. I was supplied the size 13 products to test with my DSLR and lenses.

The Packlite is very compact and folds into itself. Once folded it would easily fit into a large jacket pocket or a spare compartment in your main camera bag. Once opened, it expands into a fairly large, lightweight PU-coated shadow rip-stop nylon bag, which has bar tack reinforced stitching on all stress points.

I looked at this bag and started scratching my head. My gear could easily fit into the bag, but it had no compartments and no padding.

While it was true to its tagline, the Packlite could not be used as a camera bag unless the separately purchased BYOB padded bag is inserted into it.

The BYOB is a true Tenba-quality padded camera bag with all the expected features, but without a shoulder strap. This functionality is provided by the Packlite once the BYOB  is inserted..

The combination of these two products resulted in a high-quality lightweight camera bag, able to hold my DSLR with attached 70-200 lens and a number of other lenses, plus accessories.

So who is this combination of products aimed at?

They are pitched at two groups of people:

1 Photographers who carry a lot of kit, allowing them to size down on location.

2 Photographers who want to carry their regular kit in any bag

In 1 above, this would be for professional photographers and filmmakers who travel with large backpacks, rolling cases or shoulder bags. They can easily replace a portion of the padded dividers inside their large bags with a BYOB insert of any size. That way, they always have a bag-within-a-bag set-up, but the benefit is that the BYOB insert does not have the bulk and weight of a typical camera bag. When on location, they can remove the BYOB insert and slide it into a Packlite bag to carry a smaller camera system with them, separate from the much larger bag or rolling case.

In 2 above, this would be aimed at backpackers, campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts who will often be carrying a large 60-80 liter backpack, and the BYOB insert provides the necessary camera protection from everything else packed within that large backpack. Once the large backpack has been stowed somewhere, the Packlite bag provides a compact and lightweight carry option for the camera gear that is stored within the BYOB insert inside the large backpack.

While the tagline may be a bit misleading, when the Packlite is combined with a BYOB, a useful camera bag is created. Unfortunately, the way the Packlite is advertised, it could lead buyers to expect it to be more than it is unless it is combined with a BYOB.

While this combination would not be everybody’s idea of a general-purpose camera bag, if you fit one of the groups of users mentioned above, then this is the solution to your challenges.

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