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Thread: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

  1. #1
    Scott Rosenberg's Avatar
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    Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    A question for the backpackers amoungst us. Before you flame me and tell me to use the search feature, as I know this has been discussed many, MANY times already, I did and did not find precisely what I was after. So, please bear with me and share if you have useful commentary.

    After a recent significant geographical change, I am finding that the field kit I spent several years building and tweaking until it was perfect for me is anything but in my current environs. I’m finding that nearly everything, from film choice, to focal length preference, to even how I carry my gear, just doesn’t work as well for me since moving. I’m slowly rebuilding my kit and am presently considering backpacks. As a hiker, I’m fairly picky about how my packs fit and how they carry loads. That said, I have never found any photography backpacks to be acceptable. I much prefer the fit and comfort of my Dana and Osprey backpacks, however, I finding the wet and soggy conditions of the pacific northwest do not lend themselves to top-loading bags, as I have to find or create dry patches onto which I can unload the contents of my pack to get to things on the bottom. I cut the rain cover off my lowepro supertrekker aw and carry that to use as a small mat when I set my gear down, which works allright, but I’d still rather use a panel loader and only expose the necessary equipment. As such, I am looking for a panel-loader with sufficient capacity/dimensions to make it good for a modest 4x5 field kit consisting of a Tech, six lenses, ~8 holders and the rest of necessary bits.

    I went to a few local outfitters with my gear, but could not find anything that really worked well. Do you guys have any suggestions? What panel-loaders are you using that you’re pleased with?

    Thanks,

  2. #2
    Eric Biggerstaff
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I use an Osprey panel loader at times and, as you indicated, they are very nice packs.

    I don't use it much anymore as I don't pack that far from the car, just a few miiles at most. I would be happy to let you have my Osprey for cheap, It is in very good condition. If interested let me know in a PM and we can decide on price and shipping.
    Eric Biggerstaff

    www.ericbiggerstaff.com

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I've been using an Osprey Eclipse 42 front loader for about four years now. In wet weather, I line it with a 6mil shreader bag. It's small enough for the duty, and thick enough to resist tears in the field - equipment stays dry even if I do not.

    To use it, I set up the tripod first, then use the pack's carry handle to hang it from the hook at the bottom of the tripod's center column. Then it's easy enough to unzip the front, undo the twist tie on the plastic bag, and reach in and get the camera, film, etc. This way the bottom of the pack doesn't touch the ground so it stays relatively dry and clean. This method has the added benefit of making the tripod extremely steady.

    The Osprey packs are wonderful for hikers. They keep all the weight as close to your spine as possible, and hold it tightly so it can't shift around while you climb. I highly recommend them for LF.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4
    naturephoto1's Avatar
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    Hi Scott,

    If you can afford them, the best Panel Loading Backpacks are the expensive custom made McHale Packs. Mine is all gray with black straps and piping and looks much like the first link but is made of High Tenacity 420 dennier Cordura and Full Spectra fabric:

    http://www.mchalepacks.com/packs/detail/CMSARC.htm

    My pack carries up to at least 50 or 60 pounds fairly comfortably and carries really well. The main compartment of mine is approximately 5000 cubin inch. I had McHale add an extra pocket for carrying a 48oz Nalgene Canteen.

    A second McHale pack:

    http://www.mchalepacks.com/packs/detail/CM_Alp1.htm

    Rich
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails CM_FrameDome_GrayBurg_8X109438.jpg  
    Richard A. Nelridge

    http://www.nelridge.com

  5. #5
    Bob
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I got my panel loader from REI and it fits my gear perfectly. Unfortunately they have stopped making that model so giving the name won't help you. I'm sure they make something now that would work. I just took in my gear and played until I found one that fit.

  6. #6
    Brett Simison bsimison's Avatar
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I use a Kelty Redwing 3100 , purchased on sale from REI Outlet for $60. Internal capacity is 3100ci. A Pelican 1505 padded divider set holds and cushions the gear while allowing a little room on the top or bottom of the pack for food, water, jacket, etc. With this setup, I can carry a D200, couple of lenses, lightmeter, filters, Tachihara 4x5, Schneider 150, Rodenstock Grandagon 90, quickloader and sheets, plastic film loaders, and a Gitzo 1127. This rides much better than a similar load inside a LowePro backpack.

    My only complain is that the stock zipper doesn't fully unzip the front panel; it begins and ends approximately 6 inches from the bottom. For a small fee, PhotoBackPacker.com will modify your Redwing to unzip fully around the front panel using a water-resistant zipper.

  7. #7

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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I too really like the redwing for 4x5, but need something bigger for 5x12. I have a mountainsmith odyssey for it, but I hiked 8 miles with it yesterday & seriously considered leaving everything there. The granite gear pack at photobackpacker looks interesting. 3800 cu in, top + panel loading. Has anyone tried it?

  8. #8

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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    I came across a great site that has comparisons of many packs that are sortable by access, size, etc. Might be helpful; often I have a hard time determining the access/loading points even at the manufacturer's own websites...It may take a moment to load the page, there are alot of packs.

  9. #9
    Scott Rosenberg's Avatar
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    thanks for all the suggestions, fellas.

    Eric, i appreciate the offer, but i already have an osprey eclipse pack. it carries well, however, since i am tall i needed a large pack to fit my torso, and since i am also thin, the belt is too large for me. the great thing about dana bags is that you can order them with any combination of torso size and belt length... unfortunately, they don't sell any panel loaders!

    those mchale packs look sweet, however, they are a bit too spendy for me. it's nice to know they're out there though!

    i know a lot of guys use redwings for large format... i'll have to search around locally to see if i can find one to load and cary.

    collin, thanks for the moosejaw link - i wasn't aware they had that table up... it's really helpful.

  10. #10
    Sheldon N's Avatar
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    Re: Panel-loaders for 4x5...

    Scott -

    Check out the Osprey Atmos 35. I use it for my 4x5 kit and love it. It's a panel loader, so it's actually pretty reasonable to use.

    If you'd like, I can bring it to the get together on Wednesday so that you can check it out.

    Sheldon

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