View Full Version : What is the largest camera you can carry on your back?

11-Jul-2004, 12:11
I recently acquired a Korona 12x20, and I must admit that the difficulty in transporting it more than about 100 feet from the car is turning out to be more limiting than I anticipated. I don't look forward to taking it out on a shoot, I just feel obliged to.

I'm pondering three different approaches to alleviating this situation.

1. I could get a handcart, but I would rather have something that lets me get away from the beaten path, even if only for a relatively short distance. And though practical, the idea doesn't really appeal to me.

2. I could get a custom backpack made. I'm a big guy (6'6", 230#), so this solution is a little more reasonable for me than for most people. But it still sounds kind of extreme.

3. I could give up on the 12x20, downgrading to the largest camera that I can backpack. I can backpack my 8x10 no problem, I could go bigger. This presumably means 11x14, as I find the dedicated panoramic cameras too limiting.

So, finally, to my question: does anybody backpack their 11x14, better yet, their 12x20? Best 11x14 to backpack?


Sidney Cammeresi
11-Jul-2004, 12:34
I use a cart with my 11x14 Wisner. Right now, I am just using a small luggage cart, but I may eventually buy a Sherpa cart for hauling it around, a contraption that is much more suited to that kind of service. I have gotten off of the beaten path a couple of times by simply carrying the camera case, but I try to not do that for more than 100 feet or so. I have considered getting a backpack frame and attaching the case onto that, but I decided against that because I'm kind of on the scrawny side.

I have decided that with 11x14, sadly, there are simply going to be some places to which my camera cannot go.

mark blackman
11-Jul-2004, 13:22
CXC (?),

if you are looking to carry a heavy load on your back for any distance, I suggest you look at what the professionals use. Look at the Bergens and other rucksacks used by the military. They usually have a capacity of 125 litres that can be expanded with side pockets etc. As they are designed for carrying heavy loads over long distances they should be capable of carrying a 12x20 camera, so long as it packs down to a reasonable size.

Ralph Barker
11-Jul-2004, 14:02
Considering your size and build, I suspect the back pack is the problem. You should be able to handle the 12x20 easily with the right pack.

I have an expedition-style Lowe internal frame pack that I used years ago for extended treks with 60# or so in the pack, and it was comfortable, even though I'm fairly samll, as you know. The main compartment measures 16x30x8, and it has a 12x20x4 zip-on/off detachable pouch/rucksack. Adjustable mount points for the harness, and hip belt. Contact me offline if you're interested in taking a look at it. I can't use it anymore, so I'd make you a reasonable deal if it would work for you.

Dave Moeller
11-Jul-2004, 15:35

From one big guy (6'7", 250#) to another, I have to agree with Mark. Look at military packs (any good surplus stores in your area?)...if you can find something that'll hold your gear, you should be fine.

Good luck.

Carl Weese
11-Jul-2004, 18:03
As just an ordinary size guy (6'4", 200#) I'd concur that the problem with toting a 1220 outfit is just finding the right, well-designed, backpack to put it in. The weight is reasonable for moderate hiking, if not for going anywhere you'll need other gear as well. That said, I use my 1220 as a tailgate camera and have not yet found the right backpack for it...


Lawrence Francis
11-Jul-2004, 18:47
There was an idea put forth here some time ago about carrying heavy/bulky loads. A lot of ideas were tabeled, some funny, some interesting. Their consensus best suggestion was a 'joggers baby stroller', big tires and all. I thought the idea had enough merit that I am looking for a used one in my neighborhood. I'm willing to give it a try with my 11x14!.

11-Jul-2004, 19:43
For what it's worth ... for years I have used an old Army pack board which is a piece of plywood curved at the sides to a piece of canvas which is stretched across your back. On the outside edges are curved metal hooks which enable you to lash ANYTHING on to it. They are of WW II and Korean War vintage. Vietnam used a metal version that usually bent when you dropped it off your back after taking incoming.

Anyway, I usually take my suitcase size, waterproof (Pelican?) camera case with a 5x7 and four lenses in it and simply lash it to the pack. While it is certainly not a quick set up, I can drag it up a hillside or lower it down a steep area by waterfalls and never have any fear that I'm going to smashing something.

I rigged a Kelty waistbelt to it to take some of the weight off my shoulders. I simply attached it with the usual Kelty pins with rings to stop it from sliding off.

Joe Smigiel
11-Jul-2004, 21:54
I have just started transporting my 11x14 Burke & James which is a heavy beast. I bought a used jogging stroller ($20) with detachable wheels that folds up so that it fits in the backseat of my car. It has large 3 wheels (~15"). I built a plywood box 24"x20"x14" from 1/2" plywood (free from a friend) which can be strapped to the stroller. (I'm having another friend weld a couple brackets to better support the box on the frame this week.) The wheelbase is adjustable as well. And, I can also stash some lenses, lunch, bottles, etc., under the box in the child seat which is essentially a sling hanging on the stroller frame.

I took it for a trial run last Friday down a well-trodden path in a forest and it worked fine. In fact, it was much easier than I expected. While I didn't have the 11x14 loaded on the trial run, I took two other camera systems with me that were at least as heavy as the 11x14. I made the box depth slightly oversized for the 11x14 so that I could carry my two other camera cases and a bag of film holders in the box. I packed my 5x7 Deardorff with 2 lenses and a handmade front-mounting collar & 5" square Packard shutter in one case and the other case held my Bronica S2 system with 3 lenses, prism, 4 piece extension tube set, lens hoods, WLF, and 3 film magazines, A small luggage bag (approximately14"x12"x12") with about a dozen 5x7 holders, several 120 propacks, various filters, a spot meter and a Zeiss Super Ikonta also fit inside the box. After loading the box wth cameras and film, I threw a tripod and small footstool on the top and lashed everything down with bungee cords. I went probably a third of a mile into the woods one way without breaking a sweat ( and I might add I had triple coronary bypass surgery about 13 months ago and I have a bad back) So, the adapted jogging stroller seems to be one solution for hauling ULF gear through the woods. I think it will be fine in fairly open wooded areas lacking paths as well. If you are rock-climbing or in very uneven, jagged terrain, it probably won't work well for you.

A few weeks previous to doing the box/stroller thing I also picked up a backpack designed for carrying a painter's French easel which I also own. I thought it might do double duty for carrying the 11x14 camera and in fact it would work. The camera fit the pack and could be transported for awhile. But since the pack is basically a board with 2 pairs of vertical and horizontal webbing straps (sounds very similar to the military packboard mentioned earlier), I was afraid the bellows might be damaged by contacting a branch in a wooded area. The camera just rests inside the straps and against the board leaving the bellows vunerable. Also, the pack board was not that comfortable even though it was slightly padded and might be functional for hauling a big camera over fields and other open terrain. You would still have to think about carrying film holders and tripods along.

Hope this is helpful to you.

11-Jul-2004, 22:37
Thanks for all the comments, it sounds like I should be able to buy a large enough backpack to carry the thing.

Ralph, thanks for the offer, which I will keep in mind, but given the difference in the lengths of our backs, I suspect that a pack that is comfortable for you wouldn't fit me..

paul stimac
12-Jul-2004, 00:37
Hands down best is a kiraru backframe and/or backpack. VERY comfortable, can used to haul VERY heavy loads. I have one and it's everything it's advertised to be. Follow the links below to see for yourself.



Jean-Louis Llech
12-Jul-2004, 01:09
You don't consider using a cart as a valuable solution.
Before excluding it completely, have a look at this thread (http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/498745.html)I posted five weeks ago.
The solution of a light cart with large inflatable wheels might be taken into account, before buying a heavy backpack.

Michael Kadillak
16-Jul-2004, 22:05
I got a tubular aluminum backpack from from Strebor a while back that would be able to hold 150# + and it is the ticket. For a guy your size, this is clearly what you need. IMHO the key to getting the 12x20 off of the road is to start with your favorite lens, get a lightweight View Camera nylon dark cloth, and keep your other accessories to a minimum. I put two film holders in Strebor septums (keep the dust out, are dark inside and have convenient handles for carrying in your hands). That leaves the tripod - preferably carbon fiber.

The problem with a cart is that you cannot go into any wilderness area with them in any way shape or form and they also do not work so well on anything but flat ground. In certain instances they can work (and I have one for those), but I just got back from a trip to Montana where I was packing my 8x10, six holders, three lenses and a tripod and found the key to successful packing is to make sure that you do not have the shoulder straps digging into your shoulders, but the majority of the weight on your hips so make sure that you get your pack straps properly adjusted.

In a perfect world, all of your photographs would be two steps away from your tail gate. While there are some that use that as a criteria for making a photograph, I find that scouting ahead for where you would carry a ULF camera takes extra time, but is a requirement. Expend your personal resources wisely when getting your camera to where you need to secure the image.


Jean-Louis Llech
17-Jul-2004, 03:54
To Michael Kadillak :
"The problem with a cart is that you cannot go into any wilderness area with them in any way shape or form and they also do not work so well on anything but flat ground."
I totally disagree with this assertion.
It depends on the kind of wheels you use. Golf or luggage carts don't have large wheels, because they are mostly used in airports and railway stations.
The baby stroller I adapted for carrying LF photo gear has three 12,2in. large wheels, equipped with 2in. inflatable tires mounted on shock absorbers.
Of course, no hill-climbing or river-crossing, but I use the stroller in forests, muddy underwood ways, and cross-country walks, and I have no problems.

Michael Kadillak
17-Jul-2004, 11:36
Yes Jean, it all depends upon your reference point. We have numerous wilderness areas here in Colorado and since that is where I usually like to shoot because of the obvious lack of people and vehicles, you only have two choices. Horses if they are allowed or backpacks.

I have a wheeled cart (only 15" wheels) and aside from the occasional trip where I have really good conditions for using them, I find the difficulty with getting to where I need to outweights the struggle and lord knows that I have tried many times as the thought of a heavy backpack is not exactly a day at the beach. Maybe it is the fact that I tromp around is some of the nastiest up and down country with downfall and skinny trails everywhere and go considerable distances. Last weekend I was in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area in Montana and aside from a hand full of backpack campers and a string of pack horses, I had the place to myself. But climbing over 1,000 ft in a mile in rigorous mountain backcountry is not something that you can take lightly. When it really gets rough or when I will be out in the boonies for a week or so, I have a cross buck saddle and a set of custom made panniers that I can put on a pack horse. I know other guys that use lammas for their back country adventures.

If a wheeled cart works for you or anyone else, by all means that is fabulous. I am simply pointing out that for those of us that need to push the envelope in our endevours there is an alternative even with large cameras.

Whatever works baby....