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Picture of DIY Photo-Gear Backpack
If you love to experiment in photographic techniques, or if you are a professional photographer, you probably need to travel with a very complete equipment. You can buy very good photographic bags of the type with interchangeable dividers, or you can build yourself a personalized backpack.
 
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Step 1: The bag

Picture of the bag
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With that purpose I've bought a good quality rock-climbing backpack, which is used to keep all the equipment to reach the starting point of the ascension. This bag has many advantages, it's very capacious, it opens completely, it's light and it has the exact dimensions of the hand luggage on the planes. And, differently than professional photographic bags, it doesn't appear as a gravy train for thieves!

Step 2: The materials

Picture of the materials
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To build the partitions for your equipment you need to choose the most copious combination of gears you could probably use. Then arrange in the bag those camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and anything else, looking for the best marching.
When you're satisfied you can draw the layout on a big paper sheet, so you can follow it to cut, bend, glue the pieces of frame. This frame could be made of wooded boards, probably plywood, or made, as I did, from plastic baseboards. Indeed that material is often very malleable if heated up, and you can cut it with a pair of big scissors. Pay attention to find the right material, not all the baseboards are good.
I've glued each piece with hot-glue, then you probably want to paint everything black.
You also need some cushion material, as you see in the picture I've cut each shape to fit the right compartment.

Step 3: The frame

Picture of the frame
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At the bottom of the frame I decided to glue a thick sheet of foam underneath the lens of the big camera (like Canon 1D or a camera with battery grip) and a thinner sheet on the rest of the surface. I left an empty zone where I don't need a massive padding, and underneath the body of the big camera.
The two "arms" are intended to keep the frame steady in place pushing on the internal corners of the bag.
The compartments of the lenses have on the bottom edges some foam pieces with triangular section, so to obtain a rounded stand.
I've also cut apertures to avoid that the viewfinders interfere with the plastic frame.

Step 4: The stuffing

Picture of the stuffing
It's time to glue every foam piece in place. I've used a neoprenic glue. Apply some glue to both sides, wait 10 minutes, then make the two surfaces stick and push strongly. Pay attention to the layout of each piece, some have to be glued before than others.

Step 5: Almost finished

Picture of almost finished
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When every foam shape is in place you'll have a great specific rigid and padded frame which can be inserted in your backpack.
Yes, it' not very nice to see, but I'm sure you'll be able to make a better work. I should have painted black the frame before gluing the foam sheets... 

Step 6: Close the gaps

Picture of close the gaps
If you want to be more meticulous than me you can close the joints between the foam sheets. There are two different way to do that, I took a picture of both possibilities. In the first you can apply glue the external face of the foam pieces, wait some minutes, and close the gap pushing one face on the adjacent one.
The other method is simpler but not so effective, only add glue on faces between the two foam pieces and close them.
Both methods will be anyway better than leave everything open as I did. I'll soon close everything with the first way.

Step 7: Fitting

Picture of fitting
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Push the frame into the bag and check that no sharp border of the frame could damage the bag material.

Step 8: Bon voyage

Picture of bon voyage
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Here you see the backpack with a 40D camera body, four Canon lenses, a lensbaby, two Canon flashes, a mini-tripod, my motorized gigapan gear, my battery PSU, an IR filter, a remote (in the net pocket) and there is plenty space for a second body and other tools.
I've inserted a big very soft foam in the big square pocket to have a comfortable pressure on the back, although the backpack already has a very good padding, so if you need more space you can avoid additional foam.
It's time to wish you bon voyage ;-)
tobyker2 years ago
I really like that - None of the Velcro-divided ones appeal to me much and I've been thinking of making a custom one. Just one question - what is the "Baseboard" you used for the internal frame?
gaabi tobyker1 month ago

Probably it's something like this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/ROPPE-Self-Stick-Black-4-in-x-20-ft-x-0-080-in-Vinyl-Wall-Cove-Base-Coil-HC40C51S100/100123333?N=5yc1vZbodt

andrea biffi (author)  tobyker2 years ago
for baseboards see images on google: "battiscopa" in italian, I think "baseboard" is the right term in english, but I can be wrong...
Allsop7 months ago

Great idea & I have a suitable bag! One improvement I would like to see is a way to somehow attach a small tripod to the outside—any ideas? (I have a Gorillapod for my DSLR and I know I could make room for it inside but would prefer for it to be on the ouside of the bag). Love the idea:-)

digdug181 year ago
Where did you get the plastic used for the layout?
andrea biffi (author)  digdug181 year ago
the are old used plastic baseboards.
zorwick1 year ago
Great bag! The ones on the market are never fit my need neither. Too big, too small...etc.. Congrat:)
cnewman62 years ago
Thanks!
cnewman62 years ago
Thanks for that! Sorry to be a pain but what is the model of the backpack you used? I really like how it looks.
andrea biffi (author)  cnewman62 years ago
you're welcome :-) the model is Vuarde 40 (40 liters), unfortunately I don't see it anymore on web catalogue..
cnewman62 years ago
Hey mate, I may have missed it but how much did this project cost?
andrea biffi (author)  cnewman62 years ago
baseboards were used, so free, good quality natural foam is quite expensive, but not more than 20$ for the full project, plus the bag price (it's 60$ at Decathlon, but I remember that I paid it 30$)
hugedom2 years ago
Great article, hopefully open eyes to some DIY options, we don't have to overpay for branded gears. However, it seems some steps may be missing, I think most would benefit from more instructions on what is "baseboard" and how the frame building looks like perhaps.
andrea biffi (author)  hugedom2 years ago
yes, you're right, unfortunately I built the frame years ago, it has been a WIP for some years ;-) so I couldn't show you the frame building process...
geowulf2 years ago
For the "form" material, you should check out a product call Wonderflex. It is often used in cosplay world, but I have found it to be useful for more practical projects such as this one.
andrea biffi (author)  geowulf2 years ago
thanks! that material looks awesome!
tn.2 years ago
hmmmm..... what a great idea for a christmas present! right now, my hubbie is using a big square box-type case that's.,... well, it's a big square box-type case with a zipped lid. everything in there just kind of jumbles and bumps around. he used to wrap everything in washcloths and the like but eventually, he just stopped carrying everything except his camera - he's missed a LOT of good shots because he didn't have a particular piece of equipment handy.

this will be perfect! thank you!
I gotta do that! Thank You.
ElmarM2 years ago
Wow! That is great...I'll have to apply your techniques to strengthen my bag.