Introduction: DIY DSLR Camera Backpack
Have you ever wanted one of those nice backpacks for your camera but didnt want to shell out the 100+ dollars for one? I'll show you how I modified a nice laptop backpack into a camera backpack that will not only protect your camera but also be able to carry and protect your laptop as well. It also cost me a total of about 60 bucks, but it has way more room inside then the low end bags for the same price,allows me room to grow and it looks like a regular backpack, which some say is more secure since it doesnt scream "Expensive DSLR camera in here!" You can also make one as big or as small as you like and search for the right one for yourself instead of having to make due with what is out there.
Sorry for the quality of the images, I have no idea why I used my cell phone instead of my DSLR that I had laying right in front of me (DOH!)
Step 1: What You Will Need...
You will need:
A Backpack. I wanted one to carry my laptop as well as my camera so I searched for one that specifically was made for laptops. I discovered that the ones made for laptops seemed to have more padding already built in.
A nice pair of sewing scissors (you know, the ones your mom/wife/girlfriend has hidden away from you!)
1-2 yards of soft material to cover the dividers.
A glue gun or sewing machine. I used a glue gun to bind everything together, a sewing machine produce something neater but I didnt want to take the time to bother the wife with sewing up a bunch of unknown and possibly changing ideas off the top of my head.
A large roll of 3/4 or 1 inch wide Velcro, I ended up using about 5 feet total. Get the type that has the sticky back.
Stiffening material, I used some 1/8th inch thick coroplast board (corrugated plastic board) , its sort of a plastic cardboard. You could use some thick cardboard or maybe even some poster board material.
For the foam I was able to score some 2 foot by 2 foot by 1 1/2 inch thick and some 1 inch thick stuff from work for free
For the soft material, I used a body pillow case, I caught it on sale at the store and they came 2 in a pack. I figured it was about 2 yards of material but I only used about 1 yard worth. You may use more or maybe less depending on how many dividers you build.
Step 2: Select Carefully...
This is the backpack I chose. I suggest looking around and watching the way the main compartment opens up. A lot of backpacks I saw only unzipped about half way down the side. If it doesn't unzip all the way down like this one, it could be annoying or difficult to insert and remove your camera and lenses. Also test fit it on your back, make sure it will be comfortable to wear with a lot of weight inside. Its amazing how fast you can weigh one down. Also buy one a bit larger then you think you will use because you will be loosing about 4 inches of width and 4 inches of height after adding the padding.
I bought this one at Target for $39.00. Its nice because it has a lot of what I thought where a lot of useful pockets. A lot of the backpacks I looked at had a lot of pockets but they where small and there was a lot of zippers on them. I wanted one that was simple but yet functional. Tthe main compartment is 4 inches deep and it seems to be constructed well. Make sure it is deep enough to hold your camera in the position you want to store it in. I found 4 inches to be the minimal I would want to go with my camera.
Step 3: Plan It Out...
Before beginning construction, it helps to lay out and plan how you want everything to sit inside the pack. I decided to put my camera at the top so I would not have to unzip the pack all the way to remove it and put everything else underneath. I forgot the take a picture of this step but yours will be set up different anyhow. Just play around with different layouts so you can get an idea of where to go, maybe draw a picture to help visualize it as well.
Step 4: Begin Contruction...
I started by constructing the edge padding. I wanted something that was soft yet would offer some impact resistance on the sides. This is where the reinforcing material will come in handy. I started with building the bottom by measuring and cutting a piece of 2 inch foam to fit snug inside. I also cut 2 pieces of coroplast slightly smaller then the foam, one with the grain running one way and the other with the grain running the other, hot glued them together and then glued it to the foam for the impact protection. I have seen other sites out on the web that talked about using cardboard as the reinforcing material or even foam board. I got the coroplast for free from work and think its way better then cardboard and its easy to work with.
Step 5: Covering the Padding...
After fitting the foam and gluing the stiffeners in place on the foam, I then covered the whole thing with the soft material or in my case, the pillow cases. I basically covered them like wrapping a present as you can see in the pictures. I made all the dividers and sides like this. The dividers I left out the stiffeners, except for the one I placed under the camera itself as you will see in a later step.
Test the hot glue out on the material first. The stuff I chose worked fine but I have seen some material that will either melt (nylon?) or the glue will just not hold to. It doesnt have to bear any loads or major stress but you do want it to hold. Another idea that I thought about trying was the iron on seam tape you can get in the sewing section of just about any well stocked store. I like hot glue because its fast and I havent learned to stop burning my fingers on it yet :)
Step 6: Then Insert the Bottom...
Then insert it into the bottom of the pack. I inserted it with the stiffener down. Remember, impact resistance.
Step 7: Sides...
Build your sides the same as the bottom. Test fit before covering to make sure everything is fitting together snug and the way you want it to. Place the stiffeners to the outside. The insides should be soft. I used the 2 inch foam for the sides as well.
Step 8: Top...
For the top, I decided not to add a stiffener because of the curve of the pack. I could have monkeyed around with cutting angles and such but Im not worried as much about the top being impacted. Just test fit everything before covering it to make sure it fits.
Step 9: Laying It Out...
I decided to place a double stiffened support piece under my camera. I figured it would have two advantages, one it will allow my camera to sit nice and flat and two it will give me a nice flat spot to attach velcro to in a later step for more dividers. As you can see in the picture, I was test fitting everything in according to how I had it in my mind the way I wanted it all to fit before covering it with the pillow case.
Step 10: Adding Velcro...
At this point I removed the sides and bottom and added strips of velcro to the sides to give the future dividers a place to hold on to. I recommend putting the soft portion of the velcro to the sides and the hook or hard portion to the dividers, this way the uncovered portions of the velcro will not scratch anything. I found the sticky backed velcro didnt hold as well as I liked so I added a stripe of hot glue down the back of it before sticking it down. It seems to be holding but I am very careful when I remove and reposition the dividers. This is where a sewing machine would probably come in handy and do a better job.
Step 11: Reinstall the Sides...
Reinstall the sides and start building the dividers. Build the dividers the same way you did the sides and bottom only without the stiffeners. I used the rough or the the hook part of the velcro on the ends of the dividers. I used the 1 1/2 inch foam for the dividers.
Step 12: Finished...
As you can tell I need to take a better picture of the whole pack opened up but I think you can see how well everything fits. For the spaces that I did not have anything to put in, I just slipped in some extra foam to take up those spaces. As I get more gear and fill the pack up I will just build more dividers and or rearrange the ones I already have.