Back in late December I wrote a rather lengthy post about Photographic Safety and one of my main points was to pack for stealth. Since then, I’ve received several emails asking for more details about how I pack my camera gear to remain “anonymous” and “stealthy” in the field. Here are the main points illustrated with the two images below.
Your Gear Looks Inviting to Everyone (Including Thieves)
We photographers love our “stuff”. We obsess about our photographic gear and will buy just about anything to help us in our quest to become better photographers. Both amateurs and professionals fall prey to this obsession and it’s what drives the entire industry. It’s also what makes photographers such a “lure” for potential thieves.
Drive through any state park in Texas on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you’ll see dozens of folks walking around with a DSLR and a telephoto lens. I’ve seen a few intrepid adventurers carrying around a full-size Gitzo tripod and Wimberley gimbal head with an 800mm super-telephoto lens attached to a very high-end DSLR worth over $20,000. The back of their SUV is crammed full of other tempting gear like spare lenses, filters, tripods, etc. and to a thief, this is like holding up a neon sign which spells out “ROB ME”. Even an open camera bag sitting in the passenger seat can be an invitation to a knowledgeable thief and believe me, most thieves can spot a Think Tank roller or Lowepro Trekker in a heartbeat.
Packing for Stealth
A little foreknowledge goes along way and packing for stealth can be as easy as using something other than an easily recognizable camera bag as your camera bag. Today I use a Filson Sportsman’s Bag (shown open above) to hold all my photo/travel gear including two DSLR bodies, four or five lenses, filters, batteries, etc. and as you can see it functions just like my old Domke bags did.
The key difference is that this bag doesn’t look like a camera bag, it looks like a typical overnight bag any camper might carry full of clothes and stuff. When closed up and sitting on the passenger seat of my SUV, it doesn’t attract anymore attention than a duffle bag would and after a few years of normal wear & tear it will attract even less attention. Few thieves these days are looking to steal someone’s socks and underwear.
So the next time you’re in the market for a new camera bag, take a moment to look at the bag from the perspective of a thief. There are dozens of great luggage makers including Filson, Eddie Bauer, Lands End, and LL Bean that make “sportsman’s bags” or “rollers” that can function perfectly as your main camera bag without attracting the unwanted attention that a name-brand camera bag will. When you’re out in the field transporting thousands of dollars in photo gear, the best advice I can give you is to pack for stealth!