As a landscape photographer who often hikes a long distance and photograph in harsh environment, I always found difficult to figure out the perfect system to carry my camera gear, and to make the gear easily accessible at the same time. I usually carry 2 camera bodies, 2-3 lens, flash and all sorts of accessories in the field. Backpack is the only sensible way to carry all these gears. But the problem with backpack is the lack of accessibility. I have to constantly put the backpack down to take things out and put them back in. A belt system would have the advantage of easy accessibility, but carrying my heavy camera bodies and lens on the belt for a long hike has never appeared to be feasible to me.
A couple of years ago, I derived a method to use a combination of belt and backpack system. I carry most of my accessories on the belt, in front of my body. This includes round ND filters and polarizers, rectangular GND filters and holder, flash, remote, and GPS etc. I chose a ThinkTank Thin Skin Belt so that it is not so thick at back where backpack rests. It has been working out fairly well. When I arrive at a scene, I only need to open the backpack to get the camera, and put away when I am done. I don’t have to open the backpack again when I am shooting. All filters I need are easily accessible in front of me. This is particularly helpful when I am standing in the water or mud where I have no place to put down the backpack.
I bought a Lowepro Filter Pouch 100 to carry rectangular GND filters and holder, and a Tamron M.A.S. Filter Belt Pack to carry round filters. While they are functional, I realized a big problem while using them in the field. These cases are not really designed to carry outside of a camera bag. The lids do not have zippers. When I photograph in the desert environment, wind-blown sand and dust can easily find their way into the cases and stick onto the filters. Additionally, Lowepro Filter Pouch 100 is too big for 4×6” filters, there is a lot of wasted space in it. I was searching for another filter case and found MindShift Filter Hive.
MindShift Filter Hive with ThinkTank Think Skin Belt
The Filter Hive is the first case designed to carry both round and rectangular filters together. It is made of tough and light weight material. It holds up to six 4×6” rectangular GND filters and a holder as well as six round filters up to 82mm diameter. All my filters now fit into a single case without the need to carry two separate cases. It saves some space around my belt to carry another pouch for other small items such as batteries and flash light. The lid is zipped tight to protect filters from elements. There is a small zipped pocket at front. This is where I keep my camera remote, etc. An added benefit of Filter Hive is that the padded insert is completely removable. If I don’t want to carry Filter Hive on the belt, I can take out the inset (with filters in it) and pack it in my backpack. The case is sensibly sized, there is no wasted space inside.
I am a big fan of ThinkTank products. They are usually very well made. MindShift follows the tradition and makes some innovative products. MindShift Rotation 180 Professional and Panorama backpacks are two of the most interesting backpacks on the market. Unfortunately, MindShift Rotation 180 Professional is about 2 lb heavier than competition. For a landscape photographer who hikes a long distant to make a shot, 2 extra lb is a deal breaker. MindShift Rotation 180 Panorama is much lighter, but it is not roomy enough to fit my needs. I hope they will trim some weight off MindShift Rotation 180 Professional and come up with a lighter version, just like F-stop did to their popular F-Stop Loka backpack.
Update: I just took it through three days of down pour in Columbia Gorge. It managed to keep my filters dry.