Can you spot the lunch bag?
The Camera Bag as Lunch Bag
As I’ve written before, I have a complicated relationship with camera bags. In part this relationship can be expressed by the following formula:
(Desire for expensive camera bags + Contradicting desire to not be encumbered) / Feeling of guilt over useless purchases = Lunchbags
Yep, lunchbags. That’s what all those expensive camera bags get used for around here, and some work better than others.
Billingham Hadley as a Lunchbag
The Hadley is quite the snazzy looking bag particularly the black one that I’ve got. Kate uses it as her lunch bag as it goes nicely with her black wool coat. With the padding removed from the main compartment, it’s got quite a bit of room for lunch indeed with enough leftover for a hardback book, a notebook, and the miscellany that always seems to float at the bottom of a bag. Without that padding, though, the bag lacks structure. If you don’t pack carefully, your pbj will get crushed by your book when the bag deforms to your body.
As you would expect of a $200+ bag, the materials are excellent. That Billingham coated fabric really is entirely waterproof, both inside and out, as Kate found out when her water bottle popped open inside the bag, creating a mini lagoon in the bottom of the bag. Her voice recordermaratrix spent a week drying in a bag of rice after that, but it’s now as good as new.
Domke 803 as a Lunchbag
Although the Domke is smaller than the Billingham, all that canvas makes it a fairly heavy bag, which is why it doesn’t work that well as a camera bag; packed full of lenses it’s just entirely too heavy. Lunches are decidedly less dense however. I carry the 803 most days with my lunch, one camera with attached lens, a small paper back, and a collapsible umbrella. Load like this the weight is fine for the 40 minute walk to work.
The Domke’s structural padding and heavy canvas – two weight-increasing features that make it a poor camera bag – make it a pretty darn good lunch bag. The provided insert (stripped of extraneous padding) keeps my hard-edged camera from squishing my PBJ or my banana, while the overall rigidity of the bag prevents bag deformation from making a gooey mess of all my treats. In this respect, the Domke is far superior to the Billingham.
Where the Domke fails is size and water-resistance. Because of the limited interior space, my copy of the mamoth Joan Didion collection, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live can only come with me if I’m eating a burger and drinking a beer at Murphy’s; my bosses might have a problem if that was on the agenda everyday. Beer and Didion are enough to keep any sane person from getting back to the office on time. A paperback slipped into on the front pockets has to do. The Domke’s other lunch bag failing is its sponge-like quality. Water resistant canvas, ha! That brown canvas is perfectly water resistant when you try it out at home. In the world outside, however, it actually pull moisture out of the air until the bag ways approximately 30 pounds. Why did photojournalist ever carry Domkes?
Both these bags are foolishly expensive for lunch bag use, but once you’ve spent the money, you’d be a fool not to use them for something. In almost all respects, the Domke makes the better lunchbag, albeit a smaller, heavier, and less stylish one than the Billingham.