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RS Greece/camera/day bag-carryon-purse conundrum

I have not taken a tour in many, many years...so I'm finding a need to adjust from my usual system. Ordinarily, in my independent travels, I use a purse/camera bag (Kelly Moore) for the day. However, in the RS Greece tours there is much bus time and travel to and from various outdoor sites. And some climbing to ruins...it sounds like. As I play with the few extras I might want, on the bus or hike, with what I want to carry around all day, I am balking. I want to be able to be as light as possible. I am bringing a DSLR with just a 50mm lens, which becomes a slightly telephoto lens on my camera. I'll have a miniature tripod for night shots. At home, when not carrying my camera, I carry my money and phone in a cross body baggalini that holds just that amount. I also have a tri-zip baggalini that holds eyeglass and a few extras which I have also used in the past with a general bag. I have my cross body bag on me at all times. I have also been known to put all items in a recycle shopping bag. SO here's my question: 1. Does it make more sense to carry a general bag; i.e., small backpack or recycle shopping bag for in transit and the bus, and then just use my small cross body for valuables and carry or sling my camera when at ruins and city walks? 2. Would an obvious camera make me a target in Athens as I wouldn't be able to put it away? 3. Is the bus secure if I want to leave my camera on it at the rest stops? (My camera is just a Canon eos 2ti so not terribly valuable but I'd hate to lose my memory card). Everything in a general bag or small backpack would be able to fit into my 20" roller bag, btw so really traveling with one bag system. So what have you done in these circumstances? (Please don't say leave the camera at home, I love to spend time taking photographs.) Any input would be appreciated...I go nuts trying to work out my 'system for each trip. Just when I think I have it figured out...

Posted by
2261 posts

Too many bags, for sure. Use one backpack that works for you. Don't worry about being a target with a DSLR, it is not what opportunistic thieves are looking for-and it's okay to throw the camera in the backpack and carry it that way for convenience. Instead of one larger memory card, bring three or four smaller ones and replace them every few days, carry the ones with photos in your money belt. One bag, don't overthink it.

Posted by
221 posts

For my trip in Sept., I used a mid sized Baggalini cross body. I was able to fit my Nikon super zoom and all of the other items(sunglasses, coin purse, tissue, etc.) in it. My Nikon is about the same size as my EOS 3ti with the standard lens on it. In 2014, I took my Canon with 2 lenses in a holster case, and it got to be a little too heavy to carry for long periods of time.

Posted by
93 posts

Hi Wray, this is coming from a guy's perspective, so the crossbody in my case is replaced by my pockets(for small zip wallet) and a small stuffable daypack(Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack@$45) for any items I need on a daytrip and to hold any purchases I might make when out & about.

My point is that I would never "travel" without a camera bag to protect/disguise my camera; I use a ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover for my Olympus...the Kelly Moore is probably a similar(more fashionable)option from the looks of it. And I would never trust the camera left on a bus(I'm sure the tour operator would second that statement!)
So...baggalini for valuables & KM camera bag for camera and lens? Double cross body? If you feel the need for extra stuff(rain jacket, water bottle, souvenirs etc., I really like the option of whipping out the little Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack(it will fit just about anywhere scrunched up-0.2lbs and about the size of your fist, into an 18L backpack complete with water bottle pocket). That keeps your hands free and the baggalini/camera bags as shoulder bags.

Posted by
15644 posts

Wray, you can leave things on the bus for any length of time during the day and overnight as well. I kept a neck pillow on the bus almost all of my last tour, because I knew I'd only need it on the long bus rides. There will be room on the overhead racks as well as the seats themselves. The bus is always either guarded by the driver or securely parked and locked, whether it's at a rest stop, a day stop or an overnight. On that trip, I took a lot of stuff I needed for my post-tour itinerary and put it in a bag in "deep storage" on the bus. That's also available for any things you may need only for the beginning of the trip as well as all the goodies and souvenirs you buy during the trip. We had one single night stay, and our guide advised us in advance that it would be wise to pack only what we needed for the single day/night since we'd have a bit of a walk from the bus to the hotel and back. So most people just took an overnight bag or a back pack and left all their luggage in the bus overnight.

As for being a "target" - any savvy local will know you are a tourist, and probably that you are an American. I haven't heard any special warnings about Greece. I'm planning to spend 4 days solo in Athens before my RS tour starts and I will be a bit more careful and vigilant than I am at home, but I no more concerned than in Spain or France or any other European destination.

Posted by
93 posts

The problem I see with a camera in the backpack, is that it's usually IN the backpack when you want it and you have to stop and unharness to get at it or put it away. Much prefer a should/sling bag for travel photography!

Posted by
1068 posts

The buses are safe at rest stops. You can leave your camera there (however some of the rest stops or lunch stops are worthy of pics.) The bus is locked and or the driver stays with it. However, I usually bring my camera with me. DSLRs are something which a thief will consider, so don't leave it unattended (for example, don't just put it on the table when you sit down for a meal....put it in a bag or hook it someplace) but a camera is not as appealing as cash etc. There are several schools of thought on memory cards....... if you take several one is more likely (although the overall possibility is small) to fail. If you have one big one and it fails.... you have nothing. So a difficult choice. I take a full frame camera with a 24-250 zoom. The camera bag has a compartment for a spare lens (which I don't take) so I will put things like sunglasses etc. in there. I also attach a light coat/jacket to the outside of the camera bag. I have taken mini-tripods and travel tripods on many trips and either never used them or found their minimal use did not justify lugging them around. I would consider a slightly larger bag for the bus (which holds my camera inside the camera bag) and then pulling out just the camera for quick stops or your camera bag for longer stops (with sun glasses etc. in the camera bag as described above.) I took the Greece tour several years ago and wouldn't exactly say you were hiking to ruins on most of the tour. There is some climbing (at Delphi for example) but you are surrounded by the site and ancient buildings right away.... no huge hike to get there and just your camera or a few items in your camera bag would be fine. There are a few places with optional hikes (top of Monemvasia, for example) where you would want something to hold your camera while you scramble to the top. As an aside, and I realize you did not ask this, a 50mm with 1.5x would (for me) be too narrow for much of Europe. There are times it would be nice, but often as you get closer it is nice to have a wider lens. If some said I could take a 35, 50 or 75 (with no magnification from sensor size) I would take the 35. Sorry for my 2 cents.

Posted by
326 posts

I took the Greece tour last year. In regards to a day bag, I have a Baggalini cross body that works great for me normally. However I found that on stops that involved walking or hiking down steeper areas it was very annoying because it would flop out in front of me, swinging if I didn't keep a hand on it. I had brought along a very thin nylon back pack style bag (perhaps for food shopping) and I ended up using that when we had stops at sites that involved up and down. I wouldn't use it in Athens, but in Delphi and other rural historic sites where we were not in crowds it was much more comfortable hiking downhill than with the cross body. (Important items were in money belt.)

As others have said, I left things on the bus during day stops.

Posted by
2768 posts

I just use a medium size purse (crossbody) that fits the camera and the other basics I need. No need to be fancy - just put the camera inside a bag you like. Put a sleeve around the camera if you are worried. I travel with a DSLR with a 18-120 lens and this works fine

I avoid backpacks because it is a pain to take it off every time I want to access it - a purse or cross body is easier to use for me. I'm taking my camera out every other minute ;) If that's not an issue for you then any daypack backpack would be fine.

I have not taken a tour but I gather you can leave things like jackets and books there and just take what you need for the outing. Confirm this - if it's true then you will be able to take less on your outings

Posted by
27351 posts

I very much like Lynn's idea of using a lightweight backpack when I'm doing tricky or rural walking; I don't take a lot of photos, so retrieving a camera isn't an issue for me. But I'm having a hard time finding a small, lightweight backpack that's not expensive. I ordered a bargain item from TravelSmith, but I think it's heavier than what I already owned. Drew a blank at TJMaxx and Marshall's. Life's tough when you don't have a car and can't just nip out to a Walmart or Target. If I were handy with a sewing machine, I'd make something myself.

And don't get me started on how hard it is to find a lightweight (nylon?), billfold-style wallet with some sort of compartment for coins. Practically everything these days looks like it's intended to be a substitute for a purse.

Posted by
11350 posts

I think Greece is the safest country we have visited in Europe. The less you carry , the less you have to keep track of or misplace. I always take a multipocket Baggalini, a place for everything. My husband uses a Rick Steves Ravenna backback for the plane and a smaller RS daypack for outings for sunscreen, bottle of water. guidebook, maps..

Posted by
3240 posts

Thanks everyone. I'm pondering all your suggestions. However, now I'm leaning more toward my Kelly Moore purse/camera bag...or if I think I need to go bigger a tamron (sp) cross body camera bag. I, too, find a backpack annoying as I take a lot of photographs, so the cross body works best. However, I'm thinking maybe I'll pack a small backpack for the Monemvasia hike. I am very happy to hear the ruins are all along the inclines versus hiking to them. When I read strenuous it make me think of triathlons, etc. so it worries me. I just hiked up a 650 foot rocky steep path at Blue Hill and was not out of breath so I think I'm good. When I used the Kelly Moore bag on my solo trip last year, I had a small nylon-type grocery bag that folded up into a 1x3" package. I'm likely to use that system and maybe pack a small backpack.

Now camera people, and I say that with love. :) I always take multiple memory cards and an extra battery. I keep the used cards in the safety pouch at the bottom of my suitcase until transport on planes and then it goes into my purse. We have two full frame cameras in our house, and this Canon t2i and a Canon coolpix 7800. My H tried to convince me to take the coolpix as it is smaller and lighter, but I don't see me getting that one GREAT picture that I hope to someday get, on it. The full frame cameras are too heavy for Europe, for me. The 50mm lens is my favorite so that is why I take it. It just makes me move my position more, which makes me think about the photograph. My Sweden pictures were what I wanted and that is what I had. At home I avail myself to many more, but I don't want to carry more...although I am contemplating packing a wide angle lens in my suitcase. The small tripod is for sunrises or sunsets so I won't carry it around all day.

Thanks for all your information on your systems, and the bus procedure. It is more food for thought and I have four months in which to vacillate.

Posted by
1068 posts

The only other "hike" which is also optional is trekking Kardamyli up the trail to the little church at the top. On the way back we stopped to check out a Manni house/fortress and the tomb of the Dioscuri. That's quite a hike but good views at the top. Finally, if you opt to trek up to the fortress at Nafplio that can be a hike (although you can cheat like some of us and take a cab!) All of those treks are optional. The rest of the "ruins" you visit tend to just "be there" right near the parking lots etc.

Posted by
475 posts

So I second the Rick Steves small backpack. I think the real name was listed above. We call ours Rick. It has been on 5 RS tours, and every concert, zoo, museum visit here at home. It is light weight and ours has lasted 10 years. Crazy right? My kids now teens have grown up with me saying where is Rick? We are going on an outing.

I also carry my Camera everywhere. I had my camera bag on the bus on our RS tour this past summer with all the extra stuff but most of the time I had the camera on me & The Rick with my other stuff. If I was on the Metro or other public transport I would put the camera in the bag and hold it in my arms vs on my back.

I think it is pretty inexpensive. Received my first one after a donation to our public TV station. Then one year if you signed up for a tour everyone got one. So now we have 5 Ricks.

Enjoy your trip !

Posted by
1224 posts

I am an avid photographer and took that trip in 2014 with a Canon DSLR. I had my camera bag on the bus and left it there no problem when making various stops. I had pants pockets that I stored extra batteries, memory cards, lens cleaner in while walking around a site. My husband carried our day bag with water etc... In it. And I did take a wide angle lens that worked well for temples etc...

Posted by
3240 posts

I think I solved my dilemma. This is the other purse-like camera bag that I have: https://www.amazon.com/Tamrac-5426-Aria-Photo-Black/dp/B00809I6WC/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1480788100&sr=8-7&keywords=tamrac%2Bdslr%2Bbag&th=1 Mine is brown. It has all my requirements; i.e., zippered inside pocket, lengthwise inside section, and a large zippered pocket under the flap. It weighs the same as my smaller Kelly Moore Posey bag. I thought this would be difficult to hike in as I don't usually carry a purse...so I was searching, and it is larger than I'm used to 'spending the day with' bag. On a lark, I ran the shoulder strap behind my neck and put both of my arms thru the strap so the bag sits on my lower back and stays in place. It is comfortable! This solves my hiking with a swinging cross body bag as some of you pointed out and frees my hands for the few apparently real hikes on this trip. It saves me from a backpack, which I hate as they are a PITA, IMO. Also, because of the design I can pull my small baggalini from the bag and leave the rest in the hotel if I'm done with it for the day or just going to breakfast, etc. I think I can relax now...until the next packing dilemma. Thanks for all your input as you brought more ideas to the forefront! Wray

Posted by
3240 posts

So this is what I do, keep changing my mind. I'm back to the RS veloce bag to carry my camera, which fits into my 12 x 14 backpack. So the backpack will be my underseat bag, and will use on any long hike. I'd like to do the 3 hour hike/walk above Kardamyli. But this change to a larger underseat bag means I should shrink my carryon down from my 20"... Packing is always a dilemma. And I've changed my system and am leaving the 50mm lens at home and taking a 15-85mm lens...it is a great lens so I'm going to live with the extra weight, I think. (I always take several memory cards and an extra battery.)

Posted by
4982 posts

Wray, You seem to be fairly serious about your photography as am I. Unless your spouse or travel buddy is also taking photos that would serve as "back ups" in the event of a major malfunction or catastrophe such as theft, here is something to think about. In addition to having an extra battery (fully charged) and memory card with you during the day, change memory card "A" out for memory card "B" on the second day. Keep rotating them each day. Then, if there is a major malfunction (and they do happen) or a lost or stolen camera, all that will be lost is half the photos. And hopefully your spouse or travel buddy will have "back ups".

Posted by
32244 posts

Wray,

Hopefully you're having some success in finding a solution for your camera gear.

I also travel with several cameras during travels, and the method that has worked best for me so far is.....

  • I carry the dSLR in the open using the camera strap. It would be a darn nuisance to have to retrieve it from a pack or whatever each time I want to use it.
  • I normally carry only two lenses, a 24-105 medium zoom and a 10-22 wide angle (along with Lens Hoods), with one on the camera. That tends to minimize the weight that I have to pack around all day, although my 7D is a bit heavy by itself so there's nothing I can do about that.
  • I carry my spare lens and lens hood in a travel vest (Tilley), along with my P&S camera, spare battery and memory cards. An easy alternative to the vest would be a waist pack, such as this model - https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/belt-packs-and-backpacks/products/change-up-v2

As you want to do some hiking while in Kardamyli, taking just the camera along with a spare battery should work well. More importantly be sure to pack lots of water!

To answer some of your questions, I don't find that the camera makes me a "target" in Athens. I've wandered all over the main downtown area near Syntagma Square and have taken the Metro but didn't have any problems. On Metros everywhere, I often sling the camera diagonally and keep a hand on it, but no one has ever bothered me. You'll be with the group for some of your walks around Athens (and other places), so you shouldn't have any theft problems then (although it's always wise to be vigilant).

Yes, the Bus is secure. The driver always locks it if he's going to be away from the vehicle.

If I'm going out at night for dinner or whatever, I usually leave the dSLR in the room and just take my P&S. However I remove the memory card and store it in my money belt. If someone were to break into my room, they might get the camera but they won't get my holiday memories.

Posted by
3240 posts

TC, I try to do what you suggest with my memory cards, but on my last trip I didn't get it together enough to do that. Instead, I switched out midstream at each base or if I took some photographs that I really didn't want to lose; i.e., ancestor homes, etc. This time, as I am on a tour I probably will change the memory cards when I take photographs in my free time vs snapshots during a touring moment, but we will see... I'll be traveling solo as my husband will be home watching the house, etc. so there is no back up to my photographs.
Ken, Day to day I use a cross body bag of some sort to hold my camera when not taking photographs. I also have a wrist strap on my camera so if I think I might need my hand to hike or balance, I have to put the camera in my bag. As I am not anywhere near a flatter chested woman, a neck strap or sling strap does not work for me, besides if I stumbled on a hike I'd be afraid I'd damage it (past experience...not graceful, but am athletic if that makes any sense) hence, the need for a small backpack for the more serious hiking, if any. I had thought I'd seen somewhere that Syntagma Square was a little tough (although I am used to the city) so good to know I can still pull my camera out there. BTW, my husband has that camera bag...among his many. :)

Posted by
1251 posts

I have not carried an SLR on vacation for more than 10 years because of the weight and volume. But I recently came up with a setup which may make it tolerable to carry the DSLR again.

I have a Canon XS/1000D DSLR. Recently, I purchased a 24mm f/2.8 lens which is perfect for my type of photography. It has a wide/normal perspective which is pleasing to my eye. It is an inexpensive prime lens. I am forced to interact with the environment and zoom with my feet instead of just standing in one spot and zooming with the lens. The 24mm is a pancake lens which reduces the size of the camera substantially.

I have ditched the neck strap and use a hockey lace for a wrist strap which further reduced the bulk. I do not like the camera on my neck; I always had to keep a hand on the camera anyways to keep it from swinging. Now i just loop it on my wrist during my walks and i am ready to shoot quickly.

I purchased a neoprene cover from eBay for about $10 which fits over the camera and lens. It protects it from scuffs and dents during transit while in a backpack or luggage. It can be easily removed and thrown in the backpack or even stuffed into a pocket.

I carry a sackpack. The sackpack is a backpack which uses the pull strings as the shoulder straps. They are usually marketed by athletic shoe companies to carry shoes and gym strip. They are strong and fold down to almost nothing compared to a regular day back, so it will not take up too much room if stored in your luggage.. I can throw my camera in the sackpack with or without the neoprene cover along with any other valuables, clothing or bottle while on a day trip.

I no longer carry a proper tripod because of the weight and bulk. I already have a mini pocket tripod, but I can never be bothered to pull it out and to screw it on and off to use. I have just learned to brace the camera on stationary objects for long shutter shots. I am considering buying a Joby Gorillapad micro 800 tripod which can be left permanently mounted on the camera and folds up against the bottom of the camera.

My personal 2 cents on DSLR vs compact camera. The DSLR has the bigger sensor for better dynamic range and less noise in high ISO low light conditions. You can switch lenses if you can tolerate carrying the extra bulk (and if your fellow travellers are willing to wait for you to fiddle). And nothing makes you feel more like a pro than bringing a big blob of plastic and glass to your eye to take a photo amongst hundreds of other tourists shooting with an iPhone. The downsides for me: First, I now prefer to shoot using a screen display over squinting through a viewfinder; Ansel Adams didn't use a viewfinder. Second, the dslr always has an inherent mirror slap issue. There is a reason why they still build in a mirror lock up in DSLRs. And why mirrorless cameras are becoming more popular. Getting rid of the mirror also reduces the bulk by almost one-half. Third, the affordable prime lenses such as that new 24 mm, the 40 mmm and the trusty 50mm do not have image stabilization. You have to take more care to avoid image blur. I do find it easier to take sharper photos with my compact Canon S120 on the go than with a DSLR.

Posted by
32244 posts

" The downsides for me: First, I now prefer to shoot using a screen display over squinting through a viewfinder;"

I've found that using a screen display has some "limitations" at times and I much prefer the viewfinder of my dSLR. I also travel with a P&S camera which doesn't have a viewfinder, and in bright lighting conditions the screen is virtually useless so I have to just guess on the composition. Despite the weight of the camera, I much prefer the ability to frame and compose the shot through a viewfinder.

Posted by
11613 posts

I use a small cross-body bag that holds everything, but like many others, it is a pain on a hike, so I just plop that bag inside a Civita or Ravenna daybag and it's much more stable.

When I used a camera while hiking, I just kept the camera around my neck most of the time. Walking in cities, the crossbody bag worked fine.

Posted by
3240 posts

Funpig, I went through a decade of small point and shoot cameras after a trip to Italy with my DSLR and multiple lenses, etc. In the interim, the world moved from SLR to DSLR. In 2013 due to my daughter's legal wedding in Liverpool we purchased our first DSLR. Since then I'm back enjoying photography so I, too, try to limit the weight but now take a DSLR. However, this year, instead of just a 50 mm lens, which is not so good with image stabilization but light, I'm using the 15-85 mm lens, which is not as light but I'm having fun with it. Since 2013, we now have 4 DSLRs and a nikon 7800, mostly my husband's fault. I don't bring a full frame camera due to the weight...but my husband is a different story when he travels. I have a manfrotto tripod that is thin and about 5" long, which easily fits into my purse so I can take some night photos or sunrise, etc. It would not hold still for a larger lens, however. My free time is my photography time as it helps me really see a place and encourages me just to wander.

Posted by
3240 posts

Zoe, I have gone round and round, but now I am back to your system. The cross body bag (veloce iPad bag) holds my camera and things I need for the day. I have a small backpack, which I can use on a hike because it holds the veloce bag and as my underseat bag/bus bag. I keep trying to get away from the RS carryon and cross body as I hate being an advertisement for anyone, but the two just seem to fit my plans. Will duct tape over Rick's name on the veloce fool anyone? ;) I have so many bags in my closet from which to chose and yet I keep coming back to these...

Posted by
3240 posts

Ken, I, too, prefer my viewfinder outdoors.

Posted by
4982 posts

Wray, with regard to "...hate being an advertisement for anyone...duct tape over Rick's name...". If the bag is black, take a black Sharpie pen or laundry marker and trace over the name on the veloce. The name "disappears" almost completely and it's not as messy / sticky as duct tape.

Posted by
3240 posts

TC, LOL. I did that also. Yes, I am paranoid.

Posted by
503 posts

Thought I'd chime in... haven't done the RS tour but I did bring my Canon 7d with the 15-85MM lens on a trip through the Scottish Highlands which involved several hikes including some rather rugged terrain, small boats, etc. etc.
As I travel "carry on" only, I can totally sympathize with the "how to I get what I need for all my activities into a small carry on!"
Well, this is how I did it -
I got the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag - removed the inserts and packed the camera and lens in this and put that in my "personal item" which is an eagle creek commuter brief - folded the lowepro bag flat and packed that in my carry -on - worked out perfectly!

During the day, put the camera with lens in the lowepro bag insert (removed the divider) and carried the bag crossbody - adjusting the length so I could wear it almost as a backpack for steep climbs. The bag has a bottom expansion zipper so you can make it wider if you need to for carrying additional gear. I found that even with that zipped (ie. unextended) I had plenty of room for my small day wallet (wedged between the insert and the side of the bag,) my sunglasses, lipbalm, cell phone, tissues, spare battery, card, and a few other small items. Lots of pockets on the exterior for stashing lens cover, cleaning stuff, and even a small water bottle (I used one of those fold up ones).

Since the trip this is the camera bag/day bag I now use!!!