"Before there was the Filson field camera bag there was the Filson field bag (medium, green)."
A long search trying to find the perfect bag almost ended with a non camera bag. The Filson's caught my eye at a time when Billingham's were looking too "nice" and Domke's too "ordinary" and ONA bags too "almost, but not quite".
I decided I wanted rough 'n ready, but did not want to wait 10 years for a Billingham to get there.
My search coincided with the launch of the Filson camera bag range. The McCurry was far too big, the Harvey...not sure, but the original field bag looked the goods. Getting Filson in Australia is a bit of an issue. The freight from Filson was quoted at over $100 making the bag $400+ Australian! No Australian stockist and huge price variances on ebay etc. meant a long and frustrating search. Eventually I found one reasonably priced in one of the big American camera stockists' catalogues, so I built up an order and grabbed it.
Love the look of it, the workmanship and styling, but I overlooked some small issues. I knew I needed an insert. No problem ($30 in the order for the bag), but the non camera bag design meant long straps, noisy buckles and a small entry point to improve weather sealing. All annoying one way or another.
A total disaster? No, not really. The bag is a lovely travel bag for a non photo specific trip. I don't use the insert, but just throw a camera in on top of some clothes. Part of me really likes this dynamic. It's a bit more old school and less precious. It is for the traveller who is showing more interest in the people they meet and places they see, than the working photographer. My wife made me some little padded bags years ago that I use if I want to add an extra lens or two.
The Filson camera field bag was released not long after (or I missed it when researching earlier), coming out in a darker caramel twill than the light camel colour of the field bags. This became my standard camera bag, but it has to share the job with others.
The Field bag and one image with the Eos 30 for scale.
The straps are long, designed to allow "stuffing" of the bag. I have seen these attached to motorcycles as panniers, really filled to bursting. The chocolate brown leather work is thick, not slim like a Billingham, and soft to touch. Years of wearing in before wearing out. In strong light, the colour looks a little washed out, think dark sage crossed with spruce green.
A nice feature is the rear mounted lugs. They allow the bag to sit well when worm cross bodied. The back pocket is fairly shallow, so putting in an ipad is possible, but not as safe as in some bags. The bag also has two fairly useless side pockets, that are far too short to put anything precious in and won't hold a medium sized water bottle. Maybe a cloth or compass? The front pockets are excellent for safety, but are not huge and a bit fiddly to get to.
The second image above shows the insert. It works as it should, but somehow I feel it misses the point. While the camera field bag harmoniously suits it's purpose, the field bag is just not a made to measure camera bag. It is a rugged, general purpose bag that can also hold a camera while looking good doing it. Maybe larger gear in a taller insert would work better.
Why do I like it? I just do. Not everything we enjoy needs to be perfect or a perfect fit. Some things make you come to them, adapt and find a use for them.