Full disclosure: I have owned 5 bags from Manhattan Portage. I bought every one on my own dime, and I'm singing these praises all by my little self. Moving along.
These insanely sturdy yet casually stylish bags came to my attention when I lived in NYC quite a few years ago. Bike messengers are everywhere, of course, and I'd often see them with various iterations of Manhattan Portage bags. These bags were frequently battered or grungy, but impressively whole after daily abuse.
I bought my first one when I started college: a sensible medium sized gray bag. In the fourteen-ish years since, it's been used as a book bag, carry-on bag, camera bag, overnight bag, and grocery bag. It is in flawless condition, aside from needing a proper cleaning.
About 5 years ago, I added to my collection when I couldn't seem to find the right camera bag for travel. It was like being the Goldilocks of camera bag hunters: too pricey, not arranged right, too bulky, or too obvious. The last thing I want to do while traveling is advertise that I'm lugging expensive gear around on my shoulder. Plus I admittedly like to try and look at least a little cool while I'm at it.
After examining several bags, I selected the Europa which was available in a gorgeous red. I popped in an old padded bag scavenged from Mom and a rigid base insert I bought on B&H. My larger zoom gets its own padded case.
You can see that this setup fits quite a bit. There's even still room to sneak in one more lens, a small collapsible reflector, and even swap the tablet for a petite laptop in a padded sleeve. It's pretty damn heavy when fully loaded, but can squeeze under most plane seats or easily in the overhead bin if I like. Using the zipper that runs around the bottom, the bag can be expanded/contracted as needed. I love how easy it is to adapt this setup for my specific needs.
When carrying less gear, I still use my original bag, which is about 30% smaller, and it's quite comfortable for a full day. The bonus here is that since the bags are sturdy un-padded canvas, they fold easily and take up hardly any space in my suitcase. It's so simple to just move my insert system from one bag to another. I have yet to find one camera bag that works for me to use from plane to train to street to trail.
Two of my original five I sadly no longer have, one of which I was especially fond of. It was the Dana messenger (possibly in a smaller size than the current model): black with a slick gray stripe and a bright yellow vinyl liner. I really liked the liner for two reasons: the bag was quite water resistant, and its contents stood out nicely against the bright color. It was the perfect size for my minimum kit, and I haven't seen it in years, having gone astray in the many moves of the last several years. I miss that bag.
|With my trusty original in Gallipoli, Italy||The long-lost Dana in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast|
Manhattan Portage has a delirious selection of bags now, and it's only a matter of time before I resume adding to my collection. But which one? The Sputnik, the Flatiron, the Waxed Canvas Messenger - too many choices for my own good!