Like a lot of photographers I am always searching for the perfect camera bag. Unfortunately there's no such thing. There's no one bag that's perfect for everybody; no one bag that's even perfect for any one person all the time. In my experience, the perfect bag is a collection of bags.
That said, my favorite camera bag for the past few years has been a Tenba waist bag. It's something of a glorified fanny pack with just enough room for my DSLR with a lens and battery pack fitted and one other lens. If I need to carry more than one lens I can fit an additional lens case to the belt. What I like about it is that it is inconspicuous when worn and it leaves your arms and back totally unimpeded. Another great feature is that you can swivel it round from behind you to in front of you when you want to change lenses which provides a platform to put the lens and camera while you are still standing so you can change lenses with little chance of dropping anything.
The Tenba waist bag is great - it is a great bag for a photo-stroll but is not the best bag to take you camera to work. I needed a bag that would hold, protect and leave accessible as much camera equipment as I wanted to carry during my work day. I also wanted to be able to carry a laptop and other sundries and gadgets that I use everyday. Up until now I had been carrying a stand issue, large Timbuktu messenger bag with a laptop sleeve and various individual camera bags inside with the rest of my stuff filling the gaps left in between. So I started to look for something that would fulfill my needs as my daily bag, the bag I took on fully day or more photo excursions and my hand baggage when I flew.
In the end I narrowed it down to 4 candidates; the Naneu Pro Tango (looks like a briefcase but can be carried like a messenger bag), and three backpack style bags; the Crumpler Customary Barge, the Lowepro Compu Rover, and the Tamrac Adevnure 9.
I checked out all the candidates; the Naneu pro was not as big or as flexible as it looks on paper. The Crumpler was OK but seemed expensive for what it was. The Lowepro was more of a real backpack for hiking in all weathers and I really wanted something a little more urban. That meant that the Tamrac won by default. I've owned Tamrac bags before and my wife just bought a much smaller, more purse-like backpack for her daily excursions - the Express Pack 8. They are not quite as trendy as Crumpler bags but they are exceedingly well built, functional and reasonably priced, for what you get. The Adventure 9 conforms to these Tamrac family traits. For about $110 street price you get a lot of bag for your money.
When you pick the Adventure 9 up in the store for the first time it maintains it's structure and shape even when empty. Without anything in it is light but it does have satisfying bulk. It's not as structured as a Kata brand bag but compared to a floppy, thin-walled messenger bag it is well shaped and each element has it's own compartment which helps greatly with organization. Materials used are industrial strength. Zippers, while not waterproof, all have rain flaps and are well sealed (an accessory rain cover is available if you are going to go hiking in extreme weather conditions). Straps are all adjustable and the ballistic nylon used is heavy duty. As form follows function, this all adds up to a smart looking bag without being overtly flashy. It doesn't scream "Camera bag - Steal me!" or "Hipster", it just looks like a smart day pack.
The bag fulfills three main functions each with it's own dedicated compartment. It carries a laptop (up to 17") in a very well padded compartment, flat against your back. The only disadvantage of all that padding between you and the computer is that it might make it a bit hot to carry in the summer but that's a known problem with most backpacks anyway.
The camera equipment part of the bag is the bottom section which is accessed from the front, via a well-padded flap. This makes your camera easily accessible without disturbing the rest of your luggage. The camera section has the typical velcro adjustable walls and compartments to configure as you need. In keeping with the rest of the bag, everything here is rugged and well made. There's plenty of room for my DSLR with battery grip and large standard lens, and then 3 or 4 additional lenses and a strobe depending upon sizes - not that I carry nearly that amount of equipment on a daily basis but when I do need to carry the kitchen sink it is good to know that it will fit. The front flap can be zipped closed and / or strapped shut with one large and / or two smaller quick release buckles. On the inside of the flap are pockets to hold memory cards or spare batteries and a larger pocket that is perfect for filters or other small photographic bits and bobs. The memory card slots have a clever red tag labeling system that allows you to flag which card is full and which is empty.
The top section of the bag is intended for your non-photographic items. It does have a clear, pop-out case intended to hold your computer cables which I am currently using for toiletries. In addition there is plenty of room for a light jacket, Leatherman, flashlight - the usual photographer's essentials.
On the sides of the bag are two large mesh pockets intended for water bottles but useful for anything you need close at hand. The shoulder straps are very well padded and include a waist belt and sternum buckle when you need to really secure the backpack and get down top some serious trekking. The shoulder straps also have additional straps to allow you to attach more accessory pockets if you need them - they also make a convenient anchor points for your ipod and GPS. There's also a typical but handy grab handle on the top of the pack and anchor points for tripod straps on the base of the pack.
Fully packed the Adventure 9 has the potential to be heavy but its design and build quality allow you to carry that load as comfortably and as well protected as possible. It is available in black with gray, camouflage or red (my choice) accent panels. The base is very solid and the pack's overall structure means that the pack stands up with no fear of falling over when you put it down. Everything is exceedingly well protected and as accessible as it can be in a bag of this kind.
As i said when I began this review, there is no such thing as th e perfect camera bag, however, I am glad I did my homework and I am sure the Adventure 9 will fulfill my current needs. It is well designed and built and sensible without being boring. As notebooks become an essential part of the photographer's traveling kit I expect we'll see even more bags built to carry cameras and laptops together. For the moment, the Adventure 9 is the best bag for my purposes and it might be what you're looking for too.