As you can read here, for the last 4 years or so I’ve been using the Kata 3n1-33 camera backpack, and although it fulfilled most of my needs, I found it quite cumbersome, especially when walking around crowded shows. What I really wanted was something that I could carry over the shoulder in a messenger bag kind of way, which was tough and water resistant.
Cutting a long story short, I found that Thule aren't just renowned for supplying quality roof rack systems, but they also have a range of backpacks, luggage, laptop cases and camera bags, and their Covert Messenger bag appeared to be just what I was looking for, so I ordered one.
My first thought when I removed it from its box was not only is it smart, but it’s subtle too, it doesn’t scream ‘expensive camera bag’. My second thought was that this thing is properly tough, it’s reinforced here, there and everywhere. I’m convinced that along with cockroaches, this will be the only thing to survive a nuclear holocaust!
The Covert is actually 2 bags in 1, it’s a messenger bag with a removable padded, elliptically shaped camera bag that slots inside and can be used independently. If I’m out taking photos of a press car that I have for the week, then I'll just use the inner as it’s compact and very manageable. If I'm at a show however, and I need space for my MacBook Pro, chargers, iPad, pens, paper and so on, I'll take the entire bag.
On the inside of the inner it has 6 customisable velcro dividers to keep all your expensive gear separate and safe. It will easily fit my Pentax K3-II, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 10-20mm and 18-135mm lenses. On the outside it has two mesh pockets on the front and a carry hand on the top.
With the inner camera bag removed, you can use the Covert as a messenger bag. It has no less than 11 pockets in which you can fit a 15” MacBook / laptop, numerous iPads, notebooks, pens, binders, sandwiches, coats… seriously, it's cavernous and incredibly practical. What’s also note worthy is that once the main flap is down and locked, all the pockets are on the inside hidden away under water-repellent YKK Zippers and Duraflex fasteners.
On top of the Covert you get a carry handle, and each end you have attachments for the thick and partly cushioned supportive strap. As you can see in the photos, the strap goes over your head for the Covert to sit securely and comfortably against your back.
When you want your camera, or any other bits and pieces, simply slide the Covert around to your front and unzip the top of the Covert to access your camera - easy. And, whilst it's there, you can rest your elbows on it to steady any photos that you're taking, handy if you're using a larger lens.
Have I mentioned that it also has tripod compression straps at the bottom of the bag? These are quite handy, but depending on the weight of your tripod it can leave it feeling a bit unbalanced. This isn't the bags fault of course, you just need to buy a lighter tripod!
I've been using the Covert for the last 9 months, it's been to over a dozen shows and taken on many long walks. It's been thrown in the back of old Land Rovers and sat in style in Range Rovers. I've used it for school work and other admin roles as well as an overnight bag, and after a quick rub down with a wet sponge it looks brand new. It has now become an integral part of my photography kit and if I'm honest I'd be lost without it - in fact, if it went missing for any reason, I would have no reservations in buying another one straight away.
The Covert messenger bag is for those of us who need to carry around a lot of equipment, at which it excels, but if you have a camera and just the one lens then it's going to be too big for you. But don't worry, if you check out Thule's website they have a vast range of camera bags to suit everyones needs. Another thing, if you click the bottom link below to the actual page, there's a cracking video for you to watch and will give you a better idea of how the Covert works.
Link for bag: Covert Messenger
Price: £129.00 but search around, bargains can be found.