Copper River Bags Safari Leather Camera Bag Review

accessory Jul 29, 2016


As I have previously stated, a good camera bag is a necessity for any photographer who decides to use something other than his/her smartphone to capture images. Cameras tend to attract stuff that you always need to have on hand (just in case). But the bag must also protect the camera and its lenses from mishap and mayhem, yet comfortably carry all that stuff and fit into your style of photography. Since I prefer to shoot in urban settings, I need a bag that will carry my mirrorless kit plus my personal stuff in as small a package as possible. While some view leather as a luxury, working-class leather makes for a tough, durable bag that is light and easy to care for. How often do cowboys buy saddles? Same principle applies here.

Copper River Bags of Nevada City, CA makes some excellent bags out of leather, Water Resistant Cotton Duck Canvas and 1000 Denier Cordura. Their line of camera bags come in small (10″ – the size I am reviewing), medium (14″) and large (15″). All of their products are hand made in the USA which is very refreshing to encounter these days. CRB also makes camera accessories like padded camera inserts (one is included with your camera bag), leather camera straps, leather sketchbooks, leather conditioner and leather initial plates. This list only scratches the surface of the list of bags they make. Click here if you want to see the complete catalog of bags they make.

10″ DISTRESSED TAN NAPA SAFARI LEATHER CAMERA BAG

This bag (pictured above) is a very simple design with one main internal compartment (where the camera insert goes), two internal pockets, two external pockets on the sides, and one pocket on the back. It has a messenger style flap cover which is secured by three snap buttons. Opening/closing the bag is a silent operation. There is a handle on top that is padded. The strap is made of leather with a leather shoulder pad and there is an option for a canvas strap. The entire bag is double or triple stitched and made by hand.

Despite this simple design, the bag holds a deceptively large amount of stuff.


Starting with the Copper River bag on the top, going from left-to-right:

  • Rhodia Notebook with CW&T Pen Type B, Meike MK320FT Flash, Olympus Pen-F w/m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 & RRS Grip
  • Leather Pencil Case for cables and spare batteries, LED Penlight, Lenspen, ThinkTank Card Wallet, m.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 & m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
  • Olympus Battery Charger with right angle plug, 2x neoprene lens pouches
  • My glucometer and insulin pump controls (which go in every bag I use)
  • NOT SHOWN – a pile of my business cards squirreled away in the side pocket.

Pros and Cons

Nothing in this world is perfect, not even my wonderful wife (sorry dear) but everything has its good and bad points. Here’s what I have come up with for this bag:

Pros

  • Rugged construction will allow for decades of use. Exterior is made of oil-tanned leather.
  • Bag can be opened near silently.
  • The bag is guaranteed for 100 years!
  • The bag can be repaired at a local cobbler, if you don’t want to send it back for repairs.
  • Made in the USA.

Cons

  • Like all working leather products (saddles, baseball mitts, work boots, etc) this product requires some regular maintenance. CRB offers a wax based leather treatment for purchase, but I used good ol’ boot grease.
  • The inner layout is very simple with no space reserved to keep small items corralled. Plan on adding a small pouch for these items. I used a leather pencil case that fits horizontally inside the bag.
  • The padded liner is not the most heavily padded I have seen, but combined with the oil-tanned leather exterior, will offer good protection for your gear (assuming you close the flap). OK, this isn’t much of a con.

Scoring

I have decided to implement a scoring system for these kinds of reviews because it makes it easier for the reader to quickly see the value of the product being reviewed. The scoring categories are:

  • Construction
  • Design
  • Ergonomics
  • Value for money

Construction: 5 out of 5

Hand made from oil-tanned leather, this well constructed bag can be willed to your great grandchildren (assuming you maintain it properly).

Design: 4 out of 5

The bag’s simple layout is very zen, but it could have used a zippered inner pouch/pocket for for small, loose items that cameras tend to attract.

Ergonomics: 4 out of 5

The bag can be worn as a shoulder bag or cross-body like a small messenger bag. The leather strap could use a slightly better pad to distribute the weight on the shoulder. This is only an issue if you fill it up to the brim with gear.

Value for Money: 5 out of 5

At $189 USD (including the leather strap), this bag is a bargain. Competitive products in this space are more than double the price of this bag and are made overseas.

Final Score: 18 out of 20 – Highly Recommended

I will be traveling with this bag over the course of the next three months so I will be writing a follow-up with any new observations.

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