There are so many quality camera bags out on the market these days. And they all cater, quite well, to the traveling photographer that needs easy access to their gear, protection from the elements and (perhaps, most important of all) comfort.

So what could set one bag apart from the others? Most of them are made from similar materials, they offer endless customization for your specific gear, and they keep your gear safe and secure in their cushy, weather-proof compartments.

Ethnotek, however, has a different mantra. “Our mission is to keep culture alive by creating high quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles,” says Ethnotek. “Your purchase sustains employment for the art of hand printing, weaving and embroidery with our partnering artisan villages in Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Ethnotek is so much more than just a bag. It’s a celebration of culture, it’s a community, it’s a global movement!”

We opted for the the Ethnotek Raja 30L ($209). Here’s what we thought …

Why We Chose It

From its specs, this bag seemed to have everything we were looking for. At 30 liters, it would more than accommodate our go-to trio of lenses (14mm, 50mm, and 80-400mm) along with a full-size camera body or two, without coming off as overly bulky or cumbersome. The bag looked like something that wouldn’t break our backs, nor would it get in the way of our nimble travels.

Not to mention that the patterns that Ethnotek offers – they’re a refreshing take on the typical camera bag appearance, without being too loud. (We decided to go with subtle colorway of the India 8 style.)

Why We Liked It

The Raja 30L did everything we hoped it would. Camera bags are a tricky accessory to get just right. And photographers can be quite particular about how their gear is stored. The customization options of this bag were right in the sweet spot – that neutral zone that doesn’t overly complicate things, but still provides you with all the options you need to get your gear right where you want it.

Built using 840-denier water-resistant ballistic nylon, the bag has several side pockets and nifty storage slots for things like your passport, chargers, phone and wallet, as well as a nicely padded and protected laptop sleeve that can accommodate 13-15-inch MacBook Pros, and most PC laptops.

Knowing that each of the Ethnotek Customizable Threads are sourced in person all over the world (and purchased directly from the artisan), only makes the story behind each bag that much more meaningful. (The Raja 30L is lined with handwoven fabric from their partnering artisans in the Cham village of Vietnam.)

It’s a bag that does its job very well, while holding true to the ideals of the brand. When caught in a predicament about where to buy a camera bag, it’s things like this that set certain brands apart from the rest … and Ethnotek is tackling their pursuit wholeheartedly.

Tester Tip

Get yourself a couple of different Customizable Threads. While they don’t change the functionality of the bag, they do spice up whatever style you might be into for any excursion. If you’re going out to photograph wildlife, you might want to opt for a quiet, subtle colorway. But if you’re headed to Rio on a surf trip, you might be into something with a little more flavor to liven things up. (It also helps if you happen to be sharing the bag with a significant other that has much different tastes than you … just sayin’.)

All photos by Jon Perino.

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