I’d been looking for a new camera bag that was fairly small and didn’t look like a traditional black nylon one.
I’ve got a few Domke bags, and I love the look of them but not the prices, so I decided to see if I could find something similar and save some money to spend on film.
I stumbled across the Finnish gas mask bag, which was highly recommended by camping and bush survival guys as a tough durable short hike bag. It looked the goods for what I was after, and costing $8.99 plus postage suited me down to the ground.
It arrived in the mail and I loved the construction of it…being an ex military bag it had that lived in rugged look, and the little pockets inside were perfect for the random bits of photography gear I usually forget to take on shoots.
The first thing I did was to cut the waist strap off it, throw it in the washing machine and let it dry thoroughly.
I then decided to wax it to make it waterproof. After researching some websites and youtube videos, I went out and bought some paraffin wax, melted it in a jar in a saucepan on the stove, and used a large wide paint brush to paint the wax all over the bag (I didn’t wax the inside). I read somewhere that to get the wax into the material, just put the bag in a pillowcase and put it in a clothes dryer on high for 15 minutes, but after a solid 45 minutes in my dryer the was was still caked to the surface (paraffin wax melts at 99C i later found out).
I then had a look at a few more sites, one of which recommended putting it in the oven. I was a bit nervous, but went and preheated the oven to 150C, placed the bag on a tray lined with baking paper, switched the oven off then placed the bag inside while the oven cooled. I came back to check it 45 minutes later and all the wax had been absorbed by the canvas. The bag was still very very very hot, and the metal clips and snaps burnt my hands a bit (so be careful).
After it dried it was a bit darker (look at the photo of the inside flap to see the original colour) and really really stiff, so I started to roll it and work it into a ball then straighten it back out. I did this about 5 or 6 times to loosen it up.
I then found some sticky back 4mm neoprene at a rubber/foam shop, and cut it to size for the inside of the bag to finish the bag off. Its soft enough to absorb any minor knocks and bumps, but I wouldn’t be checking it in at the airport.
The overall look now is a weather/aged look which is perfect for what I wanted…I don’t like bags that scream camera gear, much prefer it to look like its full of camping gear instead.
Very happy with the finished product, and for a total outlay of $24 it’ll do the job of hauling my Leica M6, a spare lens and ten rolls of film nicely.