By now, most people in self-defense or preparedness-oriented communities know what the term “gray man” signifies. It’s the idea that you can walk around with all of your emergency tools at the ready without looking “tactical.” This is funny because it’s so easy to spot. Many of us are never truly a gray man, because we allow our preparedness to become a lifestyle or culture. To that end, many of us wear something that sends a signal to others and lets them know we are of this mindset, or culture. And believe it or not, there are characteristics of the gray man suit that are easy to profile by anyone who wants to do so, whether friend or foe. This means we’re almost defeating ourselves.
However, there’s still a large and legitimate market for low-profile gray man gear, and one of the biggest categories in this arena is packs. But sometimes the best sources for this kind of equipment are places that don’t specialize in it. I’ve been recently looking for a different pack to carry for my day job working executive protection. I was on one of my favorite online tactical gear sites, Amazon, looking for my next ultimate gray man bag, when I stumbled upon DSLR camera bags. I was checking them out, and there’s a wide variety to choose from. They have canvas and leather, bike messenger sling bags, sleek corporate bags, in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Then I got to thinking, these things are really well-built, padded to protect valuable equipment, and many are designed for quick access to a camera in the same way we like quick access to a firearm. I also really took a keen interest in the organization compartments. I carry a lot of gear to keep clients and myself safe, and I hate having to dig through the bag to find stuff. The DLSR bags already come with a multitude of compartments, Velcro slots, quick-access zippers, and organizer pockets. All of them come with a compartment for computers and/or iPads. Finally, none of them looked at all tactical. Then it hit me: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make use of a camera bag for their EDC.
Shortly after making this realization, I’m on my second camera bag. I thought the first one was going to be great, but a couple months in the zipper broke — that’s a no-go. Rather than buying sight unseen over the internet again, I went to Best Buy to check out their bags and found a winner. Let me introduce you to Lowepro camera bags — specifically, the Lowepro Flipside 300 AW II. This thing will run you about $120 but, in my opinion, it’s well worth it. After having surfed their website, the company really has an outstanding selection of bags that, ironically enough, include some tactical and camo-looking ones — for the gray man who likes to print just a little. I’m really impressed by their selection of bags and applications. Some are more geared toward wilderness backpacking, some for urban carry, and some have a nice combo for both applications.
The Lowepro Flipside has a large compartment that takes up the whole bag. Some bags that I’ve found split the main compartment in half with an opening on the lower half, either in the front of the bag or in the back neck area, and the rest use up the whole length of the bag. I’ve decided after the first bag that had the split compartment, I like the full-length compartment more. It has more room and more Velcro slots for organization. What I really like when I open it up is how quickly I can access the compartments. The zippers move smoothly, and there’s no protective material over the zipper to snag and impede access.
When the compartment opens, you’re treated to a light gray contrasting color to the black, which makes it simple to find gear, along with five potential compartments and a small detachable zip compartment that’s perfect for my gun when it’s not on my hip. The rest of the compartments can be moved and modified to fit your needs and the gear you carry.
The size of the bag is important to me as well. In EP, I don’t want a big cumbersome bag that I have to try to maneuver when on the move with the client. I like that the bag isn’t very big to make it look like I have a bunch of stuff inside of it. The way the bag is designed makes it feel sturdy, easy to carry, and light. This is one of the better bags that I’ve carried.
Make & Model
Lowepro Flipside 300 AW II