It's the most common question in camera-toting lore.
And I think you'd have to be a photographer to appreciate the significance of this decision. Having the wrong bag for the situation is like wearing pants that are too tight or a shirt that's too short. It just feels wrong.
I'm thinking about this because I just switched from a messenger bag to a backpack for my trip to the Eastern Sierra. There's no way I would carry my black Urban Reporter down the streets of Bridgeport. I'd look like someone who got lost on his way to San Francisco.
My blue Photo Hatchback was the perfect choice. It felt right around town, and performed brilliantly while hiking along the Walker River in search of the perfect Aspen grove. With its secure shoulder straps and waist band, I could hop from rock to rock with my gear snugly hugging my body.
Next week I fly to New York City. There's no way I'm carrying a blue backpack down 34th. I'm switching back to my discrete, black Urban Reporter 150. I can easily slide it to my front when riding public transit, it looks good sitting next to me in a coffee shop, and I can quietly pull out my camera for a few quick frames when walking to work in Manhattan.
(I'll be frank. I find giant backpacks very annoying on crowded subways and buses.)
By now, you've figured out the answer to this carrying solution quandary.
You knew what I was going to say all along.
Any photographer worth his or her salt,
has one of each.