I have always been a sucker for a good bag. Over the years, I've probably had dozens of different camera bags, laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags, man-purses, and even luggage. And don't even get me started on gig bags for my drums..
Since I've been spending a lot more time at home, I've begun to realize that I haven't been maximizing the potential of my space and equipment. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I decided to spend some time reorganizing and rearranging my storage facilities.
I've been collecting photo gear on and off since I was back in high school, and things got a bit more aggressive once I dove into the world of digital photography back in 2001. Once I got my first DSLR in 04, things picked up a bit, and for the past two years or so, since I started learning how to light (thanks, Mister Hobby!), the gear acquisition curve has definitely gone way up.
Since I haven't chosen a specific area of photography to specialize in (and honestly, I'm not sure if I ever truly will), nearly every time I leave the house with my camera, my "pack" is always a little different. When I say "pack" like that, it's short for "pack job" - the specific selection of equipment I've picked out for that particular outing.
I've read articles, listened to podcasts, and spoken to all sorts of people about different philosophies on "what to bring". In my opinion, there is no answer; it boils down to "whatever works best for you is the answer". My thinking is that as long as I keep experimenting, some sort of pattern or routine will probably settle in, and that'll be the way I do it normally. But for now, I'm still experimenting.
Here's how I'm handling things currently:
I've got one large camera case - a Pelican 1510, with dividers, specifically - which holds a _ton_ of gear. I treat this case as my home base for all of my lenses, cameras, and speedlites. They don't all fit in there at the same time, unfortunately, but the overflow fits easily into any of my other bags. But the general idea is for everything to have its own home when not in use. This way, I'll know where to find it when I need it (duh).
From there, I've got my camera bags/cases - all empty. I haven't gotten everything just the way I like it yet, but my idea is to have three basic bags - small, medium, and large. Right now, my small bag is the very same Domke F-3 bag that I used back in high school and college. It's made out of canvas, so it's super-light (but doesn't offer much in the way of actual protection), and I can pack the hell out if it.
I don't have a good medium-sized bag just now, but I should be able to "borrow" my dad's old Domke F-2, as he no longer uses it. My concern with this bag is that since it's got so much space, I'll be able to put 30+ pounds of crap in it, and as an over-the-shoulder "walking around" bag, that's not a great solution. I'm thinking it'd be good for short trips in town where I won't be on my feet lugging gear all day long.
For those kinds of situations - say, when traveling out of town, for instance - my current tactic has been to use either the Pelican case, which has wheels and a handle, or to use my bigass Kelty backpack (which is the largest non-frame-based pack I was able to find), stuffed with an old Crumpler Bucket (not that specific one, but very similar), and either the small Domke on top of it, or various pouches and smaller bags, full of different bits of gear.
The only bag I think I'm missing is a medium-sized backpack. Something I can feel comfortable with on a bike or walking around for long periods of time. The Kelty pack has done a reasonable job, in this duty, but sometimes it's just too damned big and bulky. So I'm still on the lookout for the right backpack.
Anyway, as a rule, I try to empty out which ever bag I just used as soon as I get home. And I mean empty - every pocket. Ideally, everything I carry around - cables, cords, adapters, batteries, caps, clips, triggers, gels, modifiers, etc - should have its own little place on my shelving unit here at home.
Maybe at some point, I'll have a standardized set of gear that I find myself using time and time again, and will just leave it all in the same case, all packed up and ready to go. But for now, I kind of enjoy the little ritual of packing and unpacking, and always going for that "perfect pack".