The Bag Man Reviews the Tenba Packlite Travel Photo Bag for BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag

It’s already been a busy summer for new bags, and more are on the way. Bags of all sizes, shapes and colors make a formidable pile on my office floor. One bag, however, has scaled the mountain of ballistic nylon, crossed the river of Cordura and bravely navigated the toothy crevices of YKK self-healing zippers to emerge as the frontrunner. Read on to find out what’s so hot about the new Tenba Packlite Travel Bag and BYOB system.

For years I’ve been asking bag manufacturers to create a bag specifically for the floor of a passenger car—one to fit in the gap between the front seat and the firewall. I’ve tried all sorts of samples but none work as well as the soft sided six-pack cooler I’ve been using. Don’t laugh—it’s padded, insulated and doesn’t look like a “Hey! Steal me!” camera bag. But the mini-cooler is hard to carry outside of the car and is small—too small for more than just one camera and lens.

Tenba’s new BYOB and Packlite combination solves that problem for me, and does a whole lot more. The system consists of two parts. The large component—the BYOB Insert (image at the top of this story)—is a very nicely made, well padded camera insert. Actually, they call it an “insert” but think of it as the inside, camera-holder part of a bag or backpack—sort of what a gadget bag might look like if you peeled all of the outer material away.

The smaller part—and when it’s rolled up and stuffed into itself, it is very, very small—is a collapsible bag that unfolds to become a home for the insert. By itself, the Packlite portion is like a strong but shapeless shoulder bag. Put the two together and you have one terrific carrying solution.

Separately or combined, it’s a well thought-out design. The top of the insert disappears into the back panel flap (if you want it to) to facilitate access. The partitions are soft and scratchless, and the chambers that form when you arrange the internal dividers into their most useful configurations are multi-level so I can store my 50/1.4 safely below my Tamron 28-75. There’s no annoyingly useless organizer (who keeps their cell phone and car keys in their gadget bag?) and no wasted space. At either end you find an elastic mesh pocket that’s ideal for lens caps. There’s also a handy zippered pocket and other small pouches.

As the BYOB name may suggest, the insert is also intended for use in any non-camera bag you might already own. Get it? Bring Your Own Bag. Slip it down inside a floppy backpack and you have a pretty nice camera backpack.

They come in four sizes ranging in price from $19 to $29 for the Packlite outer bag and $29 to $59 for BYOB insert. I have the BYOB 13 which comfortably holds my Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f2.8 lens attached or a body and three more lenses, plus a flash and miscellany. I haven’t tried it with my Fujifilm system yet, but it looks like it should hold two bodies and probably six lenses in total.


Tenba bags are available at Adorama, Amazon, B&H and most camera specialty stores. The Packlite Travel Bag and BYOB system promises to be one of the most useful products of the year. It’s definitely one of the best thought-out.

—Jon Sienkiewicz