View Full Version : Best Backpack for Plein Air Painting

Equus Art
12-14-2013, 04:18 PM
Every thing I've searched does not give me a lot of information. Is there a back pack or supply carrier that folks have preferred to haul a small Dakota Traveler box and mini easel and all the other "stuff" you have to have for a good plein air experience?


learning to paint
12-14-2013, 06:16 PM
I have been using an LL Bean backpack: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/79241?feat=816-GN1&page=l-l-bean-continental-rucksack

12-16-2013, 10:33 AM
Take a look at the Kelty Redwing. Well made and holds just abount anything you could want to take along.

12-16-2013, 02:12 PM
I have been using a baseball players backpack, it holds my old winser and newton box, which holds a lot of pastels and the pack holds that other stuff also

12-16-2013, 04:06 PM
JanSport Driver 8 rolling backpack : http://www.jansport.com/shop/en/jansport-us/driver-8-tn89

My days of carrying stuff on my back are, deplorably, all done.

More here (http://jan777.blogspot.com/p/pastel-plein-air.html).


T Porter
12-20-2013, 01:12 AM
I too have been looking for the “perfect” pack. Originally I was going to use a Kelty, Cache Hauler and strap my French easel (which held my Dakota Pastel box and a lot of the other items that I use) plus the easel would hold a drawing board with a painting support taped to it. Under the easel, sitting on the cache hauler’s fold down self would be a small duffle bag holding miscellaneous items that wouldn’t fit in the easel. That setup would work but it was going to be bulky.

Then I stumbled across this pack at Academy Sports and Outdoor http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/tactical-performance-3-150-cu-in-elite-hydration-pack/pid-625647?color=Black&N=903754862&Ntt=elite+pack&Ntk=All

It’s a pretty cool pack! It holds everything that I think I’ll need.



The small outside pocket holds:
Pencils, pens, erasers, etc…
Color wheel


The mid size pocket holds”
Rain jacket
Pack rain cover
Built in eyeglass / sunglass holder


The next section holds a small rug and there is a built in pocket that will hold a camera. The tent stake is used to anchor the easel. There is a long side pocket on each side of the pack. They are the perfect size for paintbrushes, denatured alcohol and a small cup.


The main compartment:
Unzips all the way to the bottom of the pack, which is great for accessing everything in the main compartment.
In the lid is a small box of broken Nupastels and some tape

In the main compartment I put:
Pastels (in a small Dakota box)
Pastel pencils (48)
18” plastic ruler
18” long 3/8” diameter dowel rod (used to steady my hand for delicate work
2 sheets of hardboard with a pastel support sandwiched between them. A 18” x 14” board fits nicely and a 19” x 15” will fit if I get a little aggressive when cramming it into the pack.



There’s also a pocket against the back wall of the main compartment for a hydration bladder, but it would be wise to put the pastels and the painting in a plastic bag in case the bladder were to leak.

And, since this is a tactical backpack, there are two concealed pockets in the main compartment for handguns. You’ve got to love that! Of course these two pockets can be used to store anything small and those items can be accessed through small openings on the side of the pack without opening up the whole pack. TP is one thing that comes to mind for putting in one of those pockets. Or if you’re any good with a nettle and thread the gun holders could be removed and the openings sewn shut.


The easel is a Dakota mini field easel and it can be strapped to the bottom of the pack.


I hope this helps. Good luck

Equus Art
12-20-2013, 07:28 AM
TPorter thank you so much for the suggestion and also for your photos of your set up! You have exactly the same box and easel as I do and this pack looks like it will work out perfectly! And the price is right too!


12-24-2013, 10:18 AM
I use an REI backpack I got years ago; I checked, and they no longer make this model. But it's helpful to take your gear to the store and have it handy to check sizes. (Images are from my book, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel). PS I use the Heilman Backpack box.



12-26-2013, 11:25 AM
Wow! I love seeing other people's setups. I have a rolling walker that I use when going out whenever I'm not using the power chair, so I sometimes use its cargo bag as my pack for plein air sketching. I'll stack pastels in there, pads of supports, towel, etc. and sometimes other mediums. Just whatever I feel like using at the time.

Recently I joined the Sierra Club again and got their promotional replica 1849 backpack, a good sturdy lightweight one with a little padding on the back that could take my laptop in it- and my small Dakota Traveller would fit in there fine along with several pads - I usually work on 9" x 12" pads or smaller when I'm out so this eliminates the need for a drawing board and reduces weight. A zippered plastic bag has a small spray mister of SpectraFix and some assorted other things, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Plus there's all the assorted stuff in my vest pockets. Little stuff usually goes in a fisherman's vest with many small multi-purpose pockets.

If I'm on the power chair I'll put the Dakota box into its basket and put a plastic bag around the pads, or clip pads to a drawing board. But now that I've got the backpack I found it helped to hook that over one shoulder when driving. It's a bit safer than the basket for my supplies, it can go on my shoulder or over the back of the seat, on my lap or down on my feet depending on what I'm doing. Drawing board props nicely on the steering bar of the chair once it's turned off.

T. Porter, my hat's off to you for the tactical backpack with all its organized supplies and gun holders. I can think of a few things it'd be cool to use the gun holders for. A pocket watercolor journal, watercolor pencils and water brush would be great for quick-draw color studies, or gouache and waterbrush, or even a non-watercolor journal and a small box or set of hard pastels. I keep a small set of color Conte on me in my vest pockets for quick outdoor sketching, the gun pockets could be like my vest stuff. The things you want without having to stop and unpack everything to set up.

And of course if someone comes up and says "Draw your weapon" you can always whip that out and draw a gun for them. Good for a Warner Brothers moment.

The gun pockets are scary but cool. I can just see some cop looking at the suspicious bulge, checking it and finding - drawing supplies. The look on their face ... then again most cops I've met would probably not suspect the heavily equipped artist of being anything but a civilian, it's too much stuff and trouble to drag around just to cover nefarious intent.

Michael, your setup is cool too and I like your hat. I really need to get a hat this year, preferably before summer brings sunshine and my heading out the door for urban plein air.

Easel, my easel is a little featherweight one and if I bring it along, it's got its own narrow carry bag with strap that could go over the back of the power chair. It doesn't weigh much but it's a little too long folded to fit inside any backpack I've ever had.

I like the Sierra Club one for being relatively small and light weight though, since I am one of the serious overpackers. I had a big army surplus one in high school and when I used to pack that thing up with art supplies and school stuff it weighed in at 45 pounds. This one won't get much heavier than my cat when stuffed. I am trying to cut down on weight so that I don't wind up blowing my back on it even when using the walker or power chair.

12-27-2013, 07:09 AM
I just have to ask, How much does your cat weigh after being stuffed?

12-27-2013, 11:13 AM
Robert - I've stopped wearing that pith helmet! It's heavier and less comfortable than my new Coolibar hat.