Domke Herald Ruggedwear Review

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The Domke Herald is the second bag that I tested in the Domke Next Generation lineup, alongside the Domke Trekker (review). This re-designed lineup takes the quality materials that Domke bags are known for, and gives them a modern design twist that I really like.  The weatherproof Ruggedwear material looks gorgeous and it only gets better with age, as if the bag is recording your adventures for you to relive them over and over again when you look at it.  Of course I’ve always heard of people talk about Domke bags with a certain reverence, but never having owned one myself I didn’t quite understand it until I got my hands on these ones.  It’s definitely the kind of unboxing that makes a camera geek smile!

Vide Review

Specifications

  • Weight -3.6 lb / 1.6 kg
  • Exterior dimensions – 16.25 x 4.5 x 10.25″ / 41.3 x 11.4 x 26.0 cm
  • Interior dimensions -12.75 x 4.0 x 9.5″ / 32.4 x 10.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Numbered identity plate
  • 1 divider included

In Use + Features

I’m including a big stack of photos below to illustrate some of the points i’m going to make in the next few paragraphs.  The first thing that you notice when you unbox the Herald is that the pretty large main section of the bag is nearly devoid of dividers. One single divider is all that you get.  At first I was sure this had to have been an error, but a quick glance online showed other people with the same question. Of course Domke will sell you another divider for $20, but if you’ve just spent $300 on a bag I think you’d be pretty annoyed to have to fork out another $60 for a few dividers, no?  I review a lot of bags from people like Lowepro, Think Tank, F-Stop, MindShift, Gura Gear etc. and without fail, every one of those companies loads you up with more dividers than you know what to do with.  Why so stingy, Domke?

The next thing that really puzzled me was the choice of hardware on the straps.  Having also received the Domke Trekker at the same time, which I LOVED, I was struck by a big difference.  Despite both being Ruggedwear bags from the same line, the cheaper (half the price!) Trekker, had lovely metal D-Rings and metal clips on the shoulder strap.  On the other hand, the clips and rings on the Herald looked unbelievably cheap and tacky.  Everything else on the Herald is designed to last a lifetime, and the Ruggedwear materials really do feel like they could do that. But the plastic clips? I really don’t understand this at all.  I’ve honestly seen nicer hardware on $40 camera bags, let along premium $300 ones.  Yes, I know plastic can be very strong, but this bag has been designed to look good as well, and this spoils it.

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Ok, now that I’ve got that little rant off my chest, let’s talk about some of the positive things!  The expandable side pockets are great, nice and deep and just useful for so many things.  Extenders, lenses, flashes, Pocketwizards… great catch all pockets when you’re shooting and moving around a lot.  The front pockets could do with being a little deeper, but nonetheless, they’re still good for holding smaller lenses if you need them to.  As you can see from the photos below, I was also able to find great spots for my tablet and my laptop, so you can truly fit a whole journalistic kit in this bag even though it’s actually one of the smaller ones in the range.

Along with the metal clip on the front flap, there is also a small area of hook and loop on the inside as well.  It really is rather small though and it looks a bit like an after thought.  There’s also a way to fold it over for “quiet mode” , but the problem is that the flap is so small that it’s all too easy to close the flap onto the adjacent piece of hook and loop anyway, given that it’s a mere 1/2 inch away. It’s puzzling because I’ve seen this sort of feature implemented very well by other people and it’s as if Domke didn’t really think too hard about this and just threw something on there so they could add an extra feature to the spec list.

There’s ups and downs with this bag eh?!  Which is really rather odd when you consider how much I loved its baby brother, the Trekker.

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I’m not sure what you would put in the smaller pocket, but the larger expandable one will take everything up to a 70-200, and works particularly well with flashes.

Domke Herald Ruggedwear Review

The front zippered pocket is well padded and suited to tablet device storage.

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Front expanding pockets are ok for temporary lens storage while working a job, but they could do with being a bit deeper. 

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“Quiet” tabs that don’t really work all that well unfortunately

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Plastic hardware like this on a near $300 shoulder bag is not acceptable in my opinion. Especially when the Trekker is half the price and has proper metal hardware.

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One divider. That’s all $300 will get you. Again, not acceptable.

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On the left is a divider, on the right is PocketFlex accessory for creating an additional movable interior pocket.

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MacBook Air 11″ is a perfect fit in the rear pocket

Conclusion

This is a bit of a head scratcher.  On the one hand, it’s one of the most beautifully constructed camera bags I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.  But on the other hand it’s got a handful of glaring oddities that really leave a bad taste in my mouth.  A single divider is clearly not enough for this bag, and the plastic clips on the shoulder strap are like putting fake leather seats in a Ferrari. It’s just bizarre! More so when you consider again that the cheaper Trekker has the ‘correct’ hardware.

It is a great bag, and if you buy one in full awareness of these oddities then I’ve no doubt you’ll love it and use it for many many years.  It might even outlast you, it’s that well constructed!  Just know that you’re going to need to add some extra dividers to your shopping cart, and maybe a better shoulder strap with some decent clips on it.  There are bigger options in the lineup as well, of course, but I’m a fan of keeping things light.  The bigger your bag, the more you stuff into it, so for me this does hit the sweet spot in terms of shoulder bag sizing.  Anything larger than this and I prefer it to be a backpack.

A good bag, but not a great one.

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Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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7 thoughts on “Domke Herald Ruggedwear Review”

  1. Have to agree with some of your rants about the features here, but I might be able to offer an explanation as to the plastic clips on the main strap. I own a Think Tank Urban Disguise which has metal clips and loops in that position – it’s quite a large bag, and when it’s weighed down with a D700, 24-70 and a few accessories, the metal hard wear squeaks in use (it’s a metal-on-metal thing) and also the surfaces have worn considerably. I found myself wishing they’d used plastic hardware in that particular spot, like some of my other bags, so it’s possibly Domke found this in testing? They need to fix the amount of dividers, though, and the other niggles you mention at that price!

    Reply
    • Hey James! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I see what you’re saying about the metal vs plastic thing. Squeaking can become an issue. But there are also lots of high quality plastic hardware options and to me, the clips on the end of the strap feel extremely cheap. I’d say I’ve reviewed over 100 camera bags over the years and this is in the top 10% in terms of price, but the shoulder strap hardware is bottom 10% in terms of quality feel. Best, DC

      Reply
      • Hi Dan, no worries, thanks for a great site! OK understood about the quality of the plastic hardware – it should definitely be premium, heavy duty plastic at this price! Maybe Domke is listening to reviewers and might make some slight changes, if not maybe I’ll look at an ONA bag.

        Reply
      • I have another Domke bag, can’t recall which series, but it’s got metal d-rings and clips, and they’ve worn to the point where they are very rusty (I live near the ocean). They are also very noisy. They squeak and click loudly when I am moving my bag around. In a no-noise environment, it could be pretty bad.

        Reply
        • Interesting… perhaps they wanted a silent system then, but there are still many plastic hardware options that scream quality, whereas the clips and D-rings on this bag scream cheap. Thanks for your input!

          Reply
  2. Dan, this is a bit late and I ran across this review while looking for a public review of the bag. I actually wrote a review on it myself about a year ago, but never published it. I actually compared it to my old Tenba Small Messenger bag, which was a third of the price, but included many of the features missing on this $300 dollar bag!

    Anyway I’m curious as to where you got your specs from because my specs are completely different from yours, especially the weight where yours says 1.2 pounds, while I have it at 3.75 pounds. My specs were taken directly from Tiffen’s site: http://store.tiffen.com/item/J-HERAL-RM/Herald-Ruggedwear/ Just curious how you arrived at yours.

    And I completely agree with you about the cheap strap – I commented on that, and actually bought a Victorinox Comfort-Fit Shoulder strap. And yeah, I wasn’t a fan of the plastic hooks either. Also agree that Domke is being cheap with just the one divider, that’s criminal to me for a $300 dollar bag. Would have also liked to have some filter loops to hold a filter pouch but that didn’t happen.

    All that said, I also agree this is one great looking bag, and the feature and quality there makes you “somewhat” forget about the missing features. All and all I agree with your review as I found many of the same issues you pointed in my non-posted review. With that, I’m still curious about your specs???

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for chiming in, Andrew. At this point, I can’t remember where I got the specs from. I would/should have got them from their site, so it’s either a mistake on their part at that time (since corrected), or it’s a mistake on mine where I copied it from the wrong page. Who knows… it was a long time ago haha 🙂

      I have corrected the review. Thanks!

      Reply

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