The Cloak Bag Story

After returning from a three-month stay in Buenos Aires, one of the first things I wanted to do was sort through all of the great pictures I’d taken. But when I scrolled through my library, I began to realize that so many of the amazing scenes that I was looking forward to revisiting were nowhere to be found. The truth was that in and among the bustling crowds and chaotic streets of the city, I was often too afraid to use my camera. Almost every time I pulled out my new SLR in public, my Argentine friends would quickly advise me to put it back in its bag to avoid being robbed.

While both my camera and I ultimately returned home safe, I could recall at least two occasions during my trip when my local friends' forewarnings narrowly saved me from a mugging. Both incidents occurred while my camera was out in plain sight, a beacon screaming, ‘Hey, look at me! I'm not from around here!’

The first happened while I was walking around with a friend. We both had our shiny new Canon and Nikon cameras out, snapping pictures, only to nearly fall victim to a frustratingly common scam: ‘Oh sir, there are bird droppings on you, let me help wipe it off and take your belongings while you are distracted.’ If you’ve never experienced this one before, click here for some stories that are great for smartening up unwary tourists.
During the second incident, I was walking alone with my camera and a couple approached me, claiming they worked for the local newspaper. They immediately fingered me for a tourist and while one began asking me about my visit, the other circled behind me. They gave me no clue as to what story they were trying to get, but their approach was suspiciously similar to the bird droppings setup, and when they asked if I would like to sit and put my bags down, I knew my camera and I had better get going.
Because I wasn't approached by strangers on the street while my camera was not visible, it seemed to reason that it was my camera that was drawing the wrong kind of attention. Most people on the street and subway appeared to be carrying some kind of bag without notice, so I resorted to carrying my camera in my messenger bag. This worked great for holding potential robbers at bay, but because of the inconvenience of unbuckling the bag and taking the camera out, I ended up leaving it in most of the time. On many of those occasions when a shot was too irresistible to pass up, I would pull the camera out of the bag, turn it on, and get set for the shot, only to find that I’d completely missed the photo opportunity.

I had identified my problem: How do I carry my expensive camera around so I can get great shots, and not have to waste time removing it from a bag or worry about getting mugged because I looked like a tourist? I searched to see if a solution existed. There were plenty of so-called "inconspicuous" camera bags, but at some point, they all required that revealing and inhibiting act of taking the camera out of the bag. So my friend, Tim Winfree, and I, both designers with engineering backgrounds, teamed up to develop a camera bag that would simply let you shoot through it.

While the idea seemed simple enough, it took many months and many prototypes to arrive at a bag that was lightweight, manageable, easy to use, and looked unlike a traditional camera bag. But in the end, we made the world's first and only shoot-through camera bag, the Cloak™ Bag.

-Robert Merrill, Co-inventor