I must say here before I start, that I shoot with an Olympus OMD EM5 camera and Olympus and Panasonic lenses. These are all much smaller and lighter than a full sized DSLR from Canon or Nikon so this idea may not work for you if that's the gear you use.
Now I've got that out of the way,
I've been looking for a non-camera looking camera bag for a while now. Something that doesn't scream "grab me I've got expensive camera gear in me!" but at the same time I want something that gives some padding and protection to my gear. I want this bag mainly for street photography and shooting at fairs etc and I've seen online that it's quite a common wish for street photographers.
Some of the bags I've looked at recently have been rather expensive though and having a family and a life outside photography means that I really want my money to work for me and I couldn't really justify the cost of a new bag when I have a couple of great ones already.
(I have a large bag that holds everything, including my charger, for long trips and my smaller everyday bag that I use to carry only what I need for that day. After all there's no point in carrying large birding lenses and every other piece of equipment you own around if you're only shooting wide with one lens in town)
So that brings me to my messenger bag. I like canvas messenger bags. They're roomy enough inside to carry a jersey, or lunch and a drink, or whatever the kids don't want to carry while you're out at the park or shopping. It's a great mum's do everything type of bag. It's light and soft and hugs the shape of your body when it's emptier and yet can still be large enough to carry some library books if needed.
This is my current messenger bag. I've blacked out the name, but I bought it locally from a Chinese store for $19. I'm guessing it was made in China but it's a very sturdy bag. I've used it in the rain and it seems to repel the water okay. If it stops then I'll spray it with some of that waterproofing spray you can buy.
Now this is where I made a discovery. I have an old camera bag with a removable padded liner (see above) that I thought I'd try out in this bag and it fit very nicely with a bit of extra space to slip in a small water bottle next to the liner if I push it to one side. Perfect.
This padded insert can hold my camera and a couple of lenses if needed, while I can still carry my phone and purse in the regular pockets in the bag.
From the outside it just looks like the original messenger bag. No markings to say there's a camera in there. Just what I wanted and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg to get it.
Sometimes it pays to think outside the box and see if you can find a way to make what you really want in a bag because sometimes what you really want isn't made commercially.
Have a great week :)