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Thread: Camera Backpack

  1. #11
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Ok, with the ICU selected and those being from F-stop, you'd think I'd pick an F-stop bag, right? The short answer is no. I could get into details about each bag I considered, but, the short of it, their Mountain series was too "adventure" and their Urban series was too "Urban." That may seem odd, but really the aesthetic of most camera bags (Mindshift, Thinktank, Gura Gear, Lowepro, etc) strike a balance that really is not struck, IMO, as soon as you go to packs with ICUs.

    I would very much like to be able to consolidate my computer in with my camera gear so I am down to one carry on bag. For personal travel, I could see an adventure like pack but not work trips. I just do not see walking in for a client presentation with a Tilopa. That, and when you look at the different dimensions, technically, a lot of backpacks are not carry-on compliant. I called and talked to two different companies and basically the response was somewhere between "airlines do not really check" (incorrect in my experience) or "just fill it part way, use the compression straps, and then it'll be compliant," which is technically true, but, I'd rather have a carry on compliant version that can be expanded so the guess work is eliminated rather than a non-compliant carry-on and compression straps.

    So, let's look at some of the dimensions (again, this is if anyone might be interested in a similar pack as me):

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    There is a lot to digest there. But a couple of quick thoughts I had while comparing these packs:
    • Why are they so narrow? Carry on compliant bags can be 14" wide. Some of these are 2-3" shy of that. Why? And it isn't like other bags aren't wide. Larger F-stop bags are wide, several hiking packs are wide...my Kiboko 22L is 13.4" wide. Most of these manufacturers, IMO, left volume on the table when they didn't have too.
    • The calculated volume based on provided dimensions is often very different than the reported volume. For bags with smaller reported volumes, sure, bags are not perfect boxes, so I would expect them to be a little off. But sometimes they are a lot off. Then, what about the bags where the calculated volume is smaller than the reported volume?
    • There is a pretty serious weight difference between some of these bags, ex. 2.6 lbs between the 45L Elite and Shimoda 40L? That is a telephoto lens.


    Anyway, very quickly, a few rapid eliminations:
    • Fstop: Already mentioned.
    • Atlas: No ICU, the camera compartment is fixed. The Athlete's camera compartment is also nowhere near deep enough. The Adventure is not deep enough for the 70-300L upright and bag itself is too big for what I want.
    • Boundary Systems. I love what they have done from a work perspective. But from a camera perspective …..just too small.
    • Mindshift Elite 45L. Extreme adventure. Kinda ugly (IMO). Also, really only 1 camera cube option. They say they have a second option (the Stashmaster), they have a video showing it in the bag, but I do not like how the dimensions do not line up. But if I was an "adventure" only photographer, this would have been a finalist and maybe my selection.


    A quick rundown of my finalists. All of these had internal frames,
    • Peak Design 45L. Could be a perfect travel bag....for someone with a lighter camera set up. Several travel youtubers are using it or other Peak Design bags. Highest rated bag on packhacker.com
      • Pros: Amazing design. Standard size is carry on compliant but it is expandable or collapsible (3 different sizes). Pockets everywhere. Quality material. Great laptop sleeve. Great compartments. Great camera system. Love the "ecosystem" of different cubes (camera, travel, etc). Handles everywhere. Bag geeks really geeked out about this bag.
      • Cons: Probably overdesigned. A bit of trying to do everything rather than one thing well. Do not like how sternum strap is detachable and that the shoulder straps would fold down into the dirt when opening the "back access." The belt seems inadequate for heavy loads, but mostly, multiple comments on how the support system just isn't as good as other bags. Sure you can transform it into a duffel bag, but I want a good backpack where I can comfortably carry a good amount of gear (~30 lbs). Even reviewers carrying far less camera weight than I would commented how other bags where more comfortable. That is really it. I thought about bringing it in to try it, but saw enough consistent comments on comfort that I decided to pass.

    • Shimoda 40L or 30L. First, how are these dimensions so similar? I asked Shimoda and they muttered something about different styling, but the pictures do not really show that much of a difference. That said, I am still tempted to bring this in to see if the F-stop ICUs fit inside it. It would only be for personal use....
      • Pros: So many people are switching to these bags and all of them cite one big reason: comfort. I like comfort. Comfort is nice. Especially with gear. That is a big "pro." Good number of pockets. Materials is also cited as being essentially waterproof even though you still have a rain cover. Great back access. Nice computer sleeve. Good compartments. For the 30L, I like how you can remove the waste belt.
      • Cons: Ugly. Really, that is most of it. I am not walking into a client meeting with an emergency whistle on my shoulder strap. I could get the dark blue if it was just non-work activities, but the shoulder straps just look super gadgety (which is fine for the woods), there is an odd sheen to the material, and it is boxy.

    • PacSafe Venturesafe x40.
      • Pros: Based on size of "PCIs" looks like F-stop ICUs should fit. Well designed, but subtle. Good compartments. All the safety features are nice. Not really necessary IMO, but it has all these ways of securing zippers, this exOmesh to minimize slashing of packs (is that really a thing??), an RFiD protected compartment (again, not a big concern). But it does what I want. It has a nice main compartment for the ICU, gear can fit on top of the ICU, it has a nice mid-sized secondary compartment, back entry, and plenty of straps to secure jackets, tripods, etc to the outside. People talked about how comfortable it was, granted, not as much as the Shimoda. Nice reinforced base, I think it looks nice (the black one, not the Hawaiian blue one). And...it's basic dimensions are carry on compliant.
      • Cons: Fabric is thinner than most other packs (200 something vs 400 something) This is in part to add the exOmesh. The laptop compartment is not in the back flap and gets squished by the ICU thus needs to be in the outer smaller compartment. PacSafe? Really?


    So....my PacSafe Venturesafe x40 showed up today. It really surprises me that I ended up with a bag from PacSafe. But, mulling this all over, it really didn't have a fatal flaw. If the fabric wears out, it will likely be in a couple of years and the fabric certainly does not seem cheap. Maybe by then, I'll want something else. Looking it over, it is about what I expected and seems to do what I would want. I wish it was an inch or two wider. I wish its handles were a bit better and there was more than one handle. Both my f-stop ICUs do fit into it. But, overall, initial impressions, I am happy with it.


    That said...the f-stop ICUs. Not so much. First off, the quality is likely good enough to good, but I was really hoping to be impressed considering they each cost as much as some camera bags. So, good enough, but definite room for improvement. But then I put them to the 70-300L test. The whole point was to stand it up vertically and I had a fail. Breaking out the measuring tape, the f-stop Pro Small is an inch more shallow than adverstised and the F-stop Pro Large is a half inch more shallow. I am in contact with F-stop about this. The length and width dimensions are about right. But the depth is off. We'll see what they do. I may keep the large, as it seems to work.

    And...that is hopefully it. Get the ICU situation resolved but I think I have my new travel backpack.

    Thanks for those that even came close to reading this all. Hopefully it was interesting.

    Brant
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 08-15-2019 at 10:16 PM.

  2. #12
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    Brant,
    I found your search for the 'perfect backpack' very interesting. I also found it exhausting that you had to spend so much time searching for that perfect bag. With hundreds of choices available (and I don't recall a price limit) it troubles me that not one company can meet your needs. I 'only' have three bags, and all three are far from perfect, I suspect most others on this site have at least three bags. Hopefully, at least one manufacturer is following this thread and comes up with a backpack that would meet your (and many others) needs as a result.

    I've traveled on airplane trips about three or four times a year for the last four years (three international) and it appears that you fly much more often. For what it's worth, no one has ever measured or even commented on our carry on bags. I typically carry my Mindshift FirstLight 30L with tripod attached to the outside. Two flights were from JFK and the rest were from EWR.
    Scott

  3. #13
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Thanks Scott.

    I would say I ran into two things:
    • Style
    • Allocation of the carrying capacity


    The style is what struck me as most perplexing, as I really like the styling of many of the "camera cube" packs (Mindshift, Gura Gear, etc). But as soon as you move from the built in camera cube to an ICU set up, that general style mostly evaporated and you are left with what I was calling adventure packs and Urban packs. I get how the industry got there. Fstop, to the best of my knowledge, developed the ICU and they targeted adventure photographers. Then you have all of these kickstarter companies (Boundary Systems, Shimoda, Peak Design, etc etc). With the exception of Shimoda, they tend to gravitate towards a more "urban" style. Given that they are from urban areas, it makes sense (Peak Design - San Francisco, Boundary seems to be NY, etc). After that, you have everyone copying each other with their "me too" products. As an example, the Backlight 45L feels like a "hey we have ICUs too" product to me. Just, they have one ICU....maybe two (but the dimensions do not line up)...not a whole ecosystem of ICUs (like Shimoda, Peak Design, Fstop, PacSafe, etc.....). Or a whole ecosystem of ICU based packs (just the one).

    On how a pack's capacity is allocated. With most camera cube packs, the size of the camera cube increases with the size of the pack. My FirstLight 40L is 32L if internal camera space and probably more like 35-36L of camera cube space. However, whether I am traveling by air or a quick day trip by car someplace, I tend to take 10-12L of camera gear, but I would like room for other things whether it be a change of clothes, computer stuff, rain jackets, or all of the above. So, what I really want is say a 15L nice secure space for camera stuff that is removable in case the bag has to be checked and 15-25L volume for other stuff. To me, that is obvious as many people use backpacks for "other stuff" why wouldn't photographers also want the same functionality?
    The Fastpack 350 heads in that direction in concept, but their extra space is nowhere near 15-25L even though their camera space is actually very nice. And I am seeing a few Urban packs that also have the Fastpack concept (cube below, space above), but none really had that much space.
    Then, I want it to be comfortable.

    So, just looking at those two things really narrowed me down to just a few bags.


    I was thinking about this...I think my "perfect" bag would look something like this:
    • Base volume of ~40L that corresponds to something like 13" wide, 22" tall and 9" deep. That is ~42L, with some contouring so it isn't a box, right around 40L. BTW...my Firstlight 40L is 13.8x21.7x9 inches...right at or below carry on limits. So they do get it.
    • Then, have that be expandable to 13" wide, 22" tall and 11" deep. This is a gain of ~10L of volume. Probably with a zipper similar to Peak Design 45L. But this quickly turns into an overnight bag with a good amount of camera gear.
    • Internal frame
    • Back access
    • Computer sleeve in back access panel and larger computer access in rear of pack (Shimoda/Peak Design)
    • ICU design with attachment points for the ICU to the frame. ICU is 6.5" deep internally with a range of ICU sizes. I'd probably get a ~12L and ~18L. (Fstop and Peak design both have attachment points).
    • Removable padded belt where once removed the belt had some additional functionality like as a shoulder strap for the ICU (as Boundary Systems does with their Prima system). But, I often do not use the belt, so I'd like to be able to remove it.
    • 400+ denier fabric, water resistant zippers (all this was pretty common, main exception was PacSafe for the fabric)
    • rain cover (not as common as you'd think in this level of pack)
    • Reinforced bottom of the pack (pacsafe)
    • Organizational panel (Pacsafe, peak design)
    • At least 3 compartments (Large for ICU, medium size, and then smaller--really liked the Fstop Tilopa for compartments in a larger bag)
    • Compression straps, and straps to hold rain coats, fleeces, etc on outside for quick access (very common)
    • rear and side support for tripods. Ice axe loops are common and I have no idea why.
    • Some people like stuff sack open for main compartment, I like zippered clamshell access (again, pacsafe/Shimoda 40L/30L).
    • Comfortable straps and back support
    • Styling that can go from the occasional hiking trip, to family events, to an office meeting (pacsafe/peak design)
    • It'd also be nice to have multiple options for packs. I could see ~25L, 55L base sizes in addition to the 40L base size. It'd be nice if they were each expandable/compressable.


    So, that seems like quite the list, right? But all those features exist in a current pack, just no one pack has them all. The biggest thing missing from several of the packs (other than styling) is that they have a base level that is carry on compliant. Only Peak Design and Pacsafe had this. Then let it be expandable, like what Peak Design did. Then I would push the limit of the width allowed by carry-ons.

    As for flying, yeah, I am in the air 20-25 times per year. Most of it is work. I get to work at home when I am not traveling, which is nice. But it means that I am traveling for internal meetings, client meetings, and then as I am the tech lead, to events to represent our company. Then, I get home and my wife loves to travel. And we are from opposite ends of the country, so there are vacations and trips to see family too.

    With all that travel, I often see people having to check their carry ons. I've seen a few freak outs too. I've had to check my carry on a couple of times, but never with camera gear (so I haven't had to freak out). Granted, I was close once. I had to pull things out of my Kiboko so it would fit, much to the chagrin of the flight attendent.

    So, I get that I am likely skewed in my needs in terms of "travel," but I have to think a lot of other photographers fly to their destinations with camera gear, so why not adhere to the carry on limits?
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 08-15-2019 at 02:28 PM.

  4. #14
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    Hmm...I haven't read the entire story yet and I see that you've bought a new backpack already, but I just have to say that I've had a Fastpack 350 for about 10 years now and it worked really well for me. However the fact that I can't carry a tripod properly made me look at other bags constantly. I normally put the tripod in the side-netting(had to stitch it up several times) and attached a rubber band thingy around the top of the tripod and secured at the top strap of the bag. Where you can hand carry it.

    So just a month ago my camera store had a 50% price reduction of the Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW and I couldn't resist. Glad I ordered it, because frankly I will never want to use the Fastpack 350 again. The Whistler is pretty much the same size, however due to it's internal structure it's practical over the entire size, where the Fastpack slopes towards the top.
    My Whistler 350 is not the type II, so it has a ICU. I couldn't really care about it though. I've compared it to the version II and I saw no reason for me to pay more. It's a real sturdy backpack and the ICU gives it even more sturdiness.
    My Fastpack is easily folded, the Whistler doesn't fold at all. It gives me lots more confidence.

    I never had issues with rain with my Fastpack(I did add a cheap cover for my Iceland tour though), but the Whistler feels and looks way more robust and waterproof. It also is supplied with a rain cover, but I doubt you will really need it if you're not heaving heavy rainfall.

    I also like the back access. Instead of only at the bottom of the backpack I now carry my gear directly against my back. It feels lighter doing so, even though the backpack itself is substantially heavier.
    The storage compartment is a lot more useful now it covers the entire back area of the backpack. It's also possible to add a little more storage space by opening the zipper that keeps the back smaller when you don;t need the extra space. The storage is also "waterproof" and has a hole at the bottom to let water out. So ideal for hikes and activities in mountainous and wet environments where you might have to pack wet stuff in the backpack. Your gear will stay dry.
    Add the ability to attach pretty much anything to the bag with all the attachment straps and loops and you end up with a much more capable backpack.

    I like it a lot. In the next few weeks I'll be trying it out in Italy and hopefully I'm still as positive as I am now when I get back

  5. #15
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheiky View Post
    Hmm...I haven't read the entire story yet and I see that you've bought a new backpack already, but I just have to say that I've had a Fastpack 350 for about 10 years now and it worked really well for me. However the fact that I can't carry a tripod properly made me look at other bags constantly. I normally put the tripod in the side-netting(had to stitch it up several times)
    Ha! I borrowed surgery suture from my wife to stitch that netting on my Fastpack 350. And, of course, if you have the tripod on that one side, there is not room for water.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheiky View Post
    I also like the back access. Instead of only at the bottom of the backpack I now carry my gear directly against my back. It feels lighter doing so, even though the backpack itself is substantially heavier.
    The storage compartment is a lot more useful now it covers the entire back area of the backpack. It's also possible to add a little more storage space by opening the zipper that keeps the back smaller when you don;t need the extra space. The storage is also "waterproof" and has a hole at the bottom to let water out. So ideal for hikes and activities in mountainous and wet environments where you might have to pack wet stuff in the backpack. Your gear will stay dry.
    Add the ability to attach pretty much anything to the bag with all the attachment straps and loops and you end up with a much more capable backpack.

    I like it a lot. In the next few weeks I'll be trying it out in Italy and hopefully I'm still as positive as I am now when I get back


    Congrats! Especially with the 50% off. I am sure you'll still like it. I did look at the Whistlers. As you just described, they have a lot of good features and seemed to be great bags. Its funny you mention V1 vs V2 having and not having an ICU. If I recall correctly, that is why I stopped looking at the Whistler, that I wanted an ICU system. Looking at Lowepro's website, it does look like V2 you can remove the camera insert, but I do not see other smaller ICUs that would be interchangeable ...just the one that comes with the bag.

    Anyway, looks like a great bag, hope you enjoy!


    Last edited by Kayaker72; 08-15-2019 at 10:14 PM.

  6. #16
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheiky View Post
    So just a month ago my camera store had a 50% price reduction of the Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW and I couldn't resist. Glad I ordered it, because frankly I will never want to use the Fastpack 350 again. The Whistler is pretty much the same size, however due to it's internal structure it's practical over the entire size, where the Fastpack slopes towards the top.
    BTW...I was thinking about this more after my first post....I think I like the process you just went through much better than what I just did. Not that it was too onerous, mostly reading/watching reviews here or there and keeping track of what I came across. But, to a very large extent, perfect doesn't exist, so when you find something that is really good and is 50% off....maybe that is perfect

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kayaker72 View Post
    Ha! I borrowed surgery suture from my wife to stitch that netting on my Fastpack 350. And, of course, if you have the tripod on that one side, there is not room for water.
    Haha awesome! I stitched mine with Zip ties and later added a rubber insert. The fact is though that it worked just fine for the smaller periods of use. When on holidays and hiking in the Alps last year, the overhanging weight on one side gets quite annoying after some time. Especially if the weather is bad at the top and you carried the tripod up the mountain for nothing up

    Quote Originally Posted by Kayaker72 View Post
    BTW...I was thinking about this more after my first post....I think I like the process you just went through much better than what I just did. Not that it was too onerous, mostly reading/watching reviews here or there and keeping track of what I came across. But, to a very large extent, perfect doesn't exist, so when you find something that is really good and is 50% off....maybe that is perfect
    I guess I could call myself lucky that I ran into this deal. I've watched enough of Youtube videos about camerabags and hiking bags with ICU's to know what your search was like.

    I guess the second fact is that I bought the Fastpack 350 about 10 years ago for I believe 80-90. If I look in the same price category nowadays I'm really disappointed.
    The same for lenses. I saw a second hand 100mm L Macro in the shop last time I went there. They ask the same price I have paid for it new when it came out

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