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Thread: Camera Backpack

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Camera Backpack

    As I mentioned in another thread, I am looking to replace my Flipside 400AW Mk 1. I initially settled on the Mindshift Backside 18L. Its exterior sidewalls are thinner than I'd like, but I do suspect it would overall be a fine protective bag despite the sidewalls due to rigidity at the edges, essentially a semi-rigid frame. As I thought about it, in several ways, this may be more protective than another 1/8" of padding. But, as I played with it, I never quite got it to be comfortable and I had bought it over another flipside in part because I thought it had more non-camera storage. Which it does, but still not very much. Also, I was hoping for a bit more from the harness system. So, it is goes back today.

    I am still looking to fill my "smaller" bag, capable of 3 lenses, 5DIV and basic accessories, and I also want a bag for my hikes. So good harness system, back ventilation and capable of carrying some other gear. Then, based on some recent travel, I am realizing the limitation of backpacks that are essentially a large padded brick for camera gear. It would be nice to have some flexibility to leave some lenses in the hotel safe and add stuff you want for a day trip. Perhaps my final criterion is that these foam pad brinks take up a lot of room whether you are using it or not. Something collapsible would be nice. So, while I am looking for a "smaller" bag, I am recognizing that I may also want a dedicated hiking/travel bag as well.

    As I am focusing on a smaller bag, it really seems that the F-stop guru or Loka with a small pro ICU may fit the bill the best. The biggest concern is that fully loaded, they do not technically fit carry on requirements for airlines (>9" thick). But, they are collapsible, so I just can't load them all the way.

    In doing the searches, however, there really seems to be a lot of love for ~40L bags that can collapse down to something smaller for hiking/travel. In particular, two brands I've only heard about recently:

    • Shimoda Explore 40L. I'd seen a couple Youtubers start to use this bag. Must be nice to be given bags for reviews. I am not questioning their review, often they were comparing the Shimoda to other bags they received for free. Just sayin', I might start a youtube channel just so I can get free gear. That said, several "travel" photographers and youtubers that have their choice of several different packs have transitioned over to the Shimoda 40L. I keep hearing "this is the most comfortable pack" in the reviews. Seems to be a theme. Shimoda also has a 30L pack, and also uses and ICU system, comparable to the F-stop, so I may look at it.
    • Atlas Athlete. Sometimes you notice when reviewers don't just really like a lens or piece of equipment, they love it. I am sensing a lot of love, as in every review just seems glowing, for this bag. But the Athlete is 40L but seems to collapse down nicely. It may have issues fitting in to an overhead bin, but you can remove the metal frame and then the dimensions work perfectly (this seems easy based on a video I saw). It also has this "origami" system of expanding/contracting the padded camera compartment.
    • Pacsafe Venturesafe x40. Seeing a couple references of people liking and using this bag. Bit of a surprise, as you do not usually think about Pacsafe as camera back manufacturer (at least I do not), but looking it over it really checks a lot of boxes. Carry on sized, nicely sized (for me) camera inserts, a divider to separate regular gear form camera gear (I am reading some complain about this with the f-stop bags), and multiple easy compartments for organization. I think I may prefer the other bags, but this also costs less.
    • Mindshift Backlight Elite 45L. I almost missed this had an ICU. This just came out, so I was only able to find one review, but it was very favorable. I do like my Mindshift Firstlight 40L. Looks like they targeted fairly extreme conditions, which is great as the pack seems very function and water resistant, but this is also one of the heavier packs. They provide a range of weight from 3.9 to 7 lbs. I am not sure of the difference. I would be surprised if the ICU is 3.1 lbs as their half sized ICU (called a "stashmaster") is 0.9 lbs. I'd opt for the stashmaster here. Overall, very nice looking pack.



    For more of an urban stylish feel (Mike aka Busted, these may be inline with what you were looking for awhile ago):

    • Peak Design 45L. It says 45L, but that is its expanded capacity. It's regular capacity is 35L with dimensions that match most airlines carry-on restrictions, a very nice feature. Also has modular packing cubes and photography inserts designed to fit inside its dimensions. While not obvious straps, it does seem to have ample ability to add tripod or other items.
    • Peak Design "Everyday". This seems to be a favorite of several youtube travelers. I can see why, it still looks stylish, I believe this was the first pack with the moldable "tray" like system that has now been copied by others like Lowepro. Carryon compatible and the material does seem to really hold up. Not sure it is for me, but worth mentioning.
    • Boundary "Prima." This may be a perfect combination of work/photography/travel bag. I am impressed by what I see. Looks good enough I could walk into a meeting with it, lots of work gear functionality. Main issue I see right now is the modular photography inserts are either very small (camera plus 2 lens) or the entire pack. I would like 3 lenses. Also, it doesn't sit upright. But still interesting.
    • Boundary "Errant". Odd, as the pack is smaller, but better sized (for me) inserts. Seems to have a lot of functionality as well.


    These are all more expensive packs. But, I haven't bought anything significant for over a year and my account is in very good shape.

    Just wondering if anyone had any familiarity with these bags or if you knew of something else that would fit my use.

    Thanks,
    Brant

    EDIT...I am adding a few as I find different packs that seem really good.

    For what it is worth....Nat Geo's favorite travel backpacks
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 07-10-2019 at 11:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dave Throgmartin's Avatar
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    I use the LowePro Fastpack 350 to hold most of my stuff in. It's a good take the camera equipment to the field kind of bag.

    Dave

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Throgmartin View Post
    I use the LowePro Fastpack 350 to hold most of my stuff in. It's a good take the camera equipment to the field kind of bag.

    Dave
    The Fastpack 350 was my first bag and I used it for several years. When I bought the 400AW, it pretty much went in my closet. I think I even tried to sell it once. It is a good bag and I brought it out of the closet as it does check a lot of the boxes I have. I am going to try to use it for work/travel/photography options, which is why I did not emphasize that above. My main issues with it before where:
    1. I essentially out grew it as my kit and several lenses became too large. But it is coming back around as it can hold the travel kit I am describing, camera plus 3 lenses.
    2. I always found attaching a tripod problematic.
    3. The attachments are limited, water bottle in side pouch (unsecured, and I've lost a few), something under the back flap (tripod or rain coat), but then there is no other place for exterior attachments for my wife's raincoat (somehow I often end up with this) or my tripod AND my jacket.
    4. Officially, it is not AW. I was on one hike with it when it started raining, I checked and the gear was getting wet. So I found a country store, bought some trash bags, cut holes in the trash bags for the straps and hiked for a weekend with a trash bag over my pack. After that I bought an official rain cover, but still, AW would be nice.
    5. Lack of ventilation for the back. I am looking for hiking/travel, something where this is on my back a lot. I remember it getting extremely hot a couple of times.


    That said, it is a nice pack and I found it a bit funny when I started thinking of what I wanted and realized a bag that could do a good amount was sitting in my closet. And the Fastpacks are good enough when we bought my wife her set up (80D etc), we got her a Fastpack 250. But, maybe I do start using this for my "smaller pack" as well. I really love my Kiboko 22L, which isn't that large, it is just most of that 22L is dedicated to camera gear (so optimized for camera gear, not other stuff), I've twice now had it drop and have gear damaged (so I still love it, but....), and I am often tempted to fill it up. I've weighed it a couple of times and it has often come back 25 to 35 lbs, which was definitely a factor one of the times it was dropped. So, part of me wanting smaller is so I do not load it up.

    Anyways....rainy day here so I spent some time messing around some.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 06-30-2019 at 11:52 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Dave Throgmartin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kayaker72 View Post
    The Fastpack 350 was my first bag and I used it for several years. When I bought the 400AW, it pretty much went in my closet. I think I even tried to sell it once. It is a good bag and I brought it out of the closet as it does check a lot of the boxes I have. I am going to try to use it for work/travel/photography options, which is why I did not emphasize that above. My main issues with it before where:
    1. I essentially out grew it as my kit and several lenses became too large. But it is coming back around as it can hold the travel kit I am describing, camera plus 3 lenses.
    2. I always found attaching a tripod problematic.
    3. The attachments are limited, water bottle in side pouch (unsecured, and I've lost a few), something under the back flap (tripod or rain coat), but then there is no other place for exterior attachments for my wife's raincoat (somehow I often end up with this) or my tripod AND my jacket.
    4. Officially, it is not AW. I was on one hike with it when it started raining, I checked and the gear was getting wet. So I found a country store, bought some trash bags, cut holes in the trash bags for the straps and hiked for a weekend with a trash bag over my pack. After that I bought an official rain cover, but still, AW would be nice.
    5. Lack of ventilation for the back. I am looking for hiking/travel, something where this is on my back a lot. I remember it getting extremely hot a couple of times.


    That said, it is a nice pack and I found it a bit funny when I started thinking of what I wanted and realized a bag that could do a good amount was sitting in my closet. And the Fastpacks are good enough when we bought my wife her set up (80D etc), we got her a Fastpack 250. But, maybe I do start using this for my "smaller pack" as well. I really love my Kiboko 22L, which isn't that large, it is just most of that 22L is dedicated to camera gear (so optimized for camera gear, not other stuff), I've twice now had it drop and have gear damaged (so I still love it, but....), and I am often tempted to fill it up. I've weighed it a couple of times and it has often come back 25 to 35 lbs, which was definitely a factor one of the times it was dropped. So, part of me wanting smaller is so I do not load it up.

    Anyways....rainy day here so I spent some time messing around some.
    Mine truthfully only goes from the house to the car and then back to the house. I take the gear to the field in a smaller bag or on my shoulder. When shooting tripod I typically mount that over one shoulder using a Manfrotto strap that is designed for the tripod and my camera on the other shoulder with one lens mounted.

    Dave

  5. #5
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    I am currently looking to get the f-stops tilopa and having large icu on it. Mostly when going to shooting i have noticed that i need quite some extra stuff to carry. Clothes etc. And with tilopa can easily fit all my current gear to it. Currently i have 40litre flip backbag but that is way too small for my needs. Good with those f-stops bags is that you can get smaller/bigger icu to it and that way carry more extra or more lenses etc.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsaa View Post
    I am currently looking to get the f-stops tilopa and having large icu on it. Mostly when going to shooting i have noticed that i need quite some extra stuff to carry. Clothes etc. And with tilopa can easily fit all my current gear to it. Currently i have 40litre flip backbag but that is way too small for my needs. Good with those f-stops bags is that you can get smaller/bigger icu to it and that way carry more extra or more lenses etc.
    In my readings, I have heard nothing but good things about the Tilopa. At its capacity, it would be great for travel, especially car travel. If fully loaded, it would need to be checked in for airline travel. But, that is one thing that I really like about the ICU system, if you can't carry on your pack (I fly a lot of smaller commuter planes) you can remove the ICU and carry it on while checking in the larger pack.

    If you have already settled in on the Tilopa, congrats. If you are still looking, Atlas and Shimoda both have larger packs. Atlas being a 70L Adventure and Shimoda being a 60L pack. I probably would have already purchased the Atlas Athlete, the smaller of their packs, except you cannot remove the camera unit. As I do a lot of air travel, I really like the removeable ICUs.

    But that brings me to another option that I am currently investigating (I am in no rush, my current packs work, and my next trip is first week of August). But I've come across several photographers that take their ICUs and put them in non-photography packs from Osprey, Gregory, or Deuter. Just a thought, but I've come across several reviews of f-stop, Shimoda or Atlas stating they are the most comfortable camera backpacks they've ever had, "almost as comfortable as their Osprey."

    That said, something like the tilopa would have attachment points for the ICUs, rear access sized for the ICUs, places for tripods, etc. So, I am likely to end up with a dedicated camera bag myself.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 07-05-2019 at 03:35 PM.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    So, I was thinking this was going to be simple. Back in May, I decided that I was going to replace my Lowepro Flipside 400AW. It was a bit too close in size to my Gura Gear Kiboko 22L, which I very much preferred, but I still appreciated having a slightly smaller and lighter bag. Then, I went on vacation to Italy in June with the 22L, and it did well, but I really was missing space that was not dedicated to photography, ie not a solid padded cube. This got me thinking and, as I do travel a lot, I have twice been caught missing a connection and had to spend the night in the layover city with no fresh clothes but plenty of camera gear. So, a travel backpack where I could fit a change of clothes some other stuff, and my camera gear has become my main priority, with a secondary priority being a good hiking pack, and third priority being having something small I could take a basic kit to family functions, etc.

    I write this, in part, as I am still working through all of it. But this seems to be the direction I've trended. What interested me, perhaps as a mirage or delusion, is that it seems that one bag "system" that included the "interchangeable camera units" (Fstop ICUs) or equivalent could do all of these things. I am pretty sure Fstop was the first with this concept, that you had a unit that could be added to a backpack and that these units could be interchanged. But now, there are many groups doing this including Shimoda, Peak Design and then to a more limited extent, PacSafe, Mindshift, Lowepro, Boundary Design, Wandrd, etc, etc.


    But, this did get complex, as there doesn't seem to be the "perfect" bag for me. First, a lot of the market is dedicated to "EDCs" or everyday carry. But they call them EDCs, because, you know, having your own lingo is cool? But then you get into larger bags more aimed at photography that go beyond a standard solid padded cube with straps and the issue seems to be that there are two current target markets, "urban" and "adventure" with maybe "travel" being a supplied third market. Anyway, there are several that are close to being what I am after, so I am going to try to pick one this weekend.

    Since this wasn't simple and did blow up a bit, I decided to see what are "pros" using, and it really runs the gamut, but I thought I'd take a look at Canon wildlife/landscape EoLs and others.
    First, the Explorers of Light:

    • Art Wolfe references the Tamrac Anvil 27. Not one I've looked at, but it falls into the "big padded cube" territory that I think I have covered already
    • Charles Glatzer is an EoL and an "Fstop Icon." It seems he uses the larger Fstop Sukha.
    • Darrel Gulin reference Lowepro on his website. That is as far as I took that.
    • Rick Sammon references Thinktank and Mindshift and the pics on his page include an early Mindshift Rotation bag.
    • Ken Sklute is another Fstop Icon. His page indicates he uses the massive Shinn and midsized Tilopa.
    • Onne van der Wal. Nothing definitive (and I really am trying to just "browse" here)…but one reference to him and Think tank
    • Jennifer Wu. Think tank and Fstop (Tilopa).


    Richard Bernabe isn't an EoL (at least not that I am aware) but seems to be a higher end pro regardless. He also has a nice "gear" page on his website and just switched over to the Mindshift Backlight 45 Elite.


    As I've been watching youtube more, there are some professional photographers I am following, but then others just came up as I looked for bag reviews. But, here is a smattering, but again, this rabbit hole will go as deep as you would like, I am backing off:
    • Thomas Heaton: Fstop Tilopa. Formerly Lowepro user and then he also puts camera cubes in legit packs, like Osprey.
    • Nick Page: Shimoda 40L. Moved to Shimoda from Fstop Anja and Mindshift Rotation 180. Lots of love for the bag. Comfort seems key. Also recently reviewed the Atlas Adventure, did not like the comfort.
    • Adam Gibbs just switched to the Shimoda 40L. He was using the Mammut Trion pro. So, he was putting and fstop ICU inside a hiking specific pack, but switched to Shimoda for "comfort" (~13 minutes).
    • Brendon Van Son. Trying out seems to be moving to Shimoda 40L (see a trend).
    • Elia Locardi doesn't have a specific review, but in his videos seems to be sporting a larger Mindshift Backlight. I suspect the 26L, but it might be the 36L.
    • Andy Mumford. Another camera ICU inside a non-camera backpack, this time a snowboarding pack by Deuter (Freerider Pro 30).
    • Mark Denney. I am not sure if Mark is "professional photographer" or more of a youtuber travel photographer, I think the later. But he did a very nice review where Shimoda 40L and Atlas Athlete came out well above the Fstop Anja, but said all three are very good. His gearlist says he's using both the Atlas and Shimoda, but I checked out a subsequent video and he was using the Shimoda.
    • Gregg Snell. Pacsafe Venturesafe x40. This looks like a sponsorship, but still, making it work and it does look like a nice pack. My primary issue is 200 denier nylon.
    • "The Snapchick". Again, more of a youtuber? Not sure, but I found this glowing review of the Atlas Athlete.
    • Then I found this guy that seems to review backpacks...a lot. Seems to be more of a traveler that brings a camera. Thinks highly of a lot of bags, but in the end he was using the Peak Design 45L.
    • Then this guy is apparently a teacher in Connecticut, but has a youtube channel called "Crossover Daypack Reviews." Anyway, he recently went with the Peak Design 45L over a lot of other packs.
    • For another channel that does nothing but review backpacks: there is pack hacker, who also have a website where they have a more numerical scale to rate bags. Their top rated (or near top): Peak Design 45L.


    As I said, with youtube, I think you could keep going.

    Another website that is dedicated to rating bags is Carryology, which also has awards that people seem really proud of. 2019 Camera backpack of the year? Mindshift backlight 26L. But they also have an article on the Peak Design 45L, saying it should be your next bag. And have "best camera bag" rankings. Some good information, but a little all over the place.

    But, I've reached saturation and actually would like to process some photos. So, if anyone else is looking for a similar type of bag, hopefully this helps.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 07-26-2019 at 04:08 PM.

  8. #8
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    Morning Brant;
    Glad to see you've reached the saturation point. It's quite the rabbit hole, researching for a new equipment backpack.
    I went through this same dilemma a couple of years ago. I finally stepped away and simply wrote down what I wanted/needed in a day backpack. ICU was a high priority.
    I didn't have as many choices as there are today, so it was a bit simpler. I purchased the F-Stop Ajna 40L with the Essential ICU. It carries all my wildlife/landscape equipment safely; 2 bodies (1DXMKII & 5DMKIII), 3 lenses (100-400, 70-200, 24-105) and if I need a 4th lens (e.g. 16-35 2.8) there is sufficient room.
    There is still sufficient room for additional needs; H2O, snacks, etc.
    Also I find it quite comfortable.
    Good luck Brant.
    Regards
    Bill
    Last edited by BillW; 07-27-2019 at 12:56 PM.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Thanks Bill.

    Glad you are happy with the Ajna. It does seem like a good bag. I am also looking forward to an ICU system. Flying as much as I do, I am always a bit concerned that I'll have to gate check my carry on. It'll be nice to know I can pull the ICU out if that ever were to happen. Granted, its only happened to me a couple of times and never with my photography bag (although, its been close).

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Ok. Even though I believe I am done, I am going to add a few more posts with relevant information in case someone else wants something similar.

    So, this project has not been all that fun. Mostly because the information out there is pretty poor, sometimes erroneous, the market really seems to target "Adventure" and "urban" and I am looking for something in-between, probably closer to a "travel" pack, a lot of new camera bags are aimed at smaller systems and not DLSRs, and, most importantly, I do not think a "perfect" bag is out there, even though some are close.

    Mentioned above, I started with wanting to replace my small bag, hoping to get more carrying space for other gear. When I didn't find that, my search morphed and I started thinking about getting a camera bag based on ICUs that I could swap out of a camera bag.

    Starting with my needs, my camera gear tends to travel with me whether it is for work, vacation, to see family, or even "local" trips. While I would love to say I am one of those "adventure" photographers, the reality is I do not have that kind of time and the guys I tend to do that type of stuff with keep having kids (notice a drop off of waterfall pics recently???). Fortunately, cute kids . So, I am not really looking for an "Adventure" pack, but "Urban" packs typically strike me as a bit ugly (a few are nice, most-ugly) but, more importantly, apparently the backpack industry think Urban shooters only use small/mirrorless systems. In other words, most "Urban" packs do not have the depth I really need for my 5DIV with L-bracket mounted.

    So, first step is how much space I am really looking for. Trying to keep it brief, I usually carry with me: 5DIV

    • 5DIV with 24-70 II mounted
    • A telephoto lens (100-400 II, 70-200 f/2.8 II, or 70-300L depending on trip...and yeah, it is a bit weird I have the 70-300L..but I got it well before the 100-400II as an alternate to the 150-600S).
    • Screw in filters. Usually 6 of them (77 and 82 mm threads for 6/10 stop ND and CPLs).
    • G7X II
    • Often, that is it, but I could add 1-2 more lenses; the EF 16-35 often comes along if I think I'll want an UWA, then I sometimes add a prime if I think I'll be doing low light, or portraits, etc.
    • Sometimes I add a flash or two, if that is what I am doing.


    In terms of the padded area in a backpack, this gets down to both volume and footprint and number of "cubes" needed for the different lenses. Of particular importance to me, can the 70-300L stand up vertically in one space or will it need to be laid horizontally like the 70-200 f/2.8 II and 100-400 II and take up two spaces. The difference:


    Name:  backpack eval volume needed.jpg
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    This needs to be compared to available ICUs I looked at:
    Name:  backpack eval ICU dimensions.jpg
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    So, with the 70-300L needing at least 6.6 inches to stand up vertically, you technically eliminate all the ICUs (PacSafe are external dimensions, I never found internal dimensions and padding will take up some space). But, F-stop was close, but their "shallow" system was eliminated, it had to be their "Pro" series. Then, the F-Stop Pro Small would fit my small system (filters, 2 lenses, 5DIV) and the Large would more than fit my largest system (keeping in mind, if I travel with the 500 f/4 II, I will use a different pack, the Firstlight 40L).

    The PacSafe PCI's are also very close. The Shimoda's are not far behind. But, I eliminated the Shimoda as it did not appear that there is a top padding to their ICUs if you were to use the ICU only (an email to Shimoda confirmed that, which is disappointing).

    Based on this, I ordered the F-Stop Small Pro and Large Pro ICUs.

    more to come....

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