Backpacks are a sore spot for many photographers. Personally, I’ve owned so many different types over the years that I truly can’t remember them all. I know photographers who have entire gear closets filled with bags, and nothing else. The problem here, I think, is that bags look amazing online (or in a store) — seeing them, reading reviews, and even trying it on for a few minutes — but then reality kicks in a few weeks later, and you realize that your new purchase isn’t all that spectacular. That brings me to the company Peak Design. I’m sure you’ve heard of them; they made headlines a couple years ago after fundraising millions of dollars on Kickstarter for their lineup of bags. We haven’t yet reviewed one of their bags on Photography Life, so, when they reached out to send a copy for testing, I decided to see how it measures up. This review specifically covers the 20 liter version of the “Everyday Backpack.” So, does it live up to the hype? Can you finally clean out your closet of bags and turn it into something more productive? The answers are more nuanced than you might think.
For as long as I can remember, ever since I bought my first DSLR I’ve been looking for “the perfect” casual camera backpack. For me, that means a backpack that I can take anywhere, that’s easy to use, carries enough gear for a long walk or casual hike, has room to carry non-photography items and isn’t too big and bulky. When I saw the USA Gear S17 (which I’ll just call the S17 from now on), I knew it had the potential to be a camera backpack that I’d use on a regular basis.
Photographers have an interesting dilemma when choosing a bag for long hikes. Camera backpacks are great at holding cameras, but they tend to be poor choices for comfort on long hikes. For some people – those who rarely need to trek with their camera equipment – a traditional camera backpack may be more than enough. For landscape and travel photographers, however, or those who need to carry their equipment longer distances, technical hiking bags tend to be the only option. The issue with these bags is that they aren’t made with photographers in mind, meaning that gear access and tripod attachment is quite difficult. One of the companies trying to fix this problem is F-Stop Gear, who makes trekking-style backpacks with separate compartments for camera equipment. I have owned the F-Stop Loka UL since it was first released, and it has never disappointed me. So, when F-Stop announced their newest line of Mountain Series backpacks, I was excited to see some of the improvements that had been made. In this review, I will take a look at the brand new Sukha bag – at 70 liters, F-Stop Gear’s second-largest backpack.
F-Stop Gear holds a unique position in the world of backpacks. Whereas most other manufacturers produce either camera bags or hiking bags, F-Stop Gear aims to do both — they make hiking-style backpacks with swappable internal compartments for camera equipment. Just this morning, F-Stop Gear announced the addition of four new bags to their Mountain Series lineup: the Ajna, Tilopa, Sukha, and Shinn. These bags are sized at 40, 50, 70, and 80 liters, and they bring along some exciting changes from the old Mountain Series.
As the proud owner of a Lowepro Transit Backpack 350AW and a ThinkTank Retrospective 20 messenger bag, you may well be wondering why I felt the need to add yet another bag to the collection. Well, the only answer I have for you is that my relentless search for the mythical “perfect camera bag” continues.
Since purchasing a 500mm lens, I have not had a backpack that it will fit in. I have always had it in either my Airport Commuter or my Airport International bags, both made by Think Tank Photo. The Nikon 500 f/4G VR lens does not come with a bag, but instead it comes with a heavy, large case, so I needed a bag specifically for this lens. Ultimately, I chose another Think Tank product and in this review we will take a look at the Glass Limo backpack. Will we like this backpack as much as we like the other Think Tank reviews? The answer is a mixed bag (pun intended) so read on to find out the good and the bad about the Glass Limo.
Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to test and use the Airport Commuter backpack from Think Tank while taking it on trips as well as using it around town. In this review, I will look at the backpack in detail, go over its features and discuss how it has been serving my photography needs when I travel. As you may already know, I am a wildlife photographer, hence not many bags can accommodate my gear. I decided to get the Airport Commuter because it is one of the largest travel-safe backpacks offered by Think Tank, which can fit long, super telephoto lenses like 400mm f/2.8 or 500mm f/4.
The Airport Accelerator Backpack is a high quality bag worthy of consideration by anyone that frequently carries a healthy amount of gear through airports and doesn’t wish to check their bag. This bag is also ideal for wedding, portrait, and landscape photographers who often find it impractical to use a roller-style bag on wooded or irregular terrain.
When Nasim asked if I would be interested in reviewing some of the top photography bags and backpacks, I enthusiastically agreed to help out. I have always had a fascination and appreciation for high quality luggage and travel gear. Over the course of my many domestic and international adventures, I have come to appreciate well-designed gear that keeps my equipment well-protected and can endure the rigors of travel, whether it be air, land, or sea. Discovering that your luggage seam split open somewhere along a 3 flight hop across Europe, and realizing that many of your possessions are now permanently assigned to the airline version of limbo, or having your camera backpack’s main zipper go awry and seeing your $1,500 lens doing somersaults on the rocks below (and receiving extremely perfect scores for Technical Difficulty while simultaneously racking up complete zeros for Impact Resilience) can quickly cause you to rethink saving a few bucks by opting for cheaper luggage. I always recommend that people invest a reasonable amount of time investigating their luggage options and select the very best models they can afford. “Best” doesn’t always mean the highest price, however, so it pays to thoroughly investigate your alternatives.