Darin McQuoid Blog Reviews Tutorials River Directory

Adventure Camera Backpacks Review

To find a camera backpack that can adventure; long hikes, skiing, mountain biking and international travel. Designed to travel light on photo gear but capable of carrying a light pro kit in a pinch: full frame body, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, and two flashes or UWA zoom.

My criteria for this review are:
Fit                     -How well does it carry with both light and heavy loads
Looks               - A good camera bag doesn't look like a camera bag (thus scream steal me).
Cargo Space     - How much and how well does it hold equipment.
Access              - Ease of access to access the equipment
Price                 - Quality to price ratio

Camera bags used in this review; ThinkTank Streetwalker, DaKine Mission, Timbuk2 Espionage, Crumpler Karachi Outpost S, Mindshift Panorama and F-Stop Kenti.

ThinkTank Streetwalker. $170

In this test I found the Streetwalker to be the best dedicated photo adventure bag for those who like to set the pack on the ground and shoot, as it opens wide revealing all the gear and has easy access. It carries quite well for hiking but is behind the Espionage and Panorama for biking and other action sports, it rides up when downhill mountain biking. The included rain cover is not attached, pros and cons of that are obvious. It can fit light pro kit + down jacket but needs to be reconfigured if lenses are switched. The tripod tripod carry system works well, except tripod must be taken off to get camera out. It's a nice touch that the tripod carrying straps can be removed when a sleek pack is desired.

The Streetwalker has a problem common to many of these bags, perhaps because design was carried over from the film camera era when cameras were thinner from front to back. In particular full fame dSLR cameras have thick bodies and the center divider extends too far into the body storage slot, thus the center divider must be pushed to the side wasting valuable space.

+ Removable waist belt.
+ Nice narrow size, good for travel, ie airline aisles.
+ main compartment zipper locks.
+ business card holder visible on exterior.
+ good water bottle holder.
+ breathable back.
+ see through internal pockets for filters and what not.
- Rides up while mtn biking.
- Full frame camera too thick for main divider.

Fit                    ***** hiking, *** biking
Looks              ***   technical
Access             ***   can unsling one shoulder and pull camera out
Cargo Space    ****   Good for camera gear but no other storage
Price                ****  Lower Than Average

DaKine Mission 25 $150

The DaKine Mission 25 is the cheapest pack tested, and while it has some nice bells and whistles, this pack just doesn't know what kind of a pack it is. It makes a pretense of being backcountry pack but lacks key features, while falling short of the other camera specific bags. The fit is large, too large for me at 5'6" and it's not an adjustable pack. Reports from a friend who is 6'2" 230lbs says it feels about right. It doesn't look like a camera bag, so that's nice to traveling incognito. There is nowhere on this pack to hold a water bottle or water bladder outside the two main compartments. When was the last time you went out riding in the backcountry and didn't bring water? This bag has the same center divider issue as the Streetwalker, not ideal for full frame. As the opening is away from the body and the zippers don't lock it is relatively open to theft while carrying.

+ Camera dividers nice soft fleecy material.
+ large enough main compartment to hold a body and attached 70-200 or 24-70 without changing layout.
+ Sternum strap buckle is also a whistle.
+many pockets, not sure what to put in so many pockets
+ two fleece lined filter pockets.
+ removable padded section if you want a regular backpack.
+ integrated rain cover
- Can fit small pro kit, but not all in camera compartment; all flash equip jumbled together in extra gear pocket.
- tripod must be taken off to get camera out.
- Fixed waist belt.
- snowboard straps are also tripod holder, so you can't bring both.
- No water storage.
- Full frame camera too thick for main divider.
- access opening is smaller than actual compartment, so it can be a pain to get gear in and out.

Fit                    *** hiking, * biking
Looks              ****  looks like a school pack
Cargo Space    ***    Dedicated camera department plus extra storage pocket
Access             **     must set down to access camera, opening smaller than storage space
Price                ****   Cheapest by up to $100

Timbuk2 Espionage $200 (discontinued)

I'd call this the best travel / adventure bag that happens to carry a camera too. It's the only bag in the review with a dedicated laptop sleeve and my favorite for international travel if traveling light on camera gear.

+ bottle opener built in!
+ removable sternum strap.
+ removable waist belt.
+ expandable top pocket.
+ good water bottle holder.
+ easy open zipper, has snaps to keep from accidental opening and would make theft harder
+ laptop sleeve.
+ breathable back.
+ integrated rain cover.
- Can fit small pro kit but things have to be split apart into different compartments, IE all flash equip jumbled together in extra gear pocket.
- tripod holder sucks but you don't have to take it off for access.
- organizer pocket almost impossible to look at, thus hard to organize.
- roll top is unique, not quite as fast as a zipper but much faster than a traditional drybag style roll top.

Crumpler Karachi Outpost S $215

This bag looks fantastic on paper but carries like a box with straps. It rides super high and hits the back of my head while mountain biking. It must be made for really small people, because at 5'6" I found it way too small, the padded section of the shoulder straps is too short and I had bare webbing digging into my ribs. There is no waist belt, and it's unstable while adventuring and uncomfortable with light or heavy loads. In fact it's uncomfortable empty. Really this pack has no redeeming characteristics, unless you are a pygmy.

+ most rigid camera compartment to protect gear.
+ opens on carrying side of pack, so no theft issues while wearing (good for international travel).
+ accessory pocket opens wide.
+ breathable if uncomfortable back padding.
+ integrated rain cover.
- accessory pocket is on opposite side of pack from camera access.
- worst tripod carrying ability of them all, don't have to take tripod off to access camera if tripod has not hit you in the head and knocked you out.

- water bottle pocket is not made of flexible material so good luck with that.
- no waist belt.
- full frame camera too thick for main divider.
- can fit all the gear but have to change layout or switch lenses to fit it back in.
- opening much smaller than interior space, hard to get things in and out.

Fit                        ** hiking, ** biking
Looks                  ***  unique look, not at all like a camera bag, except it's so small as to look silly on a standard sized person.
Cargo Space        ***    Dedicated camera department larger than it looks but the "expandable" extra storage pocket is very small.
Access                 **    must take off to access camera, opening much smaller than interior so items hang up when trying to access equipment.
Price                     ***   Just above average.

My favorite for pure adventure, it carries the best and the camera is quickly accessible. Camera storage is one of the smallest, but the top extra storage compartment is large. This bag carries well and is the most adjustable; like a true backpacking pack. For people into fast moving photography this is the pick of the group thanks to it's unique access design. Tripod lovers might choose another pack like the streetwalker, which has better access when set on the ground.  You can't fit a body and attached 70-200mm 2.8 in the camera compartment, but fit a body with attached 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8 nose down in the camera compartment with flashes in the extra pocket. What's special about this bag is that with the use of a quick release the waist belt (camera compartment) swivels around giving the user full access with no need to take the pack off.

+ water reservoir pocket.
+ largest non camera gear pouch by far.
+ bikes great, right there with the Timbuk2.
+ real waist belt.
+ tripod carrying system tucks away out of view when not in use.
+ shoulder strap adjustable at the top too.
+ breathable back.
+ tripod does not need taken off to get camera out.

- not fun to access if you take your pack and want access to every piece of equipment.

- least cargo for overall external size due to swiveling waist bag design.
- does not come with rain cover.

Fit                       ****  hiking, **** biking
Looks                 ****   looks like a small backpacking bag, tech but not camera bag
Cargo Space       ***     Dedicated (small) camera department plus the largest extra storage pocket
Access                *****  full access to camera while wearing bag
Price                   ***     Average

F-Stop Kenti $249

I wanted this pack to work, but it just doesn't. It has a unique design with gear accessible from side pockets, so no need to set the pack down but you do need to take one shoulder strap off. In use there is no advantage over the ThinkTank Streetwalker or Timbuk2 Espionage, both of which can be accessed with one strap taken off.  More often then not I just set the pack down, then if switching lenses have to switch from side to side opening and closing more zippers, then, finally, if I want an accessory the pocket is on the back side that and literally impossible to open fully. The extra storage compartment is a roll top...seriously, it's like getting in a drybag when you want to get a powerbar out. Jack of all trades, master of none? Worse access than the Mindshift Panorama while wearing, worse access than the ThinkTank Streetwalker while on the ground. Looks good though.

+ camera dividers nice soft fleecy material.
+ has a nice filter or sunglass pocket.
+ water reservoir pocket.
+ sternum strap is also emergency whistle.
+ top extra compartment is padded too, so extra padded space for camera gear.
+ great camera gear space for overall size of pack.
+ don't have to take tripod off to access camera.
+ - not sure if this is better or not, it has no rain cover but all fabric is "water resistant".
- really small opening for hydration valve, no 90 degree versions will fit through.
- on user side of pack, water pouch creates a bulge on the back when it's full of water.
- roll top sucks for access but it does makes the bag look smaller when extra storage pocket is empty.
- non-breathable back.
- zipper for accessory pocket should turn another 90 degrees and open to give good access, as is there is a lot of digging by hand to find items out of sight. There is even a zippered pocket out of view.
- camera pocket openings smaller than internal size.
- non removable waist belt, but it is one of the better ones.

Fit                       ***  hiking, ** biking (rides up on steep descents)
Looks                 ****   looks like a small technical bag
Cargo Space       ****   Decent camera compartments plus the one of the largest extra storage pockets
Access                **     with the side openings I thought it would be better, but it ends up the same as any easy to open top zipper, but hard to get multiple items out at once.
Price                   **     Above average

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...