Finding the Right Backpack

I have a backpack problem. The problem is that there always seems to be one more backpack that I want even though I have several. This is similar to my coffee mug problem, but more expensive. I even find myself watching reviews of camera backpacks for entertainment(?). You are justified in thinking me a bit off for this, but as someone that enjoys hiking and photography, I really appreciate a good functional backpack. Below are some of the backpacks that I currently have. There is another large backpack in my closet for hike-in camping, sigh. I just really like a good backpack.

For the last year or so the gray back in the top of the image has been my main camera backpack. I bought it because it was kind of small and I didn’t want a huge backpack and I have been mostly happy with this backpack but when I have all my camera gear in it, it is stuffed to the point that the zippers almost won’t close. Also, I can mount a tripod and only one water bottle. I want to mount a tripod and two water bottles. So, as I liked the quality of the gray 18L Mindshift backpack that I have been using, I checked out the newer, larger 26L Mindshift backpack (green backpack above) and it seems to have everything I want in a backpack. The other backpacks across the bottom from left to right are an old hiking backpack with a broken handle (getting rid of it), an old cheap Amazon basics camera backpack that I didn’t like (getting rid of it), and my computer backpack.

So, what makes this backpack better than the one that I have? It has a bit more volume without being a lot larger than the previous backpack and this tiny bit of extra space really matters. Below are the old (gray) and new (green) backpacks side-by-side. You can see that in the smaller gray backpack I have room for a camera and lenses, but in the larger green backpack, there is additional smaller storage on one side for other items. All of these other items would go in the smaller front pouch of the gray backpack and take up a lot of space and believe it or not this makes a big difference.

Below is what the larger green backpack looks like fully loaded with my stuff and the lenses all have their hoods on too!. Notice that on the left side I now have room for a large filter hood and battery charger, and in the top-center below I can even fit in my teleconverter. As a bonus, the rain-hood fits in there too and doesn’t occupy the front pocket. This will be much less frustrating than fishing all of this stuff out of the front pouch of my old smaller backpack. The new backpack also has a front pouch and now I have room to pack a light raincoat or even a laptop in it along with the other miscellaneous items.

And the new backpack really isn’t much bigger on the outside, for all the extra internal space because it is well thought-out. It is a bit expensive, but the cheapo backpacks will do nothing but frustrate you in the field. My smaller gray backpack wasn’t terribly frustrating in the field, but when I wanted to do certain things like grab a filter or the teleconverter, it did require some fumbling around.

The next important feature: a tripod AND two water bottles. On a long hike, especially in the summer, having two water bottles is very important and with the smaller gray backpack that meant either two water bottles OR one water bottle and a tripod. With this pack I can have it all. There is a tripod feet holder that comes out of a pouch at the bottom of the backpack and a couple of quick disconnect straps to secure it. The side pockets are deep and will hold the large water bottles that I like to carry.

But wait, you may be thinking that with that big tripod strapped back there, you won’t be able to get at the camera easily. Be not concerned, this backpack is designed with the camera compartment opening on the opposite side. So the water bottles and tripod can stay secured while you change lenses or grab a filter. With this design, you can leave the waste straps secured around your hips, get out of the shoulder straps, and spin the backpack around to access the camera compartment all without taking off the backpack. This is a bit awkward but beats laying your backpack down in the mud. The picture below is from the website demonstrating the reversal.

The image below is my view with the backpack around my waste and the camera compartment open. The water bottles and tripod are all attached to the backpack.

This morning I took my new backpack out for a spin at the wildlife refuge hoping to shoot a photo of the golden-cheeked warblers that have just arrived for spring, but they seemed to be hiding from me. Another photographer showed me a fine photo of one that he took farther down the trail from me, but I couldn’t find one. I did get a photo of a black-crested titmouse which is a fine little bird too. Thanks for reading.

26 thoughts on “Finding the Right Backpack

  1. When previously working for publications I acquired a few shoulder bags. At one point though I started using Mountain Smith day hike and touring bags with an insert forcing me to carry less and looking less like a photographer, necessary for some assignments and to look more like a tourist.
    Now though I picked up a couple the Mindshift 18L bags. One for assignment work and one for hiking and critter photography. The assignment bag I pair with a couple of ThinkTank belt pouches to carry the lenses once I am on assignment, and for quicker easier access when shooting. For the critter shooting it’s easier to pause and pull something out of the backpack although I mostly use a long lens but still carry a wide.
    It’s nice to have options though. The build quality of the ThinkTank products is excellent.


    1. I don’t really want the backpack to be an obvious camera backpack and I don’t think that the Mindshift backpacks are too obvious unless you have the tripod on it.

      I alternate between shooting landscapes and the occasional animal if the opportunity arises, so I end up with a lot of stuff to carry as I don’t want to miss out. I do have a lighter weight camera that I take for more casual hikes and I will use the smaller backpack for that.


  2. That is fantastic! I love backpacks. One reason I rarely take my good camera is because I didn’t know there were packs like this. Thanks for sharing these details. Do you have a link for the green one ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The smaller 18L version is a bit easier to managed, but if you have a lot of stuff the 26L is better. They had them on the shelf at Precision Camera and I looked at both of them side by side in the store.


  3. Like churchmousie, I didn’t know backpacks for cameras existed also. I don’t need one, but I do like the feature where you can reverse the backpack and access the contents without taking the pack off. If I could find a standard backpack with that handy feature, I think I’d buy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keeping the camera, lenses, and other assorted things in separate padded snug compartments so they don’t rattle around together is a really nice feature. Supporting a tripod is another really nice feature.

      But, I do acknowledge that I am a bit of a sucker for all this stuff.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a camera bag with padded compartments that I bought about 10 years ago. It cost about a hundred dollars and took about a month to ship from Japan. It works pretty good, though, because I’ve never had a broken camera while using it.


  4. I never knew that there was such differences in backpacks. I have learned something today. That green back pack is very impressive!
    Sooo ….. like all your backpacks have different reasons that you have them, kind of like a woman and her 👞 shoes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If I carried that much stuff these days, I’d end up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. When I traveled to Europe with my camera gear, it became tedious schlepping all my lens and ‘stuff.’ Course my images aren’t impressive (but then again, I’m not sure they were before 😉 ) Looks like a terrific upgrade. Good luck finding the elusive bird.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Although I don’t use backpacks for the same purpose as you, I can relate to the search for the perfect backpack and accumulate several options. Supportive padded straps are great for travelling and water bottle pouches are absolutely essential. An accessible pouch for camera that is secure is also welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

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