If you’ve read my reviews of Think Tank Photo bags you know I am a fan. So when I heard that some of the people from Think Tank started another brand called MindShift Gear, I decided to take a look.
With the same attention to quality and detail, MindShift Gear is tackling a different segment of the photo industry. Think Tank is primarily designed with working pros in mind – people who often work out of their camera bag (photo journalists, wedding shooters, etc.) MindShift Gear is a group of committed professional photographers and product designers who support conservation and protection of our natural resources and planet. Their focus is on super, ultra, low-weight bags aimed at day hikers who want to go off road and carry their gear on their backs while still having reasonable access.
I am not the target of this sort of bag but I know many of the young photographers I chat with are interested in super low weight bags. After all a 10-mile hike with a heavy photo bag isn’t fun. But it’s also a hassle to have to hoist your bag off your back just to grab a camera. MindShift Gear mostly tackles this problem with a side-panel design that allows reasonably quick access to cameras, lenses, and accessories without first having to take off the bag. The backpacks also offer generous space for personal belongings, zippered storage, a hydration reservoir and electronics. Additional features include an integrated tripod mounting system and highly breathable shoulder straps.
These are all things that matter to hikers. But what matters most is weight. The Dual 36L model I tested is the biggest one of the three that make up this product line. It is stunningly light. It weighs just 3.3 lbs (includes rain cover, removable shoulder strap, removable camera compartment). That’s half of what some competing bags weigh.
On that front alone, this is a bag worth considering. MindShift Gear says this bag holds one full frame DSLR (think Canon 5DMKII or Nikon D810) and two to four “standard zoom lenses. Alternatively, you can hold one gripped body (think Canon 1DX or Nikon D4S) and two to three lenses. In practice, I found that the gripped 1DX fits fine but by the time I get all the stuff in there I need there’s only room for two smallish lenses or one larger zoom. Space is at a premium as you would expect in a bag sold based on keeping things light.
The bag’s volume is 36 liters (9.5 gallons) and the top compartment can be used for things like personal weather protection, spare clothing, camping supplies, food, etc. You can put a 15” laptop in the bag as well and a standard sized tablet like an iPad.
How does the company save weight and still give decent volume for storage? They use lightweight fabrics, thinner webbing, lighter buckles, and shoulder straps with less padding,” said Doug Murdoch, MindShift Gear’s CEO and lead designer. “This allows the outdoor enthusiast to be able to go farther and faster as they are not weighed down by their pack.”
I was impressed with the bag’s manufacture quality. It offered good water resistance, and all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellant coating, plus the underside of the fabric has a polyurethane coating. It also has high-quality YKK® Fuse zippers, 100D nylon shadow rip-stop, 420D high-density nylon, 210D velocity nylon, 320G UltraStretch mesh, 350G airmesh, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
It isn’t an inexpensive bag because it costs money to build something tough but light.
My only complaint about this bag is that it takes some getting used to if you use the supplied camera insert. You have to work to get it out. I assume with time and use, it would loosen up and egress more simply. It’s not my personal cup of tea but I can see why they did it this way. I would probably drop the insert if I was using this bag and use my old fashioned camera protection solution, i.e., wrap each camera body in an old stocking cap. Using this method I could save space and get easier access.
At $199.99 retail this bag is not cheap. But it is a very high-quality bag, well thought out and easily one of the best solutions I’ve seen for the extreme outdoor hiker/photographer. I wish the insert bag were easier to use but then again that may just be me and operator error.
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