Posts Tagged bags
The Mountainsmith Descent is a solid camera bag option for anyone who travels with their DSLR and extra camera gear. It’s not massive, so you won’t feel dwarfed by your camera equipment everywhere you go, and it’s affordable while still delivering on the features you need. The Descent is designed with a cross-chest carry (more on that in a minute) and features a handy clamshell access to the main compartment. You get a media pocket under the lid, and an external front pocket with key clip. A large front section offers plenty of organizational space for documents, a tablet or Kindle, and a wallet. The bag could definitely double as your carry-on if you travel light.
Inside, the main compartment is divided into four sections with sturdy Atilon foam with a 14 L volume. You can fit two camera bodies and two lenses, no problem. The outside is nylon with waterproof coating, and there’s a rain hood as well.
The mobility for this bag is quite good. due to a secure hip belt in addition to the shoulder strap. I know some photographers prefer backpacks to sling bags, and I do too…when hiking good distances. When I have my DSLR with me, however, I tend to want to stop often and take lots of shots. If you’re like me, and want to access your camera at any moment, the Descent’s sling shoulder strap will really work for you. I like the ability to slide the bag forward as I walk or when I stop at a sight. I don’t want to have to take the entire bag off my body to access the camera. Is the Descent going to be as comfortable to move with as a backpack style? No, but it’s darn close. If you’ll be hiking or traveling good distances between shots, a backpack might be for you, but if you’re a stop and shoot all day long kind of photographer, opt for the sling carry.
The Descent is versatile, fitting most users, but if you have a long torso, you’ll want to try it out in a brick and mortar store before ordering. The adults in our family had no problem exchanging the bag back and forth to wear, with easy adjustments to the sling strap and optional chest strap. Pick up the Descent for an exclusive $99 price at REI this December or find it on at other retailers and Mountainsmith in January.
Alternate title: OMG, I’ll never carry my ski gear in a shoulder bag ever again. Transpack specializes in backpack-style ski and snowboard boot bags, with several distinct models to choose from. What they all have in common: high quality construction, intelligent design, and comfort.
Transpack calls its design the ‘isosceles storage system’, which reminds me unpleasantly of high school geometry but, unlike my math education, turns out to be something I can actually use in the real world. What an ‘isosceles storage system means: the interior design of most Transpack bags is such that the toes of the boots meet together in the front of the pack, away from your back when you carry the load. The weight of the pack is distributed to the sides, which equals happy shoulders and neck muscles.
Go on the Transpack site, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. While they only make a few main styles of backpacks, there are several models in each category. To break it down and identify the main differences in styles, my skiing and snowboarding family and I tried out four different Transpacks. (We try to be helpful like that.)
For starters, no matter what your boot bag needs, Transpack has you well taken care of with backpack straps for an impressively comfortable carry. The question you have to ask yourself is: how big a bag do I need, how sturdy does it have to be, and where will it be traveling with me?
Transpack breakdown (clockwise from top left): Compact Pro, Sidekick, XT1, and Edge Jr.
This is the pack you need if you’re an every-weekend, all winter long kind of skier. I tested this out for myself, as I ski at least once per week all season long. The Pro comes in a standard size or a compact size, features the Isosceles Storage System (so it’s triangular shaped), and is made of super tough, treated 1680 ballistic nylon with a water resistant TPU tarpaulin bottom. You get reflective piping on the sides, a roomy central compartment for gear, side zippered pockets for ski or snowboard boots (with drainage), and many internal and external pockets, including a soft fleece-lined goggle pocket. There’s a stabilizing waist strap in addition to the shoulder straps, and a mesh padded back panel that you’d expect to see on a hiking day pack, not a boot bag. I found the compact Pro to be plenty big enough to store my helmet, my boots, gloves, two pairs of goggles, an extra shell, and all the little items that get lost in the bottom of a standard bag: sunscreen, car keys, screwdriver and binding adjustment tool, ski pass, sunglasses, and lip balm. I’d only opt for a standard for men with very large ski boots. The Pro is $119 through Transpack retailers like REI and $109 on Amazon, and comes in a variety of colors.
If you plan to use your pack a little less often (say 2-3 major ski trips per season), you can save some dough downgrading from a Pro to an XT1. The main difference: the XT1 is made of water resistant coated 600 denier polyester instead of the higher grade ballistic nylon. There’s no major difference visibly. You still get the rubberized water resistant TPU tarp bottom, and because the XT1 is one of the more popular styles, it comes in a greater variety of colors and prints. The design is the same as the Pro, including the patented Isosceles Storage System. Our 12-year-old is using the XT1, and he’s been swapping out his ski boots and snowboard boots in the boot pockets, finding that they fit both easily. You get mesh zippered size pockets and a top pocket on the outside, perfect for ski passes, keys, and other small items. Like with the Pro, helmets, gloves, and other larger items fit in the main compartment. The XT1 retails for $90 at Transpack and can be found on Amazon or Sun And Ski Sports for as low as $69. (Your other economical option is the Edge, found on Amazon for under $50.)
For kids under 10, the Edge Jr is a manageable size. We’re big fans of kids carrying their own gear, but our eight-year-old really struggled with a shoulder-strap style bag. It kept slipping off his shoulder or thumping against his legs as he navigated the parking lot. With the Edge Jr, which is pretty much identical to the XT1 but smaller, he can easily carry his bag and his skis and poles. There’s plenty of room for a kid-sized helmet, gloves, boots, and outer layer, though this bag is missing the dedicated goggle pocket. I guess Transpack (correctly) assumes that kids have already scratched their goggles beyond repair anyway. The Edge Jr is $49 at Amazon, a bit less at Paragon Sports, and comes in fun prints, like gray camo.
Transpack Sidekick and Sidekick Pro:
The sidekick is the alternative to the Isosceles Storage System style. This backpack carries boots on the outside of the pack, using a Delta strap boot system with optional, stowaway boot covers to protect boots against the elements. Personally, I prefer for my boots to be zippered into an interior dedicated pocket, but the Sidekick is perfect for my 14-year-old, who wants a more versatile bag.
How is the Sidekick different? In addition to the exterior boot carry, this bag has a traditional backpack design, complete with hydration sleeve, laptop sleeve, and an exterior zippered helmet compartment. Our teen uses his bag to and from school ski trips, so he uses the laptop sleeve to stow homework and books. He also likes that he has the option of the hydration sleeve for use as an on-mountain pack. The Sidekick Pro is made from the same ballistic nylon as the regular Pro, and the regular Sidekick sports the polyester. The pack appears pretty bulky and cumbersome loaded up with ski boots on either side and helmet strapped in the outside pocket, but in fact, my son and I were both amazed by how well the shoulder and waist straps support the weight, and how well that weight is distributed. Like the other bags, you get plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your gear organized. The Sidekick Pro retails for $120 through Transpack retailers or as low as $99 on Amazon, in a good variety of solid colors.
Outfitting your entire family in quality boot bags is an investment, but we don’t plan on needing to replace our Transpacks for a long time. I can’t say the same of the cheaper shoulder strap bags we’ve used in the past. A set of Transpacks might make for a great holiday gift to the whole family under the tree this year. Just saying.
In the world of camera bags, Crumpler’s Karachi Outpost is like every other bag’s better looking, cooler cousin. The retro rucksack style of the small and large sized Outpost sports a soft, brushed twill fabric, warm colors, and fun accents (oddly, the medium has a more urban, sleeker look). But while it looks as though its all about appearances, the Karachi is very practical as well…a welcome surprise. That brushed fabric I mentioned? It’s all-weather and water resistant. The cargo flap pockets? Each has a purpose. Hidden from view? A padded 11-inch Macbook Air or tablet pocket and detachable tripod holder.
The Karachi is extremely comfortable to wear, even when loaded with camera gear and accessories. You get nine storage ‘zones’, with a total of 31 L of space in the main compartment, plus an extendable drawstring-closure hood. The main compartment is divided into 12 separate spaces defined by adjustable velcro ‘walls’ and four elastic straps. This is ‘build your own camera compartments’ at its best: it’s possible to customize your space to suit.
The hood pocket (that’s the drawstring closure one) is fully lined, which makes it the convenient location for your sunglasses. Also handy: a stow-able, elastic rain cover that’s easy to access. You get two side stuff pockets for that grab-and-go stuff you need at the ready, and a front cargo pocket with an internal mesh pocket (maybe for memory cards or extra batteries).
When I loaded up the Karachi, I easily fit a DSLR, modest telephoto lens, and numerous additional lenses, flash, and filters. The superior construction and double-stitching was evident right away as I hefted the pack up and onto my back. I loved the equipment walls: they are definitely of superior construction to what I’ve experienced in the past. They do a great job of holding the camera and lenses in place while the pack is in motion (on your back).
I already noted how comfortable the Karachi is to wear. This is because of the extra features you don’t usually see on a camera bag (but do see on quality backpacking gear): a length-adjusting harness, vented back padding, and Air Mesh shoulder padding. The chest belt/sternum strap is adjustable and removable.
My only caveat: The Karachi’s main compartment is rear-entry. Some might consider this a plus, but I don’t like the necessity of taking the pack all the way off every time I want access to my camera. Call me lazy.
If you want to pick up a Karachi, you have three size options, as noted above. The large has a width of 38 cm/15 inches and height of 52 cm/20.5 inches. It comes in three color options: a beautiful deep blue, a bright orange, and an olive green. You really can’t go wrong. The small is a few inches shorter and leaner. Grab the large for $265 or the small for $215. Available also on Amazon for the same price.
You can’t go wrong with a classic. If you need a waterproof, rugged, all-purpose duffel bag and want to pay a bit less than you would for most adventure-gear brands of a similar size, Helly Hansen’s 50L duffel is for you.
Helly Hansen offers their duffel bags in 30L, 50L, and 90L for $75, $90, and $110 respectively. I don’t usually open my reviews with the price, but it bears noting the value here: you get all the features you’d expect in a high-quality duffel for a price that makes you want to buy two. Or three. I’ve been putting ours through its paces for eight months now, and it shows literally no sign of wear.
It’s pretty, too. When the 50L duffel arrived in our household, it caused an argument between my teen and tween sons; each wanted to claim it as their own new carry-on bag. I settled things by taking it for myself. In the months since, my oldest has reclaimed it, putting it to use as a ski gear bag. It’s so versatile, it’s been pressed into service as a day bag for snorkel gear, too.
Let’s go over features: don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles on the Helly Hansen duffel. Like others in its category, the genius is in its simplicity. But it does deliver on details. The bag is made of tough nylon tarpaulin, with extra flaps to fold over zippers and keep moisture out. Its water-resistency is what makes it a great ski or snowboard gear bag. You get compression straps to tighten everything down (and fit into airline overhead compartments) and a zippered pocket both inside and outside. There’s a name tag holder and a padded shoulder strap, but I’ve saved the best for last: hideaway backpack straps that allow you to carry the duffel on your back. As mentioned, you can tuck these straps into the bag, but we keep them out full-time.
The duffel features a nice U-shaped extra-rugged zipper to completely open up the bag, and stiff end panels makes it possible to stand the duffel on one end (great for easy storage or for resting between your knees on a bus, shuttle, or plane). It comes in a nice variety of shiny colors including orange, white with red accents, blue, red, black, or purple. Buy straight from Helly Hansen for $90, or pick one up on Amazon for a few bucks less or look at Moosejaw.
When I travel, whether for a work-related press trip or a family vacation, I like to carry-on a backpack devoted solely to my laptop, camera, iPad, and various USB cords, power cords, and other trappings of a connected life on the road. I took the STM Impulse laptop backpack along for the ride on my latest flight to check out its travel-friendliness. STM is something of an authority when it comes to laptop backpacks: if you’re not familiar with the brand, their packs are designed specifically for your computer and smart phone needs. Instead of adapting a backpack to work for your electronics, these bags are devoted solely to their transportation.
The STM Impulse has a place for everything, which means that for once, I can be super organized while traveling. You get three main compartments. The first is designed for your laptop, but instead of featuring a laptop sleeve on the inside panel of the backpack (the one that rests against your back), STM’s sleeve is located on the interior of the outer panel, away from your back. As a result, when you sit down with the pack on, you’re not squished against your laptop, and your computer is better protected. It’s certainly a more comfortable way to carry your laptop or tablet. An iPod sleeve rests against the back panel. The second compartment fits a text book or two, or a light jacket or novel, plus features a thinner document sleeve perfect for papers, a folder or two, or other thin documents. It’s a nice place for a flight itinerary or boarding passes. The third compartment features a whole array of smaller zippered compartments for your phone, wallet, pens, and any other smaller items. A final bottom compartment is ideal for USB cords and power adaptors.
While the Impulse has a place for everything, when a laptop is stowed (remember, it’s against the front of the back compartment) it encroaches on the open space in the second compartment, making that space for travel items pretty tight. The zippers for each compartment go only 2/3 of the way down, which means you can’t open the pack wide to find things or retrieve items. When packed, everything is secure and comfortable to carry, but usability on the plane or in the car is hampered.
The zippers do have nice pull-handles and a back panel ‘pass-through’ sleeve allows the pack to be slipped over a carry-on rollie’s handle. You get a chest/sternum strap and it’s very comfortable on. You also get two water bottle pockets, one of which can be zippered closed (and used to store keys, etc). I used mine for smaller items I wanted zippered, but with access to, such as memory cards and zip storage drives. The backpack comes in sizes XS-L (size is determined by laptop size). An XS fits an 11″, for example, and a M, which is what I tried, fits a laptop of 15″.
Bottom line: the STM Impulse will store all your electronics safely and comfortably, but size up if you want plenty of space to shift things around easily. My only wish would be that the compartment zippers allow the pack to fully open. Pick up the Impulse on Amazon for $100 or through a retailer from the STM site. Comes in black or grey.