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Backpack help please

Greg Haag

Member
I am looking for an approx 40-50L backpack. I currently have the F-Stop Tilopa set up with large ICU, tech camara, 3 lenses and the usual stuff, with a total weight of about 32lbs. I like the setup, but the straps seem to cut into my shoulders and the waistband does not support the weight as well as I would like. This is not a problem on shorter hikes, but on longer hikes begins to get uncomfortable. Does anyone have a recommendation on an alternative?
Thanks in advance,
Greg
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
I am looking for an approx 40-50L backpack. I currently have the F-Stop Tilopa set up with large ICU, tech camara, 3 lenses and the usual stuff, with a total weight of about 32lbs. I like the setup, but the straps seem to cut into my shoulders and the waistband does not support the weight as well as I would like. This is not a problem on shorter hikes, but on longer hikes begins to get uncomfortable. Does anyone have a recommendation on an alternative?
Thanks in advance,
Greg
Greg,

Inevitably, I've joined the Atlas Fan Club™. The heavy waist belt, in particular, is the most comfortable I have ever used. I'm one of those people with no useful waist or hips to hold up a backpack, so it takes a good belt, indeed, to find my hipbones.

The Athlete is on the small size for camera gear, unless one puts an ICU in the top compartment to extend its lens/body capacity. A plus is that all the weight stays very close to your back. It is expandable for clothes and food. The Adventure is a bigger and heavier pack that is too heavy for me if I load it with more than the Athlete can hold. It is, also, superb. The three Atlas waist belts are all interchangeable - Heavy, Medium (useless for me), and the unpadded Travel (taking a pack with a heavy duty belt through a plane or train aisle can be an interesting exercise in eliciting hostility. )

Matt
 

Pelorus

Member
G'day Greg, backpacks are a pain...indeed bags are. My wife calls me "The Bag Lady" because of my predilection to buy and discard bags.

Having said that I've recently sold an F-Stop Ajna that had sat unused for months because it was so useless to get into and not much good to carry. I replaced it with an Ortlieb Atrack which I carried for 32 days straight in Japan recently and loved. It's 100% waterproof, fits well and access to ICUs is perfect - open a single zip on the side closest to your back and you have complete access. I have the 25 litre but they come in 25, 35 and 45 litre I believe. I use the Small Pro ICU which is enough for the Fuji 50R and the two zooms. I'm about to move my Alpa out of its Large Pro ICU into a Small Pro which it will fit into OK. I think the 25 litre will hold 2 Small Pros and the larger ones obviously more.

There is a photography focused review here.

The backpack looks deceptively simple as does the harness. However it works really well and I like simple. There is also an optional carrying system that attaches to allow you to carry stuff externally - for instance tripod. There are some more instructional and explanatory videos here.

I'm sold on mine...and thinking of getting another bigger one. I particularly like the ability to adjust the position of the back pads and indeed if you have a shorter than normal back they have an ST version - short torso.

Backpacks are such personal things but I do think this one is worth searching out and trying on. I use and abuse a range of Ortlieb bags and they are super tough and just keep doing what they should. The bags don't fail and neither do the zips.

Hope that's useful.

Mike

I am looking for an approx 40-50L backpack. I currently have the F-Stop Tilopa set up with large ICU, tech camara, 3 lenses and the usual stuff, with a total weight of about 32lbs. I like the setup, but the straps seem to cut into my shoulders and the waistband does not support the weight as well as I would like. This is not a problem on shorter hikes, but on longer hikes begins to get uncomfortable. Does anyone have a recommendation on an alternative?
Thanks in advance,
Greg
 

kdphotography

Active member
Greg,

I also was looking at the Atlas Athlete, with available retro Adventure waist belt for added waist comfort under load. I have the fstop Loka which works "okay" for me, but I also have that svelte figure that Matt brags about :LOL:, and I also don't have much of a butt to help hang that waist belt under heavier loads. It appears from the provided dimensions that the Athlete is slightly too small for a technical camera, such as my Cambo WRS1600, unless you break it down and lay it flat. I like to keep my Cambo intact when hiking, well supported and packed, to enable quick set up and shooting. I spoke with Andy Lerman (also a member of Dante's Inferno/Purgatory) and he confirmed that the Athlete was too narrow for a technical camera unless I laid the camera body flat. The Adventure model would work but is a bit too big for what I need.

I have since ordered the Mindshift Backlight from Thinktankphoto. This back has a more generously padded waistbelt and provides needed support. There are three sizes available. My neighbor has the 26L so I was able to try it own and experiment with the Cambo gear. Turned on its side, the Cambo fits in the 26L perfectly and is just big enough to hold my technical camera gear and filters, with ample pockets for food, accessories, etc. The 36L would definitely give more room for gear and probably a better choice for you carrying more gear.

The Mindshift comes in soon. If all works out, I'll probably sell my Fstop Loka with two small ICUs.

Ken
 
I’m also part of the Atlas fan club. I have the Adventure pack and find it perfect for either my Cambo gear or PhaseOne XF gear. When I travel to a photography destination, I put the camera gear in a roller bag (ThinkTank International) and bring that onboard the flight. To date, I haven’t tried to carry on the Adventure pack and instead I check it in a suitcase or duffle bag.

Jacob
 

drunkenspyder

New member
Greg,

I also was looking at the Atlas Athlete, with available retro Adventure waist belt for added waist comfort under load. I have the fstop Loka which works "okay" for me, but I also have that svelte figure that Matt brags about :LOL:, and I also don't have much of a butt to help hang that waist belt under heavier loads. It appears from the provided dimensions that the Athlete is slightly too small for a technical camera, such as my Cambo WRS1600, unless you break it down and lay it flat. I like to keep my Cambo intact when hiking, well supported and packed, to enable quick set up and shooting. I spoke with Andy Lerman (also a member of Dante's Inferno/Purgatory) and he confirmed that the Athlete was too narrow for a technical camera unless I laid the camera body flat. The Adventure model would work but is a bit too big for what I need.

I have since ordered the Mindshift Backlight from Thinktankphoto. This back has a more generously padded waistbelt and provides needed support. There are three sizes available. My neighbor has the 26L so I was able to try it own and experiment with the Cambo gear. Turned on its side, the Cambo fits in the 26L perfectly and is just big enough to hold my technical camera gear and filters, with ample pockets for food, accessories, etc. The 36L would definitely give more room for gear and probably a better choice for you carrying more gear.

The Mindshift comes in soon. If all works out, I'll probably sell my Fstop Loka with two small ICUs.

Ken
I am another Atlas Athlete fan. If I am traveling by car, it is always my first choice; very comfortable and functional. I can carry excess gear in the car, and keep the Atlas lighter by taking only what I need for the specific trail and trek. When I fly, though, it's not enough.

For that, I still carry a Shimoda 40, and I swap out the Pelican 1535 yellow foam case between the Pelican and the Shimoda. For the flight, the flattened Shimoda goes in my checked luggage. The Pelican and gear go on board with me. When I get to my destination, I take the foam container out of the Pelican and slip it into the Shimoda instead of using Shimoda ICUs. Doesn't always work perfectly, but for that one time in ten when on a smaller plane or regional carrier, I will take out the mission critical items like the Phase DB and the 40-80 lens, or the Hassy body and lenses, stuff them into my nearly empty PD 20L and let the Pelican get gate-checked and feel pretty confident.

I confess that I was suckered, er, seduced into crowdfunding the Nomatic backpack kit, and am waiting on its arrival. I have hopes for it, but it may end up being a gift to a family member. We'll see. I have bought and tried to love several ThinkTank products, without success. The Backlight looks decent, so I might give TT another go, and I plan to explore the Ortleib Atrack.
 

kdphotography

Active member
If only the Atlas Athlete camera core were about an inch or so bigger than its current 5.25" ----the 6.25" of the Adventure model would be perfect.

Think tank are better as "day packs" and I too have had limited success with TT. The TT Mindshift series, imho, is something (finally) designed to go off trail. Fingers-crossed that the Mindshift Backlight fills the bill.

Let us know more about the Nomatic and Ortlieb.

ken
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
If only the Atlas Athlete camera core were about an inch or so bigger than its current 5.25" ----the 6.25" of the Adventure model would be perfect.

Think tank are better as "day packs" and I too have had limited success with TT. The TT Mindshift series, imho, is something (finally) designed to go off trail. Fingers-crossed that the Mindshift Backlight fills the bill.

Let us know more about the Nomatic and Ortlieb.

ken
I completely agree about the depth limitation of the Athlete. Almost every lens has to lie on its side (with the pack on the ground), but having a 6"x6" body like the GFX100 means using up a large square chunk of real estate. My solution:



The GFX100 body is resting in a small f-stop ICU sitting in the main compartment. Of course, if your lenses don't fit in the Athlete depth, then this trick is useless. I find it a great compromise.


Matt
 

drunkenspyder

New member
If only the Atlas Athlete camera core were about an inch or so bigger than its current 5.25" ----the 6.25" of the Adventure model would be perfect.

Think tank are better as "day packs" and I too have had limited success with TT. The TT Mindshift series, imho, is something (finally) designed to go off trail. Fingers-crossed that the Mindshift Backlight fills the bill.

Let us know more about the Nomatic and Ortlieb.

ken
Will do. FWIW, I can get either of the Phase XF + lens kit, or Cambo 1600 with lenses in the Athlete with no difficulty; and yes, I can feel the 1600 in my back, even using something like Matt's "top shelf" trick. ;)
 

jng

Member
Will do. FWIW, I can get either of the Phase XF + lens kit, or Cambo 1600 with lenses in the Athlete with no difficulty; and yes, I can feel the 1600 in my back, even using something like Matt's "top shelf" trick. ;)
Greg,

I'd be interested to see a picture of your layout with the Cambo kit.

At the moment I'm using an f-stop medium slope ICU to hold my Cambo 1250 (laid facing up at the deep end w/IQ attached but no lens - there's a price to be paid space-wise for those sexy wooden grips), 2-3 lenses plus various doo-dads. This fits nicely in the f-stop Guru with just enough space on top to take a Wine Country Camera filter holder plus filters. When I want to take along a few extra lenses (or my little X1D) I move everything over to a Loka and place a small shallow ICU on top that's accessible through the top hatch. I like the size of the pack but find the thin straps to give a less than comfortable fit. The Tilopa (48 liters?) is much better but just too big for most of my outings. It would be nice to find an alternative. However I like the modularity of the f-stop ICUs (and also the ability to pull the ICU out in cases when the pack won't fit in the overhead compartment of a regional jet) so I'd want a pack that would accept these.

John
 

ShaunQ

New member
A few months back I bought an Ortlieb Atrack 25 after reading Pelorous positive comments and photos shared, I also bought the fstop small pro ICU for my XF/IQ360/80 setup. I liked the design of the pack and it sure is dripping in quality and good design, the harness being a standout and super comfy to wear, all the loose straps can be tucked away permanently too making it easy to handle and look good.

Probly it’s only downside is the lack of an external pocket or small compartment of any kind, I recently travelled return to New Zealand from Australia. I found it a bit of a pain when you are in and around airports where quick access to passport/documents/iPad would have been good. Otherwise it ain’t that hard to rest it down and unzip for access to the area above the ICU.

I also spent an afternoon wading/fishing on a river and can confirm its waterproof claims, a few times crossing the river the backpack was submerged, and each time opening up to find complete dryness inside :)

.
 

Pelorus

Member
G'day Shaun, That's interesting feedback. In Japan I carry a JR Pass (which you have to show repeatedly at train stations) and a passport and the problem of the external pocket reared its head. I solved it by going to Daiso - the $2 shop - and buying a clear "pencil case" and lanyard. I attached the lanyard to a strap on the Atrack and the pencil case and put the required docs into the pencil case and in turn put that in the water bottle pocket. It worked well. I could just reach for it when I needed it but it was always attached to the pack.

Generally though the lack of external pockets is both a negative and a positive. It keeps things simple but it does have challenges.


A few months back I bought an Ortlieb Atrack 25 after reading Pelorous positive comments and photos shared, I also bought the fstop small pro ICU for my XF/IQ360/80 setup. I liked the design of the pack and it sure is dripping in quality and good design, the harness being a standout and super comfy to wear, all the loose straps can be tucked away permanently too making it easy to handle and look good.

Probly it’s only downside is the lack of an external pocket or small compartment of any kind, I recently travelled return to New Zealand from Australia. I found it a bit of a pain when you are in and around airports where quick access to passport/documents/iPad would have been good. Otherwise it ain’t that hard to rest it down and unzip for access to the area above the ICU.

I also spent an afternoon wading/fishing on a river and can confirm its waterproof claims, a few times crossing the river the backpack was submerged, and each time opening up to find complete dryness inside :)

.
 

Wayne Fox

Workshop Member
:worthless:

Seriously, some terrific information, but some pics of the gear in the various bags, including ICU’s and what’s actually in the bag would be extremely helpful. Matt’s post was great ... thinking very seriously about the two bags and seeing how he had to cram the body up at the top might rule it out for me . Also mention bags that might not be carryon compatible.

We need a perpetual bag thread like the great tripod and head thread. Seriously a bag thread and a tripod/head thread should be pinned to the top of the forum!

Like most of you I have been in search of the holy grail of camera bags for my entire career (for me we’re talking over 40 years) and have everything from a LowePro that when empty weighs 20 lbs (can I hear useless for that), to a couple that turned out much smaller than I thought and are sitting brand new in the closet.
 

Greg Haag

Member
Wayne, I agree on the pictures, so I will dive in here. Based on comments from this thread, I ordered 2 backpacks that seemed to best fit my needs. My comments here are highly subjective and based on how they fit my frame (5'9) and weight (165).

First of all here is roughly how the 3 compare on weight.
F-Stop Ajna (not Tilopa as mention earlier) with large ICU approx 5.46lbs
Atlas Adventure 6.7lbs,
Thinktank Mindshift Backlight 36L approx 4.9lbs.

Backpacks-1.jpg

For Comfort based on how the straps feel on my shoulders and how the waistband fits and takes some of the weight off my shoulders, I would rank them as follows. (This comparison was based on approx 3 mile hike with each with approx 30lbs of weight in the pack.
1. Atlas Adventure
2. Thinktank Mindshift Backlight 36L
3. F-Stop Ajna

Backpacks-2.jpg

Here are a few other observations as they relate to my use.

Atlas Adventure - Carries a ton (I hope to get to some pictures here soon). If I was going on a long hike and needed a place for non-photography related items like clothing layers, this pack would be great. Probably my favorite for handling my Gitzo Series 3 Tripod. My primary problem with the Atlas Adventure is I think it might work better on a longer torso than mine. If you look at the side view (below), it almost curves forward and puts my head/neck in an uncomfortable position.

Thinktank Mindshift Backlight 36L - Carries a surprising amount for its size. I found it comfortable to wear. The outside walls of the pack are a bit more structured and might provide some added protection for the gear. If you have much non photographic gear such as layers of clothing, you might be more limited here.

F-Stop Ajna - Really my only complaints on this pack are the straps and the way my tripod fits. I prefer the ICU system for my workflow, the ease in keeping another ICU with a dslr setup that I can easily swap out when needed. It provide some additional storage for a few non photography items. I do not typically carry a laptop to tether these days, but both the Atlas and Thinktank offer better options on this point.

Backpacks-3.jpg
 
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Greg Haag

Member
My current test is with the Thinktank Mindshift Backlight 36L, I have taken all of the spacers out and put in the F-Stop large ICU. For my workflow I like the ability to switch out ICU's. Here is what that currently looks like.

Backpacks-5.jpg
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
My primary problem with the Atlas Adventure is I think it might work better on a longer torso than mine. If you look at the side view (below), it almost curves forward and puts my head/neck in an uncomfortable position.
Greg,

The Adventure shoulder straps attach behind your neck to a large velcro pad. This can be lowered to shorten the effective torso length (and thus raise the pack). Not sure what this does to your head position. It might get the top of the pack more out of your way.

The Adventure *is* a monster, and I hope one day to be in the kind of physical shape where I could use it without collapsing. :ROTFL:

Matt
 

Greg Haag

Member
Matt,
Thank you, I will see if that helps! I cannot begin to carry this pack any distance loaded with gear, I am trying to stay under 35lbs, preferably low 30's. Unfortunately, I am the weakest link in the chain on all these packs.
Thanks,
Greg

Greg,

The Adventure shoulder straps attach behind your neck to a large velcro pad. This can be lowered to shorten the effective torso length (and thus raise the pack). Not sure what this does to your head position. It might get the top of the pack more out of your way.

The Adventure *is* a monster, and I hope one day to be in the kind of physical shape where I could use it without collapsing. :ROTFL:

Matt
 

jng

Member
My current test is with the Thinktank Mindshift Backlight 36L, I have taken all of the spacers out and put in the F-Stop large ICU. For my workflow I like the ability to switch out ICU's. Here is what that currently looks like.
Greg,

Thanks for posting this pic! I'll need to try organizing one of my large ICUs with my Cambo w/mounted IQ3100, 4 lenses (40HR, 70HR, 120 ASPH [sorry, Graham :ROTFL:] + spacer, and 250 Superachromat plus adapter), plus doo-dads. If it works out I might get yet another chance to piss off my wife by expanding the backpack collection that's slowly taking over the house.

John
 
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