MindShift Gear, the joint venture between camera bag maker Think Tank Photo and photographer/conservationist Daniel Beltrá, has released the BackLight 26L 26-litre photographic daypack and in doing so has created yet another innovation in backpack design.
MindShift Gear’s motto is “backpack access reinvented” and the brand’s first innovation was the rotating waist pack within a backpack where the camera compartment rotates while the backpack itself remains on the wearer’s back. Waist pack within backpack is the operational principle of MindShift’s rotation180° range.
The BackLight 26L is different again, with the whole bag rotating to the wearer’s front after shrugging off the shoulder straps while keeping the waist strap closed. As the BackLight is back-loading instead of front-loading, rotating it while attached gives the wearer full access to the whole camera compartment that can then be used like a storage container-cum-workbench.
Made for nature, at home in the city.
MindShift’s slogan, “Engage with Nature”, stems from Mr Beltrá’s concern with “man’s impact on our planet” and specifically on the natural world, as his profile in Wikipedia states, but my own work centers on man in the urban landscape.
Two sides of the same coin, and my needs in camera transportation are not dissimilar to those of a wildlife photographer. They depict life in the wild and I shoot the wilder aspects of man in the cityscape.
I have been aware of the MindShift brand for some time but the brand has not, it seems, taken off locally in quite the same way that part-parent Think Tank has. So the BackLight 26L was my first opportunity to examine a MindShift backpack and really put it to the test.
Until the BackLight’s arrival, I had bought one MindShift product at a local supplier, a Contact Sheet. It has been a lifesaver, a gear saver and a wet butt saver too. A long spell of incessant rain, soggy streets and rain-slicked street furniture resulted in nowhere to lay my backpacks down without risking them and my gear getting wet.
Cliché alert: The BackLight 26L is a game-changer.
The BackLight 26L has proven to be a real game-changer for me and has made a very real difference to my work practices. Its ability to rotate while attached means I no longer have to risk taking it off to place it on the ground, a bench or a wall.
My gear remains within safe, easy reach and I can change lenses or swap filters without the fear of dropping them. I can access them fast by just shrugging off the shoulder straps, rotating the pack while and folding the straps under it, then two-handedly unzipping the main compartment. I can keep the back panel open via a neck strap or hold the panel up with one hand when needing faster access.
When that is done, just zip the pack up, rotate it, secure it to my back and then get back to shooting, all without ever having to put it down. That is a real advantage in busy city streets where you have to keep an eye on picture opportunities while also watching out for potential sneak thieves.
The best tripod or monopod carrier yet?
The BackLight 26L offers plenty of other advantages too. All my other backpacks have allowed tripods, monopods or light stands to be attached via suspender straps below the pack, or side pockets that have not been long or strong enough for comfort or safety, or Heath Robinson-style strap-and-pocket arrangements that flop about or fall off when the tripod or monopod is detached.
With the BackLight, I found I can carry shorter support devices like a Manfrotto PIXI handle-cum-table-tripod or a Joby GorillaPod Focus with ballhead in the pack’s deep side pockets and they will stay secured while rotating.
The BackLight has an impressively well-designed rear tripod or monopod-mounting system with permanently attached pocket and straps that stow out of the way when not in use. And the side pockets also passed the test of carrying two lightweight light stands with ease and they, too, passed the rotating test thanks to the bag’s upper and lower side straps.
Attaching other external accessories is easy.
I have accumulated quite a collection of external accessory bags over the years, all of them Think Tank brand and many of them from the long-defunct Multimedia Wired Up range. I also have a couple of StuffIt! bags – one permanently loaded with small personal essentials and the other reserved for carrying a lightmeter when needed.
My personal items StuffIt! fits perfectly inside the Think Tank Lily Deanne Mezzo shoulder bag that I reviewed recently but when it comes time to load up more gear and tote the BackLight, it is a snap to attach the StuffIt! to the left waist belt wing’s webbing strap.
Personal items like keys, iPhone, notebook, transport pass or billfold are then always within fast, easy reach. I often attach a Multimedia Wired Up audio bag to the righthand wing strap when needing to grab some quick handheld sound bites.
It is good to see camera bag brands like Think Tank, MindShift and f-stop gear adapt the military’s MOLLE and PALS very handy webbing strap attachment systems to peaceful civilian use. I like the convenience of attaching external bags when needed and to do it easily and quickly via velcro or webbing. I applaud all three makers for their external accessory bag ranges that can be used interchangeably.
Sometimes bags are needed within bags.
Another development for which I am thankful is the range of internal accessory bags made by Think Tank and MindShift. Since adding the Panasonic Lumix GH4 and GX8 to my portable arsenal, as it were, I am carrying more non-camera moviemaking gear than ever before, requiring bigger bags and better ways of organizing gear within those bags.
I may be pointing out the obvious here but almost all camera bags and backpacks are designed mostly for stills photographers and especially those toting so-called full-frame DSLRs.
Stills gear comes in a small range of predictable shapes and sizes whereas moviemaking gear – everything from portable lights, cables, recorders, battery packs and microphones through to supports and rigging devices – exists in a wide range of sizes and shapes that can be difficult to fit safely into your average shoulder bag or backpack.
I would love to see a more flexible solution to internal dividers than the current rectilinear standard, especially one that allows for non-standard forms like Røde’s excellent Stereo VideoMic X. Does a clue to a better internal divider system lie in the origami divider concept Peak Design has tried out in their Everyday Messenger bag?
Smaller items like cards, cables, batteries, audio adapters, filters, hex keys, LensPens and so on are an ongoing storage problem in most bags and backpacks and demand their own bags-to-go-within-bags. I was pleased to see that MindShift’s designers have given this issue due consideration and have illustrated their gear packing suggestions in the BackLight 26L web page.
I was particularly taken with the solutions depicted in their Fuji XT-1 example. I have now added a Filter Nest Mini and GP 2 Kit Case to my wishlist along with a selection of battery holders, SD card wallets and cable managers from Think Tank’s Accessories page. Necessities like these seem to be a constant supply problem locally so I am saving up for my next big B&H Photo order where items like these will be heavily featured.
The BackLight really is a daypack.
The MindShift folks chose their description of the BackLight 26L well. It is a daypack in the sense that you can carry all that is needed for a day out in the country or the city. My BackLight has a lightweight rain jacket, visor and the bag’s own rain cover in permanent residence in the outside rear pocket for rapid access.
There is provision for plenty of other less permanently-ensconced gear like pens, notebook, tablet, portable computer, energy bars, breath fresheners, hand sanitizers and the like too. Again, I prefer bags-within-bags for small items like these that can get lost in the lower corners of most big pockets so am on the lookout for see-through mesh bags.
Another thing I should look into is MindShift’s Tripod Suspension Kit. There are times I need to carry a larger tripod than my customary Benro Aero 4 Video Travel Angel, especially when the winds are blowing hard around the Harbour, and carrying a bigger tripod this way may be the solution. My venerable Miller DV Solo 75 carbon fiber tripod with DS10 fluid head is the bee’s knees when it comes to stability in most weather conditions but carrying it on my back is a no-no now.
Pros and cons.
The ever-present con or rather, consideration, for me given the wear and tear my body has been subjected to over the years is just how much gear I can carry now whether over the shoulder or on my back.
Spine and shoulders are real problem areas for me and no previous backpack has proven to be the solution, especially on all-day urban treks. The BackLight has been put to the test and has not been found wanting, the first daypack I have been able to wear all day long while walking and shooting without suffering the usual consequences.
For that alone MindShift has my thanks. The BackLight is the perfect size for my size, not too wide, not too long and it rides at just about the perfect height. Its lumbar support is better than any other backpack I have owned and feels great against my back.
Also impressive is the way the bag’s chest strap can slide some considerable distance up or down to suit the many variations of female bodies. I have other backpacks here without that choice and they are clearly made for male bodies only. Big kudos to MindShift for this!
Another pro I found something of a pleasant surprise is the BackLight 26L’s green and grey Greenfield colorway. I have always defaulted to black in camera bags, backpacks and hard cases, but global warming has given me cause to think deeper about the colors I wear and carry.
Now we seem to have days that are incredibly hot and sunny alternating with cold and grey – like yesterday then today. And I am thinking about nature far more than I ever did as I am an essentially urban person. The last two backpacks that came into my possession have had nature colors, blue and lately green. Perhaps the forest in which I now live has had an effect! I no longer want me or my gear baking in the sun.
I can think of only one con in the BackLight 26L’s design and it is far from a major one. Straps. I have a little bit of a thing about straps, the ones that dangle when you walk and end up being walked on when you put them down on the floor. I would love to see bag designers come up with a really viable strap retraction and retaining system to keep them neat and out of the way.
Plenty to like and love.
That aside, there is plenty to like, even to love, about the MindShift BackLight 26L daypack.
It has taken my previous camera daypack’s place in my affections and amply fulfils what that other bag promised but failed to deliver on in holding all the personal items and gear I need for a day out shooting while allowing me to do it with comfort and safety.
I can do that whether the BackLight is stuffed to the gills or its contents reduced down to a camera or two, a lens or two, some accessories and some personal essentials.
It is just the right size and carries my regular video monopod, regular video tripod and smaller tripods with ease and safety. Its size and color don’t seem to tempt inner-urban shoppers to smack into it with the alarming regularity that occurs with my larger, darker backpacks. And now I seem to be falling in love with its lustrous green and grey.
So, big thumbs up for MindShift and the BackLight 26L!The BackLight 26L camera daypack by MindShift rethinks backpack on-location easy access yet again. Click To Tweet
Via MindShift Gear:
Backpacks are superior for carrying heavy gear for long distances, but access has always been a problem. Also, traditional front-loading backpacks get wet and dirty when placed on the ground.
The BackLight 26L, with a rear-panel compartment for photo gear, allows you to access your gear without taking off the backpack. You can change lenses or just snap a quick photo by simply by spinning the bag to the front of your body while the waist belt is still secured. Rear-panel access also adds security when traveling since your camera gear is protected behind your back.
- Daisy chain, ice axe loops and additional lash points for expanding your carry capacity
- Includes tripod/monopod mounting system on front or side
- Comfortable padded waist belt for all-day comfort on the trail with webbing rail for additional MindShift accessories
- Block and tackle style adjustment on the waistbelt provides 2:1 mechanical advantage
- Flap-keeper neck strap allows you to work out of the bag, unencumbered
- Two large water bottle pockets with cinch cord fits a 32oz Nalgene
- Side compression straps with locking SR buckles for additional lash points
- Air channel and lumbar support on rear-panel for all-day comfort
- Ergonomic zipper pulls are easily gripped with gloves or frozen fingers
- Highest quality YKK zippers, 420D Velocity and 420D high-density nylon for long lasting durability and strength
- Front stuff pockets for trail essentials: headlamp, gloves, chargers
- Adjustable dividers for large telephoto lenses, traditional photo gear or personal items
- Top zippered pocket for quick access to essentials
- Interior mesh pockets for storing filters, batteries, cables, etc.
- Seam-sealed rain cover included, opens flat for use as a ground cover
- Compatible with the Tripod Suspension Kit, Filter Nest/Hive and Switch Case
- Holds 1 standard-size DSLR and 4-6 standard zoom lenses, plus a flash
- Holds 2 large mirrorless cameras and 5-7 lenses, plus a flash
- Fits personal gear in the 9L front compartments
- Maximum lens size: 200-400 f/4 detached from body
Learn more about BackLight 26L HERE.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)