I have been using the mid-range Ultralight Dual 25L for several weeks now, under a range of conditions and carrying loads from light to medium-heavy, and it demonstrated a convertibility and versatility I have not seen in any other contemporary camera daypack so far.
Camera daypacks, as opposed to camera backpacks, are a great solution for carrying some photo or video gear along with some daily necessities. I have a previous daypack by another manufacturer moldering away in a closet now but that variation on the daypack concept paid for itself over years of frequent use.
Camera daypack version 1.0, by another maker: close but no cigar.
That other daypack was state of the art almost six years ago and was my daily companion for much of that time, carrying iPhone, cables, EarPods and personal items in its large top space, a fifteen—inch Mac Book Pro in its full-length back section and camera, second lens, lens pens and other paraphernalia in its subdivided lower space.
Weekends, it was on my back again minus the portable computer and other work-related stuff but with more personal items like tablet, water bottle and rain gear in the upper compartment. For a version 1.0 of the mixed-use daypack concept, it was pretty good but it had its limitations.
It was anything but ultralight, smaller cameras and lenses fit well into the camera compartment but the average DSLR plus kit zoom pushed the dividers out of shape and left room for little else, and the pack was convertible to the extant that its camera compartment and partition dividers could be removed to carry personal items only.
That daypack had an optional extra rotatable waist pack for carrying more photo and video gear when needed, but the whole ensemble made me feel like the pack plus extender were wearing me and not the reverse. Both rode too low on my back and waist, I was always having to readjust them and they wore me out too fast during my usual urban treks.
Camera daypack version 2.0, MindShift’s UltraLight Dual 25L.
I have no idea whether MindShift’s designers knew about that other brand’s daypack, but their UltraLight Dual 25L is definitely a version 2.0 product. The three UltraLight daypacks are much lighter than the lovely green MindShift Gear BackLight 26L that I tried out and reviewed in December last year.
With a mere one liter capacity between them, and little difference in height and width, there is a larger practical difference in the amount of gear each daypack carries. More hardware can be packed into the body-side opening BackLight 26L than fits into the top-and-side opening UltraLight 25L.
On the UltraLight, personal items have their own large dedicated space at top and adding a r180º Panorama/Horizon Photo Insert doubles the amount of gear you can carry while leaving space about it for smaller person items.
I like the UltraLight’s inclusion of a permanently attached zip bag on the righthand waist belt, handy for iPhone, ID, train tickets, small wallet and other bit and pieces, though not too many. For larger easily accessed personal items or my beloved, venerable Pentax Spotmeter plus notebook and fountain pen, a small bag like the Think Tank Stuff It! Belt Pouch fits well on the other waist belt.
UltraLight bywords: convertibility and versatility.
Versatility and convertibility are bywords in the design of the UltraLight range. So is ease of use. While the BackLight’s gear compartment is accessed by slipping its shoulder straps off then rotating it, you only need remove one shoulder strap to flip the UltraLight sideways to dive into its camera compartment or to fully access the contents of the zipped waist bag on the opposite side.
Convertibility comes into play again with the option to remove the camera compartment and attach it to the waist belt or clip on the provided shoulder strap so it can be worn as a shoulder bag with out without the daypack. With camera compartment removed, the emptied-out daypack can be squashed down flat and stored, or carried in a suitcase or larger flight case.
That is a boon when working on location. Carry most of your gear in one or more of Think Tank’s larger rolling cases, have the most precious items in a smaller cabin-sized roller or backpack or the Ultralight itself, or stow your flattened Ultralight in any of the larger ones ready for those days you want to travel light.
I am hoping to get back to traveling more in the near future so need to take some serious, close looks at Think Tank Photo’s more ambitious transportation options soon. [bctt tweet=”The convertible, versatile camera daypack for guys & gals: MindShift Gear UltraLight Dual 25L.”]
Sitting light and high, even heavy loaded.
Before the UltraLight Dual 25L’s I was a little apprehensive about its ability to protect my gear as well as shoulders and spine. After the first day or two, I learned there was no reason to be concerned. The UltraLight is less padded than the BackLight, but careful design and hollowed-out hexagonal padding leaves the daypack with plenty of light but effective padding on the straps and elsewhere.
Unlike some other recent ultralight backpacks I have read about, the UltraLight Dual 25L does not skimp on essential carrying compartments. The laptop compartment doubles as a hydration compartment – I need to invest in a good hydration solution now that hot days are here again. Any suggestions about the best brands and online suppliers, anyone?
The UltraLight also caters for tripods or monopods with a variation on the BackLight’s integrated upper and lower straps, usually stowed into their own little external compartments. I carried a medium weight video monopod or tripod and couple of days on shorter walks, attached that way, but due to the effect of workplace injuries from long ago did not push it.
I have a compact, lightweight Arca-Swiss ball-and-socket tripod on my wishlist and when I finally find the right one it may gain a semi-percent home on the UltraLight. Research is ongoing to find the best lightweight tripod solution for stills and non-camera movement video.
With or without tripod or monopod, regardless of how much gear is inside, the UltraLight rides high and light on my back and remains comfortable even through days of long walks up urban hill and down inner city dale. Color me pleased and impressed.
The provided camera compartment and optional Panorama/Horizon insert easily handle a range of camera and lens shoes and sizes, from full frame DSLRs – I still have one for lens reviews and the occasional bit of Magic Lantern-aided raw footage – through to my more usual hybrid stills and movie shooting mirrorless system cameras. Not to forget one or two stills-only compacts.
Made for females as well as males.
Another thing the Ultralight Dual 25L and BackLight 26L have in common is that they are clearly designed for females and males, easily accounting for the many variations in female body shapes. Attribute that to the influence of one Pulitzer-winning photojournalist in Think Tank Photo co-director Deanne Fitzmaurice and at least one female bag designer on staff.
The UltraLight range and the BackLight 26L, and no doubt other MindShift backpacks, prove that backpacks can be designed just as effectively for women as well as men and limited edition cut-down versions don’t need to be created just for the girls.
I appreciate Think Tank’s premium Lily Deanne Series, and especially its Mezzo mid-sized shoulder bag, but just between you and me, any of the Lily Deanne camera bags would look as great and work as well on the shoulders of a well-dressed man attending a black tie event as a woman doing the same job.
I can’t vouch for other bags and backpacks in the extensive Think Tank Photo collection – my current Think Tank holdings comprise a large set of discontinued Wired Up Multimedia bags and I haven’t had the opportunity to try more any of Think Tank’s more contemporary products yet, other than the Mezzo.
For even more protection and versatility…
MindShift’s BackLight 26L got me thinking seriously about boosting camera bag and backpack usefulness with the addition of some extra internal and external accessory cases. It was the shot of the Fujifilm X-T1 kit that done it, yer Honor.
While I am not a fan of full-frame fisheye action cameras, the two MindShift GoPro Action Camera Cases in that photograph as well as the House of Cards memory card wallet and Filter Nest Mini have me thinking.
And then there is the waist belt-mountable Filter Hive, made for safely carrying a mix of 4”x6” and 4”x4” flat graduated ND filters and adapters. I recently received a selection of Progrey USA filter holders, adapters and square and rectangular filters for review, and a more convenient all-in-one carrying solution would be a real bonus.
Repeated forays into local city and suburban camera stores reveal a paucity of safe and secure small item protection solutions like these and others and I don’t have the funding right now to punt on ordering a set of them from foreign online suppliers, unseen and untried.
I did include a MindShift GP2 Kit Case in a recent online order, having spotted one in that Fujifilm kit photograph, and it is already proving to be a great little interim solution for a couple of 77mm diameter filters, step-up rings, short cables, a battery and SD card or two. The GP 2 proves that GoPro cases are not just for GoPro gear and fit well into backpacks, daypacks and shoulders bags of all shapes and sizes.
Shooting video makes even more safe storage and carrying demands than stills photography, especially when you take all the audio equipment, grip gear, cables, batteries and more into account. I would love to see how other hybrid stills/video or video-only mirrorless and DSLR shooters do it with their Think Tank Photo and MindShift Gear bags and backpacks.
Just one more thing…
There are several other small but significant items the MindShift Gear design team have included in the UltraLight Dual 25L for which I am grateful and which prove that ultralight camera bags don’t have to be pared down too much.
Number one? A lanyard for keys and other items in the top external zip compartment. Though it could do with being longer, the lanyard provides a key-carrying function all too often excluded altogether from most camera bags and backpacks.
Number two? Two separate rain covers provided free of charge instead of optional extras as some bag makers do. One rain cover for the whole daypack and one for the camera compartment should you choose to remove and attach it to the waist belt or wear it as a shoulder bag.
And one more extra point of praise for the MindShift Gear folks. Click “View More Photos” on the product page and you will find two photographs of females using and wearing the UltraLight Dual 25L. Like Think Tank Photo, MindShift Gear marketing is not a bloke-only zone.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)