As a photographer I’m often roughing it, lugging my equipment up and down mountains, on the banks of rivers and leaving it in dust and sand. I’ve had several camera bags over the years, and when it came time to replace my Lowepro Fastpack, I wanted something that would be as good a hiking pack as a camera bag, and offering more space for my outdoor gear like water, first aid kit and raincoat.
Enter the MindShift Gear Ultralight Dual 25L. While I purchased the bag last year, I’ve given it a good whacking over the last six months, including hiking, cycling and commercial work. So I think I’m more than ready to review the bag – what’s better than six months of usage to test if it’s any good?
After six months, the MindShift Gear Ultralight Dual is the best adventure travel camera bag I’ve ever had. I’ll break down the positives and negatives of the bag so you can see if it’s for you, but if you’re an adventurous sort who loves to take photos, this bag should be on your shortlist.
About the Mindshift Gear Ultralight Dual 25L
First up, I’ll take you through the bag. There’s three versions of the Ultralight – a 16L, 25L and 36L, which comes in two colours, black and blue. I’ve opted for the snazzy blue colour with orange toggles.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the bag is super lightweight. There’s nothing extra here, despite having adequate padding in the bottom section for camera gear. There’s also no panels or huge amount of padding in the back, which means the bag can lie flat if you take the camera bag out. I haven’t done it myself, but you could probably roll it up.
I also like the mechanism of a side opening camera bag, as it’s easy to get your camera out and put it back.
Flexibility of design
What I love about this bag is the flexibility of the design, which is something I was looking for as a travel photographer – a bag I could use as a weekender or as a camera bag. The pack is divided into two sections, with plenty of internal and external pockets for putting bits and pieces in. I tend to use the top lid for keys and wallet and the internals for less used items. It’s also good that it has both an external water bottle pocket and tripod holder, not one or the other. There’s also a back section for either a water bladder or a laptop. Don’t put both in there at the same time…
What’s great about it is the removable bag for camera gear in the base of the bag. That’s right, you can take out the camera section and use it as a carry bag, or empty the backpack if you need to carry more gear. The additional camera bag can be looped along the waist strap for support when you’re hiking. The camera section is well padded and stiff – I’ve had no issues with things getting knocked around or broken.
Did I also mention there’s snack pockets in the waistband? I love snack pockets 😀 You can tell it’s been designed by people who like hiking and adventures.
How much does Mindshift Gear Ultralight Dual 25L carry?
I’m usually running around with a Nikon D750 with an attached 24-70 f/2.8 lens attached, ND filters and a Manfrotto tripod. At a pinch, I’ve fit an unprotected Sony FS5 with 24-70 f/2.8 Canon lens in the top section as well as my DSLR kit. Plus water bottle, light jacket and wallet. It feels roomy and flexible enough to fit all the gear you’d want to carry outdoors on a day hike. If you have more camera gear to put in the bottom section, I’d recommend getting the larger bag.
Out in the field, I’ve taken the bag on a fifty-kilometer cycle in Vietnam with no issues. The padding is breathable and lightweight, and it’s always a payoff trying to keep the bag lightweight but comfortable. If you’re cycling however, it’s not a great bag when it’s full, as it can limit your visibility when looking over your shoulder for a turn.
What I like about it is that I can leave the bag on a rough surface and not worry about it getting ripped. I’ve taken it to a bat cave in remote Vietnam, hiking in Sa Pa and on the bike in wet weather. The bag is treated with water repellent coating and also comes with a wet weather cover.
It’s also comfortable to wear despite the lightweight padding over long days of walking. I didn’t get any back issues, and the waist strap helps distribute the weight.
What could be improved
To make the bag lightweight, some of the structure is lost in the top section. Which means it folds up neatly when you’re storing it under a desk, but if your bag isn’t full you must clip in the top section before adding your tripod, otherwise it’ll fall over. I’d also like a rest for the bottom of the tripod rather than a clip, so that the tripod won’t slide down the bag when I’m carrying it. I’ve got this sorted to a point where it’s not an issue, and again, this is the payoff for an ultralight bag.
I’d also like a small external pocket on the camera insert, so that when I’m using it at night as a bag and taking my camera to dinner, I can also keep keys, credit cards and passport handy. I know there’s a small pocket in the top, but that just fits my cleaning cloth and a couple of memory cards.
The instructions are light on when you get your bag, so I spent some time trying to figure out how best to insert camera bag insert into the bag and keep the lid open. Maybe that’s just me. You’ll need to tuck it the lid of the camera section into the flap, and this can be a bit stiff in a new bag.
I also wish the wet weather cover was integrated into the bag. Anything that’s not attached to my bag has the habit of falling off or getting lost – would be good if it was integrated to the base or lid of the bag.
The MindShift Gear Ultralight is one of the best travel photography camera bags out there. I’d recommend it for anyone who’s carrying a DSLR out into the wilds. You can buy the bag over at the MindShift site.