REVIEWED: Manfrotto Advanced camera and laptop backpack
With removable rear access for a DSLR and lenses, room for a laptop and plenty of well-designed pockets, is this the perfect carry-on for photographers and business trippers alike?
We’ll let you into a little secret here at TravGear: we love DSLR cameras. Yes, we know there are a lot of compact cameras around these days which are almost as good – and far more travel-friendly – but you can’t beat a good manual camera for taking low-light and night sky shots in the world’s most beautiful places. However, there is a big problem; what on Earth do you carry your DSLR camera around the Earth in?
Built for anything
If you also travel with a laptop, the choices are very small. Seriously, there are almost no bags around that let you carry plenty of camera gear plus a laptop and all of your travel essentials. If you try to travel light, and only take one bag into the cabin without checking anything else in, the choices are even smaller. Cue this fabulously specified and built Manfrotto backpack that can take almost anything a photographer might require on a trip.
Let’s start with the Manfrotto’s unique structure. It’s all about rear entry. Lay the backpack on the floor and behind the straps you’ll find a three-sided zipped compartment that opens-up to reveal the usual Velcro walled compartments, which can be changed according to the size and number of your lenses. Could entire DSLR camera just there in the section? Absolutely. It even takes a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Our only slight criticism is that there is a zipped webbing cover across the whole section that is slightly difficult to open since the zip is hidden underneath the lip of larger section. The two side flaps for the backpack harness also slightly get in the way. BTW this entire section can be removed, which makes the Manfrotto just a daypack like any other. genius!
A top section opens to reveal a handy area for travel essentials (as well as a clip-on rain cover for the whole bag). Now, this is designed only to carry a photographers lunch, perhaps a waterproof layer, and a few bits and pieces. It’s not a large section, but it does have just enough in the way of clever pocketry to make it an excellent option for capsule wardrobe travel. For instance, the rear is a mesh pocket ideal for storing a toothbrush and other parts of a wash kit. In the front are three tiny slots for SD cards. Another excellent design!
Stroke of genius
However, the real stroke of genius is a sleeve in the front of the backpack that’s ideal for a MacBook Air. If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to board a plane with an iPad also, there’s another pocket in front that’s sized to take a regular or mini iPad, and another in front of that for papers or a magazine.
Is that enough pockets? Not quite. On one side of this pack there’s a full-length pocket with no obvious use. Perhaps a small umbrella could be inserted here, or even a rolled up shirt if you are travelling really light. However, its purpose is as a design balance to what’s on the other side. At first look, the opposite side is identical, but on close inspection it’s revealed to be a drawstring full-length section for a camera tripod. This is a slightly different solution to what most camera backs offer; straps on the outside that can grip onto and secure a tripod. We’re not convinced.
In use, that drawstring tripod bag on the outside turns out to be the low-point. The tripod we selected for use – a fairly low rise, smallish travel version – poked out the top slightly. That’s no matter, except when you stuff a tripod into that pocket after a shoot. Muddy feet mean dirt gets inside the back, and it’s not easy to get it back out. There’s zero access and the soft felt-like material is just going to get very very dirty. We resorted to using a plastic bag to protect the Manfrotto, which is kinda the wrong way around. By the way, there are two compartments on the outside to take a bottle of water. However, these are not very stretchy, so won’t take much else. Another low-point – but that is about it for criticism.
In terms of comfort, we love this bag. It’s got an excellent grip-handle as well as two fabulously comfortable backpack straps that link together across the chest and hips, at least in a basic way. Those straps have hooks for hanging a compass, while the back of the pack itself has a loop to attach to the extendable handle on your average stroller luggage. there are also two clips on the side of the bag to compact the luggage very easily when it’s not full. That’s always a great design feature on any kind of soft luggage.
Compact & comprehensive
The Manfrotto Advanced camera and laptop backpack is a great effort. It’s not perfect, but its excellent design manages to safely and comfortably house all the gadgets your average photographer wants or needs to travel with. It is quite a busy design, with its zips and flaps often overlapping, so it does take a little bit of getting to know to use it most efficiently. However, used wisely the Manfrotto Advanced is surely the ultimate backpack for photographers both on outdoor day trips and as comprehensive and compact carry on baggage.