REVIEWED: Vanguard ALTA Rise 38 messenger bag

Able to take a DSLR, three lenses (including a 70-200mm), and a 15-inch laptop, this superbly made messenger has design flourishes aplenty

We at TravGear are not massive fans of the messenger. Being frequent travel photographers, our preference is to keep everything on our backs … that was, until we used the ALTA Rise 38. Brilliantly designed, of ultra-solid build quality, and comfortable to wear, Vanguard has come up with a versatile and special bag for photographers everywhere.

All in one

Are we going over the top? Maybe, but here’s some of its design highlights so you can judge for yourself. It fits a 15-inch laptop. A fold-over lid typical of messenger bags comes with a full length zip, meaning you can top-access the bag without lifting up that lid. On the back of the bag is a loop for slotting on to luggage handles, which is really useful at airports. Inside is a small rain cover, and a waterproof pocket for SD cards. On the undercarriage are four small feet, together with a waterproof membrane, so you can put the bag down in wet or muddy conditions.

Mellow yellow

On a recent photography trip to the Alpenzeller Alps of Switzerland, the ALTA Rise 38 worked really well. We particularly liked the bright yellow design inside, which made it easy to use at dusk and at night, and the fold-over flaps of the dividers, which gave some extra protection to lenses when the bag was open. However, it would have been nice to have a few small pockets on the walls of this section, or somewhere else, for storing cables and batteries. The ALTA Rise 38  is great with core gear, and there are plenty of big A4-sized pockets, but it’s not so easy to store small items. However, we managed to get a Canon DSLR camera with a lens attached between two other large lenses.

Expanding universe

A zip on the sides and bottom increases the width of the bag by 6 cm. It’s marketed as one of the major reasons to buy this bag, but in practice we didn’t find it that useful. Yes, it does give you a bit more wriggle room if you’re really packing in the gear, but since the inside padded structure doesn’t also increase in size, it doesn’t really give you much more room for camera gear. That zip also interrupts the waterproof-ness of the bottom of the bag. Talking of rain, we would have preferred if the waterproof cover was kept in a pocket on the outside of the bag, rather than inside where it took up room that could have been used for storing more accessories. But maybe that’s just us.

Versatility defined

The ALTA Rise 38 is a great camera bag, no doubts, but rip-out the bright yellow inner structure and it becomes just a great – and much lighter – laptop bag ideal for the commute, or a conference. For some, it will sway more towards versatility than it should, but there’s no denying that the ALTA Rise 38 is well designed, versatile and exceptionally constructed bag for DSLR users everywhere – and it’s great value compared to some of the poorly made camera bags around.

Price as reviewed: UK£94.99/US$99.99

Buy the Vanguard ALTA Rise 38 messenger bag

With thanks to www.vanguardworld.co.uk for supplying us with a review sample