REVIEWED: Vanguard Alta Sky 45D camera backpack

With a tough build and padded sections galore, this pro-grade DSLR pack even has space for a laptop

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The trouble with camera backpacks is that they’re made for cameras, not hikes. Okay, so they may have a rain cover and somewhere to store a water bottle, but almost all such camera bags lack comfortable backpack straps. Cue the Alta Sky 45D.

Highly customisable

The Alta Sky 45D is hugely capable. Perhaps it should be for this kind of money, but there’s not much about the Alta Sky 45D we don’t like. It’s hugely customisable, from the exact sizing split between top section and lens/camera compartment, right down to how and where you get a 13-inch laptop in and out (either from a back-facing zip-put section, or from the top). The upper compartment can fit up to a Pro DSLR with attached lens (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), 2-3 lenses, a flash and accessories, but the Alta Sky 45D is plenty big enough for carrying a couple of DSLR bodies, and perhaps even a compact camera, too.

Lower quarters

Probably our favourite section is the lower quarter-sized area that flips open to reveal a an area good for at least three more lenses and accessories. Fill this area, and you will increase the weight of this bag quite considerably, but it’s easy enough to remove all of the internal dividers and stash your lunch here if that’s more appropriate. And that’s really what we like about this pack – it’s just so versatile, and up for anything. Even on the outside of this section there’s a grab handle, and two straps for security, as well as a tough zip.

Pockets galore

The Alta SKY 45D  just has so many useful pockets, handles and clips for storing and attaching photography and camping/outdoors essentials. For instance, the entire front section, which normally stores just the rain cover, can be used to stash a pair of shoes, or a coat while hiking. There are even straps under here to store other things, perhaps even a small tent, or a tripod. Under here is a flat pocket, which could be used to store lens caps, and it can be accessed from both sides.  One side of the bag has a pocket for pens and a smartphone, and it holds them flat to the back, while on the outside is a stretch pocket ideal for storing a small tripod.

Tripod woes

However, what this bag really lacks is somewhere to store a big tripod, which is a surprising omission from the otherwise utterly comprehensive design. Although it is possible to store tripod on the side (if you buy a Vanguard tripod), we didn’t think much of the housing, and struggled to do much with a Manfrotto full-size tripod. Guess what, Vanguard? Nobody buys a new tripod and a new camera bag at the same time.

Comfortable hiking

That criticism aside, the most impressive thing about the Alta Sky 45D is those backpack straps. Strong, sturdy and with plenty of padding, they got us up and over a mountain without any problems, and with a fair amount of camera kit inside. But what we love most about the Alta Sky 45D is that you can simply rip out all of its (extensive collection of) Velcro dividers and just use the backpack as am empty vessel.

Conclusion

Our only other criticism is that the Alta Sky 45D ‘s build is so tough that there’s not much give it the design – it does feel  like you’re wearing armour. But then that’s pretty much what this is; a bag for a photographer to go into battle with. That tripod fudge aside, the Alta Sky 45D is for now the last word in hike-ready camera backpacks.

Price as reviewed: £199

Buy the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D camera backpack