The Four Bags I looked at:
Vanguard Reno 45KG $90 comes in a nice brown or bright orange well and blue too.
Mindshift Gear Rotation180 Trail MS230 16l $119 plus $20 rain covers
Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 250AW $145
Mindshift Gear Rotation180 Panorama MS220 22L $199.99 plus $20 rain covers
I watched a ton of videos on bags I was considering before narrowing it down to these four. I truly appreciated the time people took to post the bags in use and share what they liked and didn’t like and wanted to do the same for others. Lots of the video showed the in-use empty. I can say they all feel completely different the weight changes when you load them for use.
Since I’m behind on my editing, I’m going to post this now and will update with the video or add additional photos to this same post. So check back here within the next few weeks if this is of interest to you even after you’ve read my lengthy post below.
Now, I’m not your tall, slim athletically built hiker. I’m about 5’2″ and I’m well, let’s say curvy. I just needed more on a real hike in the woods than my current and well-loved Lowepro shoulder bag could carry. See this previous post. When I ordered the four bags, I planned to compare the two flip arounds to each other then the two rotating bags.
They arrived late afternoon on Monday and right after opening and looking at them, I eliminated the two middle priced bags, the Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 250 AW and the Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 MS230 16L trail, because of how my camera fit.
I’ll briefly tell you what I observed on the two I eliminated, the Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 250 AW and the Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 MS230 16L trail. As soon as I saw that they were not ideal for my camera I quit comparing them.
Lowepro Flipside Trek BP 250 AW I liked the color of this bag the best and it had the largest amount of pockets AND dividers. Both of those things stood out to me. I’ve never seen dividers that were little velcro pockets before either. I wouldn’t put a filter in because of the velcro and small size but it’d be good for memory cards. However, if I turned my camera with the handgrip part easy to get ahold of, it stuck up past the zipper. If I turned it lens down (the next easy way to get to it) it was too tall then too. If I set it in on its bottom it fit but left very little room for anything else in the camera area. I liked that you could carry a tripod AND water bottle. I like the included rain cover. Lowepro talked about it’s “active system” but really it looks like what most good backpacks have with padding and air flow. The waist straps on this one look beefier than the ones on the Vanguard Reno. This one even came with a whistle slash buckle on the adjustable sternum strap! They do make 2 larger versions – the 350 and 450 that may have worked better for my bridge camera.
Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 MS230 16L trail. I didn’t care for the stripes on the back/front of this one but they didn’t stand out as much in person as they did in the photos. Maybe they are reflective? I didn’t like that your water pack was stored above the camera if you didn’t want to put a water bottle in your tripod side. I didn’t like you had to buy the rain covers separately. I don’t like having to choose between water or a tripod. Had the camera part been larger I would’ve given it more thought but it just didn’t hold enough in that area. The Trail had an odd hook on the back that was not quick to undo, I guess to stuff a jacket or some other very thin object in. The top pocket opened into the floating center of the larger pocket below that I found odd. Also odd, is that the less expensive Trail had what I thought was a lens cap clip but is a water hose/straw clip on the shoulder strap that the Panorama did not.
Both the flip style and the rotation bags have their pluses and minuses in use. Unless you are using the water reservoir or strapping water onto the shoulder straps you can’t take a drink without taking your arms out, while leaving the waist part on, sliding it around to get to your water, your cell, printed map/directions or bear spray. My camera isn’t the only thing I want quick access to. All four bags kept your camera gear at the bottom. I’m a little concerned with gear at the bottom of a bag in the event of a fall. I guess I’ll carry a ziplock to put my camera itself in if I’m crossing water.
I realized that I take photos all along the journey and that I don’t just stand and whip the camera out. I take it out and walk around what I want to shoot looking thru the lens, squat down, etc before putting it back and moving on the trail. This is easier to do on the rotation bags than the flipside bags. I also like to keep my camera in the car with me. I’m often the passenger and several times I’ve spotted stuff I want quick access to my camera (without the big bag in the front floorboard). That is a plus to the 2 part Rotation bags. None of the four stood up terrific on their own. I’d like it if they’d sit on the bottom the best. If they won’t do that, I’d prefer the part that is not against me (not sure if you call that front or back) to be what touches the ground. It would also be nice when you’ve got it hanging from your tripod hook to be able to access the camera gear. That’s a little tougher on the flipside because stuff wants to dump out. On the rotation, there is not a good way to be pulling the belt pack out while it’s hanging BUT you can have the belt pack on your waist and the main bag hanging. Getting the tripod off on some of these required wrestling with them on the ground to get your travel tripod thru straps.
I’ve only used a backpack one time and it was just to carry stuff from a parking lot out to few hundred yards to view the eclipse. I may be padded everywhere else, but all bags that don’t have a divided lower back area hurt my lower back. Maybe it’s because I’m so short. It feels like the bone and nerves are right under my skin right where the backpack rest. Maybe my posture is all wrong since my leg will go numb while standing in one place every Sunday at church. I’ve had sciatic nerve pain shoot down my legs so I’d say something isn’t quite right.
I really would have like my camera bag to have a split or gap where it rests against my spine, plus that would take off some of the bag weight. I think every video I watched talked about how light these bags were- so maybe it’s just me. I certainly wouldn’t want it any heavier. They hurt my shoulders some and the sides of my chest and upper arms too but nothing like my low back. The one Mindshift Panorama bag also rubbed on the inside of my arms just below my elbow when I had short sleeves on. All four let you adjust the straps including the sternum strap up or down.
Mindshift Rotation180 bags say it’s “like having 2 bags in one.” I had hoped the camera belt pack would either have a stretchy pocket on the side for water, so I could wear just it on a walk around photoshoot, or at the least fit inside my purple Lowepro bag. With the padded waist sides it wouldn’t fit and with just the main camera area I don’t see me ever using it as a stand-alone waist pack. I didn’t want to have to transfer the contents to go from my walk around bag to my backpacking bag. I wanted really two usable bags in one. The camera belt pack itself has very few 90-degree edges. Like the top doesn’t really open at the back of the zippers so there is now way I could put it in my Lowepro bag with the top open like I do my insert. Well, that and the big waist straps.
The Rotation180 bags come in several sizes, the two I looked at 16L Trail MS230, and 22L Panorama MS220, plus the MS240 22L Travel Away, 34L Horizon MS215, 38L Professional MS200. Note model numbers listed are for one color and they vary by a digit for other colors.
Now they did include what they call a modular rail (stretching band on the side) so you can buy more stuff to strap on. I don’t see the offer a water holder to strap on. They offer another camera insert for the top but that would defeat my camera AND backpack gear use and an optional tripod suspension kit too. Not sure how that would work on someone with my shape. Both Rotation180 bags I tried lacked the stretchy band things that let you tame dangling straps. Both bags let you use what they kept calling, I think, Camelbaks which are some sort of water reservoir with a hose. Both bags had set places for one with the hole for the straw/hose to come thru. Both bags had leashes for the camera belt pack and I think they both had key leashes in a top area. I keep forgetting what they call the belt camera pack usage…. stored and deployed?
Not that this matters but both Rotation bags had a spot of velcro in the camera area and a velcroed patch on the inside of the large compartment. I have no idea why. Another side note Mindshift is a sister company to ThinkTank.
The rotation180 with its magnetic latch is their most unique feature. I’ve had several times that I just could not get it relatch (on the MS220 as I didn’t try the MS230 much). I kept checking to make sure the belt pack was all the way inside the back part. Please overlook the sweatpants in the video 🙂 Magnetic latch is supposed to work easy. Directions said “press” but it’s really more of a slide down to open. I don’t know the trick to closing it… yet.
Mindshift Rotation180 Panorama MS220 22L
In addition to what I wrote above about both Rotation180 bags, this is about the Panorama specifically.
On the non-deploy side – If you put a water in the tripod pocket it’s likely to fall out as it is short. I wish it had been taller. I wish both sides had an adjustable buckle on the straps (like the top rear tripod strap) instead of the strap they have that you’d have to work out and back to thread something thru it. I’d also like that better because it’d be easier to get the tripod in and it already is the correct size without having to loosen and tighten it every time if you choose to use the side instead of putting more weight on the back. I did try my lightweight tripod both places by the way. It seems to really be designed for the back more than the side.
On the deploy-side, I would’ve like to see another pocket above the deploy area for said bear spray – deep enough for it or water wouldn’t fall out.
It does have one place for hiking poles. I can use the lightweight Targus tripod (with center arms) that I already own. The Targus is flimsy and the head will drop on long exposures but it weighs about half of my Vanguard tripod. My Vanguard does fit though. After all my videos and photos I rewatched some of the videos I watched before purchasing and was reminded that the belt pack has adjustable straps to tip the top of closer or farther away from your body. In the larger top pocket I was able to fit the bear spray (though I wish it had a place on the outside of the bag, a pair of 6.5 flip-flops (couldn’t find my water shoes) 2 6pack of crackers, a poncho (still folded not used yet), a micro mini umbrella, and a jersey hoodie jacket.
The camera belt pack couldn’t be any smaller width wise. Now it is actually tall enough that I can put my Fz1000 in camera grip up like I prefer. I put one of the small pads kinda under the lens barrel. With the tripod QR plate on it tends to catch on the long “tablet” partition. If I stuff in my old Samsung 4 cell phone it is then too tight for my camera – so that spot will probably be printed map/directions if they’re thin enough. The camera belt pack is not a rectangle. It has rounded edges and is wider at the back (part close to you when on) then the front and tapered. As I mentioned in my review of both Mindshift bags. The top doesn’t really open at the zipper. It has something hard that keeps it rounded.
On the top pockets, you must remember to zip the little pocket all the way closed before opening the larger pocket because when it’s filled with stuff it flops down and dumps it out when you open the larger pocket. I wish there were some mesh pockets on the sides of some of these flaps so everything wasn’t in one big hole. I like a place for everything including the little things like memory or business cards. Benedryl, migraine meds, tripod wrench, cash, all those little things you don’t want flopping around. My Lowepro bag I’ve been using had lots of little pockets and I didn’t need anything else but I confiscated one of my hubby’s old thin wallets for business cards, band-aids and cash.
I really think on a $200 bag the rain covers should be included. I mean really. On the Rotataion180 bags had they made a stow flap on the bottom it would have served two purposes. 1- you would have had a rain cover for your pricey bag without having to stow it where you want to stow your gear and 2. The bottom of the bag is rounded. I guess that’s to let the camera part move in and out of the back bag easier but if they put a stow flap on the bottom we could’ve stashed the rain covers there so they were not taking up room in the bag AND help make it flatter so maybe it would sit up when you set it down.
At first, I liked that the Vanguard had velcro to hold down the dangling straps better than them flopping ones on the Mindshift Panorama. I adjusted the shoulder straps to the height I wanted them and fastened the velcro the same strap down below like it looks where they intended you to. Then when putting it on and off the velcro slide up the strap causing a gap (A) that my hand tried to go thru when putting the straps back on after it being flipped to the front. I couldn’t figure out a better place to move them unless I rolled it up on itself (B) and attached above the buckle you adjust the strap height with. That’s fine as long as you don’t need to adjust the straps often for jackets or the ike. Then I decided to let it dangle and tried to wrap the velcro around itself and just let it hang (C). This is probably what I’d do but I have a Lands End raincoat that has velcro and I swore after I saw it snap shirts and sweaters that I didn’t want my velcro stuff that could ruin my clothes. The BEST thing is the elastic bands! Sadly they are not on every strap on either bag.
Vanguard Reno 45KG offers quite a bit for the price and even it comes with an attached included rain cover. I was surprised that I was between the least and most expensive and the lightest and heaviest bags. The material was nicer than I expected with its price being so much less. I also like the brown color over the standard” I’M A CAMERA BACKPACK!” black. It came in orange too that I considered for not getting shot in the woods by a hunter and a blue that I didn’t care for. It also comes in a few other sizes, smaller and larger than the 45.
The photo compartment comes out but it’s not really transferable to any bag I own It also has an odd open gap in the side padding. I used the small divider to block the gap. I’m guessing it’s there to make it easier to get it in and out of the space since it’s a little larger than the opening. I prefer to have the camera grip up when I open the area/bag to it so I can grab it with one hand. I almost gave up on this bag because the only way my camera fits is to sit on its bottom. This may not work on a larger camera like the Fz2500 because it’s pretty tight with my Fz1000.
I liked the fact you could use one side for water and one side for the tripod. But my travel size Targus tripod doesn’t work because of the center part. I can’t get it in the side. My Vanguard is just not the right size for this bag. So that is probably the biggest downside for this bag, that or the one large top pocket. I’d still be carrying my tripod to waterfalls shots. I mean it can fit my mini tabletop tripods, but not a larger one the legs can be stuck in the water with your camera above water.
I had 2 concerns on the size of the waist straps since you’re supposed to use this Flipside bag to flip it around. They didn’t seem as reinforced as the other 3 bags. Also when it was loaded it was harder to get the camera part to zip back up because it puts that area in a bind. It’s also a little difficult to swing it back around when you’re done having it in front of you. I hadn’t considered that you couldn’t actually access (or put back) the water without flipping it around. When it is hanging from the tripod hook you have to hold the bottom up before you unzip to keep the camera from falling out.
It’s basically 3 compartments not counting the outside side pockets. It has the camera area, one big top area, and the small thin zippered area but still for the price this would’ve been my 2nd choice of the 4 bags I tried.
Drum roll please…. because I didn’t want to outgrow this bag right away and because my mom and my hubby were both pitching in and calling this large purchase a birthday gift, I chose the Mindshift Rotation180 Panorama MS220 22L and after I’ve used it quite a bit, I’ll do another review. In time I will begrudugingly purchase the raincovers and probably something to strap the bear spray where I can get to it. I may also try out a water pack drinking system.
Mindshift: I’d be ecstatic to try out a new bag with my suggestions- How do I get on your list to be sent new stuff for review?!
***Update after wearing the Mindshift Rotation180 Panorama on my first walk not counting to my mailbox and back or around the house.
First I’ve never worn a backpack in the woods. It’s going to take some time to get used the weight and size. I mean I stick out farther than what I’m used to and like when crossing over a tree or something it messes with my balance a bit. This would’ve been true with any backpack.
BUT my main surprise was what I do with the bag when I get to where I’m going or at least when I want to set up my tripod and shoot.
I was so concerned about access while walking/hiking that I didn’t give much thought to how to use the bag to set up when I got to a shooting location that needed the tripod.
To get the tripod off you pretty much have to set the backpack down. To get to your camera you have to pull it out of the main pack.
So, set it down unstrap the tripod from the back or side, set your tripod up, hang the pack off the tripod hook, if your tripod is set up high enough, then undo the magnetic latch, pull your camera waist pack out and do what with it to get to the camera?
I’m sure others have a better way to do this than what I did. I ended up taking the belt pack completely out, off the leash, so I had access to the camera and filters without setting the camera pack on the ground, I put it around my waist.
When you’re done. You have to thread the camera pack back thru the bag. I didn’t bother with the leash because I didn’t want to have to hook and unhook it every time I got to a shooting location and you can get to your camera gear without taking the belt pack out of the backpack. It’d be nice if you could leave the waist pack on while taking off the backpack so you could skip the threading thru part twice on each tripod use stop.
AND DON’T FORGET TO DO THE MAGNETIC LATCH back to secure your camera pack (ask me how I learned that and hope not to forget again). Now, set the pack on the ground, collapse your tripod back and reattach the tripod to the bag.
Whew, Okay 1st waterfall at just a quarter mile into the hike shot now, walk, and repeat.
I can see where it is easier if you don’t need to use the tripod along your hike or if you’re willing to carry a tripod but that defeats what I was buying a backpack for. I mean I’ve been carrying my tripod with a shoulder bag and didn’t like that. I’ll have to watch some more videos but I don’t recall seeing anyone demonstrate what they did when they got to a stopping point on the trail. Plus I’m still having problems getting the magnetic latch to relatch. That gets annoying real quick when half the time you have your arm stuck behind you trying to get it to click in place. If you haven’t reattach the least every time that could prove to be quite the problem. I had to ask my hubby after trying repeatedly again with no luck. I’m not typically going to be in the woods on a real hike alone but I still don’t want to ask for help for something that should be simple.
I considered looking at the Vanguard again after my first real hike, because of not having to take the two bags apart to get to the gear when you stopped for tripod use, but the pro versus con list for me still tipped to the Mindshift bag I decided on.
Maybe I just need to get a lama.
I hope B&H stays true to their word on the return shipping. I’ll go request the 3 RMAs now and will let you know if they indeed only charged the shipping for one bag and let me return the sling bag like they said they would.
If you would like to save 15% off your purchase from Vanguard click here, and use this referral code SAVEWITHKIMINWNC