But with time, the company has mellowed in its direction, it seems, and has started producing photo backpacks with more mass appeal. Is this a good or bad thing? Well, it depends on which side of the fence you’re leaning.
I, for one, like some of the more city-slicker-oriented designs for those of us who don’t spend days trekking into the great outdoors. But, then again, I lament that the company feels a need to trim down their packs at the expense of all-around utility.
Enter the SidePath.
Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to materials and workmanship, MindShift doesn’t skimp. Granted, a bag such as the SidePath doesn’t share the same go-anywhere body of this company’s heftier backpacks. After all, this bag was designed to be light on your back for light hikes, walks around town, and sightseeing. Toward that end, the materials are also lighter weight.
Where I feel MindShift has gone wrong with this lightweight pack is in the shoulder straps. They may be comfortable over several layers of clothing, but, as the day wears on, you may begin to feel it, especially if all you’re wearing is a t-shirt under those straps.
OK, granted, I did go ga-ga over the previous lightweight pack, the UltraLight. And I had used that bag for much of the year. But over time, I did notice a difference, especially after testing Think Tank Photo’s ShapeShifter V2.0 and MindShift’s Moose Peterson V2.0, with their heftier, more substantial backpack harness systems. And that made me long for those stockier backpacks.
But, then again, I’m a stocky person. Someone with a more slender frame will likely appreciate and prefer the lighter-weight of the SidePath. And, by extension, would be very happy with the existing shoulder harness.
This is a twin-tier design. That means that there’s a roomy upper compartment and a lower level. Traditionally, the lower level is where camera gear goes. Which is the case here. So you can expect the required padding and the customizable interior.
The upper level is where your personal stuff goes. It has a tent-like zipper flap. The front flap has an inside mesh pocket, which is quite spacious. There’s also a thinly padded sleeve to hold a tablet. Alternately, you can fit a hydration bladder in this sleeve. I personally avoid inserting a hydration reservoir inside a pack, for fear of leakage.
I spent several hours on a nature hike in the woods on a chilly Illinois day, so I was wearing a photo vest and light jacket. With this outerwear, the bag felt comfy enough and the straps didn’t need constant adjustment, pretty much staying in place on my shoulders. Which is a good thing. I really dislike the annoyance of adjusting shoulder straps every few minutes.
Since I was carrying my Nikon D610 with Tamron 70-300mm zoom attached for grab-and-go shooting, I had to remove the dividers and store them for later use, setting up one divider in this compartment to hold lens and body caps or other small items (to the right of the lens, which also helped keep the lens from shifting position). With a SpiderPro Hand Strap and 70mm BlackRapid QR plate (for the BlackRapid sling strap) attached to the camera, it was a snug fit, but manageable. On the plus side, that meant the camera wouldn’t be bouncing around. Later on I realized that my sling strap would also fit in here, making for an even tighter fit.
Originally I’d kept the strap in the upper section. That section also held a Tamron 90mm macro in a MindShift Lens Switch Case (which I’d customized with my own padded dividers), the Nikon SB-700 flash (in its original soft case), and some odds and ends. All that pretty much precluded squeezing in a light jacket, but a rain poncho would be no problem.
One important note: access to camera gear is via the back of the pack. That means that the access panel rests against your back and away from potentially prying hands. Nice touch. It also means, you don’t want to noticeably bulk out this section. The bag should rest flush and comfy on your back. Adjust the straps so the bag ends at your lower back, with the lumbar pad (in this case, the padded camera section lid) resting against your lumbar region.
You can attach a lightweight tripod to either side using one of the stretch pockets. I personally didn’t carry a tripod attached to this bag. Really, it didn’t feel like a natural fit, although in testing after my nature walk, I was able to attach my compact 2.5-lb. Sirui with an Acratech head attached.
The outer stretch pockets were too tight for any of my water bottles, so I used one of the lash points on the shoulder harness to attach a water bottle (as well as a small LED flashlight). That worked out even better, giving me quicker access to these items. Had I stowed smaller gear in the camera section, it likely would have afforded more room for that water bottle. But with a long lens attached, no way that was happening.
One thing I hadn’t noticed when I requested the bag for review. There’s no waist belt. There is a sternum (chest) strap, however. Did I notice? Nope. I didn’t even bother using the chest strap – simply, no need. As I said, the shoulder straps remained in place and the load didn’t shift as I moved around or bent over. So, despite my earlier complaints, the shoulder harness did do its job, and quite nicely, I might add.
FEATURES (per MindShift Gear)
GEAR CAPACITY (per MindShift Gear)
MATERIALS (per MindShift Gear)
Exterior: For superior water resistance, all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellant coating, plus the underside of the fabric has a polyurethane coating. The backpack also has high-quality YKK RC-zippers, 420D Velocity nylon, 600D poly, 320G UltraStretch mesh, 350G airmesh, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Interior: 200D poly, high-density nylex, high-density closed-cell foam, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
SPECIFICATIONS (per MindShift Gear)
Where can I get more info?
MindShift Gear (order direct).
Manufacturer (ordering info):
How much is it?
$99.99 (available in Cardinal Red or Charcoal)
Anyone out for a light hike, a walk around town, or sightseeing, or simply enjoying a fun outing with friends and family.
Despite my complaints about the lack of padding in the shoulder straps, they did manage to do a nice job. I would have liked a roomier top section, so I could fit a jacket in there with my extra gear, but I’m sure I could find a way to do that when push comes to shove. The lower section was a perfect size for my D610 and attached 70-300mm zoom. Alternatively, it would also carry my D610 with Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 attached just as snugly. If you don’t mind carrying camera body and lenses separately, you could fit more gear in here, provided none of the lenses were long or of wide girth.
I found myself liking this bag. Of course, when MindShift sends over their TrailScape, I may shift my attention to that roomier bag. Still, the SidePath does have a place among my other packs, but, more importantly, on my back. It’s compact, lightweight, and is the perfect solution for a day out with my camera.
Still, MindShift, you might consider coming out with a slightly larger version, with a heftier shoulder harness. That would be my perfect bag for sauntering about town.