As you may have figured out, this pack is the baby of wildlife photographer Moose Peterson--for wildlife photographers. It’s a vast improvement over the original Moose Peterson pack, which I’d reviewed some years back for a major photo magazine. And it stands head-and-shoulders above a similar design from another camera bag company. In fact, even hinting at any similarity is an insult to the Moose pack.
Professional wildlife photographers use long, fast lenses. These lenses are, by and large (no pun intended), ginormous. But many photo backpacks are not designed to easily hold them, without sacrificing much, if not all, of the available space, leaving little room for anything else.
What makes this bag eminently suited to this pursuit is its tripartite design. The longest compartment is specifically designed around a long, fast lens attached to the camera or an even physically bigger lens on its own. Two smaller sections house the camera (when detached from the lens), along with a second body and even a third, several additional lenses, converters, a shoe-mount or two, and filters. When the main section is not fully occupied, there’s plenty of room for other gear. In fact, whichever size Moose pack you buy, it will comfortably hold at least one body with pro-grip, with lens attached.
Each item of gear is securely nestled in place thanks to the thick but flexible Velcro-friendly dividers—a serious departure from the dividers MindShift has been using in its other packs, and a welcome change. The new dividers let you customize the interior almost infinitely, with various-sized sections. The new dividers also do a better job of hugging and grabbing your stuff so it doesn’t slide around, or out of the bag, should you open it while it’s in an upright position. All this is safely contained within a fairly rigid, padded wall that encompasses the pack.
Protecting everything at the front end are three separate zipped access panels, which are padded. What’s noteworthy about these panels is that, rather than remaining open and exposing the contents to the elements, they drop back down. Just make sure to zip the panels shut before donning the pack. What would have made this even sweeter is if MindShift would have used the magnetic-locking clips, similar to the ones used on the Rotation packs, so the panels would stay closed. Then again, someone might see that as an encumbrance to quickly getting into the bag.
This pack will also hold a tripod over the large front panel or on the side, using the mesh pocket. However, I’m sure you’d rather reserve this sizable pocket for a large Nalgene water bottle. Either way, it’s a workable arrangement.
There’s no space for a hydration pack. In fact, as comfy as the bag is to wear, it’s best use comes from taking short hops away from your vehicle or traversing mild terrain. It’s too bulky to negotiate tight spaces. Still, I’m pretty sure you don’t plan to use this bag on long, arduous hikes over treacherous terrain or to scale steep slopes. And even if you did, feel assured that the bag will remain steadfastly on your back.
There’s no room for lunch, a jacket, rain poncho, first aid kit, guide books, and other hiker essentials, unless you want to clear out a section of gear. A spacious front pocket or upper tier, where stuff like this goes, is lacking. There is a small pocket on top, where you can store filters, lens tissue, and the like, plus mesh pockets inside each flap, but none of these is well-suited to a sandwich or a change of clothes.
The Moose pack is perfectly suited as a bag you’d want to work out of. The self-closing flaps help toward that end. When laid flat, the pack serves as the perfect workspace. And it’s designed to keep you well organized. To say that this pack is thoughtfully designed would be an understatement.
I loaded the bag up with about 25 pounds of gear. I don’t usually carry this much gear around and dreaded the thought. Still, once I got over the shock of how heavy it felt when I first picked it up (before actually weighing the load), after donning the pack, I must say that it felt good. In fact, I’d noted that the shoulder straps didn’t slide off my shoulders. Sliding shoulder straps are a big bane on most backpacks. Still, to make carrying this load even easier, I cinched the included waist belt and sternum strap. The shoulder straps, by the way, are well padded to handle the load, as well as contoured and breathable for a comfy ride.
I should point out that the waist belt, while included, does not come attached to the bag. Slide it through the lumbar pad on back of the pack. You’ll note that the strap has two hook-and-loop strips. They attach to their counterpart on the inside of the lumbar pad, so make sure to insert the strap properly (the breathable mesh goes against your waist). The tapered waist strap is thin enough to be easily stored out of the way when not in use, but ample enough to give you the needed support and comfort.
You’ll note that there are no compression straps anywhere. They’re not really needed. Compression straps are required on bags designed for arduous hikes and backpacking. But to protect the zippers, at least around the circumference of the bag, there is a narrow rain flap, just wide enough to do the job, not too wide that it gets in the way.
Speaking of straps, I almost forgot to mention a few things. First, there are two padded carry handles – one on top, another on the side, so you can carry the bag like a suitcase. While I haven’t had the opportunity to test it out, the bag’s squarish design makes it well-suited for overhead stowage on most airlines. And to further your efforts toward that end, the shoulder straps tuck neatly behind the airflow shoulder pads that lie against your back. (In fact, that’s how the bag is delivered to you.) Also, you can wrap the waist belt and secure it in front, to maintain the bag’s svelte lines.
On the face of it, this Moose pack looks like a piece of handsomely crafted luggage. In fact, the pack appears so innocuous that there’s nothing about it that even remotely screams camera bag. Well, if you don’t count the tripod hanging in front…
Who Should Use This?
Wildlife photographers, hikers, nature enthusiasts.
Built tough and structurally sound; comfy; holds a lot of gear, including a long, fast lens attached to the camera; keeps gear safe and even more secure thanks to new padded divider system; three fully customizable compartments make it easy to stay on top of your gear.
This new version is a big step up from the original Moose Peterson backpack. It’s easily superior to a well-known competitor’s pack with the butterfly-wing design (based on my latest experience with that pack). And, if you’re a wildlife photographer, you shouldn’t even be thinking twice about getting this bag. Buying it should be a no-brainer.
I especially appreciate the new interior, which is a change of pace for MindShift. And the three separate compartments let you allocate your gear in terms of importance. Or keep one set of camera gear for wildlife in one section, another for macro in the second compartment, and a third with wide-angle lenses for landscapes—three outfits ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This pack will hold practically everything you need, short of snacks and a rain poncho. But the photographer’s vest you’ll likely be wearing will take care of that. Okay, this pack won’t hold a laptop or even a tablet, but how important is that? And if you’re overnighting, chances are you’re carrying more bags besides your camera gear, so don’t make the tablet or laptop the deciding factor. Consider the Moose Peterson backpack as a long-term investment and you won’t go wrong.
Manufacturer (ordering info):
KEY FEATURES (per MindShift Gear)
GEAR CAPACITY (Mfr. specifications)
Moose Peterson MP-3 V2.0 (tested)
Moose Peterson MP-1 V2.0
Moose Peterson MP-7 V2.0
Moose Peterson MP-3 V2.0 (tested)
Moose Peterson MP-1 V2.0
Moose Peterson MP-7 V2.0
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 bag also features highest-quality abrasion-resistant YKK® RC-Fuse zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 600D polyester, 1680D ballistic nylon, 320G DuraStretch mesh, nylon webbing, 350G airmesh, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Interior: High-density velex, 210D silver-toned nylon lining, hexa mesh pockets, high-density closed-cell foam, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.