Anyway, so this BackLight 36L arrives on my doorstep. It’s a full 10 liters bigger than the previous model, which I use mainly when shooting with my Tamron 150-600mm G2. In fact, what that translates to is, the 36L is taller, wider, and deeper. So the question you have to ask yourself when choosing between the two versions is, how much backpack do you really need?
But even before you go there, take a closer look at the pack and you’ll notice something different – something that sets it apart from other MindShift (and competitor’s) backpacks. Hint: it has to do with camera access. The name should give you a hint.
In contrast to typical backpack designs, the BackLight employs a rear-access panel, rather than a front panel. (Front outer pockets hold a variety of other stuff, as we’ll see.). It’s a zipped, drop-down panel, but by giving you access to your gear from the rear, you keep prying hands away from your precious cameras and lenses. It may take a little getting used to at first if you’ve been using a more traditional pack, but, provided you’re not switching back and forth, as I am wont to do, you should have a firm handle on it after one or two outings.
MindShift will try to tell you that you can change lenses on the fly, without removing the bag from your body, thanks to this rear panel and a short neck cord found inside the bag. I tried it with the 26L. It didn’t fly. And with an even bigger and heavier bag, I’m not even going to attempt it. Frankly, I wish they would have removed that cord, since it always came undone on the smaller bag. And it was not very comfortable.
The Backpack Harness - Designed for Comfort
As is true with every component of each bag they make, MindShift doesn’t skimp when it comes to shoulder straps and other parts of the harness system. The shoulder straps are contoured and well padded for a comfortable fit.
Another feature of a well-designed backpack, the contoured and padded waist belt hugs your hips, ensuring a stress-free ride. The waist belt is supposed to take much of the weight off your shoulders, while preventing the bag from shifting around, which is important when negotiating rough, uneven terrain, but even simply for long stretches without a break. And there’s also a sternum (chest) strap, which further prevents the bag from moving around. A stable bag means you’re less inclined to lose your balance and tip over.
Another nice aspect of this bag, given its relatively large size, the bag reaches from your hips to your shoulders, with shoulder compression straps for added comfort and stability. I see too many people wearing backpacks that hang down like a loose sack. No chance of that happening here, since the bag just naturally lends itself to being worn properly.
Where can I get more info?
Manufacturer (use this link to order):
How much is it?
$289.99 (in woodland green or charcoal)
Who Should Use This?
Hikers and backpackers, bird photographers, wildlife photographers, nature and landscape photographers; professionals and serious amateurs.
Well designed; solid construction – made with high-quality hardware and materials; weather-resistant; customizable to fit around your gear; protective; comfortable.
The Customizable Interior
Inside, there’s plenty of room for two bodies with lenses attached (a 70-300mm or maybe a 70-200mm on one, a 24-70mm or fast 50mm on the other, for example). If you attach a long, fast lens or something like the aforementioned 150-600mm, sorry, you’ll only have room for one body/lens combo. But you can store a second body by itself, or with a pancake lens.
I should point out that the bottom of the bag is a bit more spacious than it needs to be. You might want to stick some foam at the bottom to take up the slack. You may be able to use the included rain cover, but I tend to think the material is a bit on the scratchy side for the LCD. Besides, a better place for the rain cover is in an external pocket, where it’s easily and quickly accessible.
The depth of the bag easily accommodates gripped DSLRs. More than that, you can stow some lenses on end. If you’re a glutton for punishment, that means you can carry more gear. There’s plenty of room. While the padded dividers employ a hook-and-loop system so you can customize the interior around your gear, I wish MindShift had used hook-and-loop-covered padded dividers here, as they do in some other bags. That system just gives you an added edge in fitting the bag exactly to your needs.
And again, let me point out that my fantasy dividers are closed-cell foam sandwiched between open-cell foam layers, for the ultimate in shock and vibration protection. But no manufacturer is paying attention.
KEY FEATURES per MindShift Gear
Rear access means you can carry a tripod centered over the front of the bag for better balance on uneven terrain. All the accoutrements are in place, but neatly tucked away top and bottom. Or you can carry the tripod on either side, with a water bottle on the opposite side. If you’re mostly traveling over flat terrain, side-carry is not a problem.
Keeping the tripod over the center makes more sense for the long haul, but it does get in the way when laying the bag down to get at gear. And if you carry a tripod, you definitely do not want to use that neck cord to change lenses while still wearing the bag.
I don’t know about you, but I never take my laptop into the field. Still, if that’s your preference, this bag lets you do that – inside a padded sleeve. Not only that, but you can also carry a tablet. The tablet sleeve isn’t padded, but the surrounding pocket is so voluminous that you’ll likely keep a jacket and other stuff in there to cushion against bumps.
This bag has a lot going for it. Added features not covered above include side compression straps and a padded carry handle – more a padded loop, than a handle, really. The hardware is, as always, uncompromising. And the airflow cushioned back with lumbar support ensures comfort under trying conditions. Plus, there are additional pockets outside and inside.
Some may argue, and justifiably so, that carrying the laptop up front is not the best way to go, especially on long treks. Where’s the best place? At the rear of the pack, against your back – and this is something that MindShift fails to recognize, with one or two bags being the exception. Granted, that would be extremely difficult in a bag of this design, but I do think it’s doable. On the other hand, perhaps wiser heads prevailed here.
If you think you’d be comfortable with a backpack that grants access to camera gear from the rear, and you need something bigger than the 26L, then the BackLight 36L is your ticket to ride. You’ll find it comfortable and your gear will be well-organized and thoroughly protected. It’s a win-win!
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. Features the highest-quality abrasion-resistant YKK RC-Fuse zippers, 420D velocity nylon, 420D high-density nylon, 320G UltraStretch mesh, 350G airmesh, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Interior: 210D silver-toned nylon lining, hexa-mesh pockets, high-density
closed-cell foam, PE board reinforcement, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS per MindShift Gear
Exterior Dimensions: 13.8” W x 22.4” H x 10.2” D (35 x 57 x 26 cm)
Interior Camera Compartment: 12.6” W x 21” H x 7.1” D (32 x 53.5 x 18 cm)
Laptop Pocket: 11.2” W x 16.1” H x 1” D (28.5 x 41 x 2.5 cm)
Tablet Pocket: 10.6” W x 10.2” H x 0.6” D (27 x 26 x 1.5 cm)
Total Volume: 36L
Weight: 4.9 lbs (2.2 kg)