With its rotation180° Panorama camera backpack, Mindshift Gear debuted a truly innovative two-bags-in-one design that solved the perennial dilemma of the hiking photographer: how to access your camera gear without removing your backpack? The Panorama offered you the best advantages of both types of bags, giving you the large storage capacity of a backpack for extra food and clothing and the convenience of a detachable waist pack for ready access to cameras, lenses and other accessories without requiring you to take off the entire pack.
Not every photographer who wants to shoot the scenery needs to take enough gear and supplies for a whole day’s trek through the wilderness, however. For those who want to travel light as they go for a relaxed afternoon walk, Mindshift Gear presents its new, smaller rotation180° Trail backpack. The Trail is essentially a “Mini-Me” version of the Panorama, featuring the same sort of detachable camera pack in a scaled-down size (Exterior Dimensions: 9.4″W x 21.3″ H x 5.9″ D or 24 x 54 x 15 cm).
As with the Panorama, you can pull the beltpack out from under the main pack and maneuver it along the belt to serve as either a side holster or waist pouch while you shoot, then stow it back under the main pack for safe keeping–all without having to shrug the pack off your shoulders or set your camera bag on the ground. For added comfort when hiking, you can tuck away the waist strap in the beltpack compartment when not in use, then easily put it on when you’re ready to shoot. And when you want to travel really light, you can remove the beltpack entirely and use it solo.
I decided to try out the new Trail on my recent two-week trip through Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Unlike my photo safaris in the Valley of Fire and Zion, which required the carrying capacity of the Panorama, this vacation consisted of the sort of brief day-trips and afternoon excursions for which the Trail was perfect. It seemed about half as large as the camera backpacks I saw other people carrying, yet it still held all my essential camera gear. This made it an ideal size to carry on the plane, for it fit easily either in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me.
The Trail’s waist pack (Belt Pack Interior Dimensions: 8.7″ W x 6.3″ H x 4.3″ D or 22 x 16 x 11 cm) accommodated my Sony A7R with 10-18mm lens attached and the Sony NEX-5R with 55mm lens attached. For the most part, I wore my A7R around my neck with my Street Strap and took out the NEX-5R when I needed a longer lens. The compartment also has a slot for an 8″ tablet such as an iPad Mini.
For getting in and out of cabs or the tour bus, I stashed the pack’s belt so I could take the bag off and put it on again easily, but when walking around, I took out the belt so I could get into the camera compartment quickly when necessary.
To take advantage of the Trail’s more compact size, one must, of course, sacrifice some carrying capacity. Storage space in the main upper compartment is a bit limited, but I found it more than adequate to carry the basics: a folded jacket, a few snacks, and small accessories. The compartment on top of the backpack is even smaller, but very handy for little items one need to access quickly, such as pens, medications, or batteries. The rear hydration compartment can hold up to a 1.5-liter water reservoir, but I used it as a fast-’n'-easy place to slip in my 8″ Windows tablet instead. In the outer stretchy compartments I carried an umbrella and a water bottle. Even fully packed, the Trail remained lightweight and very comfortable to wear.
If you need enough food, water and layers of clothing to sustain you for a whole day of hikng through rough terrain, then you might want to consider upsizing to the Panorama. But if you want a light, easy-to-carry, all-in-one backpack for a shorter day of shooting, then the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Trail makes a nice compact alternative.