Inevitably, the purchase of a new camera system has triggered the shift towards a new bag in which to store and transport it. Post Leica T purchase, I found myself once more lusting after something more utopian that those I already own. Having just used a Leica X for the last few years, I always found my Clik Elite Cloudscape and Vanguard Arlen 49 back packs suitable for the job as they did not need to house much in the way of additional lenses and equipment. At present I could still use either of them as my system is still small (one body and two lenses) but looking ahead I can see myself with at least one, if not two more lenses as well as a few more peripheral items. Additionally, my TL 35mm f1.4 lens is pretty large when the hood is attached and this really does impact on its storage at the moment. Given one of my future purchases is likely to be the 60mm f2.8 macro lens, which has the same size hood, I will soon be running into problems. I also have a Billingham 335 bag which will house the system going forward, but I find shoulder bags heavy and cumbersome.
Casting a net into the ether to see what current offerings there are revealed the usual confusion of brands, each providing something unique to tempt the purchaser. My own needs are fairly simple;
- Needs to hold two camera bodies (my T and 113)
- Four lenses, with hoods attached to make them readily available
- Straps to attached a full size tripod
- Plenty of pockets for peripheral items
- Storage for 15” laptop
- Should not look like a camera bag
- Reasonably waterproof
Not wishing to go down the ‘me too’ route dominated by Lowepro, Think Tank and the likes, my initial thoughts lay with the Billingham 25 or ONA’s Camps Bay Rucksacks. Either of these more than adequately meets my requirements, although I am not sure about the waterproof aspects of the Camps Bay. Also, Billingham’s products are synonymous with photo gear, which I do not wish to advertise. Both are manufactured from high quality materials and are beautifully finished, and this is reflected in their prices.
It was while browsing Crumpler’s website that I came across my purchase. Having used their products for several years in the form of messenger bags, laptop sleeves and iPod cases, I have always been impressed with their durability and modern design - the latter being part of the T-System’s ethos. The Muli Photo Half Backpack immediately grabbed my attention and soon after, my order was placed.
Upon receipt I was not disappointed with my choice. The khaki and black finish is very unassuming and does not scream “photographer”, although strapping a tripod to it will give the game away! It is constructed primarily of heavy duty nylon with a matt tarpaulin flap that covers the top and most of the front…I am sure this will offer excellent rain protection. The photo compartment is accessed by strong zips and has plenty of Velcro dividers to customise the interior. Typically, I have rearranged these a few times looking for the best configuration and, based on previous experience, will not have finished yet. The top section has a deep pocket in which I can easily store my 15” macbook in its sleeve. A second pocket exists that caters for a smaller tablet such as iPad, which I have found useful to stash a reflector in. The top section has plenty of space for bean bags, charger and/or a few clothing items. Externally, two further pockets allow storage for memory cards, batteries and personal effects such as phone, wallet, keys etc.
What makes or breaks a backpack of this size is usually the strap system; in the past I have used similar designs that wear fine under a light load, but filling them to capacity causes shoulder pain after a couple of hours. The Muli Photo Half has well-padded shoulder straps which go a long way to distributing the load and making for a comfortable experience. There is also a sternum strap that helps with this. The rear has a mesh padded back so things don’t get too sweaty on longer hikes.
A nice touch that I did not notice when purchasing, are a couple of reflective squares stitched onto the straps that secure the front. Given my recent interest in cycling, it is good to know they are there. Also for cyclists, there is a loop at the bottom from where a light can be fixed.
A separate tool roll and/or organiser (available separately) can be fixed to webbing loops on the sides of the pack if any expansion is required. It seems that Crumpler have thought of everything with the The Muli Photo Half – everything that I need anyway. My relationship with it is in its infancy but I am very impressed with its design, looks and storage capacity. Maybe this is it – a bag for life, a nylon nirvana…time will tell.