Air Travel today seems to impose increasingly tougher limitations on hand luggage sizes with each year that passes. This is not just restricted to weight, but the actual luggage dimensions. I have fallen foul of these rules many times, and nowadays it is usually the weight that lets me down. It was not always so; several years ago I was so fed up with being hauled over the coals by check-in staff due to my carry-on being just a little too large, I decided to address the problem once and for all and purchase something that was well below regulation sizes but offered optimal protection for my belongings – particularly my camera gear.
Size and style were my immediate pre-requisites – by style I mean that it had to be a backpack, as this would be the most useful design not only when travelling but also out in the field. A quick look around the internet returned a confusing array of models, but my attention was drawn to a small pack with a camouflage effect finish. It was one of Tamrac’s ‘Adventure’ series of which three or four different sizes were available.
The Adventure 7 stood out as the ideal pack for me and it is what I purchased; the dimensions meant that it fell well within airline size restrictions and it had a separate well-padded lower section for camera gear. What I like about the camera section is that it is not front opening – most have a semi-circular zip that once open exposes the gear to dust and other elements. I prefer top access to my camera gear as it offers a little more protection. Inside, well-padded inserts are secured by Velcro and can be easily rearranged to suit requirements. Into this I usually store two lenses, an mp3 player, travel speakers, binoculars and a stock of film (minimum of 8 rolls stored in two X-Ray proof boxes). Admittedly it is a tight fit, but the point is that it does fit and zips up fine.
In front of the camera section and accessed externally to it is a pocket for small accessories, and there are a couple of tiny pockets nested within. I tend to use them for batteries, memory cards, a charger and cleaning kit.
On either side of this are two elasticated mesh pockets which I use to hold a water bottle on one side and a Velbon Ultra Maxi Mini tripod, which is ideal for travelling. Alternatively the pockets are large and secure enough to hold sun hats, creams, repellents etc.
The upper zippered section is not as roomy as it initially looks; it is not large enough to fit an ipad nor is there space for a laptop, but I tend to store two camera bodies in semi hard cases with lenses attached, a book or kindle, all travel documents, wallet, keys and pens. Again, it is a tight fit but at least I know my gear will be well protected and small enough not to attract the attention of keen eyed check-in staff.
The straps are pretty good for a bag of this size – reasonably well padded and wide enough to spread the weight. I have worn it fully loaded for entire days and it has never given be cause for concern. A waist strap is also included but I have found it to be of little use as the Adventure 7 is quite small (and I am not), resulting in the strap resting across my lower chest rather than around my waist. Tamrac’s handy SAS (Strap Accessory System) items can be used on the waist or shoulder straps. These include pockets for filters, batteries and memory cards. I have the filter pocket attached to one of the shoulder straps and it works well.
Attachments are provided on the underside for tripod straps. Although the straps are not included with the pack they can be purchased separately.
As to the material used; well it makes good use of a very strong lightweight nylon, similar to that found in many other back packs. It is quite thin, but this helps to keep the weight down without compromising strength too much. I am not convinced that the bag will withstand a deluge, but the nature of the material means it should resist a light shower. No rain cover is provided so if it is intended for use in harsh conditions, I recommend purchasing a separate cover.
When fully loaded it is likely that the Adventure 7 will weigh in excess of 5 Kilos – the maximum weight limit for hand luggage imposed by many UK airlines. Typically, mine weighs in at around seven kilos, so I tend to hang a camera body around my neck and put two lenses in jacket pockets when at the check-in desk. Once weighed in, everything is returned to the bag.
Having used the Adventure 7 for several years now, it has proved very reliable, comfortable and well suited to my needs when travelling by air. The stitching and zips are still as good as new, which has surprised me given how much stuff I cram into it. The finish is showing a few signs of use and a session in the washing machine gets rid of most of the grime. As this is my dedicated air travel pack I do not use it as my general day to day pack at home, as I have other larger capacity bags and packs intended for this.