Bag & Case Reviews

Tenba DNA 15 Backpack

At the penultimate Photography Show in Birmingham, held before the pandemic changed the way we live our lives, I had been attracted to the Tenba stand by their DNA range of shoulder bags. At the time I was looking for something very small that I could use to house my X113 (or TL with 1 additional lens), charger and spare battery as well as travel documents for city breaks. Its purpose was nothing more than this, and meant I could keep weight to a minimum as there was no room for ‘accessory creep’. The DNA 8 was my choice but I loved the style and quality of Tenba’s other products.

tenba dna 15 backpack 1I admired their DNA rucksack but had no real reason to purchase one until last year, when the zip on my ‘go to’ travel backpack failed after years of use. It was my intention to purchase one as an immediate replacement, but the pandemic put an end to all travel plans for the year, so I let the purchase slide.

As Europe unlocked in 2021, we began making holiday plans again and I needed a suitable replacement that would act as carry on luggage, camera bag and useful daytime pack. Recalling how much I had liked the DNA 15, I decided to take another look and, after ticking off a list of specifications that it had to meet, placed an order.

One of the key features of the DNA 15 it its expandable top compartment, a simple roll top design that increases its size considerably, but rolls down small when not in use. In a similar way to a wasp discovering a mouldy plum, I find the attraction of tourist shops irresistible and I am drawn into them one after another. Ceramics are my weakest point, so it was important for my new bag to be able to carry them. The expandable top pocket is perfect, allowing me to add tat until my heart was content. For those interested, the top section has access to a large inner pocket allowing storage of a 15” laptop (without getting too much in the way of tat).

Photographers will appreciate the lower section of the pack housing a pull out compartment purposefully designed for the stowage of camera bodies, lenses and accessories. It isn’t enormous, and those looking for a suitable pack to transport a gigantozoom should look elsewhere. The depth is deceivingly deep and I have no problem stashing away a TL or CL body, charger, 35mm, 11-23mm, 55-135mm and 75mm lenses. Spare batteries, wipes and documents can be stored in any of several pockets. Given that the lower section has dividers that can be easily customised, I think it could probably hold a SL2 and a couple of Summicron Primes - something I hope to try out in the future.

An essential feature for me is the inclusion of external water bottle holders. More often than not I find myself wandering around in hot temperatures, therefore easy access to cold drinks is mandatory. The DNA 15 has an elasticated webbing pocket on one side and a tripod pocket on the other, which I use to carry a second drinks bottle. This also helps to balance the pack.

Shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable even after several hours of carrying. Waist and sternum straps are included, but I have not used them as the pack, once adjusted correctly, is comfortable enough. The rear has a webbed airflow harness, keeping the pack away from my back and allowing air to circulate through. In the heat of a Greek summer, I didn’t find it particularly effective as my back was still sweat-soaked. I guess the air gap did stop the absorption of sweat into the pack though.

Material used externally is a high quality lightweight waterproof nylon, that will easily repel light downpours. For situations where the weather becomes more inclement, a separate rain cover is included. This has a reflective side to it which would be useful in hot and dusty conditions. The bag only comes in one colour which is graphite grey. Thankfully I really like this and the overall design and colour do not make it look like a camera bag. The rest of the Tenba DNA range used to be available in some strikingly nice colours such as olive, cobalt and rust. They do not seem to be listed on their site anymore though, with the exception of a black/blue variant. I would have really liked to have seen a DNA 15 in cobalt.

As a replacement for my expired Tamrac Adventure pack, the DNA 15 is a worthy successor, being a bit bigger, more comfortable and having an expandable top pocket. The build quality should ensure many years of use. Thank you Tenba!