tl;dr You know that crazy guy who's always going on about easy access to bag contents? The yahoo who wants things so organized that he can quickly grab specific items with one hand without looking? Well, he needs a camera backpack along these lines for travel/wildlife photography.
First, some background:What I Carry
I've got a Canon 70D, 10-18/4.5+, 17-55/2.8, 35/2, and 70-200/4. Planning ahead, I'm likely getting the 100-400 MkII within a year. I'd also love to get a dedicated macro lens for food and product photography (the 35mm f/2 is currently doing those duties albeit at very wide angles).How I Carry
I stuff everything inside a Think Tank Photo Retrospective 10 (Retro10), which in turn is stuffed into a Camelbak Urban Assault XL (UAXL) for travel. When I get to where I'm going (e.g. hotel), I unload everything. Then, each outing I take the 2ish lenses I think will be most useful inside the Retro10, leaving the rest in the room. The Retro10 has a Peak Design Capture Camera Clip on its strap. For sizing, I'm roughly 6', 150 lbs.Why That?
The UAXL has extra storage for things like my laptop, and has two straps for balanced carry for long treks through an airport terminal. The Retro10 can be slung across the body, allowing for quick access to gear while out and about. The Capture Clip acts as a third hand to help during lens changes or other times I need both hands.Why I Need a Change
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, we visited Kam Shan Country Park. It was amazing, and we got within monkey-bite distance of feral monkeys, which is always exhilarating. Unfortunately, between all the public transportation and walking to get there and the hiking through the park itself, the single strap of the Retro10 and all the gear inside made my shoulder seriously ache by the end of the day.
Not all trips will require so much walking and hiking but for those that do, I want a two-strap solution that can more comfortably manage the weight. Add to that my planned acquisition of the 100-400 next year, which weighs as much as all my current lenses combined.What I'm Looking For
One backpack, ~25L capacity, ~4lbs weight, that can replace both the UAXL and Retro10. This new bag can ignore the laptop support requirement (I have another place to carry it).
Top priorities include easy access to camera and lenses without taking off the backpack, side/front tripod carry options, external access to accessories like filters, memory cards, etc., shoulder straps under 3" wide (for the Capture Clip), rainfly option, ipad/tablet carry option.
Other desired features include laptop compartment with dedicated, direct-access zipper, urban or hiking pack styling, and backpacking pretensions (internal frame/stays, well-designed harness, etc.).
Of course, there's the obvious stuff like light-colored interior materials, subtle branding, basic water resistance without a rainfly, high quality construction, etc.What May WorkFstop Kenti
- Great size (might actually be a bit small for my frame), rare double side-entry feature, this is currently the frontrunner.MindShift Professional
- Way bigger than what I need, but chock full of external organization options, beltpack that can support any lens of mine mounted onto the body, etc. Oh how I wish this was smaller.MindShift Panorama
- Oh how I wish this cost $100 more and had the features of the Professional model. The size is about right (though the beltpack will be tight), but it lacks a lot of external pockets, lashdown areas, and backpanel access.What Won't WorkAnything by Clik Elite
- They have some side-entry bags, but the side openings only seem to support a camera and not multiple additional lenses. And I either have to choose a huge bag to get the hiking style I'm looking for, or ugly and obvious "camera here" styling to get the size I'm looking for.Anything by Gura Gear
- Bataflae series is only accessible by taking off the bag and accessing it from the front (the side farthest from the body when worn). I really wanted to love the Uinta, but lack of side entry slows down access to gear.Anything by Think Tank
- I love their shoulder bags but I haven't found any backpacks with the features I'm looking for.Next Steps
I've yet to look at Lowepros, which I know have some side-entry options. I also need to look at the Manfrotto bags, since they absorbed Kata's stuff which also had side entry options.
I'm sure a lot of folks here have great ideas, or noticed that I might have overlooked something with the brands listed above. Or maybe I need to think outside the box and carry my gear in a totally different way. Or maybe you swear by rear-panel access, taking off both shoulder straps and rotating the bag around so you can use the back of the backpack like a table.
Thanks for reading through my ebook.
Any suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks in advance!