Peak Design Travel Backpack Review

Internal design

The inside of the Travel Backpack is as interesting as the outside.

The front compartment, seen above in its expanded shape, opens wide and flat. The front is made of two inner pockets.

The top one, made of rubbery mesh, has extra fabric and can bulge out a bit. It is well suited for larger objects, like over-the-ears headphones, and includes sleeves for smaller items. The bottom pocket is slimmer and lined in more common fabric. The inner side also features two pockets. Each of these pockets can be accessed from the front AND the main compartment.

What's more, if desired the panel separating the two compartments can be unzipped and stowed away, to create one huge compartment, accessible from the front or back.

The main compartment opens completely flat. The back panel holds the ubiquitous laptop and tablet sleeve. Its rigid shape preserves the wearer's comfort.

The main compartment is large and boxy. It can be used as a duffle or suitcase, or it can take advantage of the many available accessories. Some of these will be discussed in the following section; the current page will look at photography storage.

The bag is organized around "packing units", a concept used by many manufacturers. Peak Design offer three "camera cube" sizes. We got to test the medium one, taking up two thirds of the bag's volume. The small one takes up one third, while the large one takes the whole volume, with some room left to cram small extras at the top.

The medium cube is shown above, illustrating the empty volume available at the top of the bag.

Camera cubes should be held in place by using the company's "C-clips". These small clips attach to the cubes and the bag and prevent sagging or unwanted movement. While they are easy to install, the process is not as fluid as we'd like. This is a side-effect of trying to do everything. The large camera cube does not require C-clips, the medium requires four all around the top, while the small also uses four, but two of them are close to the bottom and should be attached via the front of the bag.

Once open, the camera cubes offer a wealth of configuration possibilities. Shown above is the default configuration when the cube ships. Note that our prototype includes two long dividers and 5 "shelf" dividers, while production units will replace some shelves by regular, straight panels.

The size and disposition of the medium and large cubes has been built around the idea of a gripped full frame camera with a 70-200mm F2.8 lens mounted. Of course, numerous other options are available.

One of our favorite options is shown above. By reversing one of the long dividers, it is possible to create an adaptable shape depending on the size of the lens mounted. This also frees up some space next to the camera, without having too much of an effect on side access. This is not the intended way to use the long dividers but it works well. Having the long dividers bend at both ends would be a nice improvement.

The cubes are not tall enough to accommodate a raised flash, but can take a medium-sized zoom, like a DA 16-85mm, standing up.

The shelf dividers are mostly similar to the "origami" dividers found on Peak Design's Everyday line. They are not quite as tall, and closer to a square shape. They can be used to adapt the cubes' volume and store more items. Given the size of Pentax pancakes, this proves extremely useful. The height of the shelves is about right to place a flash lying on its side.

Given the usefulness of the shelf dividers, having a higher number of them would prove useful. We can hope that, as with the Everyday line, the company will allow the purchase of extra dividers in the future.

Camera cubes can store a surprising amount of gear. The medium, which we tested, can easily carry a camera with a long lens attached, two or three medium-sized lenses, three small primes, two flashes and accessories.

The cover of each camera cube is segmented so that it can fold back. That way, when the main compartment of the backpack is opened, photo gear is readily accessible.

Each cube comes with a removable pocket. Lined with Velcro on one side and a mesh pocket on the other, this convenient pocket can be placed anywhere inside the cube. It can hold quite a few small items, like spare batteries and memory cards. It is just small enough to fit on either of the side flaps. This is a clever idea.

Side access is made by way of a trapezoid opening on each side on the medium and large cubes. The small cube's top opens all the way.

Opening the side zipper on the backpack gives easy access to the camera cube's side opening, and access is quicker if this opening is already unzipped.

The camera cubes are equipped with handles and numerous webbing loops. The intended purpose of these loops is to hold anchor clips.

This allows the photographer to transform the cube from a simple storage unit into a boxy sling bag. This works with all three cubes but will work better with the small version, as it is almost exactly the same size as the company's 5L Sling.

Verdict

As a photography carry solution, the Travel Backpack has a lot to offer. Filled with camera cubes, it can transport a large number of photo items. Partially filled, it will serve as a dual purpose, photo and travel bag.

Gear access is not as simple as with a dedicated quick-access bag, but not worse than many backpacks like Think Tank's Shape Shifter or Perception. Protection is top-notch, with solid camera cubes and the bag's own rigid shape.

The cubes are well-made, full-featured, and solid. Boxier than most other Peak Design products, they offer the added advantage of being usable without the backpack.

Our only small gripe with the system is the use of the C-clips. While they are not bothersome per se, they do slow down the process of inserting or removing a cube. Given the company's love of magnets, we wonder if a more elegant solution might not have been found.


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