Think Tank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0 Backpack Review: A great backpack is made better
posted Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 2:00 PM EDT
I reviewed the Think Tank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive backpack a few years ago and loved it. It’s a fantastic backpack and it’s my go-to carrying solution when I need to carry a lot of gear and my tripod. There were no glaring weaknesses with that backpack, but nonetheless, Think Tank Photo wanted to make a great backpack even better. Alongside the StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0, Think Tank also updated the StreetWalker and StreetWalker Pro series.
What’s new with the V2.0?
Looking at the rear of the backpack first, the access point for the rear carrying compartment is different. On the original, you accessed the laptop carrying area through the side, but now the access is via the top. This is a big improvement as the original version required turning the backpack on its side to access your computer or tablet. Further, you can fit a laptop and a tablet in the HardDrive, as in the rear compartment there’s a dedicated tablet pocket.
The top of the backpack, where your camera is stored inside, has a bit more depth than before. Additionally, the side pockets are larger and one of the side pockets has a dedicated smartphone pocket. Perhaps my favorite upgrade is that the tripod attachment points have been moved to the front of the V2.0, meaning that you can access the inside of your bag with a tripod attached. This was not possible in the original HardDrive. When looking at the front of the backpack, you’ll also notice slightly different styling as the V2.0 StreetWalker bags include a gray fabric along the sides. Personally, I prefer the solid black look of the original, but the V2 still looks nice.
Inside the HardDrive V2.0, there is now an area to easily store a second camera body (even a gripped one) with a lens attached thanks to a second hinged divider.
There are a few other differences. The main compartment zippers now have nylon pulls, whereas the original had just the metal zipper components. The back padding, which you can see in the image below, is more breathable on the new version as well. I can’t tell if it is because my original StreetWalker HardDrive has been used so much or not, but the shoulder straps on the V2.0 appear a bit wider as well, which make an already very comfortable harness design even better.
While much about the bag’s design is similar to the original StreetWalker HardDrive, it is worth going over the bag in detail. When looking at the interior of the bag, we see a potentially big difference. The second hinged panel means you can easily fit two camera bodies with lenses attached inside the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0. For photographers with multiple camera bodies who don’t want to be constantly switching lenses, this is a big deal. The original could fit two bodies with lenses, but it wasn’t designed for it so there was wasted space after contorting the dividers.
The interior dimensions of the Think Tank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive V2 are 11 x 19.7 x 7.1 inches (28 x 50 x 18 centimeters) (width x height x depth). This is an increase of 0.7 inches (1.7 centimeters) in height and up to an inch (3 centimeters) in depth over the original StreetWalker HardDrive. That may not be a big difference, but it does matter. Correspondingly, the exterior dimensions of the V2 are 0.6 inches (1.7 centimeters) taller and slightly deeper, although the width is a bit less on the new version.
All said, the camera carrying capacity of the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0 is substantial, as was the case with its predecessor. For example, in mine, I fit a pair of large gripped cameras (a Nikon D500 with grip and a Fuji GFX 50S with grip) with lenses attached, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a few more small and medium-sized lenses, with room to spare. Think Tank says that you can fit a gripped DSLR and standard DSLR with five to seven zoom lenses, a 15-inch laptop and a 13-inch tablet. They say the maximum lens size is a 200-400mm f/4, but I will point out that I have fit a 400mm f/2.8 lens in the original Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive. While I no longer have that lens to test with the V2, there is no reason for me to suspect it wouldn’t fit here as well.
A great change in design is the revised laptop/tablet storage compartment, which is on the rear of the backpack. You now access the area via a top zipper, whereas on the original backpack, the laptop pocket was on the side. Think Tank says that the pocket holds a 15-inch laptop. My 15-inch MacBook Pro slid in with a lot of room to spare, so I suspect some larger laptops might fit as well. A 12.9-inch iPad Pro was a tighter fit in the dedicated tablet pocket, but it also fit.
Overall, the interior compartments are excellent. They were excellent in the original StreetWalker HardDrive backpack and Think Tank has made it even better, thanks to the second hinged main divider and the revised laptop pocket design. In short, the bag is highly customizable and can hold a large amount of gear.
The exterior of the bag has a slightly different look, as I discussed earlier, which I think is a minor downgrade aesthetically – which is obviously very subjective. However, there are numerous upgrades in terms of functionality. Along the front are a pair of pockets. The top pocket has many smaller pockets and organizers inside, which works very well for storing small items such as memory cards and extra batteries.
The sides of the bag include zipper pockets, one on each side, which each have stretchy areas for storing standard water bottles. One of the zippered pockets has a smartphone pocket inside, as you can see to the left.
One of my very few complaints with the original Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive backpack was the location of the upper tripod straps. They were anchored on the top of the bag, which meant that you had to undo the clip to open the main compartment of the bag, which was annoying in the field. On the V2, the tripod straps are now anchored on the very front of the backpack, which means you can open the backpack while a tripod is attached. This is a very big improvement and honestly, for me, worth the upgrade all by itself.
As has always been the case with Think Tank bags I’ve used, the Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0 is very comfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are excellent, offering a good width and ample breathable padding. Even with a full bag, which can of course be quite heavy given how much gear you can carry, the backpack remained comfortable.
The waist strap is comfortable as well, especially when walking a long distance or carrying a full backpack. The strap has pockets on it, which can store small items. It’d be nice if they could fit my iPhone, but with the dedicated side pocket for my phone, it’s not a big deal.
The improved location of the tripod straps on the V2 backpack have some implications for comfort, especially when carrying a large tripod as I regularly do. With the previous version, sometimes the tripod head would clip the back of my head. By moving the top tripod straps to the front of the V2, this issue has been resolved.
I can’t comment on the durability of the V2 specifically, but I want to point out that after considerable use, many trips and treks and exposure to all kinds of harsh weather, my original Think Tank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive is practically as good as new, so I suspect that the V2 will be just as rugged and long lasting given that it uses similar, and in some cases improved, materials.
A great backpack has been improved upon with the revised Think Tank StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0. Think Tank has made a few welcome changes to the backpack, in particular the revised tripod strap anchor location and the improved interior ergonomics, which make the backpack even more comfortable and easy to use.
For photographers needing to carry a lot of gear, perhaps even a pair of gripped DSLRs with lenses attached, you will be hard-pressed to find a better backpack than the StreetWalker HardDrive V2.0.
The Think Tank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive V2 is an excellent, well-built backpack and with its quality comes a reasonably high cost. The backpack retails for just under US$230. I think that the backpack is a great value given its carrying capacity and design, but it may be oversized for some users. Think Tank Photo offers very similar, but smaller, backpacks that cost a bit less: the Think Tank Photo StreetWalker V2.0 and StreetWalker Pro V2.0, which retail for $170 and $200 respectively.