Review: Brevitē Rolltop backpack provides durable, attractive and versatile carrying solution
posted Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 6:00 AM EDT
Brevitē is a relatively new company in the photo backpack world, releasing their first product following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015. The original campaign was backed by nearly 250 people and raised upwards of US$40,000. The company was started by a trio of brothers in Boston and their lineup includes the original Backpack and two new bags, the Rolltop and Rucksack.
I had the chance to try out one of their new Rolltop backpacks and came away very impressed. The Rolltop incorporates a unique design where the top of the backpack is more like a traditional bag than your average backpack. Rather than open it with zippers, the top of the bag unrolls (hence the name) and opens up completely.
Design: Attractive Rolltop doesn't look like a photo backpack
The first thing I noticed about the Rolltop is its stylish design. It is made from a gray weave polyester material that is waterproof, making the Rolltop the best option in the Brevitē lineup for the adventurous photographer. It's an attractive-looking backpack that doesn't really look like a camera backpack. This is by design, as Brevitē wanted to make a bag that photographers could carry while still being able to blend in with a crowd, rather than stand out and become a potential target for sticky-fingered thieves. However their plan might backfire: the backpack is so stylish someone might want to grab it just to have one for themselves.
All of Brevite's backpacks utilize the same protective insert, which is a separate, smaller pouch that has a velcro interior and hard-foam dividers that you can insert and organize to custom-fit your gear. The protective insert is fairly large but it won't fit a large array of professional equipment and lenses. A large gripped DSLR can fit, provided you store the lens separately. For most cameras and lenses, such as non-gripped DSLRs and mirrorless camera systems, the protective insert provides plenty of room. I can fit my gripped Nikon D800E and a few standard lenses (14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8) for example, but a 70-200mm f/2.8 would be a very tight squeeze with a gripped body. And a nice feature of the Brevitē line is that if you take the insert out you will have a very functional backpack for any purpose.
Other features include an internal compartment divider, memory card holders, a 15-inch laptop sleeve on the backpack itself (which can obviously work well for a tablet as well) and a medium-sized pocket on the front. The exterior of the backpack includes a variety of neat features. On one of the shoulder straps, you'll find a removable lens cap buckle (there are three sizes available, 52mm, 58mm and 67mm) and sunglasses loop. The shoulder straps also include a sternum strap and buckle. On the waist strap, both sides include pockets, which can hold memory cards, screw-on filters, or any other small items. Unfortunately these pockets are just a bit too small to fit your average smartphone. On the bottom of the backpack are loops for a tripod, and there's a water bottle holder on one of the sides. And for you skateboarders out there, the Rolltop also includes a skateboard sleeve.
Real-world Use: Rolltop functions very well for camera gear and much more
The Rolltop worked quite well, although I found that I got the best use from it when I planned ahead a bit. You can access the protective insert from the front or the side, but if you set up the dividers for one access point, it limits the usability of the other access point. So when I wanted to keep the backpack on one of my shoulders and use the side access, I set up the protective insert with that in mind. If I was going to remove the backpack and take my time getting my gear out, I set it up differently. You can use the backpack either way at all times, but it is a much more streamlined experience if you set it up for your own style ahead of time.
The rolltop aspect of the pack is very interesting and it works quite well. There's an adjustable clip in the front that keeps the back from opening up, but the material also has magnetic inserts that keep it folded when you roll it, for extra convenience and protection from the elements. I was a little hesitant to use a bag with this sort of opening at first, but I quickly found offers a reliable level of protection, while also allowing you to fit a lot into your bag, such as clothes and gear for a hiking trip. The top of the bag opens up very wide and you can use the magnets to maintain the opening wider rather than fold it down. The interior space of the Rolltop is the biggest of all of their backpacks.
One aspect of the backpack's design that I didn't love during real-world use was the somewhat small front and side openings for accessing the protective insert. Naturally this ensures that the insert won't fall out, but it can also take a little longer to access gear. There's always a balance to be struck between protection and convenience, but I think that the Brevitē Rolltop leans overall toward protection. With that said, you can carry gear that you want to quickly access in the backpack without the insert at all; in that way, the backpack is very flexible. You're not locked into using it any one way or for a singular purpose.
The straps are fairly thin, but also well-padded and comfortable. The shoulder, sternum and waist straps are all quickly adjustable. The buckles and zippers are all well-made too and appear very durable. To help keep your back cool and dry, the padded areas are made from a sweat-wicking material. It's quite cool here now, so I didn't get to put this feature through an extreme test, but it seemed to work as advertised. Overall, it's a comfortable bag to wear, even when it's jam-packed with equipment. When carrying gear in the Rolltop over the course of the day, my shoulders never felt sore and the backpack didn't cause any discomfort. Particularly when utilizing the sternum and waist straps -- which as mentioned are easily adjustable -- the Rolltop is well-balanced.
The Brevitē Rolltop is a stylish, functional backpack that lets you comfortably carry not only your camera equipment, but also your other necessities. It's rare for a photography backpack to function just as well for carrying cameras and lenses as it does for carrying clothes and personal items, but that's what the Boston-based Brevitē team have accomplished.
You can purchase your own Rolltop for US$140 without the Protective Insert or US$185 with the insert. It is available for preorder now and it will be releasing on October 18.
If you're in the market for a well-rounded backpack and you don't need to carry large cameras and lenses, I highly recommend giving the Brevitē Rolltop (or their new Rucksack or original Backpack) a long look.