We take MindShift’s rotation180º Horizon 34L camera bag for a literal spin in our newest review
posted Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 9:27 AM EDT
One of the most unique camera bag designs on the market is held by the rotation180º series from MindShift, ThinkTank’s sister company. Each bag in MindShift’s rotation180º series features a wrap-around beltpack that can be securely housed within the backpack when not in use and pulled around to the front for easy access to your gear.
As part of our ongoing bag review series, we managed to get our hands on one and take it for spin to tell you just what sets the MindShift’s Rotation180º series apart from other bags on the market.
MindShift’s adventure-minded rotation180º backpacks come in five varieties: Travel Away (22L), Trail (16L), Panorama (22L), Horizon (34L) and Professional (38L). All rotation180º bags are similar in form and function; the main difference between the models is their internal capacity and how much gear the wrap-around waist pack can hold.
For this review, I chose the rotation180º Horizon 34L, the second-largest capacity MindShift offers. Below is a rundown of my thoughts on the bag, including its build quality, comfort, protection and performance in the field.
Build Quality and Protection
With any adventure-oriented camera backpack, the goal is to find the perfect weight-to-protection ratio -- you want the bag to be as light as possible while providing the greatest protection for your gear.
Of the dozen or so camera bags I’ve purchased or reviewed throughout the years, the rotation180º Horizon 34L strikes that balance almost perfectly. The backpack weighs only 3.9lbs (1.8 kg) when completely empty. This is achieved through both clever design and the choice of material used to create the backpack.
The design of the rotation180º Horizon 34L is unique in that it lacks a traditional external/internal frame, but isn’t entirely frameless. Rather than relying on an internal from that extends from top to bottom, MindShift has instead opted to create a plastic core around where the beltpack is secured inside the backpack. The decision to build the bag this way keeps your gear protected and distributes the most weight towards the middle of your back -- where you should be keeping the heaviest of gear.
The backpack is constructed almost entirely of ripstop nylon and Cordura-like fabric. MindShift doesn’t specify what thickness the materials are, but from my time with the bag, it’s clear MindShift made sure to place the more robust fabric where the backpack will take the most abuse and the lighter fabric where weight savings is more crucial.
A small, but important aspect of the design is the zippers. Rather than a traditional tab zipper, MindShift opted for a rubberized loop design, which makes opening and closing compartments incredibly easy in any environment, even with gloves on.
The last thing you want to worry about when biking, hiking or backpacking is sore shoulders or hips due to inadequate padding on your backpack. Since receiving the rotation180º Horizon 34L a week ago, I’ve walked almost 25 miles (40km) with the bag full to the brim with camera and backpacking gear and I can say with confidence it is one of the more comfortable bags I’ve ever reviewed.
Along the back of the bag, MindShift has included foam padding, which transitions in thickness from top to bottom. This seemingly minuscule design choice is rather significant. By choosing different thickness in padding, MindShift has created a subtle contour for the bag that keeps it snug against your back when walking about.
The shoulder straps are fairly standard, both in design and comfort – no complaints there. Further helping the weight distribution and comfort is the beltpack, which can be adjusted to fit almost any body shape you can toss at it.
What really surprised me about this bag is its performance and usability while out in the field.
Traditionally, camera backpacks haven’t been designed to be used while you're wearing them. MindShift decided to toss this thinking out the door with the addition of the rotation180º series’ signature beltpack. At first, the beltpack appears to be a novelty, but after just an hour or two of testing the rotation180º 34L, it was clear this would become my favorite aspect of this bag.
As a one-camera shooter, I’ve always struggled with keeping lenses that aren’t attached to my camera nearby. Whether I was shooting a sporting event or going for a quick hike, I was always having to set down my backpack, unzip it, remove the lens, swap the lenses, zip it back up and toss on the backpack – far from efficient. The beltpack now lets me access all of my camera gear without removing the backpack at all.
Learning how to use the beltpack can take a little getting used to, but once you have it down, it becomes second nature. So much so that I actually tried to pull around the nonexistent beltpack on another bag I’m reviewing.
To unlatch the flap that keeps the beltpack in place, you simply press down on the magnetic latch, which is located on your right hip. Once opened, you use one of the belt packs sewn-in loops to pull it around to your front. When you’re finished, you just push the beltpack back around using your hand and lightly guide the latch back into place, which will automatically ‘snap’ back into place with the help of an integrated magnet.
The beltpack of the rotation180º Horizon 34L offers up 7 liters of space, providing more than ample room for my Canon 5D MIII, 70-200mm II f/2.8 L, 16–35mm II f/2.8 L, a microfiber towel, a Clif bar for snacking and more room to spare.
The upper compartment of the bag offers the remaining 27L of storage, which can be used to pack backpacking gear or more camera gear via MindShift’s Panorama or Horizon photo inserts. There are a number of conveniently placed straps and pockets for hydration packs, clothing, first aid kits, snacks, and more.
Also built-in is a tripod system, which folds out from the bottom of the bag to keep most any tripod secured along the front of the bag.
All in all, the rotation180º bag is one of the most unique and comfortable bags available for adventure-minded photographers. MindShift didn’t skimp on anything with making this bag. Whether you're backpacking, hiking, mountain biking or out shooting your favorite action sport, your gear will be safe and your back will be comfortable.
If you’re looking for something smaller – or larger – MindShift offers plenty of other sizes in the series. For more information on the rotation180º camera backpack series, you can check out MindShift's entire lineup on B&H by clicking here.