Review: MindShift UltraLight 36L backpack proves lightweight bags can be comfortable and durable
posted Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 8:38 AM EDT
MindShift Gear recently sent me one of their new UltraLight backpacks to review. I used the UltraLight Dual 36L, the largest of their three UltraLight offerings, and found that it provided an excellent balance between volume and comfort.
According to Mindshift, the UltraLight is the "lighest photo daypack series ever" and the 36L (36 liters of volume) size weighs a mere 3.3 lbs (1.5kg) when empty. Not only is the backpack lightweight, but it is also designed to be accessible while remaining on your shoulder. By taking the backpack off of your right shoulder, you can spin the bag around and access the side compartment where your camera gear goes.
An interesting additional feature of the pack is that the camera compartment is actually removable and comes with a shoulder strap, so you can lighten your load even further for short daytrips. Beyond the camera compartment section, there is also a large compartment at the top of the backpack that has snaps and a drawstring rather than a zipper. You can store water, additional gear, and even a small laptop/tablet in this compartment.
Small items can be stored in various places throughout the pack, including in a zippered pouch on the waist strap, a zippered pouch in the top compartment, a zippered compartment on top of the backpack itself, or in a zippered area of the camera compartment. All in all, the 36L is able to hold a standard-sized DSLR with 2-4 standard zoom lenses (or a standard-sized DSLR with battery grip and 2-3 standard zoom lenses). Maximum lens size is either a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached to your camera body or a detached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Of course, nothing is stopping you from putting camera gear in the top compartment, although it will certainly be better protected in the dedicated camera compartment. There is a 20-liter capacity for personal gear.
The UltraLight Dual 36L is very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, even when fully-loaded. The shoulder straps are comfortable and breathable and I didn't have any issues with discomfort. I found that all of the zippers and snaps worked very well and that it was easy to adjust the various straps. The only usability issue that I had is that the camera compartment fits very snugly in the backpack, so it is not very easy to quickly remove it or get it back into the pack, but this is not a big deal as it is not something that I would expect to need to do very often.
While all exterior fabric is water-repelling, the backpack does come with an included rain cover. You can also attach your tripod to the pack using the built-in tripod straps. The UltraLight Dual 36L is compatible with many MindShift gear accessories, including the tripod suspension kit and filter hive/filter nest filter holders.
Overall, the MindShift UltraLight Dual 36L is a great backpack, especially for photographers looking for a fairly large, but lightweight pack. I would personally prefer more gear storage area, but the UltraLight Dual 36L should work well for photographers who do a lot of hiking and need dedicated storage space for hydration and personal items. If you're looking to safely store as many lenses as possible, then this may not be the backpack for you. However, if you want a backpack that stays out of your way and will provide quick access to a camera and a few lenses while also storing your adventure items, then I'd suggest giving the new UltraLight series a closer look.
The UltraLight series is available now in 16 liter ($120), 25 liter ($170), and 36 liter ($200) sizes. The 36L is available in Black Magma or Twilight Blue color options.
You can purchase the UltraLight 36L directly from MindShift Gear here.