Atlas Adventure Photographer's Backpack Review

January 14, 2019

My Atlas Adventure arrived recently, all 70L of it.


Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the company and I paid full price for the bag. Not trying to sell anything here! Took a gamble after watching some (not sure if sponsored) videos on YouTube.

 

History:
I was looking for a bag that would carry both my Mamiya RB67 and my Tomiyama 6x17 comfortably. Neither are small, light cameras and by the time you've added a couple of film backs and lenses & a tripod, there's quite a lot of kit. My digital kit is utterly swallowed in it (2 x X-T bodies, 50-140, 16-55 & a couple of primes). I tend to go out for the day, so I often carry waterproofs, water, lunch, spare film, and maybe even the X-T2 with 16mm. Previous bag was a 45L Dakine Poacher with a camera insert. I'll be keeping this as a digital pack, but it only just fits the RB67 & spare lens on its own - without adding the 6x17. To give you an idea of size, I have a Think Tank Retrospective 7 and that will only carry the RB67. Nothing else. 

 

The Atlas Adventure compares to the F-Stop Sukha in terms of size. It's a big pack with a rigid back plate and adjustable shoulder straps (as in you can adjust it for your height which is really nice). Access is via a zipped rear compartment that opens the whole pack rather than just the section inside the shoulder straps. This compartment can be "folded" allowing you to have a large main compartment and small camera compartment, or vice versa. It comes in black. This is really a bag for an overnight camper, or maybe a vlog-tographer (needs drones + 2 tripods + cameras), or an idiot with a ton of heavy film gear. I decided on this over the Sukha and the Shimoda Explore 60 for several reasons. 1 - because it was cheaper and didn't need me to faff over ICUs, 2 - the review videos seemed to show a better build quality bag, but probably most importantly, 3, the company were friendly and responsive when I emailed them so I had confidence that the gear I wanted to put in it would actually fit.

 

Cons:
Expensive. Very Expensive. £330 delivered from the United States. Probably cheaper than the Sukha + Large/Pro ICU though and definitely cheaper than the "Shimoda Experience" which are pretty much the only two bags in competition. Also, don't think you'll get away without customs fees. FedEx will write to you after delivery claiming it back. The £60-odd VAT you can do nothing about, and Atlas will refund the US taxes, but the £12 Fed Ex fee stuck in my craw a bit. This pushes the price to over £400. If I'd known, I might have asked them to try a different courier. I wasn't in a rush (it did arrive in 4 days!)

Pocket Access: It's not easy to access your pockets. Jeans back pockets are out of bounds, and you can't clip anything to your belt because the waist belt covers it. If you carry a tool like a Leatherman, or need access to your phone on and off, then it's a bit annoying.
There are no more cons.

 

Pros:
Build quality. Excellent. Double strapped, gorgeously padded waist belt that cinches and releases with ease. Comfy shoulder straps - again heavily padded. Zips all have toggle things for when you've got gloves on, and it comes with rain cover. Spare toggles included with the bag. Plenty of camera inserts with the bag. Stitching seems really sound and after pulling inserts in and out to change between film and digital gear, it all seems robust.


Comfort. Excellent. Fully loaded, it's heavy but the waist straps allow you to settle a lot of that on your hips. I've not felt a pack this comfy... well... ever...


Service. I contacted them before ordering to see whether my 6x17 would fit as it's 7" in its narrowest dimension. They were responsive, and pleasant over email. They sent it out same day after ordering, gave me a FedEx tracking number and it was with me in 4 days. Was offered lots of assurance that I could return it if there was a problem. Proper old-school service.

 

Straps & Pockets. Excellent. You could carry 2 tripods easily (or tripod & water bottle), the waist belt has two fold out pockets which would be really useful for changing things with the pack on. It's got the main compartment (accessed via top or rear), a second compartment for slim things (laptop, ithing, etc), the camera compartment and 2 top compartments - 1 small for things like keys/phone and another for maybe some sarnies and a bag of crisps. Numerous other small pockets for things like batteries & cards. Has a handle on the top, as well as a handle on the side for carrying it like a suitcase - which - considering it's length - is useful.

 

Real World Use:
I've been out a few times now with this pack loaded down with 22lbs (10kg) of gear - including coffee & chocolate. The last time I went out, the light was pretty poor but I was trying to catch the last of the Autumnal colour before it blew off the trees. I ended up taking a wander down to the Dutton horse bridge which is around a 3 mile wander and probably about as far as I’d want to go with this much weight. The bag was fab. Being able to settle the weight on my hips was really good, and it’s really only my age & infirmity that’s letting me down. Like I mentioned earlier. there’s no real access to back or front pockets because of where the pack sits, so the fold out pockets from within the waist belt were really useful (mainly for my phone). Also, the fact that I could open up the whole pack just made working from it a pleasure. It’s a large dry, clean space to change lenses, or attach filters. Upon returning home, it was my knees and legs that were suffering with no chafing or pain from shoulders, back or neck. All down to being a cronky old man I think…


In terms of criticism,the only gripe I have is that those fold out pockets could do with a zip. I use my phone as a light meter, so it’s constantly in and out of my hands. Usually I use a back pocket, but with the pack being the size it is, the fold out pocket is its new home. When I remove the pack though, the phone can fall out. Not a big problem unless I’m working on a bridge. In which case the phone falling out could be catastrophic. Time to look for some sort of attachment to strap the phone to the shoulder strap I think. I'm not geeky enough to get a phone armband yet though!

 

Summary:
If you want a big bag, and want something that'll carry everything for more than about 20 minutes without breaking your back, then this is probably it. And the great news is, you can send your list of gear to the company and they'll probably give you a good estimation as to whether it will or not. Obviously it's just arrived so I can't tell you how hard wearing it is, but it seems to be robust & durable. I'm really pleased with the comfort considering the weight I'm carrying. The Dakine pack is great for smaller loads, but even that doesn't feel as solid and glued to my back like this thing does.

 

Very expensive, but worth it. I can't see me ever needing anything else.

 

Spare section folded down. Bag easily carries 2 x Fuji digital X-T bodies, a 50-140, and 18-135 & 2 primes as well as a filter pouch.

 

 Spare section folded away. Bag now carries the ridiculously heavy Mamiya RB67, Tomiyama Art Pano 6x17, spare back for the RB67 & a spare lens + filter pouch.

 Thick supporting straps and waist belt with full easy rear access.

 

 

 

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