We all work with expensive gear, but sometimes, we don't want the world to know that we're carrying the monetary equivalent of a nice car on our backs. Brevitē recognized and addressed that earlier this year with its announcement of the Rolltop and Rucksack, both of which embody the look of a fashionable backpack over a specialized gear-hauler. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, that's exactly what the bags are. The Rucksack serves that purpose quite well while also providing the sort of discreet look that many photographers desire.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I think the Rucksack is a real home run. The textured, black 600D Nylon is a classic look for backpacks, while all the straps have an elegant, slightly utilitarian look to them. Lastly, the light brown leather accents give the bag just enough color to make it pleasant without being gaudy or drawing attention, the main design philosophy of the line. Brevitē has done a great job of creating an adult backpack that doesn't carry with it the overly casual tone that backpacks of yore might evoke.
The Rucksack looks little like a photography bag, but it does look good.
At 20"x13"x6", the Rucksack is well within the standard 22"x14"x9" carry-on requirement (in the United States), and the few missing inches are noticeable; it really behaves more like an accessory on the wearer's back than like an all-encompassing backpack that larger bags can feel like, and that's a good thing, so long as you're comfortable with sacrificing that extra room. Both the straps and the back have cushioned sweat-wicking material, and the back conformed to my spine well, keeping the bag close to my body without turning it into a sauna, while the padding kept the otherwise flat profile from being uncomfortable.
The strap system with the lens cap buckle and cushioning system.
The exterior features some thoughtful touches that round out the user experience nicely. The shoulder straps have a standard sternum strap that helps to keep the bag from torquing downward into your sacrum/coccyx when it's bottom-heavy (as is often the case given its design). They also feature a sunglasses loop and a removable lens cap buckle. The sunglasses loop is quite helpful, as I constantly wear a pair, and my head shape seems to make it impossible for me to keep them on top of my head when shooting. My mom told me she rolled me every half-hour as a baby to make sure my head had a perfectly symmetrical roundness to it. I blame mom. But I digress. The lens cap buckle is a stroke of genius; you simply put the lens cap on it just like you would a lens, and it sits on the strap until you need it again. I normally put my lens caps in my back pocket when I'm shooting, and inevitably, I sit on them and yelp in pain; having them accessible and not worrying about losing them is great. The lens cap buckle is removable and comes in 52mm, 58mm, and 67mm sizes.
I am many things. Model is not one of them. The bag is very comfortable, though, and it sits nicely on the back.
Moving toward the bottom of the bag, the hip belt has a small zippered memory card holder on each side with a mesh keeper on the inside that helps to wrangle a stray SD or CF card from falling out when opened. At the bottom, you'll find the built-in rain cover. You also have two options for a tripod: on the bottom or on the side. Should you elect for the bottom, the side pocket becomes a great spot for a large water bottle. I normally prefer the side so the bag stands upright upon opening, but given the gear access points, I don't mind having the tripod on the bottom. I do wish the side tripod strap sat a bit higher, as it makes it difficult to completely secure a tripod without movement, but it's a minor inconvenience.
On the other side, you'll find an auxiliary gear access door of sorts; it allows you side access to the protective insert, which has its own zipper, giving a double seal. It's a nice touch, as it's a good spot to store something like a telephoto lens that can easily be swapped out without taking the entire bag off. Furthermore, if you set the dividers in the protective insert correctly (we'll get to that), you won't have to worry about more gear tumbling out behind that telephoto lens.
The side access door.
On the front of the bag, there's a zippered accessory pocket with a magnetic flap. Inside, you'll find multiple slots, a key holder, four pen holders, and four memory card holders. It's well organized, and the extra memory card slots meant I repurposed the hip pockets for spare batteries. The flap is a nice aesthetic touch too; it's not entirely necessary given that the pocket is zippered, but it smooths the lines of the bag nicely and complements the main upper flap well. Behind that pocket is a second zipper that allows the entire bottom half of the front of the bag to fall away, revealing the main access to the protective insert that holds your camera gear. Like the side flap, you'll need to go through two zippers to actually get your gear, which I find preferable as I appreciate the extra protection, and I never found it a hindrance to use.
The front accessory pocket.
Finally, at the top of the bag, you'll find the sealing flap. It has two zippered compartments; the exterior one is about the size of a large wallet, while the one on the underside runs the areas of the entire flap and is a great spot to store valuables, both by virtue of its protection from the elements and of its hidden location. This is where my wallet and keys went. My only real concern with the entire exterior of the bag lies with this flap. The top compartment is sealed with a drawstring, over which the flap forms a complete seal when tightened with the straps. If you've not filled the upper compartment fully to force the material into the crevices of the flap, the fabric can bunch in a way that there's a bit of a gap where the interior can be slightly exposed. It's not such that vertical precipitation would ever pose a risk, as the opening is always under the flap, but if you're in a particularly humid environment or a fine mist or snow, you might consider filling the top of the bag to compensate. Brevitē did design the top flap with a reinforced side barrier to help mitigate this, but it's simply the tradeoff in using a bag of this design. Note that by nature of the protective insert, camera gear is never at risk, though a laptop would be exposed. This could also be fixed by placing the buckles for the top flap directly on the flap as opposed to having them on straps, eliminating the play introduced by the space created by the buckles. Regardless, unless you frequently spend time in horizontal precipitation, it's not something I would worry about. You also have the rain cover should you need it.
The top of the bag fit a thick fall jacket nicely.
The Rucksack really shines here. The design is thoughtful and elegant, supporting four main configurations: without the protective insert and without the divider, without the insert and with the divider, with the insert and without the divider, or with the insert and the divider. Without the divider and without the insert, it's simply a large bag with a laptop sleeve, suitable for whatever you care to throw in it. The laptop sleeve is rated up to 15" and easily held my 13" Macbook Air. To use the dividers, one simply un-Velcros it and zips it into place, giving the bag two compartments. Using this actually helps the bag to hold its shape better, which goes a long way to alleviate the issue I mentioned above involving the exterior seal. You should note that the divider only zips across the bag, not around all four sides, meaning it doesn't form a tight seal between the two divisions, so it's ill-advised to use the top compartment for things like wet clothes or tiny items that could slip into crevices.
The zippered divider that creates two distinct compartments along with the laptop sleeve.
The protective insert is really the heart of the Rucksack system and is where you'll store your camera gear. It's a square, padded case that can easily be dropped in and out of the bag via its carrying handle, a versatility I began to really appreciate on location, when I could just pull the entire insert out of my bag and lay it out on its semi-rigid back. All sides of the insert are well-padded, even by my overly cautious standards, while the inside comes with a set of customizable dividers. Thankfully, the dividers are very high quality: they contain a semi-rigid structure surrounded by soft, non-abrasive padding with strong Velcro for arranging them. Dividers seem to be a sticking point in many bags and can make or break the user experience, so I was thrilled that they're of a high quality with the Rucksack.
The insert held a day's worth of gear comfortably. I configured mine to hold my 5D Mark IV with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens attached, Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye, and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. With my travel tripod attached, filters and memory cards in the front compartment, batteries in the hip pockets, and warmer clothes in the top compartment with my laptop, it made for a perfect all-day hiking or weekend trip setup.
I comfortably fit a day's worth of gear in the protective insert.
Altogether, the Rucksack is great to use. Aesthetically, it certainly achieves its under-the-radar design philosophy while still looking fashionable. It's durable and rugged and provides more than enough protection to withstand daily life and should hold up well over time. If something should go wrong, it comes with a lifetime warranty. For a photographer, the design is very well thought out and naturally induces a workflow built on organization and accessibility. It's comfortable, and it allowed me to work quickly. I also appreciated the ability to convert the bag into a standard backpack. At $165 for the bag with the protective insert (or $120 without), it's reasonably priced as well; I would happily use one as my daily commuter or as a weekend trip bag.
What I Liked
- Good looking, low profile design
- Lens cap buckle is a great touch
- Lifetime warranty
- Excellent camera gear protection
What I Didn't Like
- Divider doesn't completely seal top and bottom compartments
- Drawstring design allows top of the bag to bunch, preventing a tight seal at times
- Tripod strap sits a bit low
Overall, I highly recommend the Rucksack. Its slightly smaller size struck a unexpectedly pleasant balance of space and portability for me, while its durability, organization, and extra design touches allowed for efficient work. Meanwhile, the design is pleasing and achieves the goal of creating a camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. Interested in getting your own? Get the Rucksack or its cousin, the Rolltop, here!