The perfect travel camera bag does not exist. However, having modular options definitely brings us much closer as long as we make the right choices in planning how we carry our gear when we travel.
Finding the perfect travel camera bag is an individualized process for any photographer. Our choice in carrying solutions varies greatly depending on the kind of gear that we need when we travel which is in turn dependent on the kind of photography that we do and the kind of images that we seek. Some photographers like to travel with just one or two lenses while other photographers bring their entire arsenal wherever they go. This is where modular functions come in and why the combination of the Peak Design travel backpacks and camera cubes have a lot to offer.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L
Peak Design’s travel backpack was first introduced around 5 years ago with the launch of the Travel Backpack 45L. It was then later on followed by the 30L and while the common assumption would be that size would be their only difference, there were some key changes when the smaller version followed.
The Travel Backpack 30L comes as a 53cm x 34cm 400D nylon canvas shell with a thickness of 18-20cm depending on whether the expansion zippers are open. It comes in black, sage, and midnight colors that greatly affect the overall aesthetic of the bag. The outer surface is coated with two layers of durable water repellent (DWR) that should protect it not just from water and moisture but also dirt, mud, and stains. The base of the backpack has an even more reinforced waterproof 900D nylon liner for added protection on the most vulnerable surface of the bag. As a remarkable bonus, this entire bag is made up of 100% recycled fabric and carbon-neutral materials.
Compared to the larger version, the Travel Backpack 30L has fewer external compartments to work with. The front compartment takes up about 20% of the front surface and is kept as an ideal space for small accessories and personal items that need to be within reach. The inner surface of the front pocket is lined with smaller flexible pockets on one side and a zippered pocket on the other. On both sides are two flexible pockets that can be used to store beverage bottles or travel tripods with the help of the supplied accessory straps that mount on the attachment loops found on the corners of the bag. In addition, the top left side of the rear panel has a small accessory pocket for luggage tags or similarly sized objects.
The Travel Backpack 30L allows for convenient one-handed carrying with large handles found on top, both sides, under the bottom surface, and on the rear padding. In addition, two large half pockets can be found on the medial third of the rear surface that act as a pocket for tucking away the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps provide roughly 1cm of padding to ensure comfort on the user’s shoulders and also follow a curved contour to better fit the torso of the user. On the front surface is an adjustable chest strap that offers better fit and weight distribution when the load is considerably heavy. One notable aspect though would have to be the fact that when carrying a lot of camera gear inside the friction on the shoulder straps tends to loosen which causes the bag to drift downwards and away from the user’s center of gravity. It doesn’t really mean that the straps would release altogether but this impairs efficient weight distribution when not adjusted back from time to time.
The Peak Design Travel Backpacks were made to be multi-purpose backpacks and not just simply for use with cameras. The main compartment is technically a bare and hollow space that can contain anything that fits. In addition, it also has two side pockets and two zippered pockets lining the inner surface of the front shell and all these can be used to store small to medium-sized accessories. Aside from the main flap that takes up the entire perimeter of the rear panel, there are no side or top access doors which means that the only way to access anything inside would have to be through the main door.
Camera Cubes V2
The Peak Design camera cubes have recently been updated and now come in more size variants. Two new sizes, extra small (XS), and S/Medium which is about half the size of the large camera cube allow the user to divide the backpack’s compartment depending on how much of the space is actually needed for fragile camera gear and how much of the remaining space can be used for lighter personal items.
The new camera cubes now come with a 360-degree handle that lines all sides of the padded container. At the same time, it comes with a larger expanded opening and more customizable padded dividers to better arrange your gear. The foam padding of the flap of the main access door can be removed in order to roll and tuck away one side of the camera cube that would otherwise be redundant with the rear panel of the travel backpack or any similar compatible backpack in general.
On both sides of the camera cubes (particularly this large-sized variant) are side access doors that should provide quick access to gear placed strategically near the access points however the accessibility and efficiency of this would still vary depending on what bag contains the camera cube. If used with the Travel Backpack 30L, for example, this would still mean opening the main zipper since there is no aligned access door on the backpack shell itself.
In addition, all sides of the camera cubes have loops that align perfectly with loops found on the travel backpacks that can be used to fasten the camera cube onto the shell using the supplied c-shaped clip locks. The cubes also come with anchor attachment loops that can be used to attach any shoulder strap to the camera cube for stand-alone use and this is ideal for use with Peak Design’s own camera straps and anchor links.
This combination of two modular carrying solutions provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to different styles and demands of traveling. The Travel Backpack 30L alone provides convenient options due to the comfortable yet functional design. When combined with the right selection of camera cube size(s) it offers a fully customizable carrying solution wherein the user can arrange their gear and personal items in the most organized and protected way.
In my personal experience, the size that the 30L backpack comes in hits the sweet spot for the selection of gear that I typically bring when I travel. However, I must admit that I may have made the wrong choice of camera cube sizes as I would have loved to pull out a medium-sized (or SMedium) camera cube out of the backpack to attach a strap onto and that would have been perfect for more relaxed days around the city that I was currently visiting.
What I Liked:
- Modular yet protective carrying solutions
- Minimalist design
- 100% recycled and carbon-neutral materials
What Can Be Improved:
- Strap stability on the travel backpack
- Side access doors on the travel backpack
- Built-in strap anchors and anchor pockets for the camera cubes