When Gura Gear was absorbed into the Tamrac brand in late 2015, the beloved Bataflae photo backpack was left without a home. Without hesitation, Tamrac introduced the G-Elite line that improved upon the genius butterfly-opening backpack design of the original Bataflae and was launched in two sizes: the G32 and the G26. Over the past few months I’ve been running around with the G26 version and it is without a doubt the best backpack I’ve ever used.
Even though the Tamrac G26 is the smaller of the two current G-Elite offerings, this thing has no trouble swallowing gear. It’s deep enough to take on any DSLR or medium format camera, battery grips and L-brackets included. It also has ample room to take on some serious lens, flash, and accessory collections. I’m able to fit in two mirrorless bodies, five lenses, a flash and transmitter, and typical photography accessories comfortably within the divider panels of the main compartment. According to Tamrac, the bag will fit in up to a 500mm lens which I can easily believe. Having traveled with the G26, I can say that the bag does fit into overhead compartments, however if you are flying an aircraft with more limited space up top I learned that you don’t want too much bulge outside the bag’s unloaded dimensions (it fit with some decent lumps, a light coat, and a fat old MacBook in the accessory pocket, but just barely).
The main equipment compartment has a sturdy removable divider that runs down the center of the pack enabling the butterfly system. Since it is removable, you have the option of foregoing two whole two-sided pack idea and operate everything in the conventional way. The G26 comes with several shorter rigid dividers for compartmentalization and several more basic dividers to pad between gear. The dividers in this pack are pretty easy to adjust since the velcro flaps fold all the way back, and they hold great once in place. The entire rim of the interior is Velcro-friendly fabric which helps with fine-tuned customization. The wall protecting your gear from the outside is stiff and offers firm padding without being overly bulky. It keeps its shape whether loaded or unloaded and won’t slouch or tip when you set it upright.
The butterfly multi-access design adds a new dimension to pack organization. Being able to unzip one side of the pack for quicker, less cluttered access to what you need to grab is something I came to appreciate. Since the butterfly flap opens inwards towards the bag, it’s also nice to have in cramped areas. Of course you can still fully open the main compartment up in the traditional fashion by undoing a simple buckle. As a photography gear writer, at one point I had three different camera systems in the bag but the butterfly system helped me stay sane and I always had fast access to everything I needed even with a mix of mismatching equipment. The topside of the main compartment has a total of four large separate mesh zippered pockets, two to each side of the butterfly. The zippers to the main compartment can come together to set a lock on it, however they don’t fit over the butterfly buckle strap so you need to pick one side or the other if you want a 100 percent closed bag. I do wonder if this could have been avoided by using some other material for the buckle strap that had more flexibility.
One level out from the main compartment is a zippered accessory compartment. This area will house a laptop up to 15-inches behind a padded sleeve, as well as plenty of other miscellaneous belongings. There are four flat storage sleeves and a key fob in front of the laptop sleeve. On the flat of this area are two more large mesh zippered pockets and two mesh sleeves that can hold larger, less flat items. At the very front of the G32 there is a small zippered pocket which can hold any of your small quick-access items.
The G32 and G26 come in two color options, charcoal and dark olive. Combined with the weave grid pattern, it does a good job of staying presentable and hides any dirty spots well which will be valued a few years down the road. As most people would likely prefer, there is minimal branding on the bag. The exterior zippers that seal your equipment all have full material coverage for added weather resistance. They were also semi difficult to pull when I received the bag, but after use I found they broke in nicely. I suppose that’s better than going from moderately easy to pull to way too easy to pull open.
The carrying strap system of the G-Elite bags is very cool. The shoulder and waist straps can be disconnected and stored within an exterior zippered pouch on the backside fully converting it into a snag-free carry bag. The G26 utilizes load lifters, a sternum strap, and removable waist strap to make carrying all that gear not an issue. I was truly amazed at how well it handled heavy loads. It is more comfortable, even after longer day hikes with a full load, than all other photography bags I’ve used.
Lastly I want to mention the little details that refine the overall bag experience. The riveted carry-friendly handles, the M.O.L.L.E. attachments points for accessory expansion, the weather-resistant zippers with comfortable finger loops and zipper garages, the strap keepers all around the bag on anything adjustable to keep things tidy, it’s all here. Everything just seems to have its place on the bag with every detail thought out. It even comes with a rain fly for harsh weather and a large dust bag for storage.
Priced at $359.95 for the G26 model, it is a serious amount of cash, but it is also a serious photography backpack that went all out with materials and construction. There is a lot going on with this bag that tells me it’s made to adapt and it’s made to last. Both the Tamrac G26 and G32 ($399.95) are available now from B&H Photo.