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MindShift Gear BackLight 26L review

Colin
November 5, 2018

MindShift Gear is the sister brand to ThinkThank Photo and is the brand behind the Rotation 180 series of bags. With a focus on outdoor and adventure photographers and the BackLight series of bags is the latest addition to their line up, also the brands first back panel access pack.

Highlights

There are three main ways camera backpacks are set up (well actually four if you include Mindshift’s Rotation system); front panel access, side panel access, and rear panel access. Each has its pros and cons, but the main advantage of back panel access bags is that when you need to put your pack down to pull out your camera, the straps don’t touch the ground. This especially important if you’re shooting in a location where the ground is wet or muddy, ie outside.

Also, because the camera access is on the rear of the bag it leaves the front open for storage laptops, tablets, extra layers, food, hydration bladders, etc.

Unfortunately, there are negatives to this system the main one being that given there is a hole on the rear of the bag, it makes it pretty difficult for adjustable harness systems so if the bag doesn’t fit you well you’re out of luck.

Rear panel access also makes it impractical for suspended mesh venting systems, and their carry capacity is a touch smaller than front access packs because the zipper needs to pass under the shoulder straps.

Backlight 26L

With 26L of carrying capacity, there is a surprising amount of room for gear inside the BackLight, and it happily engulfs my Canon 5DMKiii with a 100-400 MKii lens attached, five additional short lenses and various other gear. It’s not designed for pro-level bodies like the 1DX or Nikon D5 and might just be deep enough for a 5D or 7D with a battery grip.

My goto shooting kit is the 5D MK iii, Canon 28-40 2.8L, Canon  100-400 MKii, and Canon 8-15 Fisheye. With this inside the bag, there is still room a filter wallet, cleaning gear, a small organizer filled with spare memory cards and batteries as well as for two speedlights and triggers with spare batteries or and drone and remote.

There is also a cavernous front pocket with dedicated sleeves for a 15in laptop and tablet. This pocket is seriously huge and will fit heaps of layers, food, and even big a bivy if you pack carefully.

There’s also an additional smaller pocket on the front which is great for wet layers and a very tight zippered pocket on the top of the bag which isn’t particularly useful.

I have traveled quite a bit with this bag and it is fantastic, as it holds a ton of gear with a small form factor. This pack easily fits underneath an airline seat and does not grab the attention of flight attendants who’d like to weigh your carryon the way bigger camera packs often do.

Its got compression straps on the sides, daisy chains on the front, attachment points ice axes or trekking poles and water bottle pockets on either side too.

The insert is fixed with customizable padded dividers, and empty the bag tipped my scales a 1.74kg / 3.84lbs.

As with all MindShift, bags the BackLight 26L has the hidden tripod cup, which sees a small pocket for the legs and a top strap which tucks into a small pocket in the top of the bag. You can also utilize one of the water bottle sleeves and the compression straps on the side of the bag too. I’m not a fan of the rear tripod mount, as it puts the center of gravity out behind the bag, and in turn puts more weight on the shoulder straps rather than the waist belt — were possible I always put the tripod on the side of the bag.

Mindshift has opted for a great waistbelt on this pack, with the pads long enough to reach past the tops of your hip bones, which allows for the majority of the weight to be supported here, not on your shoulders.

The Backlight 26L also features an elastic strap on the inside of the back panel, the idea behind is so you can hang the bag off your waist and get to your gear without having to actually put the bag down, and put the strap around your neck so you can use both your hands inside the bag. I’m not sure Mindshift thought this through completely, as you can do this with any rear access backpack with a waist belt, but nobody does for a reason — it’s quite an awkward motion, and the bag isn’t all the stable hanging off your waist. 

Whenever I zipped or unzipped the rear panel, the cord, or webbing which attaches the cord to the bag would get caught in the zipper and I cut it off after a week of using the bag.

I took the Mindshift Firstlight 26L on a two-week trip to New Zealand. It’s just about the perfect day pack

Over all the Backlight 26L is a fantastic pack for getting out and shooting outside. It’s perfect for day hiking and a pretty good size for shooting from the bike too. For a bag with such a small form factor, it really holds a ton of gear and supports the load quite well. The only place I can really mark this bag down is for the weird neck strap, as it really only gets in the way when you need to get in and out of your back quickly.

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