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Mindshift Gear rotation180° Professional 38L review

Colin
June 22, 2018

Shooting action and adventure sports I spend a lot of time wearing camera backpacks. While there are plenty of carry and camera access options out there, you’ll find that back panel access bags dominate the market, and for good reason they are arguably the best way to tote camera gear into the backcountry – until now.

Highlights

MindShift, the outdoor branch of ThinkTank mixed everything up when they introduced the Rotation 180 series of bags to the market. By incorporating a camera insert into the waist strap of the pack they’ve created a clever system where gear can be quickly accessed without the need to remove your pack.

I’ve previously taken a look at the Rotation 180 Horizon pack, and while there’s only room for a body with lens attached and a small zoom or prime lens, it’s probably my most used bag for shooting from the bike.

The Rotation 180 Professional is the Horizon’s slightly larger, and much more technical cousin. I’ve had this bag for a few months now, however, I’m still calling this a first ride review because there is so much to talk about here. I’ve also chosen this pack to accompany me on a 12-month around the world trip, so be sure to check back as I’m going to update this review as I continue to spend a ton of quality time with this bag.

The 180 Professional combines a wider stouter profile and utilizes both the rotation hip pack, but also back panel access with the optional Professional insert.

Spin to win

In the hip pack, there is enough room for my Canon 5DMKiii with the 100-400 ii attached and not much else, or a body with a Canon 24-70 2.8 attached and two small zoom or prime lenses, with a bit of space to squeeze in a spare battery or other small accessories.

With the insert in the rear of the pack, there is ample room for large zoom lenses, flash gear, drones and whatever else you may be hauling. There is also a sizable zippered pocket on the front, perfect for rain layers, or avalanche gear.

The bag itself is quite bulky, and I’ve had plenty of comments about its size, but, MindShift has made it carryon friendly, much to the dismay of the flight attendant who was sure it was too big for the bag size checker they have at the airport – it’s a good thing she didn’t weigh it.

This is one of the few camera packs I’ve come across where the harness is size adjustable, a welcome addition. However, I do question the sizing itself, as for me to make the shoulder straps fit properly I have them both cinched all the way up. For reference, I stand 5 ft 9in tall, with a 32in waist and in big frame packs I wear a small in a Gregory branded packs and right on the line of a small and medium in Osprey.

Speaking of the straps, Mindshift has filled them with luxurious memory foam, and they are some of the most comfortable I have come across. However, they are a bit hot and soak up sweat like a sponge, so when you take a break mid-hike and take your pack off for a few minutes you can almost wring the straps out.

The straps also have pockets perfect for walkie-talkies, sunglasses, snacks, or even those weird soft sided water bottles ultra runners use.

Supporting the load

Unfortunately, the waist strap is not quite as comfortable. The pads which are supposed to support the weight of the pack on your hip bones are undersized and do not wrap far enough around. So, if you have a decent load in the bag they tend to slip down and place the weight on your shoulders.

Obviously, there is some limitation to how big and wide they can be because of the rotation action, however, I don’t know why MindShift doesn’t offer the hip pack in small, medium, and large seized hip pads, given it can be easily swapped out.

I’ve posed this question to MindShift, and they’ve said they’ll consider something like this, however, I can only imagine the nightmare this would make for the warehousing staff.

MindShift offers a ton of accessories for this bag, ranging from lids to straps and tripod suspension systems though these only come with the ‘deluxe’ version of the pack. I’ve got all of these accessories on hand the Top Pocket lid and attachment straps haven’t left the bag.

The lid has a couple of zippered pockets on the top an bottom for small accessories, but the real utility comes with the ability to throw your rain jacket or a light layer under the lid without putting it inside the bag. Not only does this mean you’re not putting a wet or sweaty jacket next to your camera gear, it’s also super quick to access them in this arrangement. I’ve even been using the tripod sling to carry layers as well and it’s been super usefull for those shoulder season ‘cold in the shade hot in the sun’ hikes.

MindShift also includes a rain cover with the bag, and it’s been cleverly adapted to play nice with the rotation system. The hip insert also has its own rain cover which is included.

One thing noticeably missing from the Rotation 180 Pro is a dedicated laptop sleeve. That said, provided you’ve got a low profile laptop (like the 13in MacBook Pro I use) with the Professional insert in the top of the pack you can slide the computer between the insert and the back panel. Anything bigger than 13in probably won’t fit, and if you’re not planning to use the Professional insert you may want to find a different solution.

This feature is a double-edged sword in that if you want a laptop sleeve, quite often it comes at the expense of something else, and it adds weight too. Given this pack isn’t particularly light empty its a feature I’m happy to miss out on.

As with most Mindshift packs there a dedicated tripod carry system which can be hidden away when not in use. It places the tripod on the back of the pack, however, I found when using this system because if places weight so far back on the outside of the bag it pulls the centre of gravity of the pack backwards and more of the weight ends up on your shoulders.

The solution is to throw the tripod on the side of the pack, placing two of the legs in the water bottle pocket. Even in this arrangement, there is still enough room for a full-sized Nalgene here.

Final thoughts

Despite its quirks, the Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional has served me well, both in a professional capacity as well as a travel companion over the last few months. The quick camera access is second to none, and more moderate loads it’s an extremely comfortable pack to wear all day.

As I mentioned at the top, I’ve picked this pack to join me on a year-long trip around the world, be sure to check back for updates on my review

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