Bags are very particular things. They’re a bit like relationships. If you don’t find the one that fits all your needs and strange little habits, you’re likely to have a tough ride. We’ve owned a fair few bags over the years, you generally do when you spend a lot of time lugging around gym kit or wandering around the country to do various events. And as you probably know, using a bag that doesn’t quite fit your requirements is pretty damn painful. Like if you’re trying to find a phone charger somewhere underneath a load of clothes or the inside pocket is seemingly made of paper and all your stuff keeps falling through it.
The Manfrotto Off-road Stunt Backpack is a bag created for a specific purpose; the pursuit of adventure photography and filming. If you’re not into that then you probably don’t need to read any more, there are bags far better suited to other activities. If you’re an adventure aficionado read on though, because this bag is a bit of a beast.
The first thing to point out about the rucksack is that it looks pretty damn sweet. The various functional elements that it covers have had absolutely no impact on the aesthetics. As well as pottering around various fields (a frequent hobby), we’ve actually just been using it as a work bag in Central London; much to the positive response of work mates. “Nice bag” was uttered more than once. Which is good, normally our choice in rucksacks confirms any lack of fashion sense.
Which leads us on to those functions. As we mentioned earlier the rucksack is designed specifically for people with an interest in adventure camera work. Specifically things like GoPros. On the sides of the bag are two clip straps with a pocket at the bottom designed to hold tripods. Something which, if you’ve ever wandered around with a tripod, is a major treat. You just clip it in and you’re done, you pretty much forget you’ve got one on there. No more tripod bag slung over your shoulder that keep slipping down.
On the top of it sits a hard shell container designed to hold anything that could break easily, like lenses or memory packs. It’s pretty big as well so you can throw in a fair whack of stuff. Many a time we’ve squeezed our electronic equipment into a pocket and forgot about it, then later accidentally dropped the bag and a shudder of fear ran through us.
The main compartment is a pretty good size (43cm x 24cm x 15cm), enough to hold three action cameras (see the website for compatibly-sized models). It’s not the biggest bag we’ve had, however when you’re mountain biking through the Peak District, the last thing you want is an enormous rucksack on your shoulders.
The main beauty of the bag is the access system. Unlike most outdoorsy bags, it has a clever mechanism which can open up the whole main compartment using the front zips. What this means is that you can quickly access items anywhere without having to rummage around or start taking out bits and pieces to find what you’re after.
It also comes with a couple of accessories. The first is a no-brainer for a bag holding expensive camera equipment; a rain cover. Based on the London summer so far we can confirm it works pretty well. The second is a pair of internal storage compartments. These little mini bags that exist separately from the rucksack can be used to hold individual cameras or equipment. Depending on your needs it means you can quickly access your kit from a carefully managed storage system. They’re well padded as well, so they’ll keep everything safe inside the bag.
Finally, along with your usual chest and stomach straps, a tablet compartment separate from the main bag (we use it for a MacBook Air) and some nice zip dongles (not entirely sure if that’s what they’re called, but we’re going with it), is probably our favourite feature; a GoPro connector that sits on the main shoulder straps.
It may seem like a simple addition, but as far as outdoor filming goes it’s a phenomenally useful little treat. No messing around with GoPro accessories like chest straps or head mounts. Just clip it in and you’re filming from a perfect position without any set-up. We just left it on there all day, turning it on and off whenever we came up to something interesting.
As we mentioned earlier the bag is designed for purpose. If you’re looking for a great outdoor bag but have no desire to take photos or film, then there are far better options. The zip system is perfectly made for quick access to film equipment, but as a normal bag it can be a bit annoying. The hard shell case is only accessible by opening the bag, so if you’re walking around town and want something out of it you’ll need to stop and open up the zips. There’s also a slight issue with opening up the main zips when carrying a tripod, as it tends to get in the way so you need to fiddle around with it. It’s a minimal problem though.
It’s a lovely piece of kit. Looks great, has some really well designed functionality and is made with really nice, hard-wearing materials. If you’re an adventurer photographer or videographer then you’d be hard pressed to find something nicer. If you’re just looking for a hard-wearing bag this isn’t for you though.
The Manfrotto Off-road Stunt Backpack costs £119.95, head on over to the website to find out more about it. There are also a range of accessories made by Manfrotto that can be used with the rucksack. But we used our own tripod and it was fine.
Picture Credits: Manfrotto (product shots)
Note: We received tests product for this review.