Mindshift BackLight 26L Review
Recently I upgraded my Fujifilm lenses to their top of the line XF series zoom lenses, due to their larger size and number of lenses I realized it was time for a new bag to carry all of this gear. I wanted a bag that made it easy to access gear without taking it off and laying it on the ground, as I am often shooting in conditions where you cannot easily do this; for example, wading in rivers, water covered salt flats, etc. The Mindshift Horizon 34L has been ideal for this purpose but does not hold enough gear for many situations.
A back loading backpack is the only type that allows access to a large amount of gear without taking the pack off. The gold standard for this has been the f-stop Loka, if you have been following any of the 'photography world news' you know of the exceptionally long delays for getting an f-stop pack, along with recent allegations of the CEO squandering money. I am not sure if any of this is true, but I would prefer to spend my money with a responsible, stable company. Mindshift is a division of ThinkTank Photo, a reputable company that has been around for many years. Whenever I have ordered a pack from Mindshift it has arrived in two days, not six months later.
Enter the Mindshift BackLight 26L. It is a beautifully designed pack that will fit the needs of nearly any photographer. As with all Mindshift packs the quality is exceptional using YKK zippers and sturdy 420D nylon material which is built for the worst conditions you can throw at it.
The only area where this pack lacks is storage for extra hiking items, the only place to store things like a first aid kit, extra clothes, etc. is in the front compartment. This area is quite large and will be adequate for most people, being certified as Wilderness First Responder I tend to carry a much larger first aid kit than most, so I had to pare down my kit for this pack. You can easily stuff snacks, a coat or two, and a small first aid kit in this area.
When I first received the pack, I thought it was going to be too small for my long torso, when I loaded up the pack with all my camera gear I was pleasantly surprised when the weight pulled the pack down to my hips where it belongs. The shoulder straps lack load levelers like a traditional backpack, but I have not found this to be an issue. The hip belt and shoulder straps have good padding, and I have not had any hot spots while hiking, overall the pack is comfortable even when carrying a lot of weight.
In my bag, I currently carry the Fuji X-T2, Fuji 10-24, Fuji 16-55, Fuji 50-140, and Fuji 150-400. That is a massive range of focal lengths, partly due to the small size of the Fuji system. I have room for another lens if needed; instead, I left the main area open so that I can fit the camera in with any lens attached. DSLR users will have no problem fitting their gear into this pack; it is designed to hold one standard size camera body and 4-6 standard size zoom lenses. I also carry my Lee 4x4 filter system in the well-designed side compartments.
There are many options to carry your tripod; the most typical is on the back using the pocket and strap. Another option is the tripod suspension system which works on most Mindshift packs, this allows you to access your tripod without taking the pack off, this can be very convenient in times when you cannot remove your pack, like hiking the Zion Narrows. It is not comfortable to hike with the tripod at your side for long distances; I only use this when I need it.
Overall I am extremely satisfied with this backpack, it is built solidly, and has a clean, functional design. I still use my Mindshift Horizon 34L for longer hikes where I am only carrying a lens or two, and need to carry my big first aid kit, etc. Most people will be quite happy with the BackLight 26L on its own. The price is affordable considering the quality, which is currently $249.