What is about photo backpacks? You can never find the perfect one. Some are too big, others the compartments aren’t great, zippers blow out or are hard to access. And my real hang-up…hipbelts that are only a piece of 1 inch webbing! Having spent many years of my life as a mountaineering guide carrying 80 pound packs up and down Denali, suspension systems are key. And since you are carrying about 75% of your weight on your hips, the hip belt better be good.
I’ve carried a Lowepro Flipside 400 for years; it is a really nice pack, and has served me well. I don’t have the new version of the Flipside 400, but it has some nice additions like padded slots for a laptop and iPad. But I started seeing Mindshift packs on my workshops about a year ago, and was impressed at the quality. ThinkTank and Mindshift are the same company, so I knew the quality would be good. But I noticed a few things I really liked on the Mindshift Backlight 18L, so I went out and bought one.
Both these packs have many similar features. Paddled pockets for laptop and iPad, back access opening, external side pockets for water bottles, hideaway tripod pouch on the back exterior and about the same amount of interior space. Each pack has a nice suspension system. So why would I use the Mindshift Backlight as my new pack? Because it improves on some of these features.
First, the back opening zipper system is heavier duty, has handy loops for pulling, and you can pull the zippers all the way to the bottom so the back flap opens easily. Next, the shoulder straps are more padded. Another feature I like is the padding and shape of the pack is more firm, which made carrying heavier loads more comfortable. The Mindshift Backlight does have a separate rain cover; I would prefer an integral rain cover similar to the Flipside. In terms of cost, the Mindshift Backlight is $200, about $50 more than the Flipside.
I am still using my Flipside 400, but I am now using the Backlight on trips as well. The Flipside has endured years of use and abuse with solid performance. I’d expect the Backlight to do the same, and then some.