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Gear & Apps

Holdfast Gear’s Brand New Sightseer Backpack | Initial Impressions

By Chad DiBlasio on February 29th 2016

You know when you get something for Christmas or a birthday that you wanted but really didn’t expect or even know about? That’s kind of how I felt when Matt from HoldFast contacted me and asked if I wanted to check out their newest addition to the HoldFast family. Of course I did! After playing around with the new bag for a few weeks, I present to you the brand new Sightseer Backpack!

What’s that you say? A backpack?

I didn’t really know what to expect either. When they contacted us, I assumed it would be pretty stellar, based on the other HoldFast products we have from them. But, when the box opened, and the fresh black Bison leather and waxed canvas smell came wafting out, I felt like I had just opened a luxurious bottle of vintage whiskey, not a backpack for photographers.

There is no doubt when you put your hands on a product like this, that no detail went untouched in the thought and design process. The finest ingredients, prepared by a master chef is what makes dinner at a fine restaurant unforgettable. Likewise, with these products, the touch of those intent on using the highest quality materials and sticking unapologetically to the demand that products be completely American made, HoldFast certainly has released a gem into their lineup.

THE FEATURES

Let’s start with construction. The main body of the backpack is made with a waxed canvas with the main compartment zipper being waterproof with the intent of making the entire bag virtually waterproof (at the very least, giving it supreme protection from the elements).

[REWIND: MONEYMAKER CAMERA HOLSTER AND UPDATED SLIDERS]

The padded straps make the pack quite comfortable even with significant weight. They’ve also added in a slider on the right side strap that holds a mirrorless or DSLR quite easily. Much like the Money Maker, there are D rings toward the top of the backpack straps to hold another body if needed.

The interior compartment has the same plush padding and southwestern pattern fabric as the other Sightseer components and has the typical re-arrangeable, velcro padded dividers. An extra “pillow” is provided for each of the different compartments to put as a bounce protector, or to stack separate components on top of each other.

The compartment is accessed through the waterproof zipper behind the backpack straps. There is a separate 15″ laptop sleeve that is accessible from the zippers with only having to slightly unzip each side versus undoing the entire pack. The top of the bag sports a “soft zipper” pouch area that is perfect for an overnight set of clothes, extra gear, or on-the-go travel pieces you’ll want quick access too (soft zipper isn’t a trademark or maybe even a “real” name, it’s just something I have noticed on the HoldFast zippers. They are literally smooth vs. the typical zipper that grabs at skin and clothing as you pass by it). That area is a little larger than a typical toiletry bag and is separated out from the camera area by a fabric divider.

If you are an outdoors fan and like to take a light jacket, an umbrella (or softbox), a bedroll or a larger tripod with you, fear not. The belt-style straps on the bottom of the bag will accommodate fairly large items (had them opened up about halfway and was easily able to put in a 60″ umbrella style softbox). The velcro-backed loop attachment points (similar to a military style bag) makes it easy to attach in your favorite Sightseer lens carry bags, cell phone holde, or card wallet and also works very well to slide the legs of your compact tripod to attach it to the side.

Having used this bag for a little over 2 weeks to carry my complete gear bag which included two full-size DSLR bodies (one with battery grip), a 100L, a 135 f2, a 50mm 1.2, a 24-70 f2.8, four triggers and one controller, three flashes, 6 extra batteries, a box of 10 AA batteries, 2 flash feet, a 13″ MacBook Pro Retina, and a Pelican 6 CF card holder, I didn’t want to send it back! It’s easy to carry, CRAZY good looking, comfortable to have on even when shooting, expandable and functional for a vast array of shoots/adventures and kept me from having to lug a roller bag on every trip out of the office.

Conclusion

These new backpacks are going to put something on the market that, up to this point, I haven’t seen. They carry a lot of similar functionality that you find in other bags, with some unique and perfect additions. However, fashion-conscious style and a rugged “Made in America” quality hasn’t always been as easy to find. Now, I’m not saying American craftsmanship trumps the rest of the world at all. Using the finest components and knowing your purchase is encouraging a long tradition of artisans and those dedicated to true functional artwork is a beautiful thing. That’s what the “Made in America” badge used to mean, and what putting it on a product like this proudly is reinstating – quality you can count on and assembled by hand with care.

The style is also top notch. If you could find a camera bag that was made BY a photographer in Nordstroms or Burberry, this would fit right in (along with a little “hipster” swagger). The price tag will be similar to the very popular regular-sized Roamographer bag, and if you are heading to Vegas next week for WPPI, be sure to stop by booth 1101 to say hey to Matt (and possibly myself because I’ll be hanging around there drooling on and smelling all the leather haha!).

Along with the backpack, I wanted to also mention the recent release of the new Skinny MoneyMaker strap! Since we just wrote the MoneyMaker review a few weeks back, I’ll leave you with this little promo video for the Skinny as a bonus. For all the women who have talked about the “clunkiness” of the original MoneyMaker on their smaller frames, or for those of you wanting to wear your system under a coat or with your smaller mirrorless system, this is for you!

I can’t wait to see this backpack (in the green canvas to match my other accessories, of course!) in my hand and on a plane in just a few short weeks.

Chad is a central Ohio based wedding/portrait photographer and educator. When he isn’t busy with his 4 kiddos, watching Gray’s Anatomy (with his wife…) or making things, he spends his time pinning home improvement wishes and learning about essential oils – he’s actually a hippie in hiding. He thoroughly enjoys laughing, riding motorcycles and a nicely edged yard. He’s been shooting for a shade over a decade and loves to talk tech and business.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Chris Horner

    does anyone have a long-term use review of Holdfast bags? i was looking at the ONA Union Street, which gets a lot of love on review sites in initial appeal, but was turned off when i found a ton of negative reviews about hardware breaking, seams coming apart and general lack of lasting quality (plus just 1 year warranty and apparently mediocre customer service regarding these breakages.)

    i didn’t see anything on holdfast’s site specifically regarding any kind of warranty which is concerning, and i haven’t seen much feedback from anyone who’s been using one of their bags for 6 months or a year. if anyone has such experience, i’d love to hear your long-term opinion.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      We can perhaps look into that for you Chris, and maybe get a review unit. My experience with ONA bags, the Bowery is good as it takes a beating, and looks better with age. But if you’re looking for something more like this, we’ll try to look into it. Also, I’m releasing a review shortly of a backpack from Wotancraft, which is actually brilliant. It’s just expensive. Figured I’d throw it out there though in case you were interested and didn’t mind dropping cash on something that feels like it’ll last through nuclear fall-out

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  2. Stephen Jennings

    Bags like this might not be practical for long excursions or huge productions like a wedding or something, but they work perfectly for portrait work, commuting, small projects, street photography and so on. I spent a lot of time looking at bags from all kinds of price ranges (including hold fast’s Roamographer bag that is over $600) .. I ended up going with Peak Design’s every day messenger, but after a while I find it uncomfortable to carry.. anyways, it’s hard to find something stylish AND comfortable in the photography world it seems, and we should be used to the fact that you get what you pay for by now.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      I have been coming more and more to this conclusion in life! The construction truly was as good as the comfort with this bag!

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  3. Jon Corun

    Does anyone know when this would be available? I can’t seem to find the product mentioned on the Holdfast website. :/

    I’m also curious about the dimensions of the product.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      I believe they will be launching next week at WPPI Jon and the bag is about 24″ tall, but 12-14″ deep and about 15-17″ wide. I’m sure they will have exact dimensions up with the site soon :)

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  4. adam sanford

    Nice pics and nice review.
    .
    Leather is heavy material. To me, heavy is bad. Our gear is already heavy enough. Looking awesome does you no favors when you are sweating your b—- off on a hot day.
    .
    And at $600+, I’d rather have another lens than sink that kind of money into a pretty piece of leather.
    .
    I will cherish the day that SLRL decides to posts reviews of bags that **aren’t** pretty style pieces that clearly sacrifice speed, weight, breathability, etc. at the altar of fashion.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      haha Adam, you’ve been asking for such a review for some time now, I feel we ought to oblige. I can’t promise a timeline, but what are some bags are out there that you think a large readership would like to read about that fits your criteria?

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    • adam sanford

      Don’t do it for *me*. I know enough about these bags. Whatever your publisher/editor’s goals are should dictate the reviews — if you guys get better ad dollars for reviewing higher end gear, keep doing it. I just don’t think the majority of photographers see tremendous value in the high fashion side of gear, but I very well could be wrong. (I’m not a pro, and I don’t shoot weddings.)
      .
      But, if you were hell bent on a different perspective, you could go after some different bags that have nothing to do with looks:
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      Classic, bone simple reportage bags — anything by Domke, esp. the old-school Heritage line
      .
      Sneaky DIY — convert rando satchels and army surplus ammo bags into sleeper / none-the-wiser photography bags with camera inserts
      .
      Weightless — have a hard look at the ultralight gear from GuraGear (now Tamrac-owned) or Kata (now Manfrotto-owned)
      .
      Innovative — have a look at MindShift Gear’s 180 Degree hiking packs or TrekPak’s customizable layout options

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      It seems that we need to have Adam do a contribution article! You have some KILLER knowledge on this stuff and think you would do great doing a writeup! Check it out man! https://www.slrlounge.com/submit-articles-and-tutorials/

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Hey Adam! Thanks for reading and for the thoughts. Honestly, it’s every one’s choice. When I go to the gym, I want stuff that breathes easily and stretches. When I dress for a wedding, I want something that looks super professional and not clunky/techie. I try to pare down my gear even avoiding using the “professional’s choice” white canon lenses b/c I don’t want that look. I have carried this bag for a few weeks and in a number of environments. I can’t honestly imagine carrying a backpack or large bag for anything other than possibly hiking and with that, I wouldn’t be worried about weight difference between 3 or 4 pounds b/c I don’t do long distance hiking etc. I would say there are packs that would be great for that, but for everyday work, being in “fashion” kind of field, I LOVE having gear that looks great AND is made to last. The reason people used to use wood, metal and leather to make things is b/c the last forever. If I’m putting the money into it, I want to have it around for as long as I want it AND have it be valueable when I’m done with it! It’s one of the reasons I prefer Mac products as well, but I digress haha! I’d love to review a bag you’ve been wondering about if you wanna throw out some suggestions! Thanks again for chatting and hope some of that makes a little better sense.

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    • adam sanford

      +1 on Apple.
      .
      I’m not averse to spending money on gear that lasts, but leather / steel / wood is an aesthetic for my *home*, not for my backside on a hot sunny day in California.
      .
      Everyone’s opinions vary — and I certainly respect yours. I just look for different things in a bag.

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    • Julien Massie

      I personnaly found the best amrican bag/design/utility for alla round urban and travel fit planes camera bag. Its the Niko Camera Backpack, I can fit loads of gear + a huge part to put food, drink, clothes, and other stuff !! http://www.chromeindustries.com/niko-pack-camera-backpack

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Looks like a great pack Julien! It still has that “safety belt/industrial equipment” feel though that I couldn’t get past haha! looks like it would be great for a hike though!

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    • Julien Massie

      I actualy owned more than 10 camera bag and I have to say that most of them always lacked space for non-camera stuff. I carry 2 flash, 6D, 3 primes + 700-200 2.8L and many goodies and the caméra zone is still not 100% full. You should really review it sincè chrome is not know in the camera buisness even if they have one of the best urban/hike/travel product at à really good price. The bag is 100% weather proof, With scealed zip !

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      the great thing about this design is the ability to add on lens bags and attachments on the outside without making it look bad!

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