McKinnon 35L Camera Pack Review – Just The Thing For Every Photographer This Holiday
The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L from Nomatic is the perfect camera bag to gift this holiday. It allows you to pack camera gear and clothing in the same bag (for up to “3-day trip), making it a versatile travel companion. The removable folding dividers, expansion, and external carry straps allow flexibility to safely pack up your gear any way you like. It also has quick side access, ensuring you’ll never miss a shot while on the move but still providing a tough, stiff, and rigid protection for your gear so you know it’ll be safe no matter how you handle it.
I’ve been using this bag for the last few weeks now and can truly say it’s quite a nice bag, that not only functions better than expected but looks great doing it. It was kind of nice to have a pack that not only could carry 2 full DSLR/Mirrorless kits worth of gear, but a few days worth of spare clothes or, in my case, LOTS of puppy treats/toys and necessities since every time I leave my house I have to bring the new Beagle along!
Even though this isn’t really the year for travel, the McKinnon 35L from Nomatic is one of the more stylish and useful bags I’d actually recommend for your traveling needs with your photo gear. Why? Largely because I’m a bit of a clutz and the fact this bag has a stiff/ridged lining, (where most other bags that can accommodate clothing have soft/stretchy material), that made me feel at ease knowing that if my bag happened to take a tumble, the gear inside would still be more than protected inside of the protective shell.
McKinnon 35L Backpack Specifications
- BAG TYPE: Travel Backpack
- GEAR ACCESS TYPE: Rear / Side / Front
- CAPACITY: Expands from 35L to 42L
- MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION: Nylon
- COLORS: Black w/ Beige interior
- WEATHER PROOFING: Yes – Durable / Water-Resistant tarpline material with Waterproof zippers with large anodized aluminum pulls
- DIMENSIONS – INTERIOR: 21″ x 12.5″ x 5.25″
- DIMENSIONS – EXTERIOR: 22″ H x 13.5″ W x 9″ D
- CARRY-ON COMPATIBLE: Yes
- WEIGHT: 5.75 lbs.
- ACCESSORIES: Waist Strap (include), Cube Pack, Filter Case, Memory Card Case, Battery Case, Camera Pack
- PRICE: $399.99 – B&H | Amazon | Nomatic
McKinnon 35L Camera Pack Review | How Much Can It Fit?
This bag is kind of deceptive at first glance. The backpack doesn’t seem to be that large, so you don’t give it much of a thought for gear capacity, however, once you open it up you’ll realize quickly that there’s a TON of space and functionality here. I was able to fit my big D800, Z6 mirrorless, the sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sport, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8, Z24-70mm f/4, 85mm f/1.4G, 50mm f/1.4G, 35mm f/1.4 Art, 17-35mm f/2.8, both camera chargers, my Profoto Remote trigger, Datacolor Spyder Cube, some Black Rapid Straps, AND a Laowa Shift lens I’m currently reviewing! And all of that was JUST in the main camera compartment (as you can see below….above, I’ve included my Beagle puppy…you know…for scale).
In the bag flap, I had spare lens caps, card readers, spare batteries for my cameras and phone, cables, lens pens, tripod mounts, a Datacolor Color Colorcheckr 24, memory cards….well, you get the drill. there’s 2 large mesh zippered pockets that you can cram a LOT of accessories in to go along with you on the job. Plus, we haven’t even gotten to the “clothing” section and 16″ laptop compartments!
Bottom line, even without the 7L expansion and accessories, you can load a LOT into this camera backpack from both a professional and hobbyist perspective. It’s clear a lot of thought and planning went into the logistics of this setup.
Nomatic McKinnon 35L Backpack Review | Who Should Buy It?
Honestly, I’ve been pretty fortunate this year with the bags that I’ve been able to review, as they’ve all generally been of great use from everyone from the beginning enthusiast to the life long professional. If you need a large capacity bag with multiple access points? This is a great choice. If you need something you can shove a small camera in and several days worth of clothes to use as an overnight bag? This is also the bag for you. Do you want something that can do either and still looks like a designer label addition? Guess what, this is still the bag for you!
Air Travel VS Ground Travel
Before we talk about actual types of photography, we need to talk about HOW you’ll be traveling with your camera gear. Because traveling by air, land, or sea could make a big difference in which camera bag you choose, regardless of what photography genres you’re into!
Based on the (compressed) external dimensions (22 x 13.5 x 9″) the McKinnon 35L will fit in pretty much every major airline’s carry-on bag restrictions making it a pretty ideal choice for the creative on the move. Especially if you picked it up as part of the bundle which includes all the smaller cubes and bags for memory cards and accessories. So if you’re planning on any travels either by land or air this year, the McKinnon 35L (with the combo kit) could be the perfect bundle for you if you don’t’ mind shilling out a little extra cash. But compared to a lot of official “luggage” options, the McKinnon bags are more than a fair option for the creative on the move.
Vacation & Travel Photography
Given the amount you can pack into this bag, PLUS its well-designed front flap compartment for clothing and anything else you can think of to go in there, the quick and easy side access panels, paired with a slick looking and incredibly comfortable strap system even when loaded with 30lbs or more of camera gear, this is definitely a great choice of bag for your travels. Depending on how much you need, it could be the ONLY bag you need for your trip?!
Hiking, Backpacking, and Landscape Photography
So here’s the deal, this bag can cram a LOT of gear and supplies into it. That being said, I’m not sure how great it would be for hiking and backpacking. While it is weatherproof and water-resistant and is made of fantastic materials to protect your gear from bumps and the elements. It looks _SO_ good that the dust and dirt from hiking and climbing would be a headache to me when compared to some other options out there.
It is very comfortable, in fact, one of the more comfortable bags I’ve used this year for a guy my size, but maybe it’s the “keep-it-perfect” OCD in me, I feel like this bag would look dirty really quick if I brought it with me on the trails!
You know what, scratch that, it really is just the OCD in me talking, this bag, just looks too nice to bring on the trails is all! You can strap at least one tripod to it using the external straps and pockets, and the side access makes it great for packing everything away to start walking, or pull the camera out quickly if you happen to come across something majestic at a moments notice!
Weddings, Events, Sports, Wildlife, Street, and more
As you can tell from my musings above, this bag is pretty functional and fashionable for pretty much every genre of photography you’re into. It looks great, feels fantastic, and the only drawback is truly, with as much as it can carry, you’ll be tempted to bring everything you own in it on your journey!
McKinnon 35L Backpack Review | Pros
[Related Reading: PolarPro Collaborates with Peter McKinnon for New Variable ND Filters]
Pro – Build Quality
This bag seems to have done everything right, including the colors! (At least for my preferences). The McKinnon 35L is made with a water-resistant exterior (nylon) paired with weather-resistant zippers, and a stiff interior shell to keep your things protected no matter what you throw at it. The straps and padding have breathable EVA foam panels for maximized comfort while wearing, and straps practically everywhere for quick fit adjustments so no matter who grabs the bag, it’ll fit just right and feel great even with a full load of heavy lenses and cameras.
An added and nice feature is the addition of handles practically everywhere on this bag, making it easy for quick grab-&-go moves when you need to get out the door.
Pro – Design & Features – A place for everything
I’ve already mentioned in other spots in this review, but the McKinnon 35L has space for practically everything you’d need on a photo adventure. There’s space for multiple cameras and lenses, up to a 16″ laptop, several days worth of clothes, and a bevy of pockets and slots for extras inside and out of this bag. Effectively giving you the flexibility to load your gear and personal items in nearly any configuration you’d like.
Pro – Capacity, Comfort, & Ergonomics
As is tradition, to test this out I loaded this bag with as much gear as I could put in there including spare batteries, a laptop, charger, a sweater, and a plethora of other bells and whistles. It was quite heavy, but once I placed it on my back and made a quick strap adjustment, honestly I barely even noticed it. It’s clear the team at Nomatic spent a lot of time in the design process of this bag making it fit just right for pretty much any body type. That being said, and for the record, I’m a 5’9″ guy on the bigger side, and I tried this bag at a variety of weights and loads and everything felt great, and some bigger and smaller male & female colleagues also felt the same, however, none of us were below the 5’5″ range…so we can’t confirm how someone shorter would feel with a full weighted bag. From what I gathered, the hip/belt straps may sit a tad low on a shorter person making it slightly off-balanced…but I’d need to hear your input on this before I can confirm or deny, so let me know in the comments if you’re below 5’5″ and have used this bag.
What was in the bag?
- Nikon D800
- Nikon Z6
- Nikon FTZ Adapter
- Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8
- Nikon 85mm F/1.4 G
- Nikon 50mm F/1.4 G
- Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 G
- Sigma 35mm F/1.4 Art
- Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sport
- Laowa 14mm Shift Lens
- 15″ MacBook Pro and charger
- Tons and Tons of batteries, Color Calibration Tools, cables, tripod mounts, and more.
[Related Reading: The Runner Photo Bag from Brevite Review]
Pro Gear Protection
Here’s where I feel the McKinnon 35L stands out when compared to some of the other bags I’ve tested this year. While it might not be as large as some others, it’s got a tough and rigid lining/interior that makes me feel like my equipment is good and protected should it happen to take a slight tumble. Add that to the customization of the interior with all the zippered pockets and compartments. Well, I feel like short of using a Pelican, this is one of the most safe bags you can have for your gear in terms of padding and protection.
You can’t get into the “main” compartment without taking the bag off of your back, meaning it’s not likely it’ll spill while moving. And you also can’t pick them back up without zipping it shut! (I say that meaning that it’s quite easy to see that the rear compartment is open and if you grab it by the shoulder straps, it’ll just open the bag up again.) The zippers had zero drift from my testing, and depending on how you pack the gear, the side access for your quick grabbing of the camera, well the only thing that should come out would be the camera you’re reaching for.
McKinnon 35L Backpack Review | Cons
Con – Weather Protection – Where’s the Rain Sleeve?
So while the bag is weather-resistant in both its exterior material and zippers, the downside is, if you happen to be caught in some extreme weather situations, this bag does NOT come with a rain/elements sleeve to cover it up and completely protect it. That’s something you’ll need to get additionally or perhaps from an existing kit you have in the closet. This is definitely on the “con” list but it’s a minimal one at least.
Con – Capacity / Design – Good, but could use a little more
So this bag can carry a lot….a LOT…but one thing that I noticed, if you just get the base bag on its own without all the bonus bundle there aren’t a whole lot of inserts for you to really divide up the space. While I made use of all the space and inserts that were included, I definitely would have appreciated a few additional dividers to at least made the larger spaces a little more secure. Some velcro elastic straps for added lens/device security would be a great addition also.
Con – Color Options
This is an extremely nit-picky thing to list as a con, but the fact that you can only get this bag in Black with the beige/brown interior, while being perfect for my esthetic choices, may be less than great for others. So even though it’s a truly minor thing, the fact you can’t choose at least one other color option makes me feel rather limited in the personal-choice front.
Con – Value – Is it priced too high?
This is a tough one. While I honestly love this bag, I’m still not sure if I love it for $399, $599 if you get the big bundle). Most other bags of comparable size come in at a price tag of about $50 to 100$ cheaper than the Nomatic backpack. But that’s where the personal preference and design/looks come into play. Much like those who prefer a Leica to a Fuji, or a Rolex vs a Citizen watch.
You can compare this to the ThinkTank Airport Roller or the similarly priced Lowepro Large Backpack. Both bags can carry about the same amount of gear, but the Think Tank is $150 cheaper, and well, neither of them look as nice as the McKinnon 35L. I suppose an added benefit of the Nomatic bag is it doesn’t “look” like a camera bag. It is a sleek and stylish looking backpack that unless you had a tripod strapped too it, or someone saw you taking gear out of it, they’d not know it was loaded up with lenses and cameras.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this bag (and bundle) is worth the extra money, despite it being incredibly nice. I’ve been long since known as the function over fashion kinda guy….but I can’t lie…while this bag speaks to me on a deep and personal level! (And that “conversation” is about how it’s time to up my style game to look good while on the job for a change haha). I can’t decide if it’s worth the extra 100-200$? Especially when there are stylish bags out there at a lower price point. I think I’d need to know just why it’s more costly than some of the alternatives out there rather than just base it on its looks.
McKinnon 35L Backpack from Nomatic Review | Conclusion
So, after a few weeks of using this bag, I did fall in love with it. It’s a nice blend of travel backpack and camera gear bag, which excels when you use it as both at once. The bag is incredibly customizable and expandable making it a great choice for a functional gear bag, or a flexible day pack for a random adventure.
From it’s sleek looking exterior to the functional interior, each inch of this bag offers you a fully customizable option for whatever you need for the day, keeping it safe and secure in your travels (yes pretty much every zipper can also be locked for added security as well (TSA locks would be recommended if you’re traveling of course). If you’re looking for a bag that looks great, works as a travel bag or a 35-40+ L gear bag, then this may be the perfect choice for you. Here’s hoping that in the near future they start offering it in a variety of interior and exterior color options.