So, you’re in the market for a camera backpack, but you feel completely overwhelmed by the massive selection and multiple categories of bag? Fear not! I’ll break it down for you right now, with the honest truth: The more you love the outdoors, the more you’ll probably need more than one backpack. One small, lightweight backpack for hiking and travel when you don’t need to carry much gear, and one larger backpack for bigger trips or hikes when you want to carry every last piece of gear you own. (Or a bear canister!)
I’m bringing this up first and foremost because the camera bag I am about to review is not a do-it-all type of backpack. It is decidedly in the first category I described, the lightweight day-hike category, not the kitchen sink category. If you’re looking for a capacious, jack-of-all-trades backpack, then you’ll want to stay tuned for other reviews we have coming soon.
The Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L is a 2.3 lb backpack that costs just under $170, and you can buy it here. But is it the right backpack for you? Watch our video review and continue reading below for the full breakdown.
[RELATED: Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L Initial Opinion:
oh-so-comfortable, but how durable is it?]
Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L Review Video
While it’s easy to measure and describe the performance of a camera or lens, how do you quantify the performance of a bag? To me, this facet of our official SLR Lounge review system comes down to two things for a camera bag: comfort and usability.
The Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L is extremely comfortable to wear, even when weighed down as much as possible. I managed to cram 25-30 lbs worth of gear (about 12 kg!) into the 25L model, (the medium size of the Ultralight trio of backapcks) and it was still rather comfortable after I properly adjusted the shoulder and waist straps to suit my 6′ 2″ stature.
One of the key reasons that the Ultralight series of backpacks is so comfortable is the design of its straps; the waist strap is extremely tall (wide) and the shoulder straps seem to work in conjunction wit the top compartment strap design to make for a very comfortable experience.
Next, functionally the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25L performs very well. I’ll get more into the minor niggles I have with the design later, but overall it’s very easy to access everything, making the bag very usable whether shooting in fast-paced action situations, or just going on a slow-and-steady all-day adventure.
When trying to make an extremely lightweight camera backpack that is as gentle on your wallet as it is on your shoulders, back and hips, how many compromises on features must you make in order to accomplish your goal?
Not too many, apparently, as the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L is relatively feature-rich. My favorite features are the extra-large waist belt pouch which easily fits 2-3 spare batteries and a memory card wallet, and the separate rain shell for added storm-proofing. Additionally, the stretchy external pouch is nice for water bottles, and the fact that an ultralight backpack has tripod straps at all is a pleasant surprise.
Probably the biggest feature though, is the removable camera compartment. If you take out the well-padded camera case, the backpack itself can be compacted to take up very little space and the camera compartment can be tossed into a larger backpack, rolling case, or whatever you use for your travels. On the multiple 3-day backpacking trips I took recently, It was awesome to have the Mindshift camera compartment be identically configured whether I was on a day hike with the Ultralight Dual 25L, or on a long haul with my gigantic 80L backpacking pack.
Feature-wise, the main drawbacks are that the tripod carrying straps are not as well-executed as other backpacks. The Ultralight Dual 35L takes a “dangling down” approach to tripod strapping on the back, which makes it difficult or impossible to set the backpack down with a tripod attached. Speaking of tripods and straps, alternately some folks prefer to strap a tripod to the very bottom of their backpack and unfortunately the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25L has no strap points on the very bottom. Lastly, one minor nit-pick: I wish the rain shell was one solid piece, without the velcro slit, and I wish it fit more securely around the whole backpack.
Overall, the backpack is extremely well designed. The attention to detail is impressive, with Mindshift’s trademark zipper pulls and buckle lock-downs where necessary. Whether your fingers are sweaty or nearly frozen, (or gloved) you’ll find the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25L to be very well-designed.
The lower compartment is generously padded for camera protection, however if you want to put a lens or body in the top compartment you’ll definitely need to use a separate padded case for it; the top compartment is only made to contain your various lightweight and non-fragile items such as a jacket and a few cliff bars, or various camera accessories in their own cases.
The topmost compartment is spacious enough for a few extra items plus the rain shell, and includes a keychain clip for your car keys. The middle compartment has a zipper pouch along the wall of the main compartment, and the door of the camera compartment also has a small zipper pouch, effectively allowing you a considerable level of organization especially considering its 2.8 lb weight.
My only main issue is the inherent drawback of having a removable compartment: You wind up with two sets of identical zippers, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming to work with in fast-paced situations. I got around it by just not zipping both compartment flaps closed most of the time, and only zipping the outermost compartment. I shoved the inner compartment zippers down into the folds of the bag, and only zipped them closed when I knew I wasn’t going to need my camera again for a while.
The quality and durability of the Mindshift Ultralight backpack was one of my original main concerns. However after two highly demanding adventures involving rain, snow, sand storms and sharp abrasive rocks, I’m absolutely impressed.
Its main points of stress and load-bearing are stitched for strength and longevity. Its materials are thin and lightweight where possible, and rugged and durable where necessary. I was only able to cause wear to the stretchy external compartment of the bag after literally dragging it along highly abrasive rocks in a slot canyon, an adventure that resulted in similar (or worse) wear-and-tear on another backpack. Again, I am very impressed. Under normal to moderate wear and tear and abuse, this bag should last many years!
At just under $170 for the 25 L model, it’s hard to rank such a quality-made backpack as anything less than a killer value. Considering its durability and ingenious design, it ought to cost much more. Then again considering its minuscule weight, I could understand how some folks might balk at the price. Simply put, a ton of effort clearly went into the design and quality of this bag, so I do think it’s worth every penny.
Keep in mind that I’ve had the fortune / misfortune of trying out many different camera backpacks over the years. So when I speak highly of a backpack like the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 25 L, I do it confidently and earnestly.
I’m not here to just pass out another positive review, especially when shoulder and back pain are a potential risk. I go on long hikes, and try very hard to take good care of my back, my ankles, etc.
Having said that, I am truly impressed with the Dual 25L. It’s comfortable, durable, and surprisingly spacious and versatile considering its minuscule weight and decent price.
If you’re a modern mirrorless shooter with a whole set of bodies and lenses that you like to travel with, I recommend choosing any of the three Mindshift Ultralight backpacks based on how much gear you own.
If you’re like me, “still” toting around a hefty full-frame DSLR, you’ll probably find the Dual 25L or Dual 36L to be perfect for your adventures.
No, the Mindshift Ultralight series of backpacks is not meant to contain 2-3 enormous full-frame f/2.8 zooms in the padded lower compartment, that’s for sure. But, if you have an extra lens pouch in the top compartment or a belt pouch strapped to the padded waist belt, you’ll be impressed by how much total gear you can carry, and how comfortable it feels.
Its larger sibling, the Mindshift Ultralight Dual 36L, sells for $199.99.
Its smaller sibling, the Mindshift Ultralight Sprint 16L, sells for $119.99.
Thanks for reading, fellow adventurers! If you have any additional questions, comments, or would like to suggest another item for me to review, please feel free to comment below!