I’ve lost count of how many camera backpacks I’ve tested, so as you can imagine, it takes a lot for me to get excited about a new one. If it gets the job done and doesn’t hurt my shoulders or back, well, hooray. Dozens of other camera backpacks on the market will get the job done, too!
The bad news is, I still feel that I have not found the ultimate backpack(s) for me. I’ve even conceded that my personal adventures and professional travels are too diverse for just one backpack to be an all-encompassing solution, and I may require as many as THREE different backpacks to fully accommodate my needs. Yet, I have only been truly satisfied with one medium-large backpack…until now.
The good news is, that one medium-large backpack which does feel perfect is also a MindShift backpack. So when the MindShift UltraLight Dual 25 L arrived at SLR Lounge, I was happy to take it out for a test hike! After all, the MindShift company mantra is “Engage with Nature!”
Enjoy our video preview below, and then keep reading for full specs, pros, and cons.
The MindShift UltraLight Dual 25L Camera Backpack
The MindShift UltraLight backpacks claim to be the lightest daypack series of camera backpacks ever, and at just 1.3kg (2.8lbs) unloaded for the 25L model, I’m certainly inclined to believe them, though I’ll try to look up some other backpack weights soon for comparison. Suffice to say, this is one heck of a lightweight backpack! For a retail price of $169, can it deliver enough quality and performance?
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Initial Thoughts On the Mindshift UltraLight Dual 25l
Right off the bat, I was impressed with how lightweight the bag felt, even when I had weighed it down with multiple cameras, including one full-frame DSLR setup, and multiple lenses, plus a bit of time-lapse and video gear. It was just that lightweight!
If you go on hikes or day trips that only require one mid-sized camera body and 1-2 mid-sized lenses, I think you’d be absolutely thrilled with the MindShift Dual 25L. Get the MindShift Dual 36L, however, if you still carry around a full-size DSLR (Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D810) and one or two f/2.8 pro zooms.
Oppositely, if you’re one of the modern cool kids (unlike myself) who has fully switched to a compact mirrorless system and can fit entire kits into a single compartment previously intended for a hooded 24-70-2.8, …then the MindShift UltraLight Sprint 16L might be for you.
But I digress. The Dual 25L is a good balance of being incredibly lightweight, and yet still (barely) capacious enough for a mid-sized kit plus additional stuff like a few accessories, a rain jacket, and, of course, food & water. Or cookies & coffee, in my case.
Mindshift UltraLight Dual 25L Pros
- Light, light, light! I think I’ve made my point here. And I was not joking about getting that feeling of “um, did I leave something behind?” due to the comfort and weight of the bag. Maybe I’m just used to larger bags that can hold tons of gear, but either way, the fact remains: the Dual 25L is delightfully comfortable. I think it has to do with the way the shoulder straps are designed in conjunction with rear tension straps, plus the very, very tall waist belt. The bag simply feels like an extension of your body!
- Another measurement of comfort is this: When I get to a location, do I immediately find myself wishing to take off my backpack or do I not mind leaving it on all day, even while I shoot in the same location for an hour? The Dual 25L passes this test without a doubt. It’s comfortable enough to leave on all day while shooting, which is a huge plus whenever shooting near water, or sand, or both.
- The quality and craftsmanship are (like other MindShift products) impressive. Despite being feather-light, it still seems to be rugged enough to last a while. However, I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve given it some real heavy use.
- The attention to detail is another MindShift standard. I’m an OCD person who studied engineering, so any operational difficulties will really bother me. (In other words, I’m a reviewing nightmare to some folks!) Thankfully, almost everything (zippers, straps, compartments) is intuitive and useful. (At $169 for a 2.8 lb bag, they’re definitely going for quality…)
- The easy-access waist belt pouch is nice and spacious, enough for a couple of spare batteries and a memory card wallet. One of my pet peeves on so many other camera backpacks is that they always include innumerable small pockets and compartments that are essentially useless.
- The add-on options are decent, with extra straps and connection points for things like a lens pouch on your waist, etc.
- The removable compartment is useful for completely re-organizing your bag, either internally to hold something larger, or externally as a simple shoulder bag/pouch.
MINDSHIFT ULTRALIGHT DUAL 25L Cons
I feel like I should put the caveat for these cons first, instead of afterward; I’ve had a hard time finding anything wrong with this bag so far. Therefore, unless you’re totally abusive or reckless with your gear, I think you’ll be fine!
- Don’t set this bag down on the sand and then forget to clear out the zipper protector! You’ll get sand inside your bag really quick otherwise.
- Considering the lightweight nature of the bag, and the thinness of the material of the main bag compartment, I do have a slight concern about heavy wear-and-tear on the bag. I’ll give my final conclusion regarding this in our full review, but for now, I’ll predict that the MindShift Dual 25L will be just as rugged as most any other bag, if not more so. Just don’t crawl through a thicket of roses and expect to come out with the bag (or yourself) in mint condition.
While we’re still on the subject of “cons”: I don’t know if I’ll ever use the optional shoulder bag customization with the provided strap. The backpack is so comfortable and compact, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario in which I’d actually need to separate the camera compartment from the backpack and sling it over my shoulder. In reality, as an outdoor photographer (who doesn’t care about appearances as much as functionality), I’m more likely to use the removable compartment as a belt pouch! (Just like the MindShift Rotation 180 series backpack offers).
However, that’s not a worrisome drawback since all I have to do is not use the shoulder strap and use one of my existing waist belts instead.
Initial Verdict On The MindShift UltraLight Dual 25L
I’ve got a packed spring season ahead of me with numerous hiking trips planned, so stay tuned for the complete and final review of the MindShift UltraLight Dual 25L bag! I do not suspect that it will wear out prematurely or reveal any serious flaws, though, so if you’re in the market for a lightweight camera backpack for a moderate/small amount of gear, I’d recommend it. It comes in the colors Black Magma and Twilight Blue; both are $169. Alternately the MindShift UltraLight Dual 36L is $199 if you need something bigger, and the MindShift UltraLight Sprint 16L is $119 if you want something even smaller.
Take care and happy adventures!