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Inspiration

WANDRD PRVKE 21 Review | Not Just A Bag – Another Limb & Extension of Self

By Kishore Sawh on December 4th 2017

For those of you who like your desert first, I’ll save you the anticipation and state this review’s conclusion now, and if for no other reason than it is a first.

I don’t believe that in my tenure at SLR Lounge I’ve ever given any single product a full 5 stars. It generally goes against my sensibility to rate something as though there’s no room for improvement. There always is, unless you look like Emily Ratajkowski or Paul Newman. But the Wandrd Prvke 21 is getting a 5-star rating. The following then, is simply why, after a much use, it deserves it.

The WANDRD PRVKE 21

What do you want, highly functional but hideous, or not hideous and hardly functioning? Not too long ago you’d have had to choose between that lot when it came to camera bags, and it’s that very predicament that saw people like me converting non-camera bags into them in an act of indignant defiance – “Nobody, puts ‘baby’ in a corner,” or whatever…

Converted my old Belstaff messenger into my camera bag

But I was not alone.

It was maybe 5 years ago or so when there came the realization within the industry that there needn’t be such a contrast in options, and that in fact, the gap between the two was vastly larger than the sum of the two ends together.

That’s right, camera bags have shifted much in tune with the rest of the industry; an industry that has moved largely from something of specialized utility to something of leisure and lifestyle. That is to say, people looking for a camera bag aren’t generally looking for something with a single, blatant, unapologetic, photo-use in mind.

They are looking for something that said something about the user, but the message wasn’t “look at me I’m a photographer.” They wanted it to make sense in their life, and fit into their lifetyle, and they are willing to pay for it. In fact, that group in the ‘gap’ is where most of the buyers are. It’s why we have brands like ONA, Hawkesmill, and WANDRD who understand that a camera bag now should have functionality for a photographer, but not let that single purpose define it.

WANDRD is a company started by 3 brothers who seem to have a particularly good grip on this, and the PRVKE 21 isn’t their first offering. The original PRVKE was funded on Kickstarter and delivered with much success, and this is merely a smaller, more refined version of it.

Features

  • 3 Points of access: Adjustable Roll Top, Side Quick Camera Access, and Lay-Flat Clamshell Opening
  • Removable, modular camera cube offers customizable storage for a complete camera kit (DSLR and up to 8 lenses); remove it to convert bag into a fully functional daypack
  • Checkpoint friendly, laptop and tablet sleeve fits up to a 15″ MacBook Pro and iPad Pro and lets you breeze through airport security
  • Secure passport pocket that sits against your back – perfect for passports, cash, or other important documents
  • Sleek and minimal, urban-inspired design with an included rainfly and accessory straps for external gear attachment

Materials & Dimensions:

Waterproof Tarpaulin and Nylon Dobby. Weather Resistant YKK Zippers.
21 Pack Dimensions: 17″H X 11″W X 6.5″D
21 Pack Volume: 21 L to 25 L (Roll top fully extended)
21 Pack Weight: 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs)

Design & Build Quality

It’s a backpack, and as such there’s going to be a base standard design, but what the PRVKE 21 does with that design is what will set it apart. Each little piece of it (and this is important) FEELS good, and looks good.

I’ve taken this to Toronto, Tokyo, London, Santa Barbara, Vegas, NYC, Miami and more, and between city treks and mountainous ones; in skyscrapers and military tarmacs, and without fail it garners the curiosity of the discerning. Men and women, I might add, as the bag looks fine on both.

I’ve had and do have many a camera bag but nothing pulls inquiries and frequent glances like the PRVKE 21. I’ve had meetings with the team at Leica who’ve asked to see it, and the same with many well known photographers we’ve featured here on this site.

Simply put, it’s inviting. There seems to be no expense spared in choosing the materials and the manner in which they were crafted, and this immediately sets it apart from other backpacks and particularly roll-top backpacks.

Where Most roll-tops can look a messy, like a shopping bag that’s been sat on, the PRVKE21 looks a little disheveled at most, but mostly it just looks neat collapsed or expanded, and that’s quite a feet for some 21 liters of bag. You can actually carry this out and not look like you’re camping, whilst at the same time have much of that utility.

How they achieved that, I think (after much consideration), is probably by channeling the lessons of French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, famous for realizing “Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”. So they’ve stripped it of the superfluous and only the necessities remain.

That’s called attention to detail, and they have considered so much.

Performance

However important the above is, it matters naught without being able to perform the task of being a companion for the photography inclined, but luckily that’s an area it shines in.

The top handle grips that allow you to hold it at your side like a carryall are magnetized subtilely and are easy to grip without tearing through your hands. The padding on your back feels less like a hockey pad and more like it is a blending of a scuba suit and the driver’s seat from a Maserati.

There are just enough compartments to make sense before getting confusing, so there is a felt-lined place for your phone, one for your keys, a front slat for documents or cables; a zippered area for memory cards or batteries; a rain cover for the entire bag; a slot on the back pad to hold money and passports so that it can’t be picked.

Inside against your back there’s a spot for your laptop (15in) and iPad. Then there’s the expandable bottle holder area, and optional waist pads for support, and numerous clips that allow you to attach a tripod – there’s just so much.

The camera storage section of the PRVKE 21 is the Camera Cube area which lives as the bottom half of the bag. It is removable, but without it some of the bag’s structural integrity is gone. However, it’s still perfectly usable, and if filled and on your back looks fine, just not as rigid. Regardless, the cube is easily secured inside the main compartment, and is featured into the bag wall that opens to let the user access a camera – that’s to say it’s nicely integrated and doesn’t feel like a separate guest being lost in a host.

It warrants saying that rhis isn’t necessarily meant to be a bag you take when you need to load up on large DSLR lenses and a pro body with grip built in. You can fit a D850 in here nicely with an 85 on it and even have the SIGMA 135 1.8 in there also (as I have right now), but you won’t fit a D5 or a 70-200 2.8 – not unless you chuck it in the top (or squeeze in through the back) – which is also fine.

But this is built for those who have a DSLR and move with 2 lenses or so, or a mirrorless system like a Fuji, Leica, or Sony. I’ve had a Sony A7rIII in here with a 24-70 G Master and 85mm G Master, as well as the Leica TL2 with an assortment of lenses, and it all fit beautifully, with easy access.

As per travel it opens up quickly and easily in airports so you can take out your laptop and remove the entire camera cube for easy inspection, and that’s a major plus. It also stows away under the average airline seat making it suitable for carry-on. In fact, since I’ve had it I’ve not traveled with anything but. The only thing I think may change that is that WANDRD has a new type of bag out and my hopes are high. Hopefully we can get one in for review soon.

So that’s it really. There are camera bags to endure and there are camera bags to enjoy, and this –firmly– is the latter. It’s the kind of thing that you end up realizing you are always gravitating to even in the face of considerable options, and one that you’ll realize is often the daily solution to carrying your gear. Frankly, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Get yours here starting at $184

Check out more from WANDRD.

Under the aircraft seat

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Akira Hojo

    Can anyone share how comfortable this backpack is for 8-10hr of use per day in summer? I am curious about the comfort and breathability of the back padding, as it looks like they may protrude in a curve into your back rather than away from, when you have a laptop in there. Specially how does the smaller back pocket feel against your lower back when it’s used to its full capacity?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      This is still my go-to bag for everyday, and I’ve had it hiking in Oahu and Sedona with hours of use. It is fine. There’s also the optional wait strap which can be used if you wish. The size actually makes it easier and more comfortable, in my experience, to deal with than larger versions which don’t allow you to bend properly. But, that’s just my two cents. 

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  2. Miguel Salhuana

    Excellent review Kishore.  I like the fact that you went over all of the features. I would have liked to see images of your two different load outs of the bag with the Nikon and Sony equipment. 

    What do you think of the 31L bag. It seems that you would be able to fit a little more equipment in the camera insert and still be able to store in under an airline seat. Let me know what you think.

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  3. Matthew Saville

    I only wish they had bought a few more vowels. The hipster trend of omitting vowels from a name to make it sound cooler is gttng nnyng

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  4. Timothy Linn

    I completely concur with your review, Kishore. The PRVKE 21 is the best photo bag I’ve ever used. Everyone has a checklist of things they want in this type of bag and none has ever come closer to checking all my boxes than this one. For the last year it has been my daily carry and my constant travel companion, perfectly proportioned and divided between photo gear, laptop, and food/clothing. Hopefully you will not mind if I offer a few additional observations.

    I particularly like the divider system, which eschews excessively plush and bulky dividers in favor of a compressed, space-saving design. The long dividers are especially well thought out, with one end designed to serve as a door that opens and closes with almost no effort at all. It’s hard to describe but easy to appreciate. Likewise, the ability to customize the size of the laptop compartment assures that it fits your particular laptop like a glove.

    The harness system is not as robust or comfortable as the one found in, for example, F-Stop Gear’s packs. (F-Stop is another brand that does an excellent job with the multi-use gear/laptop/food & clothing design.) Yet I would still choose the PRVKE 21 for day hikes. It is hard to overstate the convenience of its side access to your camera. 

    There are three things that I feel could be improved: 1) All of the zippers should facilitate being locked or secured in some way. Yes, a pen cap can defeat any zipper but it is unlikely that anyone is going to take a pen cap to your bag while it’s out of sight on your back. 2) The zipper head on the inside of the side access door is just waiting to scuff up your camera or its LCD.  Be aware. 3) The tarpaulin material looks great—almost like leather—when new. Unfortunately, it is easy to scuff and impossible to restore once scuffed. The sandstone slot canyons of Southern Utah really did a number on my PRVKE despite only minimal contact. To be clear, this is an aesthetic concern. The bag remains perfectly functional; just not as pretty.

    Finally, for anyone who wishes the bag came with an organizer for pens, cords, notepads, portable hard drives and the like, Tom Bihn makes one that slides into the front pocket perfectly. It’s called the Freudian Slip (size: Small Cafe). 

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  5. adam sanford

    I own and love this bag.  A few comments:

    1) A gripped rig or 1-series / D5 body won’t fit with glass attached as you said, but I absolutely *can* put a mounted 70-200 f/2.8L IS II on my 5D3 in photo compartment.  (Perhaps Nikon or the Leica SL have a larger short tele zoom, but the Canon 100% fits (sans hood).)

    2) It’s the perfect hybrid travel bag if you need to have that separate chamber for a windbreaker, food, gadgets, etc. 

    3) For non-pros, it’s a gold ‘bring your camera on a business trip’ bag.  Has ample room for a simple FF loadout, has a dedicated laptop sleeve and no one said you’ll only use the photo compartment for photo gear.  See attached in next post — I’ve got a laptop cord and a coffee mug in there!

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    • adam sanford

      On a business trip as we speak, and here’s this trip’s camera compartment loadout.

      35 f/2 IS on my 5D3
      50 f/1.4 in the beer coozy
      Coffee mug (stout size, prob 90mm dia)
      67 CPL for the 35
      Spare battery
      Laptop power cord

      If it helps, I have also in the past done the following combo:

      5D3 + 70-200 2.8L IS II (attached)
      24-70 f/4L IS
      77mm filters in pouch
      Both lenses’ hoods (nested around the filter pouch)

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    • adam sanford

      Only negative comments:

      1) Quick draw side pouch is simply not quick if you shoot a FF SLR — the pentaptrism ‘bump’ can get stuck coming out.  It’s not a show-stopper (it totally works), but it does slow your average draw speed.  If you must have top draw speed, use a shoulder bag / satchel you can quickly flap open and draw.

      2) When the bag is opened up and laid out, if you left anything in the long external zipper pouch (on the PRVKE emblem side), you either have to zip everything back up or very carefully partially turn the bag over without spilling contents inside.

      3) The magnetic handle only really sings if the rolltop is rolled mostly down.  If you (say) jam a sweatshirt in there and avail yourself of the rolltop feature, the handle doesn’t have enough travel to re-connect so it just flops about unassembled.

      4) The photo compartment is not plug and play, it takes some time to line up velcro flaps and the side hatch zipper.  For me, I don’t care, the insert is in there 99% of the time.

      But these are fairly picky comments.  This bag is dynamite in use.  Highly recommend.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Transporting cameras with lenses attached is generally a very bad practice anyways, if you shoot wide open a lot and need a flat plane of focus. The body and/or the lens mount can become slightly warped, causing the image to have a faint tilt-shift effect.
      If you’re actively shooting, and the camera+lens combo are stored in a way that puts no pressure on the kit as a whole, then you’re fine.

      But, when it comes time to cram that thing under your airline seat, or in the overhead bin, or in a trunk with four other camera bags on a packed-to-the-gills road trip with four friends, always store things detached and capped.

      :-)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I’m a minimalist, beyond when it is convenient, simply because (paradoxically) it is convenient, and I’ve taken this and only this on a number of work events, but you’re right – for the non-pro or simply one who isn’t on the job, I just haven’t found anything better. 

      I can fit a 70-200 in there lens hoods off, but not on a D850, and the brackets can be problematic, which is why I mentioned it. 

      However, my typical load-out for travel lately:

      Nikon FF Body (including D850) w/ 24-70 2.8
      135mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8, 80-200 chucked up top.
      or 
      A7-whatever version with 24-70 GM
      85 1.4 GM

      70-200 GM

      Tether cable

      UP TOP:
      Extra Shirt/jeans/boxer-briefs (always carry spares during travel)
      Peak Design Pouch with Cables/charger/batteries/battery pack

      Bose QC35 (with case)

      LaCie 5TB USBC

      MacBook Pro 13 Inch

      iPad Pro – 10 inch (with slim case)

      That load out requires the roll up area a bit extended but not even all the way. It’s just impressive. 

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