Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tamrac Expedition 7 Backpack - Part 1

The most desired item on my Christmas list was a Tamrac Expedition 7 backpack. Luckily, my wife was kind enough to buy it for me.

I've actually been wanting a backpack for quite a while now. As my camera bag reaches the 15 lbs mark, it has started to become a bit of a burden to support on one shoulder. Carrying it on a couple of the 1 mile (each way) hikes I've gone on has been very difficult. I found myself repeatedly shifting the bag to different positions just to stay comfortable: Right shoulder, left shoulder, right hand, left hand, cradle it with both arms, etc. There have been a few hikes that I just didn't have the motivation to go on, simply because I knew how painfully far I'd have to carry that bag.

For this reason, I've been thinking about shifting to a backpack for about 8 months now. I almost hurried and bought a backpack before my trip to Seattle last May, but decided I didn't want to rush into it...I wanted to think about it some more. After all, a backpack isn't a godsend. It does have one major downside, which is the lack of accessibility to equipment. Every time you want to get out a new piece of equipment, you need to take the backpack off, open it, get what it is you want, close up the backpack (can't just leave it unzipped like a shoulder bag), and put it back on. A major pain.

So, afraid that I wouldn't like the decreased accessibility, I put off purchasing a backpack. However, every single time I had to carry that heavy bag on my shoulder, I though a little bit more about getting a backpack. With Christmas coming up, and my choice of tripod undecided, I figured this would be the perfect time to ask for one.

So why did I choose the Tamrac Expedition 7? After comparing backpacks from many different vendors, the Tamrac Expedition series seemed to have the most features and also, even more importantly, seemed to do the most to minimize the accessibility downside of using a backpack. I'll explain this in a minute. Looking at the Expedition series, only the 7 and 8 models seemed to have enough room for the equipment I wanted to carry, and only the 7 and 8 had the extra waist strap to help spread the weight of the pack across your body.

Comparing the two models, the 8 seemed a bit large for my body (I'm not a very larger person...about 5'7" and 160 lbs), and it seemed like it had WAY more room than I needed (though now that I've loaded up my 7, I can see how the 8 would have been a good idea). So, I settled on the Tamrac Expedition 7 as my pick.

So back to the accessibility issue. Well, the thing I liked best about this backpack was that it had the most room and most convenient arrangement for expansion. It has all sorts of places where you can connect on an extra lens case or a pouch. There are 4 on the side, and 2 on the shoulder straps. In addition, although not an official attachment slot, there are 4 places on the waist belt which could be used to hold expansions...2 would work well for carrying lenses, and 2 are perfect for my filter pouches.

So which accessories did I decide on? First, I got a large pouch, which is the perfect size for holding my Sigma flash unit. Next, I got a large lens case so that I can get access to switch off a lens easily (though now I wish I had asked for 2). When out hiking, you are bound to get thirsty, and I'd hate to carry a water bottle separately, so I got the water bottle attachment. I also got a 4-slot memory card/battery pouch that attaches to the shoulder strap. This way I can swap out the items which I change almost as often as my lenses. Finally, I got a pair of cinch straps, which are just for generic use, however I decide to use maybe attaching a light rainjacket/windbreaker to the side of the backpack.

So that gives you an introduction to the backpack...why I wanted one, what I thought about, how I decided on what I wanted, and what I ended up getting. The post is getting a bit long at this point, so next time I'll post more details on the backpack now that I have it in my thoughts on construction and features, how I loaded it up, and what I think I'd like to add. I'll post some pictures of it. However, being that I'm sick right now (see yesterdays post) and stuck in the house, I'll have to leave my thoughts on actually using this backpack until a future part 3.

Update: Tamrac Expedition 7 Backpack - Part 2

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