Over the holidays, I received a Mindshift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L camera backpack to field test on upcoming projects. It was tough timing, as I usually carry a ski touring-specific backpack throughout the winter rather than a standard camera bag. During my recent trip to Kalispell, Montana, I carried the Horizon backpack during a four-day trip that had me doing various winter activities. It was the perfect way to test the backpack and see if it’ll become a staple in my everyday kit.
Field Test: Mindshift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L
From afar, the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L looks and feels like a standard camera bag. The 34L volume is divided into two parts: a 27-litre top access compartment and a 7-litre belt-pack camera compartment. A separate photo insert is available, too, for photographers aiming to convert the 27L compartment into additional camera space.
Closer inspection reveals a well thought out camera bag that really fits a niche in the industry as a go-to travel and light-adventure backpack.
The 7-Litre Beltpack
Far and away the backpack’s key feature, the 7-litre beltpack rotates from the backpack for easy access. The easiest way to describe it is like a fanny pack. The beltpack stows cleanly in the backpack but rotates in front of the photographer for easy access to camera gear without setting the bag down.
Although it is quite small, I easily carried a complete kit including my Sony A7RII with a 16-35mm lens attached, a 70-200 f/4 lens, a Lee filter kit with two filters, spare memory cards and batteries.
The 27-Litre Compartment
Additional space for clothing layers, food, and water is often overlooked in standard camera bags, but the Horizon 34L aims high by delivering plenty of spare storage space. A mesh pocket holds smaller laptops (13.3” screens) safely, while the additional space can hold just about anything.
In Montana, I was working in a cold, snowy environment and we often traveled far from our vehicles. I carried several spare jackets (down layer and outer shell), gloves, and beanie, along with my lunch and a 1L Nalgene bottle. It all fit nicely in the top half of the pack and kept my camera gear safely stowed in another pocket.
Photographers that carry plenty of equipment will need to add the photo insert into this compartment to protect their gear. This will greatly diminish the versatility of the bag, as additional gear will be difficult to carry.
The backpack has a built in 3L hydration pocket that holds most 3rd party water bladders. Personally, I always use Nalgene bottles rather than a water reservoir, but this pocket was convenient to carry a few extra layers.
External Tripod Carry
A tripod system is standard to most camera backpacks. On the Horizon, it’s a vertical carry in the center of the backpack. It works.
My Conclusion About the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L
The Horizon 34L is something like my 4th or 5th camera bag in the past few years, which proves it’s hard to find the perfect solution. Overall, this is an innovative bag and I know it’s usefulness will excel in the summer months when I often want a lightweight camera bag for day hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
The pros certainly outweigh the cons. I only found two negatives with the Horizon 34L.
- To maintain the storage space in the main compartment (which I need), I felt very restricted on what camera gear I could carry. The belt pack is a little on the small size.
- It takes some time to grow accustomed to using the beltpack system. Several times, I pulled it out of the pack while the beltpack wasn’t done up. I also found it difficult to use when the bag wasn’t on my back.
On the positive side, the list is considerably longer, but the main takeaways are clear:
- Build quality is great. Mindshift Gear is part of the Think Tank family, which all but guarantees a well thought out design and quality.
- Quick access to camera gear while hiking, without having to set the bag down. While this is a great feature all the time, it’s especially nice if it’s snowy or wet outside.
- Storage space allows for far more than just camera gear, which is essential when hiking, cycling, or skiing.
- It’s carry-on friendly on all airlines
When it comes down to it, I know my Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon will see plenty of action this summer. It’s my new go-to bag for day hiking, mountain biking and international trips when I’ll be wandering city streets or mountain trails.
Buy a rotation180° Horizon 34L Camera Backpack
If you’re keen to purchase a new camera bag, I’ll ask you to use my affiliate link! If you do, you’ll receive a free gift upon checkout and I’ll be a few steps closer to my next epic photography adventure.