24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2008
OK, I'll admit it: I'm a hiker first, and a photographer second. Been in the hiking business ever since I joined the boy scouts at age 8 (I'm 45 at the time of this writing). However, for my 10th birthday I got my first SLR as a gift. All of which is to say, I consider myself having plenty of experience in either field. It is with that background, that I am looking at the Calumet BP1500 camera backpack.
Needed a new camera backpack when my trusty Lowepro AW Trekker finally gave out, after many years of reliable service. It probably had more miles on it's back than the automobiles of many of the readers of this review will have. Was a good backpack. And as a vacation trip to Maine was coming up, I needed a replacement, fast. This time I wanted to take a pack that could hold both my camera equipment and my laptop (previously I had tugged a laptop back along with the photo bag). It just so happened that the day my old backpack broke, Calumet was sending out en email advertising their new BP1500. Initially I though - why bother buying a backpack from a camera shop? They can't know anything about backpacks. Lowepro (or Lowe, the mother company) on the other hand is a well respected name in the hiking world. But then I realized the Calumet BP1500 was quite a bit cheaper than the Lowepro AW CompuTrekker that I had envisaged. So I thought, just give it a shot. I'm glad I did.
Ordered the backpack on a Saturday, using standard UPS ground shipment, and my first surprise came on Monday afternoon when UPS dropped of the cardboard box with the BP1500 at my house. Then I remembered, yeah, Calumet delivers very fast.
My next surprise came when I unpacked the BP1500. This thing was definitely designed by a seasoned hiker. Solid canvass material liberally reinforced where rough hiking puts extra stress on the material (and where my AW Trekker had broken down). The hip belt isn't just a lame strip of canvas, it's an expertly cushioned support system that is very well anchored to the main pack. As any experienced hiker knows: a good pack allows you to carry the bulk of the weight with your hips, so that belt better be comfortable. And then, once I started exploring the BP1500, there were just tons of extras and surprises worth noting:
* The zippers have a comfortable "fat" feel to them. They are sealed with plastic sheaths that will hold off splash water, without getting into the path of the zipper
* At the lower left and lower right the pack features two larger mesh pockets, which you can use for water bottles or for storing smaller knick-knacks
* The hip belt has two integrated pouches, meant for cell phones, iPods and the like (or in my case: memory cards and GPS)
* The same belt also has two massive D-rings made of sturdy rope, cushioned with plastic sleeves. Ideal for resting your hands during a longer hike. Never seen that on a photo bag before (and always missed it)
* If you choose to do so, you can actually dismount the hip-belt (it is essentially held in place by a large velcro section). Not recommended if you're hiking, but good to know it's possible.
* Canvas loops and smaller plastic D-rings are all over the outside of this pack. Allowing you to add all sorts of attachments to the bag (I use bungee ball cords to attach a jacket or a carabiner hook for my binoculars). I also attached a smaller filter-pouch (holding 4 circular polarizers) using one of the loops. In the field, I'll typically carry this on my belt, but it's good to know that it fits on the pack as well
* The bag actually comes with two adjustable luggage straps that lock to d-rings on via carabiner hooks. This is perfect for tacking on an additional clothing bag, a blanket, or a raincoat.
* A well thought out contraption on the left side of the bag is meant to safely strap on a monopod (obviously, you could also use it for hiking poles).
* And down the center of the bag you can attach even a large tripod. A semi-circular zipper opens a pouch you can use to arrest the foot of the tripod, and various straps across the bag can be adjusted to safely hold the tripod in place. However, the system is designed so well that if you are not carrying a tripod, you can use this pouch as a third outside compartment (this is where I typically carry spare batteries and a case for my sunglasses)
* The pack actually has an airflow system: the padding that provides cushioning when the pack is strapped to your back is designed in such a way that the pads are criss-crossed by "grooves", which provide room for air circulation even when the pack is pressed against your back. This system is a perfectly adequate system for the types of hikes the users of this bag are likely to undertake.
* The straps from the main harness are comfortably padded, as you would expect. What I did not expect was how solidly they are anchored against the center of gravity of the bag. Even the Lowepro AW Trekker, which is not a bad bag, has these straps simply horizontally sewn to the upper rim of the back with a stitching of maybe 4-5 inches wide per strap. On the BP1500 the main harness straps extend behind the main padding, where they are vertically sewn on the bag with maybe 12 inches worth of stitching per strap. I had not seen this approach before with anything but expedition quality backpacks. Wow.
The BP1500 has two outside compartments. The lower compartment is roomy enough to store plenty of knick knacks (cables, flash lights, car keys, battery chargers, energy bars, water filtration set). Spacey enough even for a notebook (the paper sort) or paper maps. The upper one of these two compartments has organizers for material like pens, business cards, your wallet. The inside of these flaps contains zipper-closed mesh bags which allows you to safely store filled up memory cards, camera batteries, AA batteries for the flashes, and the like.
And then there are the two main compartments: the compartment closest to your back is very tall and wide, but shallow - meant for your laptop. It is so big that it will easily fit even the most enormous notebook computer (I have a 17" model, it almost appears lost in there).
And finally, the compartment that I bought this bag for in the first place: the camera equipment compartment. It is huge. Will hold A LOT of stuff. More equipment, than you'll likely want to lug around (for weight reasons) on a serious hike. The BP1500 comes with a generous, and I really mean generous, number of velcro fitted pads that you can use to subdivide the space flexibly in any way that makes sense for you and your equipment. Here is what I did with it:
* I fitted two SLRs, both with tele zooms attached (a 70-200mm and a 100-400mm) down the middle of the compartment
* Two longer tele-primes (200mm and 400mm) lay flat
* Four smaller primes (28mm, 50mm, 60mm macro and 100mm macro), two wide angle zooms (10-22mm and 16-35mm) and a 1.4x teleconverter fit in vertically (i.e. perpendicular to your back)
* Two Canon 580EX II flashes together with diffuser caps and an ST-E2 transmitter
* Various plastic stuff (e.g. a rain cover for the camera and an inflatable mini-softbox
The padding for the camera compartment is so sturdy, so adjustable, and so generous, that I am 100% sure my equipment is well protected.
That still left about one fifth of the space unused. I filled it up with a cable bag that I "borrowed" from my laptop bag, containing the power brick, ethernet cable, wireless mouse and CF card reader for my laptop.
OK, that's a lot of equipment. Much more than I would bring along on a typical hike. First I wanted to see how much of my equipment this bag could hold (pretty much everything). Realistically, for daytime hikes I carry a selection of this camera equipment, but fill the space up with some hiking stuff (e.g. spare clothing or a gas burner). And it's good to know this bag can hold all that stuff.
Is this pack perfect? No. It's got it's weaknesses:
* The airflow system is a nice improvement over the one the AW Trekker used to have, but it doesn't hold a candle to the airflow systems in Deuter expedition backpacks (which I consider the best backpacks money can buy - but they are not designed for photographers)
* The measurements of this bag were obviously designed with the "size wise" restrictions for airline carry-on luggage in mind. However, the depth of the pack exceeds these restrictions by 1/2 inch, and the length of the pack exceeds it by a full inch. So far I have flown four times with this pack as carry-on, and never had any problems. However, if you do design it for this usage, then please stick to the limits
* There is no way to subdivide the laptop compartment. As said above, it is huge. And laptops tend to be heavy. Good ergonomics would be to carry this weight as high up as possible. However, the laptop compartment being the way it is, the laptop will invariably slide towards the bottom of the pack.
In summary: this is a very good pack. Even more because the quality of this pack was a bit unexpected. Calumet is not known for hiking equipment, yet, this pack was definitely designed by someone who knew his hiking gear at least as well as his photography gear. Having hiked with it for a while, I can wholeheartedly recommend this pack. Great design, very good performance, and the price is excellent. And another advantage: contrary to the Lowepro line, this bag doesn't scream "photography equipment" to every nutcase who sees you walking around with it.
The only watchout: if you're not lugging around huge quantities of photographic material, you may want to consider the smaller version of this pack that Calumet also sells (I haven't seen that one personally, but it looks like they have a very similar design).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2011
quite happy with this purchase,
at first, I did not like the design and the weight - up to 3kgs.
however, from the first use i realized it's very practical.
it contains: a laptop, 6 lenses, 2 camera bodies, follow focus with rods, flash lighter, electronic viewfinder, tripod and a glidecam.
a great purchase for a videographer! my vote!
on December 28, 2013
I read a lot of reviews before buying this bag.
The competition offers great products, but the price point is $300 or more.
This bag is as good as all the reviews told.
Very roomy, very comfortable, gear is nicely protected, materials are tough so it looks durable.
I love the side pockets to carry water or put the tripod. The center tripod holder is nice but not very convenient if you need to open your bag completly and frequently.
I used it during a workshop where I had 2 cameras (Nikon D7000 and D80) along with 4-5 lenses. I had also a tripod, a 13-in Macbook air, accessories (filters, flash, etc...)
It was a pleasure to carry it all day long, I had no fatigue or back pain at all. Just great!!!
As many other people said before, this bag has been designed by someone who knows what a good hiking bagpack is.
For information I am 6'2", 180lbs and it fits me perfectly.
Thank you Calumet for making such a great product at such an affordable price :-)