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Tenba Shootout 24L Bag (632-421)
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- Shootout is a comprehensive collection of sling bags and backpacks designed for serious outdoor imaging
- Quick Access side door allows a camera or lenses to be swapped out without removing the bag from your body. Side access channel fits a pro-size DSLR with an attached 70-200mm 2.8 lens
- Full-length front pocket fits oversized equipment like a matte box, filters or rods, or it can be used for soft items like a jacket and food
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TENBA SHOOTOUT is a comprehensive collection of sling bags and backpacks designed from the ground up for serious outdoor imaging. Each bag is built with the absolute best materials and hardware for all-season protection under the most extreme weather conditions. And innovative features throughout give you fast access to your equipment so you never miss a shot. Shootout backpacks feature unique side pods that allow access to cameras and lenses without removing the shoulder harness, plus they include Tenba's exclusive Multi-stage tripod carrier. And the sling bag offers the industry's only rear access panel to maximize the interior layout and organization of camera equipment. Each bag is made with water-repellant nylon, weather-sealed and rubberized YKK zippers, Duraflex clips, heavily reinforced stitching and expedition-grade harnesses and shoulder straps. Shootout is a comprehensive collection of sling bags and backpacks designed for serious outdoor imaging. Capacity: 1-2 DSLRs with 4-6 lenses, plus flash and accessories.
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I really like the heavy duty construction (zippers, seams, etc), the thoughtful layout (place for sunglasses, small tablet) and ergonomic design (the back is raised so if you're sweating it allows you to breathe back there. It is amazing small considering how much it holds - a recognition to the smart overall design.
As I mentioned its a little pricey but there are very few choices out there for high-quality GoPro backpacks and even if there were more I'd still shell out the extra bucks as this is so well designed and built.
As a landscape photographer, I do a LOT of walking. I've probably spent more money and brainpower trying to figure out how to get my camera up steep hills comfortably than I have on any other photographic accessory.
After trying out a number of backpacks and accessories, the solution I finally settled on was to use an Osprey Packs Manta AG 36 Hydration Pack, Fossil Grey, Medium/Large, with a Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 V2.0. The Think Tank holster clipped through one of its side loops to the lower trekking pole attachment on the backpack with a carabiner. I found that solution relieved some of the weight and stress from the shoulder strap, helped control the holster's movement/stability, and still allowed relatively quick and easy access. When I was traveling over ice or tougher rock scrambles, the backpack had enough room that I could stuff the whole holster inside.
The problems with the above solution:
- Less than ideal protection in difficult terrain
- Shoving the holster in the backpack marginally improved protection, but made it inconvenient to get back out to use
- No good place for the tripod (I strapped it to the compression strap on the right side)
- Clipping the holster to the trekking pole loop improved stability and balance, but was still a pain in the butt to have a large, heavy object swinging from my hip
- No protection for lenses or other gear (drone) without buying heavy/bulky wraps or cases
The solution was workable, but I didn't particularly like it. With these issues in mind, I formulated the following requirements for my ideal solution:
- Minimize weight "overhead" - i.e. how much the empty gear-carry system in total weighs; comfortable load support is factored into this as well.
- Improve protection - I routinely hike with over $5000 in camera equipment, and it would be nice if my gear-carry system helped protect it, so I didn't have to constantly be so conscious of how I was moving.
- Improve balance - the system described above is workable, but the balance is terrible. Loads were off-center, and although the carabiner helped control stability, the camera/holster was prone to shifting as I moved up and down steep slopes/rock scrambles, and I had to constantly keep an eye on it as I moved to make sure it didn't bang on rocks and stuff. Also, this system inhibited my ability to freely use my left arm, due to a large object on my left hip.
- Allow easy access to the camera - in some situations, such as photographing fall foliage, there are so many awesome opportunities that I'm constantly shooting on the go. I don't want the gear-carry system to be such a hinderance that I skip good opportunites just because it's a pain to get to the camera.
- Allow quick and easy donning and doffing of the backpack - I'm just as guilty as anyone of "shooting from the hip" with my backpack still on, pulling me off balance, because it was too much of a pain to take off the backpack and holster, then put everything back on and readjust.
With these requirements in mind, here is how the Tenba Shootout 24L works with my needs, as well as some unexpectedly nice features, and a few (minor) detractors.
*** The One AWESOME Feature To Rule Them All ***
- This backpack, in a sentence, has amazing balance. Once adjusted to fit my body shape, it carried the load comfortably, with almost no shift in weight whatsoever as I moved. The load stayed tight to my body as I moved, with very minimal and predictable shifting as my posture changed. By this, I mean that the backpack essentially behaved as though it were a single solid mass, even though there were a number of things packed into it, and moved as if it were a natural extension of my torso. After climbing up a 3000' peak that took almost three hours, my back, neck, and shoulders felt as fresh and relaxed as if I was carrying a lightweight daypack, even though I was carrying over 15 pounds of gear. Great job, Tenba!
- The backpack comes with plenty of adjustment for people of all shapes and sizes. It has load-lifter straps at the top of the shoulder straps, adjustable shoulder strap length, and adjustable hip belt straps. The hip belt is also removable (I think), to reduce the footprint for air travel.
*** Major Features that I like ***
- Main compartment organization is great. It comes with a good number of dividers and spacers. I removed about half of them because I'm an ounce-counting miser, and because I don't need them. I have one compartment for the camera body + lens, and this naturally causes pockets to form for a second lens next to it, and a small compartment below for a drone controller or some small items like filter holders, clean socks, or snacks. Roughly the top half I leave open as one big section to stuff a light jacket, extra snacks, a drone, or whatever.
- On the left side (as you wear it), there is a little door that you can open that gives you immediate access to your camera. For me, this is HUGE, because it makes it so easy to grab the camera for opportunities I happened to come across as I hike along, and then easily stow the camera again. This feature is one of my deal-breakers: I'm not going to go for any system where I can't get to the camera easily, and this side access works great! You just undo the sternum strap, swing the backpack around on your left shoulder (you can leave the hip belt strapped on), open the door, and "Bam!" the camera is right there. It holds my Canon 5D Mk IV, attached lens, and tripod plate no problem, though I do have to wiggle it a bit to get it out. If using a battery grip, this side door would definitely not work. Also, on the inside of the door is a little zippered compartment that you can use for a lens cloth or lens wet wipes.
- Laptop compartment between the main compartment and your back. I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be used for a hydration bladder, but that's what I use it for. I put a Hydrapak Shape-Shift 3L Reversible Reservoir, Clear into the laptop compartment. It works well with 1.5 liters of water, and would probably be okay with up to 2.0 liters. I routed the hydration hose out the top of the zipper and through a stretchy loop on the right shoulder strap.
- Behind the main compartment is a zippered full-length compartment, with some organizational pockets that I use for carrying essential hiking gear: flashlight (goes in one internal pocket), first aid kit, battery pack and charging cable for my phone (goes in the other internal pocket), extra straps, bug repellent, hand sanitizer and wipes, and a couple of ziploc baggies.
- On the outside of this pocket are two little zippered pockets on the very back of the pack. One of them had a memory card organizer, which I promptly removed since I don't use it and I'm stingy with weight, but it's a nice touch for event photographers that need to keep their cards separated. Also nice is that these pockets have little mesh organizers in them, as well as a little mesh bottom to prevent objects from falling out when you open the pockets.
- On the bottom are compartments for an integrated rain cover with a black side out for rain, and a silver side out for reflecting the sun (more about this later). Also on the bottom is a compartment to shove the tripod foot into. It's pretty easy to get the foot out, and it gives stability to your tripod.
- On the left side (as you're wearing it) is a an upper zippered pocket for small items. It has a little clip inside for your keys or some other small item, and it's about four inches deep; it was conveniently sized for stuffing the bottoms of my convertible hiking pants into. On the right side is a full length pocket, which you can use for things like removable tripod center column. It's also good for holding a delicious sandwich from a local Lake Placid deli.
- All the main compartments are rigid and well padded, and I wasn't worried at all about protection for the camera. Even though Tenba claims this backpack doesn't have a hard interior frame, it's very firm and rigid, and doesn't have any trouble standing up or holding its shape. The exterior is made of tough-looking nylon that you can scrape along rocks and trees with. All of the interior dividers stick nicely by hook-and-pile, and are well padded. I removed about half of the interior dividers to make myself a large space at the top to stuff a light jacket or my drone.
- The laptop compartment, main compartment, camera access side door, and the full length back compartment all feature double zippers with built-in holes for attaching luggage locks, in case you're in a crowded place like the airport, or you're on a shoot in the city. It was hard to tell from pictures and reviews if the side access for the camera was lockable, and I was a little concerned; but, not to worry, Tenba thought of that, and it is lockable.
- The shoulder straps are super comfortable and support the pack well. Additionally, even though this is a shorter, airline-sized bag, it's adjustable enough to get the hipbelt down to a comfortable height (I'm 5'8"). Also, the weight is so well distributed between the different support components that it never felt like a burden to take it off and then put it back on again, even though with all my gear + water, it weighed about 20 lbs.
- Being so heavy, thick, and black, I thought that the interior would probably get clicking hot, and I was a little concerned after walking for about an hour on an 85-degree day with the sun roasting me. To my great surprise, the padding functioned like the insulation in a thick lunch caddy, and kept the interior nice and cool, just like I left the hotel with. I'd imagine you could even put a chilled water bottle in there, and it would stay cool for a long time, even in warm weather. The integrated rain cover with silver side was totally not necessary to prevent the backpack from heating up inside. Even the sandwich that I had stuffed in the long side pocket didn't get very warm, which was nice.
- There's some substantial back padding, which makes it comfortable to wear, as well as some air-flow channels to help evaporate sweat.
*** Minor Features that I like ***
- The chest/sternum strap is adjustable up and down. It also has this little stretchy piece built into it, so it can flex a little as you move along. The benefit of this is that as you change position to climb up and down rocks, the pack adjusts with you automatically. The downside is that the overall tension is just slightly less than I'd prefer it to be.
- Each shoulder strap has a little stretchy loop around it for holding things, as well as a D-ring sewn in just below the stretchy loop, which is a nice touch. I used one stretchy loop to hold my hydration hose, and one of the D-rings held my towel.
- Tons of organizational pockets and compartments all over. Awesome!
*** Neutral features ***
- This pack, at 4 lbs with all the dividers in, 3.5 lbs with dividers out, and about 3.8 lbs as worn by me, is pushing the limit of what I'd consider comfortable (as a smaller person). My previous system, described above, weighed about the same between the holster and backpack, and any additional wraps or cases added more weight, so it's kind of a wash for me. The good news is, it's way easier to organize the Tenba Shootout because it's already padded and has dividers built right in.
- Air flow channels along your back. In my experience, "air flow channels" are pretty useless. They blow away sweat in the channels, but the 90% of your back that's not over the channel becomes a soggy, sweaty mess. That's pretty much normal for all air flow channels, and the trade off is either sweat relief or padding. The good news is, the back padding is generous and comfortable, if somewhat sweaty in warmer weather.
*** Minor negative features ***
- Keep in mind these are all very minor negatives compared to the overall awesomeness of the backpack, and not worth knocking off a star.
- No heat-embossed sunglass pocket. The 32L has it, but the 24L does not. Seriously, WTF.
- No hip belt pockets. Again: seriously, WTF.
- I kinda wish it had a large mesh outer pocket, for stuffing wet gear, empty snack wrappers, etc. Not a huge deal, just would have been nice.
- No stow-on-the-go style trekking pole attachments or gear loop. Tenba advertises this as good for hikers, and guess what, this hiker likes using trekking poles. Not a huge deal either, since I rarely used the attachments anyway, and Tenba did give us some other straps, D-rings, and attach points elsewhere. If I wanted to stow the trekking poles, I'm sure I could figure something out, but I'd have to take the pack off to do it.
- If you have a full-frame DSLR, two or three lenses, and some accessories (intervalometer, flash, filters, etc), it'll all fit nicely, but there's not really enough space to add extra clothing for those hikes that require dressing in layers. I like this bag enough that I might get the larger 32L for those colder hikes, but the 6lb weight makes me balk a bit. The 32L version is also too big to qualify as an airline personal item.
- The internal dividers can sag a bit on the side closer to the opening, so if you try to open the main compartment while it's standing up, stuff might tumble out. It does come with a couple of black straps to prevent your camera/lenses from falling out that way, but little stuff like snacks and filters could shift. Easy solution is to lay the backpack flat before opening.
- Not cheap. But, you get what you pay for. Definitely a top-notch product.
Overall, this is an amazing product that has replaced about three separate pieces of equipment that I had cobbled together in a Frankenstein contraption. Unless this thing falls apart after like a year, Tenba has a customer for life!