When Mindshift announced the smaller Trail version of their Rotation180º camera-toting backpacks, I was immediately curious. Part of our job, after all, is to take good pics of the equipment we’re testing out on the trail. That means getting a good camera safely to and from the far reaches of wherever (Iceland, in the case of the photo above), along with water, snacks, tools, pump and any other doodads deemed necessary for the adventures ahead.
Mindshift’s packs provide room for all of the above with a nifty swing-around camera pouch that makes it quick and easy to snag the shot without having to pull the entire pack off and dig through all the gear. And the rest of the pockets do a fine job of making room for everything else with passable organization. While the initial pics they sent us made the Trail look oversized, in reality it’s just the right size, and it’s light on its feet…
Even sitting in my office before testing started, the pack looked huge. But, somehow, once I actually put it on, the dimensions suddenly shrank, making it look and feel no bigger than a Camelbak Mule. Yet somehow more compacted. Compression straps on the top sides let you squeeze it even smaller.
It is wide, but it never felt too bulky. In fact, this is one of the most comfortable packs I’ve ever worn. It also stays put perfectly regardless of the terrain or how rad I try to get.
There’s a full length stretchy pocket on the backside with a bungie loop up top to help contain its contents. I found this pocket best for soft goods like a hat or wind breaker, but a water bottle could be stashed here, too.
The main zip pocket is roomy, with only a single mesh zip pocket for organizing small bits. Otherwise, it’s left gaping thanks to the structured box section underneath it that holds the camera case. Mini pumps, tools, shock pumps or a larger jacket, beanie, etc., all fit. You could even shove soft-shell protection like Bliss’ elbow and knee pads in here and have room to spare.
Above that is a soft lined phone pocket that’s almost big enough for goggles. But a phone, wallet, chapstick and sunglasses would all cohabitate snugly.
The hydration reservoir pocket is also big, but not deep. I prefer Camelbak’s reservoirs, which were limited to the standard 70oz (2.0L) or the Lumbar 100oz (3.0L). The standard shaped 100oz bladder is too long to properly fit since the hydration pocket also stops at the top of the shell used to house the camera case. It’d probably fit two 50oz (1.5L) bladders just fine, allowing for water and sports drink to be used simultaneously. Hmmm… The drinking hoses exit through a central port on the top and there are stretchy loops on both shoulder straps to keep it in place. Because the reservoir sits higher than normal, the hoses can dangle a bit lower than normal in the front, but it wasn’t too bad and could generally be fixed by just shoving part of the hose back down into the pocket.
The back panel has three raised mesh pads that do a decent job of letting air in. Even when fully loaded, the pack never weighed heavily on my torso, but the sweat marks on my shirts proved some moisture was being trapped. Basically, sweat and heat management is on par with other similarly sized packs.
Curved shoulder straps were comfortable and secure, preventing the pack from swinging around or falling off to one side.
The waist strap is a key part of the system and has enough length to fit some hefty folks. I had them pulled all the way back around to the buckle and it was still a bit loose.
The bottom half of the pack contains the swing-around camera case. The genius of the system is the magnetic buckle that secures it inside the pack while riding (or hiking or touristing). It’s easily undone without looking – just reach back and push it down and the cover flap opens, then pull the waist belt around from the right side:
Voila! The camera case fanny pack is free and can be slid all the way around to the front for easy access to its contents. A safety strap prevents it from swinging around too far and from falling off should you forget to close the waist belt. To replace it, just slide the case back around and it magically finds its way into its garage and the flap falls into place. Then just grab the magnetic clip and guide it toward the catch and it all but locks itself. The whole thing works flawlessly…I could even do it while riding.
The camera case has two adjustable dividers, a soft-sided pocket on the inside and a mesh pocket with small Velcro catch in the center. It held my Sony A6000 easily along with bars, a beanie and other stuff. The case is padded, as is the shell on the pack itself, but I’d still wrap my camera in a towel or jacket if I were taking it on extremely aggressive terrain where tumbles were likely.
The great thing about the pack is it’s so light and comfortable that I use it even when not taking my camera. The waist pack makes tool and snack access far quicker. The only thing I’d add are small zipper pockets on the hip padding.
After several months of hard use and plenty of travel with the pack, the Mindshift Trail has become my favorite among full sized packs. Camera or not, it’s a pleasure to ride with.