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Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack Review

Going out on a big photographic excursion for work or pleasure can involve a lot of kit including your laptop. Here we have three rucksacks that take a laptop as well as a beating from the elements.

|  Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack in Bags, Cases and Straps
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Tamrac Expedition 7x main image
Tamrac Expedition 7x priced at £129.99
Vanguard Upriser 48 main image
Vanguard UP-rise 48 priced at £119.99
Thinktank Streetwalker Harddrive main image
Thinktank Streetwalker Harddrive priced at £143.00

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksacks: Features
They say that first impressions last and I think if I was to buy one of the three bags on test based purely on looks then if I was going out on a serious adventure somewhere, the Tamrac Expedition 7X is the bag I'd choose. It simply looks the part with its bulky pockets and thick, comfy shoulder straps. Even though there's only seven pockets in total (eight including the tripod foot pocket), there's an amazing amount of space available. The two pockets on the lid are for personal effects such as phone, map, compass, GPS tracker, money, mp3 player as well as accessories to fit your laptop such as a card reader, mouse and other bits such as batteries and memory cards. The pockets swing open like wings and feature Tamrac's Memory and Battery Management System which is a piece of red fabric that can be stuck outside the pocket so you know the card is full/empty. This sounds pretty unnecessary but if you're in the piercing cold and need to quickly see what's going on and can't afford to keep switching cards because the one you chose is full, this could be a God send.

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Tamrac Expedition 7x in use
With the weight of a tripod and laptop on the lid, the Tamrac will get top heavy when opening the bag.
Vanguard Upriser 48 in use
The Vanguard is the only bag in test to have a side access zipper. The bag can stay on your shoulder to remove the camera.
Thinktank Streetwalker Harddrive in use
The Streetwalker has hardened dividers to keep the shape.
Thinktank Streetwalker Harddrive rain guard
Think Tank have provided a rain guard for the bag to keep it dry in the rain.
Vanguard Upriser 48 rain guard
Vanguard also provide a rain guard, but Tamrac are confident without one.

A tripod can be fastened to the lid with two plastic clips and then two of the feet sit in the foot pocket at the bottom of the lid.

Inside there's a massive amount of space which can easily hold three DSLR bodies and around 5-6 lenses depending on how you pack them, how big they are and whether you're taking a flash unit too. Several extra dividers are included for you to split the available space down even further.

Despite its name, the Streetwalker from Think Tank is styled more for flying. It comes in the right dimensions to fit into the baggage limitations on planes and has a space for ID to be placed on the top although it says it's reserved for a business card.

Two thin pockets either side of the main compartment and a larger slim one on the lid are all the exterior pockets that the Streetwalker has with the lower pocket reserved for tripod feet. The main compartment is a mass of dividers and with some cunning, two or three DSLR bodies - one a top end pro body - and five to six lenses could be fitted in without anything else to go in. Three large opaque pockets are on the inside of the lid for accessories.

Easily the prettiest of the bunch, the Vanguard UP-rise 48 is an oval shaped bag with a unique feature that gives it its name. The bottom portion of the lid has a “bellowed” section so if you have that bit too much, the top can be extended by around 60mm to prevent crushing.

The bag is quite intelligently designed to adapt to the type of person you are. A zip on the lid can be opened and the top section of the bag is revealed which can be used to house personal effects and accessories with the bottom section having access on the side of the bag. Alternatively, a zip just below the first one will go all around the bag revealing the top and bottom sections if you wish to use it that way. The bright orange interior is ideal for locating lost accessories in the dark.

There are less dividers in the main compartment of the Vanguard and I think this makes it a bit more difficult to compartmentalise the bag. I struggled to create a balance for all my equipment. I think with intelligent organisation, the bag could house a DSLR body and three or four lenses with accessories which is disappointing considering the size of the bag. Of course there's the top section which can be incorporated but it can mess with the dividing of the lower section. I'd prefer to see more dividers and not need to use them such as Tamrac have provided.

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Handling
The Vanguard is easy to put on and comfortable to wear. The zips are easy to open and close and there are minimal clips to get in the way. The UP-rise 48 features an airflow system to keep your back cool and it's simply a channel in the back that forks as it moves down in the same shape as the Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future. The risen spongy sections collapse with the weight of the kit providing comfort and cool air flows through the channels to avoid sweat build up. The Tamrac has a similar feature with the same shape except it has a lumbar support as an “island” in the middle. The cushioned areas are tougher too. While the Streetwalker offers a similar channel, there's no alternative exit point so no air can travel through, instead it goes in and pretty much stays there.

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Vanguard Upriser 48 inside
The bright orange colouring can be overwhelming in bright sunlight but is great in the dark which is the reason behind it.
ThinkTank Streetwalker Harddrive inside
There's plenty of space to fit lots of gear in the Think Tank bag which is great for long journeys or for camera reviewers testing lots of kit!
Tamrac Expedition 7x inside
Tamrac have provided tension straps to keep your gear in place if there's a danger of it falling out.

The Tamrac houses a 15in laptop and the zipper to this and both of the zippers to the accessory pockets have tough water repellent plastic covering them which does make it harder to open and close them but frankly I'd prefer to have it that way and make sure my laptop isn't ruined. I'm surprised that the camera gear zipper doesn't have the same level of protection especially as the amount of room can allow for a few thousand pounds worth of kit. More expensive than a laptop in any case.

Both Vanguard and Think Tank have placed the laptop pocket under the main compartment while the Tamrac is on top, hence the weatherproofed zip. I prefer it on the bottom because it affords some protection if the bag gets knocked for any reason such as loading it in a luggage hold.

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Performance

The extra ruggedness of the Tamrac certainly makes it a tight fit and as with the Thinktank bag, you can feel the lumbar support pressing into your back and dispersing the weight of the load in the bag. I found the Tamrac the most comfortable to wear because of the thick padding on the shoulders but I feel that it's not without its imperfections. I didn't go on a long walk and I was fine but it was always in my mind that after an hour or two I could start to suffer.

The Thinktank sits really well on my shoulders, it also feels quite high up on my back which I prefer. Fans of the side access doors on the messenger style bags will be happy to know that the Vanguard has just that feature. Unfortunately the Vanguard was the bag that I suffered with the most. I found that the Thinktank and Tamrac bags had more than enough room for my equipment allowing me to take a bit extra such as a couple of Micro 4/3 bodies, lenses and a couple of compacts for those snapshot moments. With the Vanguard, I had trouble fitting the existing kit in and had to put a compact and my flash gun in the top part which meant they were banging about together.

The Tamrac doesn't come with a rain guard which surprises me but explains the extra tough zipper lining. Still, I'd like to see the same kind of coverage on the zipper that covers the main compartment to my expensive camera equipment. Everything else on the Tamrac suggests tough which I simply didn't get from the Think Tank and Vanguard. That's not to say they aren't tough, they just don't seem as much tough as the Tamrac.

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Verdict
All three bags are well made and have unique attributes that make them stand out in a crowd. The Vanguard has the extra space and the brightly coloured interior for finding items in the dark, although I personally feel it's a bit too bright. Think Tank have brought out a straightforward, conservative bag that does its job and is designed perfectly for the international photographer. It doesn't have much else about it though, it's a straight froward bag and I think in this day and age, we're looking for that special something these days.

It's the Tamrac that gets my vote though. From the winged pockets to the Battery and Memory Card Management System and airflow system, the Tamrac is simply bursting with features and ideas. Ok, so it doesn't have anything to stop the rain getting directly onto your bag, but the exposed zippers are well protected and it means you can keep your tripod attached to the bag. At £130 it's a good price for the amount of product you get. This is a great rucksack and I can see it bringing many years of service.

Tamrac Expedition 7x group winner

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Pros
Vanguard UP-rise 48 Think Tank Streetwalker Tamrac Expedition 7x
Extra space Great for flying with Waterproof zippers
Nice design Lots of dividers Unique features
Side access zipper   Good price

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Cons

Vanguard UP-rise 48 Think Tank Streetwalker
Tamrac Expedition 7x
Difficult to divide the inside Airflow system doesn't flow anywhere. Laptop is on top of the lid instead of underneath
Orange interior is just too bright No unique attributes to make it stand out No waterproof zip protecting the camera.
Not enough dividers    

  Vanguard UP-rise 48 Think Tank Streetwalker
Tamrac Expedition 7x

Laptop & Photo gear Rucksack: Specifications
  Vanguard UP-rise 48 Think Tank Streetwalker Tamrac Expedition 7x
Price £119.99 £143 £129.99
Contact www.vanguardgb.co.uk www.snapperstuff.com www.intro2020.co.uk
External dimensions      
Depth 300mm 220mm 330mm
Width 350mm 290mm 340mm
Length 515mm 460mm 500mm
Internal dimension      
Depth 130mm (+60mm) 180mm 160mm
Width 250mm 280mm 280mm
Length 300mm 430mm 410mm
Weight 2.27Kg 2Kg 2.94Kg
Laptop space Yes Yes Yes
Rain cover Yes Yes No
Tripod holder Yes Yes Yes

The Vanguard UP-rise 48 costs £119.99 and is available from the Vanguard GB website here:

Vanguard UP-rise 48

The Think Tank Streetwalker Harddrive costs £143 and is available from snapperstuff.com here:

Think Tank Streetwalker Harddrive

The Tamrac Expedition 7x costs £129.99 and is available from Park Cameras here:

Tamrac Expedition 7x

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2 Feb 2014 10:58PM
I know this is a comment coming long after your very helpful post, but it's relevant to your point about the Tamrac Expedition 7x bag not coming with a rain cover. I found that surprising as well, but there is a Tamrac-made rain cover that fits it: MX5352 M.A.S. System Medium Rain Cover (Gray with Black).
I bought it at the same time as I bought the bag.

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