Being both a photographer and a mountain biker, I often ride with a Nikon D300 camera and a prime lens attached, tucked into my trusty go-to hydration pack. While this may not be the best solution with sensitive equipment, my old D300 is a retired piece with about half a million shutter counts and a sensor that’s waiting to die. So that’s ok. Carrying a full sized DSLR while riding is one thing, but taking the camera out to shoot something is a challenge altogether.
The thing that often bothers me is that it takes a little bit of effort and time to actually shoot anything mid-ride. If I do see something worth a shot, I’d have to take my backpack off, take the camera out of the bag, get the shot and pack everything in again. This series of stop-shoot-and-go happens quite a bit during my weekend rides and I’ve given up hope of ever finding a more elegant solution. After years (quite literally years) of finding a backpack that fits all my obsessive-compulsive requirements, I’ve succumbed to the fact that combining both my passions simply means taking more time to reach for my camera for a shot of that glint of sunlight bouncing off a drop of dew in the early mornings in Bukit Timah… that is until recently.
I stumbled upon the Mindshift Panorama 180 by chance while I was browsing for some equipment replacements. The first thing that caught my eye was definitely the bag’s color. I’m a sucker for camera bags that are not black. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional black camera bag has it’s purpose and my own collection of Think Tank camera bags is testament to that purpose. Scouring photography forums for more info, the backpack looked like the perfect candidate that could end my search for that elusive solution for water, stuff and camera. And fortunately, the good guys at TK Photo was kind enough to lend me a demo to see how the bag would perform during an actual mountain bike ride.
The Mindshift Panorama 180 is a unique camera backpack that’s made by Mindshift Gear, and they are actually related to Think Tank. For the shutter bugs out there, you’ll definitely be familiar with Think Tank’s awesome line of pro camera products and you’ll be glad to know that the build quality of the Mindshift Panorama is just as good.
Made from various materials like 420D velocity nylon, 420D high density nylon, 210D velocity nylon, Ultra-Stretch fabric, 350G air-mesh, 3-ply bonded nylon thread and with water repellant properties, the pack screams outdoors. The YKK zippers are also glove-friendly with huge loops.
So what’s special about these packs? Analyse the photo above. The Mindshift Panorama 180 is actually half a belt pack and half a hydration pack! With a total packing space of 22 liters, the pack incorporates a unique system of having a rotating beltpack for rapid access to your camera without ever taking the whole pack off from the bag. And that my friends, is a HUGE deal.
Rugged but light, these packs are made for the outdoors. Here’s a run down of the main features of the pack;
- Rotating beltpack for rapid access to trail essentials: Camera, iPad, maps, binoculars, etc.
- 3 tripod-carrying options
- Lightweight, only 2.9 lbs
- Side pocket for keeping small necessities handy
- Additional room for jacket, 1-2 layers, hat, gloves, lunch, etc.
- Removable beltpack can be worn separately for shorter outings
- Load-lifter adjustable straps on both the beltpack and shoulder harness
- Breathable padded airflow harness with daisy chain
- Curved back panel with single aluminum stay for pack stability
- 2 seam-sealed Rain Covers* (sold together) function with the rotation design for extra protection in heavy downpours
- Does not include a hydration bladder.
While the pack may not be “Enduro-specific”, or even a “real” mtb backpack, the Mindshift Panorama checks all the boxes according to a shooting rider’s needs. It is slightly bigger than an average pack, but for all intent and purposes, the size of the bag is similar to an enduro-sized pack. By enduro-sized, we mean something bigger than just being able to carry a hydration bladder and small tools.
And yes, the pack also has a large pocket on the side to fit a good sized bladder. We’ve tested the pack with our own Camelbak and Hydrapak 2 liter bladders and while it fits, it was difficult to get a fully filled bladder in easily. There wasn’t any plastic hooks or a velcro strap within the side pocket to prevent the bladder from sinking down the pocket as well. After a couple of hours in the trail, we’ve found that the bladder will wilt down to the bottom of the pocket. While it didn’t cause any issues during use, we did find the Hydrapak’s top plastic seal protruding on the side of the pack after a while. We’re not sure if it would cause a tear in the long run, but it would be great if there was a way for the bladder to stay upright when it’s half full.
The main compartment of the pack has a lot of room for anything that you would need during a ride. The big opening is a huge plus that made it easy for us to get stuff in and out from the main compartment. A mesh internal pocket allows for tyre levers, allen toolset, some gels and my mosquito repellent, and the main space is perfect for a rain jacket, spare tubes and some snacks.
Another top pocket for your mobile phone (my phone is always in a ziplock bag during rides) and other small items like a compact first-aid kit.
The beltpack is where your DSLR camera lives in. It’s compact so a full pro body, or a DSLR with a battery grip, will NOT fit in the beltpack. Anything smaller than a Nikon D4 will fit comfortably with enough room for a spare mid-sized zoom or prime lens. There’s also a mesh pocket where you can fit in a memory card wallet and spare batteries.
Our Experience with the Mindshift Panorama 180.
Looking beyond the snazzy features and build quality, any bag can get quite heavy once it’s loaded with all the necessary equipment, and this is where the pack makes or breaks. Even though I’m used to carrying extra equipment during any given ride, the Panorama is amazingly comfortable.
You’ll instantly realise how comfortable the pack wraps itself around your back, and much of this is credited to the weight being distributed around your waist instead of your shoulders. And since most of the weight is on your waist, there was minimal movement during our rides. Even when we’re off the saddle and pointing the bike downhill, there wasn’t any movement and our equipment felt secure and safe. The breathable padded mesh on the back of the pack has channels for hot air to escape and we didn’t feel our backs overheating after hauling our bikes up that steep section in Butterfly.
We’ve been using the Mindshift Panorama 180 for a couple of weeks now and yes, we’re very happy with the pack. There were so many instances where the pack has exceeded our expectations, and it’s clearly designed around the special needs of outdoor photographers and how we use our gear along the way. The pack definitely ticks all the right boxes and it does what it says it does, and does it well. So if you’re looking to ride with a camera on our local trails or even for your next overseas riding trip, the Mindshift Panorama 180 can easily be your new favorite option. It’s available in 2 different colors and you can get them here in Singapore from TK Photo over at Funan Centre.
What kind of bags do you guys use? Leave a comment or share your riding/shooting experience below!
Editor’s Note: Article correction, there is a small flap to hook your bladder in the bladder compartment so that it stays upright. Thanks to our reader, Nox, for pointing it out! So if you’re using a Camelbak bladder, it should stay up just fine.