Last year we tested the MindShift FirstLight 30L – a large photography dedicated camera bag capable of storing long telephoto lenses such as a 500mm f/4 or 400mm f/2.8 and plenty of other photo equipment for the travelling photographer.
Today we are taking a look at a more compact but still very effective dedicated photo bag by MindShift called the Trailscape 18L. They both share a number of design features but are also a bit different in some important respects.
So let’s take a closer look at the Trailscape 18L.
MindShift Trailscape 18L – mid size pro photo backpack
General build quality
Just like the FirstLight 30L and all of the other camera bags from Mindshift that we tested here, the Trailscape is very well build and generally made from good solid materials.
The bag seems a little less padded than the FirstLight but it is made to be smaller and lighter and carry less equipment so this is maybe to be expected. There is also less options to rearrange the interior dividers than you have on the larger FirstLight bag which has a Velcro across the entire inside of the bag.
The harness system of the bag is very well built and will give your back plenty of room to breathe. You get both the waist strap and a chest strap which help with weight distribution although we would like just a little bit of padding with the waist strap (the larger and heavier FirstLight has some great padding in the waist).
The top handle of the bag has no padding at all, unlike the FirstLight bag which has a super padded handle. The logic is probably that the FirstLight can get much heavier with all the equipment inside but we still like to see at least a little bit more padding – similar to the Vanguard Alta Rise 45 bag that we tested here a few months ago – as long as MindShift will give you a simple way to hang the bag – something that you can do with this bag, but can be a little bit harder with the Alta Rise 45 or the FirstLight – depending on your specific hanger.
Although here in Israel we rarely have any need for a rain cover the bag did come with one which is pretty cool as it is both a rain cover and a case for the rain cover.
Tripod/Water/Laptop and smaller compartments
As a dedicated photo bag the Trailscape has one big photo gear compartment and a number of much smaller accessory ones – unlike for example the Alta Rise 45 bag which has about the same external size but a completely different internal division with a mid size personal gear compartment but less room for camera gear (this is even more true for MindShift’s own Rotation series of bags and the Horizon which has a giant personal gear compartment).
With that said, the Trailscape does have a nice but flat front compartment for a laptop and a tablet (our 13.3 Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 fit in nicely as well as our Sony 10″ tablet in the second pocket). Unlike the FirstLight front compartment which can hold a laptop but lacks any sort of padding – Mindshift did add a bit of padding in this case which is nice. You can also put in some notebooks or thin books, pens and a few other items as long as they are not thick in the front compartment.
Personally we prefer the half gear, half personal equipment approach to camera bags for our day to day use but we did learn that when we go on commercial shoots having a more camera dedicated backpack is an advantage – more on this later.
Besides the larger front compartment there is also a smaller front pocket for your wallet or smartphone. It was big enough for our 5.5″ smartphone with a case and with some effort even our wallet was able to squeeze in but we would feel a bit safer if the pocket was on the top of the bag like you have in the FirstLight bag.
One of the nicest features of the Trailscape is the fact that it has two large side pockets where you can place tripod, monopod or a water bottle. Keep in mind that unlike the larger FirstLight bag that we tested it can’t accommodate a tripod in the front.
One thing that we would improve is the material of the pockets – we would like to see a much more robust pockets so that the legs of the tripod or monopod will not rip them apart over time. The FirstLight front tripod pocket is made from this material and so is the special retractable pouch that the Vanguard Alta Rise 45 has on its side which is really great.
Two large side pockets
At the heart of the Trailscape 18L is a spacious 11″ (28cm) by 18″ (48cm) main gear compartment with a long divider and several smaller ones which you can arrange to fit your gear.
From the included brochure you can see some of the gear that you can fit inside – in this case a full body DSLR with a 70-200mm attached and two mid size lenses with some accessories. A 300mm f/2.8 should also fit according to MindShift. We tried it with somewhat smaller gear but lots of it and it worked very well.
On the cover of the main compartment you get two mesh nets for cables and other small accessories.
Actual use in the field
We have been using this bag extensively since late 2016 so we had plenty of time to get a feel for the bag. Unlike MindShift’s rotation series this bag feels less like a travel or hiking bag and more like a pro photo work bag (for example it lacks the water bladder pouch that all the rest of MindShift’s bags that we tested had).
We used it as a day-to-day camera bag on occasion and for some short outdoor shoots, but our main use of this bag was actually a bit unconventional. We took it with us on some of our recent commercial productions and removed much of the internal dividers and turned it into a small, convenient backpack with a rather large carrying capacity of all sort of accessories and gear that we could not carry in our main camera gear trolley.
Although this is probably an overkill bag for this task, the fact that it can carry two tripods on the sides made it pretty ideal and we will most likely continue using it in this capacity in the future.
MindShift Trailscape 18L – can be used for hiking but also for much more
We really like the Trailscape 18L. It is an unassuming mid size backpack with smallish exterior but plenty of room for your photo gear inside. Although it lacks the cool rotation mechanism that made MindShift famous and can be considered a much more conventional photo bag – we found it to be very useful in more professional oriented tasks.
As we have seen despite some basic design similarities, the Trailscape 18L is a much simpler camera dedicated backpack compared to the FirstLight 30L. This does not mean that it isn’t useful. Quite the opposite – we found ourselves using it much more for many of our productions and while this might not necessarily be the intended target of this bag, its small size but roomy main compartment along with its comfortable harness system makes it a very functional bag for us.
There are some small features which we would like MindShift to improve or borrow from the larger FirstLight series. A thicker top handle would be nice, a pouch for a water pack could have been cool but maybe the most important – a more robust tripod holding system on the sides of the bag for tripods is really necessary if we want this bag to survive for many years of professional use.
Finally pricing – the Trailscape 18L sells for $170 – this is almost twice the price of the similarly sized Vanguard Alta Rise 45 but the bags are so different in any other respect that it is really hard to compare them. If you look at MindShift’s own line, than you can see that the rotation180° Panorama sells for about $200 so in this context the bag is pretty decently priced (the much larger FirstLight 30L cost about $270).
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