8 months with the Vanguard Up-Rise 33 camera bag

Vanguard Up-Rise 33
$170 / £85 www.vanguardworld.com

Not really expecting much, I walked into the camera store knowing I needed a different way to carry both cameras and computers. I’d been living in a semi-rural area, carrying both computer and cameras in a large backpack that could accommodate several large SLRs. Now I’d need a smaller bag, as my commute would include long walks and even longer rides on public transit. 

Set on a satchel-style bag, I checked out the usual suspects, including Tenba, Lowepro, and ThinkTank, and all seemed reasonable choices. Then I came upon an unusual bag with a style all its own: The Vanguard Up-Rise 33. It was made with black nylon fabric with orange accents, and had a design I hadn’t seen before, including the ability to expand and contract depending on the size of its contents. After verifying with the clerk that it could carry a 13-inch MacBook Pro, I made my purchase. Though I still use other bags depending on what I’m testing, I usually carry the Up-Rise 33, so I haven’t regretted the purchase at all. Let me tell you a little bit more about this well-made bag.

 A smart look and tight build make the Vanguard Up-Rise 33 a pretty good commuter companion.

Key Features

  • Expandable design
  • Good weight distribution
  • Top zipper for quick access
  • Secure latch mechanism
  • Good mix of large and small pockets
  • Holds 13-inch laptop
  • Removable inner sleeve
  • Sleeve for rolling luggage
  • Inside Dimensions: 13 x 4.1 x 11 inches (330 x 105 x 280mm)
  • Outside Dimensions: 15.3 x 8.8 x 14.2 inches (390 x 225 x 360mm)
  • 3.4 pounds (1.54Kg)

Expansion

I always carry a camera, but don’t always need my MacBook, so the ability to collapse the bag by as much as an inch and a half in thickness comes in handy when walking or riding on public transit. Less thickness means greater maneuverability. I can fit a medium SLR and two or three lenses in the Up-Rise 33, or two lenses and a flash. Switching to small mirrorless designs allows up to three cameras with two lenses each if I stack them right. 

Expanding the Up-Rise 33 requires the simple action of pulling a zipper down one side, across the bottom and up the other side. The hard plastic feet have protected the bag very well, and add to the bag's stability when on hard surfaces. The vinyl bottom resists water incursion, and is continuous whether expanded or not.

Strap design

While I’m mostly indifferent about the strap itself, I do admire the way Vanguard designed the strap-to-bag interface: It’s a single strap that connects to the bag in two places, left and right of the expansion joint. Not only does it allow the bag to expand in the middle, it distributes the weight evenly, whether the bag is expanded or contracted. That gives the bag a greater feel of stability overall. Another benefit of this loop is I can reach back and grab hold of it when I’m transitioning from rear carry (where it rests as I walk) to side carry (where I can access the contents of the bag, or else sit down with it). As for the strap, it includes a good shoulder pad, but it's tough to adjust, and doesn't absorb the bounce as well as some of my Think Tank and Lowepro bags do.

The unique lashing system allows the bag to expand in the middle, and distributes the weight evenly as well. Bringing the bag forward from the back is as easy as grabbing this divided lashing point and swinging the bag around.

Access

I mostly use the top flap to get cameras and other items in and out of the Up-Rise 33, but when I'm moving and shooting I like the top zipper, as it keeps the flap out of the way and allows me to easily return the camera to the bag between shots. 

A magnetic safety flap (the piece with the orange accent above) prevents the zipper from opening accidentally. Note also the zipper for the slim, concealed front-flap pocket. (It's concealed so well I forget what I've put in there, so I don't use it.) Note also the high quality of the fabric, chosen both to accent and provide durability. The top zipper gives quick access and serves as a good working platform while on the move. The orange color alerts you that the bag is open as well.
Getting the camera in and out through the top zipper is easy, without allowing gear to fall out. Elastic gussets on the left and right of the flap further secure small lenses and accessories.

Opening up the main flap offers full access to most of the Up-Rise 33's storage areas. Storage is comprised of both large open spaces, large pockets, and a few tight pockets for slimmer items. It's a good mix.

Opening the clip lock on the main flap is difficult until you get used to it. This is by design. The hard plastic shroud over the clip is what makes it difficult. The shroud prevents accidental opening or breakage when when the bag rubs against hard objects in the surrounding environment, a common occurrence as the scuff marks illustrate. Viewed from the top, the variety of storage options is plain. The MacBook is nestled on one side in its own compartment toward the body. Three large compartments hold cameras, lenses, and accessories. Two large pockets in the front are perfect for books, small tablets, pens, and other medium-sized objects.
Smaller pockets hold slimmer items close to the bag. A zippered pocket is good for badges, cards, and passports, while the velcro-flapped memory card holder and cell phone pocket are handy. A wide pocket between these large and small pockets is good for checkbooks, papers, and other slim items. Though it's a good snug fit left to right, a 13-inch MacBook fits just right in the Up-Rise 33, and thicker computers also have plenty of room when the bag is expanded. I have to expand the bag when carrying a larger SLR and the MacBook, but when I go mirrorless, expansion is usually not necessary.

Removable sleeve and other details

The camera sleeve is removable, converting the Up-Rise 33 to a general-purpose bag that still has some pretty good padding. A large zippered pocket in the back of the Up-Rise 33 is a great place to put my iPad for quick access while commuting. There's even a pass-thru sleeve for securing the bag to a rolling luggage handle.
Nice details like the waterproof zipper silo and extra stitching on the luggage sleeve show Vanguard's attention to detail. The ventilated back fabric on the Up-Rise 33 is a nice feature, but apparently the rivets on my jeans were too much for the fabric to handle. This is after eight months of almost daily use, however.

The Up-Rise 33 includes a rain cover in a little pouch. In mine, it wasn't attached to a key hook, but others have reported a key hook in their bags. I put it on once then set it aside, as it seemed more trouble than it was worth. Walking in persistent rain, water has not penetrated the bag, but a solid downpour might be a different story. Too much rain generally makes me walk faster or seek shelter, so I'll likely get out of the rain before it's a problem.

While the Up-Rise 33 is surprisingly good for commuters and travelers, there are a few things missing. A dedicated business card pocket would be helpful, as would a few more pockets to help organize the wide, slim pocket. The soft side of the velcro that holds one side of the flap down wore out after about five months, while the other side still works fine. I could also use a water bottle or thermos holder when commuting or walking around at an event, but I have to sacrifice space inside the bag instead. The expansion feature makes adding a bottle holder more difficult, though, so it's a necessary compromise.

Vanguard makes two other shoulder bags in this series, a smaller one for 11-inch notebooks and a larger for 15-inch, called Up-Rise 28 and 38, respectively. There's also an Up-Rise II series with a few different features, and compatibility with their rather comprehensive ICS line of suspension and lens bags.

Summing Up

The Vanguard Up-Rise 33 is a very good camera bag that's excellent for holding a small to mid-size DSLR with a 70-200mm lens (with the lens hood stowed), two or three more lenses and accessories, a notebook computer, and other elements a commuter is likely to need. It makes a good camera bag for travel as well, packing a lot of stuff into a small space that easily slides under a seat. Depending on your needs it also shrinks down to serve as a good walk-around camera bag for family outings, when you might not want to bring the notebook, but want to tote a flash and an extra lens or two.

What we like: Quality fabrics, smart design, useful and innovative expansion system, easy customization, fast access, and it holds a lot in a neat and clean package.

What we don't like: Tends to bounce a bit if not positioned properly, velcro is weaker than it should be, lacks water bottle holder.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 45
sandskier
By sandskier (2 months ago)

The best thing I like about my Up-Rise 33 is the shoulder strap as it has two adjust ment buckles - cheaper designs have only one and it always digs into my shoulder no matter what length / how I use the bag, i.e. hang straight down or across shoulders. But the feature I miss the most is lack of elastic net pocket for a small drinks bottle.
Alas every bag is a compromise; on a longer trip a Nikon 80-400 won't fit in as easily with rest of the equipment as when I had Canon gear (100-400), however, there is possibility to remove the inner sleeve. But also, just to say how good a compromise the designers have made, it must be the best for a walk-about use among the dozen I have bought over 35 years. This won out of the Heralder 33 as this one can be made thin or thick so have to purchase a thin drinks bladder to fit into one of the front pockets instead. Update - found a 500ml Platypus water bladder would fit.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
MtOlympus
By MtOlympus (6 months ago)

When I bought mine I had one SLR. When I decided to get a second so I wouldn't have to keep switching lenses, I was surprised to find that bag would handle two with no problem. Now I can quickly switch from wide angle to telephoto from this bag.

0 upvotes
RicardoPhotos
By RicardoPhotos (7 months ago)

Yes. Excellent review and pics.

I always wondered about these bags. They always looked of excellent quality and use.

0 upvotes
Emilie R
By Emilie R (7 months ago)

It is very difficult to carry a bag like this (shoulder/messenger style) on one shoulder when i is fully loaded, so if you intend on carrying alot of gear, then this may not be the right choice of style for you.

2 upvotes
Par Deeson
By Par Deeson (7 months ago)

I agree, unless you carry it across the shoulder. I have the Up-Rise 38 and i'ts bigger and takes more load.

0 upvotes
Mike Minh
By Mike Minh (7 months ago)

A bag review with this degree of detail, including photographic evidence? Is this for real? Can't wait for equally detailed reviews of photographer jeans (degree of abrasiveness on tripods, squeeze-factor of the seams influencing your steady hand during shots, measured colour reflection on subjects for macro shots), photographer socks (how fast do they dry when you have stepped in a puddle?) and inevitably coming, photographer underpants (I leave it to your imagination which details we urgently NEED to know on these).

I all seriousness, an overview article "15 practical bags" or "10 tips on what to look for in a good bag" is more than enough. I mean really, it's a bag, fgs.

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Saint Yves
By Saint Yves (7 months ago)

so many words to say so little...

1 upvote
WayneHuangPhoto
By WayneHuangPhoto (7 months ago)

This is a website about photography and photo equipment and accessories, and you're complaining about an in-depth review of something totally relevant?

4 upvotes
refusenik
By refusenik (7 months ago)

What's the difference (other than appearance) between the Up-Rise and Up-Rise II bags? Is the velcro on the II stronger?

0 upvotes
Earthlight
By Earthlight (7 months ago)

The velcro has not been failing in mine in a little over a year of daily use. I have the original version.

0 upvotes
Wilmar Boer
By Wilmar Boer (7 months ago)

The sleeve that holds the camera seems rather small. Does it hold a fullframe DSLR with batterygrip attached?

My typical settup:
D700 with grip
12-24, 24-70, 70-200, SB800, SB900, batteries and small stuff

0 upvotes
NotSteve
By NotSteve (7 months ago)

Shawn, thanks for a pretty good review. I've used this bag almost everyday for about 2 years. A couple of points I would like to add.

The rain cover is attached to the bag by piece of webbing with a clip at the end, located to the right of the pocket where the rain cover is stored. Since you're not going to use the rain cover, voila, you've got your key clip.

I find the rain cover useful and in a torrential downpour it kept the contents more or less dry. It goes on pretty quick, like putting a fitted sheet on a mattress.

The main compartment can hold my K-5, 3 zooms, 3 primes, including the one on the camera, a flash, plus a computer.

Velcro still works just fine. Wish it had a bottle holder (I clip one on the side if needed), and also a place to clip a rear bike light.

A major plus is that it looks like a regular shoulder bag. Also, if you paid $170 for yours, that's too much -- I paid $130, $168 after tx & shipping from the US to Canada and that was 2 yrs ago. It's less now.

0 upvotes
Earthlight
By Earthlight (7 months ago)

I have had this bag for a little over a year in daily use. I must say I really like it. Water bottle holder is easy to add and I have done it before with a cheap carabiner lock. Also, in my bag the rain cover pouch is attached to the bag.

I usually have one body and two lenses with me, an iPad, a couple of filters, papers and what not. Works like a charm. I love the organization of the bag.

The only thing that irks me is that when the bag is on a table or, say, in the passenger seat of a car and I reach to get something with one hand the large patches of welcro have more than once stripped the skin on my knuckles. But that's a small price to pay for a wonderful bag like this.

Well, maybe they could also improve the shape of the dome above quick release clip as it is somewhat hard to use the clip. But it makes it slower for thieves too. But this is nitpicking. All in all I love the bag.

I used to stick to Lowepro, but this one is a truly great bag.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Earthlight
By Earthlight (7 months ago)

I just checked and the trolley sleeve mesh on mine is still like new. I probably wear different kind of jeans that are less abrasive.

Shawn, are you sure you don't have the keyhook/rain cover pouch holder in yours. It is located in the top right corner of the bag when looking at it from the front.

0 upvotes
Earthlight
By Earthlight (7 months ago)

Oh well. It's a great bag anyway.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Peterson
By Richard Peterson (7 months ago)

Looks really cool, feature wise. I bought one of the Manfrotto bags built with similar logic, but without the removable camera insert and expandable size. I love the zippered-easy-to-remove top, and I convert it to different uses for different situations (i.e.- when I shoot events, I keep cameras out and use it to carry a row of easy to access lenses and flashes). I was surprised to see that they carry these bags at Target and Best Buy, but they stand out in the row because they have a sophisticated look the other bags lack. Benefit of the Manfrotto bag is that it only costs 60 something. I would love to try the Up-Rise, too, looks great for my needs. Even Swiss Army makes a sharp looking bag like this, but it's missing the top zipper, which I consider essential. So many interesting looking bags these days, wow. I probably own more than 20 already after several decades of professional photography! But now I'm adding the Fuji X series to my equipment, a good excuse to buy even more!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Daxs
By Daxs (7 months ago)

I don't like black and simple bags! Nothing about style! They can make really good tripods but bags without style!
I'm choosing Crumpler, Style and Safety!

1 upvote
NotSteve
By NotSteve (7 months ago)

To the contrary, I find that this bags very plain and unassuming appearance is a safety feature. It doesn't have an obtrusive logo and doesn't advertise that you've got a bunch of camera equipment like some other bags do.

But, if you want to stand out in the crowd, Crumpler bags do seem quite stylish.

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (7 months ago)

The last thing anyone with expensive camera equipment should be concerned about is being stylish. One thing this bag does seem to have in common with Crumpler is that it's rather heavy--almost 3.5 pounds, empty.

0 upvotes
Daxs
By Daxs (7 months ago)

I have Crumpler bag, for Five years! Two bags! One is backpack! My experience said, best bags in style and safety! And that is what I'm talking about, safety for equipment!

0 upvotes
Nikonal
By Nikonal (7 months ago)

I have had one of these for about a year now and it's a very flexible bag. In mine I carry a Nikon D800, 70-200, 17-35, 50mm, two SB700 flashes, polarisers, extra batteries for D800 and flashes, cleaning kit, a headlamp, and other accessories. I recommend it.

2 upvotes
RudivanS
By RudivanS (7 months ago)

That's one heavy shoulder bag then. Not too far to walk then?

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Nikonal
By Nikonal (7 months ago)

Actually, I got my numbers wrong, my Vanguard is an Uprise 38. Yeah, I wouldn't carry my whole kit in the bag for walking around but for in and out of the car/planes it's great. I have a smaller Manfrotto sling-style bag for walking around which is quite good also

0 upvotes
Azurael
By Azurael (7 months ago)

Nice to know I'm not the only photographer toting a Nexus 4 :)

1 upvote
D1N0
By D1N0 (7 months ago)

Photo bags are like T-fords. They come in any colour you like as long as it is black.

0 upvotes
Faketastic
By Faketastic (7 months ago)

I've had this bag since January and I really like it. Perfect for my NEX collecetion and a iPad.

1 upvote
refusenik
By refusenik (7 months ago)

I like the look of this bag for my new NEX kit (16-50 + 55-210 zooms) and accessories, plus it doubles up as a man-bag

0 upvotes
SeeRoy
By SeeRoy (7 months ago)

Another bag! triffic!
Up to now there is such a dearth of bags to lug gear around in. Such inventive names too. On this page alone I can see:
a TurnStyle
a Photo Sport Shoulder (I thought this was a type of repetitive strain injury)
a Cool Walker (aimed at the "Street" crowd, I imagine)
and of course the resonantly-named Vanguard Up-Rise 33 (A name that might equally be applied to a pharmaceutical product aimed at ED sufferers.)

3 upvotes
h2k
By h2k (7 months ago)

In your list of key features, i miss mentioning the material. It is important if the outer material is
- prone to accumulate dust or grease
- waterproof
- easily cleanable,
so it is not just robustness alone

Also for me, i'd like to know if the bag has "little feet" so that if you put it on the ground, it doesn't stand on the whole bottom of the bag (probably getting dirty or wet), but just on it's little feet.

2 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (7 months ago)

I mention the material, but not whether it's easily cleaned. It is. I've used it for 8 months, and didn't clean it for these shots. I mention how it performs in the rain in the review as well, and that it has a rain cover. There are also photographs of the little feet, as well as the vinyl bottom. All of this is in the review.

4 upvotes
Eric Hensel
By Eric Hensel (7 months ago)

Ahhhh...so I need to read the review...

1 upvote
dave_bass5
By dave_bass5 (7 months ago)

I've had this bag since June and love it. I always prefer top loaders and this replaced an ageing Lowepro Classified 160.
The only downside I find is I like to keep the hoods on my lenses, and the one on my 24-70 f2.8 II catches on the ridge of the internal part sometimes, making it difficult to just slip in.
Otherwise best bag I've ever had. I might replace it soon with the next size up though. I love the hidden pocket on the front flap.

1 upvote
mlseatwa
By mlseatwa (7 months ago)

I've had this bag for about 6 months and love it, as well. It easily carries an OM-D and several lenses, with room for a laptop or iPad. I attach a water bottle to the v-shaped fabric that the strap attaches to using a carabiner clip--works great.

1 upvote
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (7 months ago)

Good idea. I'll look for one.

0 upvotes
Eric Hensel
By Eric Hensel (7 months ago)

That carabiner will hold your keys as well :)
I use a tiny S-Biner for my keys all the time now...

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (7 months ago)

"Lacks water bottle holder" is a con?

1 upvote
yslee1
By yslee1 (7 months ago)

Hydration is important, especially on longer photo shoots.

0 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (7 months ago)

Yep. I used it for 8 months; sometimes I wished for a water bottle holder. I have other bags that have them.

1 upvote
InTheMist
By InTheMist (7 months ago)

Yep. Water bottle holder by train or foot. Strobe holder during events.

For me it's a decisive feature.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Eric Hensel
By Eric Hensel (7 months ago)

Personally, if I'm going out long enough to need a water bottle, I'd need a bigger bag for food, jacket, etc.
Just take another small bag with this one?

0 upvotes
RudivanS
By RudivanS (7 months ago)

Ha, Just bought it today before seeing this review - pure coincidence :)
All good seems a good camera bag. Got tired of small backpacks.

2 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (7 months ago)

Great review on an intriguing bag, thank you.

3 upvotes
rkodama1
By rkodama1 (7 months ago)

I'm a fan of Vanguard products. They do not have a high profile name but they make both quality bags and tripods. I have an Uprise 38 and have used it for business trips as well as a general work bag. It is well made, has tons of pockets, expandable and has a professional clean look. Glad to see Vanguard getting some visibility here.

2 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (7 months ago)

Looks like an overnight airline bag.

1 upvote
strata83
By strata83 (7 months ago)

I have a smaller version of this bag, Up-Rise 28. It's advertised as big enough for 11" laptops, yet my 13" MacBook Pro fits in.

That bag has a big flaw, however — if it's tilted forward, smaller items may fall out of its front pockets. This happened to my phone and a charger — thankfully I noticed it before walking away!

3 upvotes
Total comments: 45