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Tamrac Evolution 9 Photo Backpack Review

Mike Perlman | Product Reviews & Previews | Published Mar 30, 2013

The Tamrac Evolution 9 Photo/Laptop Sling Backpack is a versatile carrying solution for semi-pros and pros who regularly carry a full-frame DSLR, large laptop, and a handful of lenses to shoots. In addition to a variety of modifiable storage compartments, the Evolution 9 can be used as a traditional backpack on the shoulders or slung across your chest. 

I've spent a great deal of time using the Tamrac Evolution 9, schlepping it through numerous real estate shoots, a remote gourmet food shoot, and various other events. While I've reviewed two Kata backpacks recently, the Tamrac Evolution 9 meets my needs better.

The main reason is its convenience. I can fit my Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 24-105mm lens combo, a Speedlite 580EXII, two filters, wireless lav mic packs, a 17-inch MacBook Pro (plus power brick), an external hard drive, card reader, rain cover, and a slew of memory cards with room to spare. I could also carry a full-size tripod on the outside of the Evolution 9, courtesy of the upper tripod strap and lower tripod foot pocket. Having the ability to pack all of the aforementioned equipment into one centralized bag is quite welcome, especially when carrying a set of strobe lights and other gear during on-location shoots.

The Tamrac Evolution 9 is large, but well-built and rich with capacity. A full-frame DSLR with telephoto lens can fit inside the Evolution 9.

Of course, the Evolution 9's generous storage comes at a cost: inevitably, the bag is space-consuming and hefty. Its dimensions are 49.5 x 27.9 x 33cm (19.5 x 11 x 13 in) and when empty, it tips the scale at 2.27 kg (5 lbs). Add in all of that equipment I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and the Evolution 9 becomes very heavy. The Evolution 9's is a deep bag, at 27.9cm (11 in), and during my testing I did find myself banging the bag against doorframes and walls pretty frequently. But then again, what do you expect from a bag that is capable of packing so much?

The benefit of such a voluminous bag is, of course, the plentiful and customizable storage compartments. Tamrac put a lot of thought into the design of the Evolution 9, and the company covered all of the major bases. The bottom portion of the bag includes a velcro strapping system that accommodates a full-size full-frame body like an EOS 1D X or Nikon D4 with a medium-sized telephoto lens attached (up to 200mm, depending on the lens), and several additional standard size lenses in the surrounding compartments. Thanks to Velcro strapping, every compartment can be modified to fit larger or smaller equipment.

There are also three ways to access the camera and equipment along the bottom portion of the bag. Two zippered side doors allow for camera and lens access, while a larger zippered middle door grants access to more lenses and smaller attachments. Both side doors are equipped with memory card and lens cap pockets while the center door has a Windowpane-Mesh accessory card pocket for additional accessories like filters and batteries.

As shown above, cameras can be accessed from three different compartments.

The top portion of the Tamrac Evolution 9 features a trapezoidal zippered top door that opens to reveal a decent sized compartment for things like clothing, external hard drives and chargers etc. The compartment has an elastic mesh pocket along the back and the inside of the door has a 'Windowpane-Mesh' pocket for additional memory cards and small accessories. This 'Windowpane-Mesh' pocket is simply a transparent plastic pocket that lets you see what's inside. Two external side compartments bookend the top compartment. The one labeled "Rain Cover" contains just that, while the other compartment features a bungee mesh pouch and zippered mesh pouch.

Along the entire back of the Evolution 9 is a large laptop compartment that is capable of housing a 17.3-inch laptop. The compartment is very well padded and features an extra strip of foam at the bottom. After using the Evolution extensively, I am more than comfortable with dropping my MacBook into the laptop compartment and heading out for the day.

The Tamrac Evolution 9 can be used as a traditional backpack or sling backpack.

That's another bonus about the Tamrac Evolution 9: The entire backpack is fortified with foam, external pockets and all. Zippers are seamless and water-resistant, and the materials are rugged. Even the top grab handle is fortified with a rubberized mesh coating for added grip. The outside of the Evolution 9 has Tamrac's QuickClip tripod attachment system, with includes a dedicated tripod foot pocket for added stability.

The Evolution 9's shoulder straps are made with thick foam and feature a tacky, non-slip material along the insides. They even attach to the bottom of the backpack via a metal carabiner clip system. And just to avoid the avalanche of comments, yes, the Tamrac Evolution 9 is equipped with a buckled waist strap. A thickly padded back cushion adds to the comfort factor, and either shoulder strap can be tucked inside of it for sling backpack usage. While the sling method is convenient for quick access to the camera, I found the backpack orientation the most comfortable.

The top compartment adds even more storage space. A small tripod can be attached to the back using the tripod foot pocket.

Summing Up

While the Evolution 9 is a large-ish backpack, and carries a relatively hefty $220 price tag, I think the Evolution 9's numerous features and conveniences are worth it.

The Tamrac Evolution 9 Sling Backpack just might be the missing link I was looking for in the travel bag department. Yes, it's a large and heavy bag, but the Evolution 9 can house just about everything I need (except a strobe lighting kit and stands), and I was still able to use it while taking my motorcycle to some shoots. Furthermore, the Evolution 9 is rugged and comfortable. The sling backpack options are nice to have as well, especially for nature shooters on location. The Evolution 9 stands out as most complete package I've tested.

What we like: Oodles of quality customizable storage compartments, rugged and protective construction, comfortable straps, accommodates supersized items like full-frame DSLRs and 17-inch laptops.

What we don't like: A bit bulky and heavy, but that's the price you pay for such generous capacity.