Best backpack / rucksack for hiking photographers

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
OP Chris 222 Senior Member • Posts: 1,000
Re: Best backpack / rucksack for hiking photographers

mattj86 wrote:

Good information in this thread.

Thanks Matt.

Does anyone have any thoughts/experience with the Osprey Manta 34 or Manta 24?

I currently have an F-Stop Gear Ajna and Guru UL. While I have found these better than other camera bags I have used in the past, they are not great.

Similar experiences in my community, including one guy who spent nearly $1,000 on F-stop gear. Some of their models are also quite good at cracking your laptop or tablet's screen as your back presses against it on steep ascents...

I am looking for a more hiking oriented pack, that I can also use as carry on when I travel with my camera gear. I day hike every week 7-12 miles with the occasional over night trip, so I don't need a large pack (I have been us the 25L Guru almost exclusively for a while). For camera gear I use the F-Stop Gear small pro or medium slope ICU, depending on what I take.

I am going to go try the Manta this weekend at REI. Just looking for some feedback before I make the 1.25 hour drive to get there.

The Manta 24 is frankly just too small.

[Compressing a well-designed pack to a smaller size takes a few seconds, expanding a small pack is either a PITA or just impossible, therefore one should always go for the larger size, if and when in doubt...]

Last year I had a chance to cross-test a friend's brand new Osprey Manta 34 with a Deuter Futura Pro 40 on a weekend hike of about 45 miles in total (varying terrains and elevations, warm to hot mountain weather with typical short showers.) Personally I was particularly interested in finding out if the Manta might work out as a trail-running pack for when I have minimal gear. Here are our key findings:

- The TMP system on both packs gives you great, actual back ventilation, worlds better than anything found on traditional, "breathable" photo PP packs.

- On the Manta you can only slip your small ICU down the main top opening. On the Deuter you also have the option of slipping it into the lower compartment.

- My friend usually shoots with two bodies, one clipped to his chest area and a MFT body + tele lens combo (for BIF, longhorns, etc.) which he likes to slide in and out of the pack's front outside pocket. On the Deuter that pocket is completely secure (deep/long and made of strong fabric with stretch material only on the sides) but he could not use the one on the Osprey because it's short and entirely made of thin stretch mesh. He was worried that his cam might fall straight out or that it would sooner or later pierce through the mesh.

- On the Osprey Manta the TMP system uses tensioned mesh which extends all the way to the hip belt area, very much like on their Atmos series. This constant "hip-hugging" tension doesn't bother me (and it also means that your pack tends to "sit straight" when you drop it on the ground) but my friend has a much larger waist and he said the constant pressure was a bit much at times.

- We found that we could just keep on hiking straight through short mountains showers with the Deuter because it has both generous rain flaps over all zippers and that great top pocket which covers the entire top of the pack. On the Osprey the flap over the main zipper is short, the one over the hydration sleeve is absent, and you have zero top compartment/cover, meaning you have nothing above to prevent infiltration. Consequently we had to stop and scramble to put on the rain cover at the first drop of rain.

- On the Manta the locations of side compression straps are just weird, very high and very low (that alone did it for me as far as buying this pack for train running.) You also have far fewer loops or attachements points to strap on the occasional additional gear.

- Build quality is very high on both packs, with the exception of the super cheap, super-hard-to-open-with-one-hand zippers on the Osprey's belt pockets (the pack's zippers out back are just fine) which were an absolute pain to use. I thought it might be just a one-time problem but when I got home I checked those pockets at my small local hiking shop and at then the nearest REI... both had the same issue! It truly boggles the mind that Osprey would use such crappy zippers on a pack that costs nearly $200 with tax (CA) but hey, here we are...

Hope I didn't forget anything important. Lemme know if you have any questions, and happy trails!

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