Over the years, I’ve tried a number of solutions for carrying my camera gear to location photo shoots, including old-school camera bags, rolling duffels with stash cubes inside, and other short-lived failures not worth mentioning. When I saw MindShift Rotation backpacks from Think Tank, I was intrigued. The ability to access gear without removing the backpack is what drew me in because access on the go has always been important to me.
The bottom section of the Rotation backpacks cleverly conceal a belt pack that can be rotated around to the front for easy access to your camera and lenses with no need to remove the pack. When you’re done, slide it back around into the backpack. Think Tank calls this Rotation 180 technology. The waist belt of this padded gear section functions as the backpack’s waist belt for additional back support.
I used the Rotation backpack as my go-to gear bag on numerous location photo shoots to see how it performed. These were shorter portrait sessions of one to two hours, sometimes in parks, sometimes in urban downtown areas, where I would be carrying just essentials: two camera bodies, two or three lenses, two studio strobes, a light stand, and an umbrella/softbox. Even when I added a five-pound light stand to the pack, I found the straps were comfortable and the pack wore nicely.
My camera equipment went into the belt pack, while the studio strobes went in the multipurpose top section. I repurposed the tripod-carrying section for my light stand and umbrella. For locations that required a fair amount of traipsing about, this setup worked beautifully. If you don’t need to use it for equipment storage, the top section is perfect for carrying a change of clothes, rain gear, or other hiking essentials. If you want to add more gear storage there are packing cube accessories that can be used in this compartment, too.
The one concern I had about this backpack is whether it would be awkward to access my camera gear, and if it would it be safe to swap gear in and out of the belt pack. I shouldn’t have worried: My gear was secure. The waist pack has both zipper and magnetic closure points at the lid, and it’s tethered to the backpack in case you unbuckle the waist belt while it’s out of the backpack. One caveat about potential user error—my assistant grabbed the backpack to bring it to me while the waist pack was still tethered and on the table. We averted disaster, but I recommend unclasping the tether in a situation like this so your gear isn’t inadvertently dragged to the ground.
Think Tank designed the rain cover for this pack in such a way that the backpack and the waist pack are independently protected. It’s attention to details like this that make the MindShift Rotation backpack great.
The MindShift Rotation backpack is geared for photographers of all builds to able to wear it comfortably, with a torso adjustment panel and adjustable straps. That being said, as a shorter photographer, when I was considering the Rotation 34L versus the 50L+ backpack sizes, I decided that the 34L would be a better fit for my frame.
The Rotation backpack has numerous pockets for stashing different types of gear. I found a favorite zippered pocket for my wallet, keys, and phone, as well as a good place to stow my rain jacket. If you prefer carrying water in a hydration reservoir, the Rotation has a spot for that, too. The more I used this backpack, the more I enjoyed it. I guess I’ve now gone full circle—backpack, shoulder bag, rolling duffel, to backpack.
Is the Rotation backpack right for you? That depends on how comfortable you are carrying weight on your back and how mobile you need to be during photo sessions. For me, it beats a one-shoulder carry or a rolling bag. Just like with golf, some people prefer to carry their clubs, while others prefer to pull them. When it comes to photography gear, that’s a personal call. If you do any amount of photography that requires hiking on trails or other places where wheels would be a struggle, the Rotation backpack might be just what you’ve been looking for.
The MindShift Rotation backpack from Think Tank comes in three sizes: 50L+ priced at $459.75, 34L for $329.75, and 22L for $274.75. Add-ons are available for all backpacks in the series, including rain covers ($32.75), a phone holster ($24.99), and Stash Master storage cube inserts for the two larger backpacks ($58.75 - $79.75).