All-day, Every-day Backpack

Courtesy Think Tank

The Retrospective EDC (everyday carry) Backpack from Think Tank may be my favorite backpack of all time. I’ve been using it as my daily work bag for months, and it just works. It’s efficient, it’s easy, it’s lightweight. It’s tough yet stylish. And it’s packed with so many features that it may take you a while to find them all. Yet it’s not bulky. This isn’t a camera bag, but a camera bag isn’t always the right bag for your work day, even for photographers. 

The laptop sleeve is huge. Sixteen inches deep and around 18 inches diagonally, it’s spacious enough to carry almost any flat thing you’d be likely to want to take with you, including a 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Courtesy Think Tank
The Retrospective EDC Backpack sits comfortably on the shoulders and retains a slim profile.
Courtesy Think Tank
The hidden phone/passport pocket is tucked discreetly behind a padded panel.
Courtesy Think Tank
The main compartment expands to hold bulkier items.

When I first unpacked the backpack from the box it shipped in, I felt a little crestfallen. I looked at it and thought, Oh, no. This bag is designed for tall people. It must’ve been an optical illusion, because it fits and feels perfect on my 5'3" frame. I’ve verified with taller people that it fits them, as well. Maybe it feels so good because it’s only 2.2 pounds. The bag’s volume capacity is 19 liters, but you can’t tell by looking at it. It’s designed so that it maintains the thinnest profile possible based on how much you’ve put in it. If you have just a laptop and a few other flat things, the profile naturally compresses rather than sagging outward.

Courtesy Think Tank
The main compartment has two large sleeves and a zippered mesh pocket.
Courtesy Think Tank
The padded bottom panel of the back is a luggage pass-through along with the top handle.

The spacious main compartment has a nylon-lined pocket good for documents or magazines and a mesh pocket for bulky items like a jacket. A smaller zippered pocket is suitable for cables or a charger that you don’t want to drift to the bottom of the bag.

The organizer pocket is about 13 inches deep and has three pen sleeves and two smaller pockets plus a larger zippered compartment (about 7.5 inches deep) with a key clip lanyard and two flat sleeve pockets inside. On the outside of this pocket is another small zippered compartment that’s lined with the same soft microfiber as the laptop sleeve. I use it to stow my mouse when I’m commuting, but it could also work as a phone pocket, even for larger models.

The top flap secures with magnets sewn under the lining behind the leather trim. These snap to another set sewn into the cover of the organizer pocket, giving you fast access with a gentle pull on the flap.

The zippers have leather pulls, and those on the laptop and main compartments have aligning holes to accommodate small locks. The trim is soft, scratch-resistant brown leather, the same as on all the Retrospective bags from Think Tank. The exterior features a top grab handle and a handle on each side. The side handles lay flat, and the soft canvas trimmed with leather is comfortable for carrying.

The pack has an air-mesh padded back designed to give you comfort with air flow between the pack and your back. The bottom section of the padding doubles as a luggage handle pass-through, and you can use the top handle as a second security point on a rolling case handle. There’s also a 7.5x8-inch passport or phone pocket discreetly tucked under one of the edges of the padding. If you store your phone there while you’re wearing the pack, you can still feel it vibrate.

The harness system also features air-mesh foam, making it comfy on the shoulders. Webbing provides loops for attachments, and the sternum strap can be moved to six different positions or removed entirely to accommodate what feels best to you. The EDC comes with a rain cover you can cinch down with the elastic cord sewn into its perimeter.

The Retrospective EDC backpack suits my everyday needs, and I’m confident the water-repellant canvas will last decades. It sells for $219.75, and it’s worth every penny.

Joan Sherwood is a senior editor at Professional Photographer.

Tags: gear