Review: Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack is more than just a camera bag

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We try the upcoming Peak Design Everyday Backpack(Credit: Simon Crisp/New Atlas)

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Peak Design recently wrapped up a US$6.5 million Kickstarter campaign for some new camera bags including a tote, sling and backpack. We've spent that past couple of weeks using the eagerly-awaited Everyday Backpack – which was the undeniable highlight of the trio – ahead of a mid December shipping date, to see if it can live up to the hype. Read on to find out how we got on.

Peak Design has been making camera-carrying contraptions for a few years now, including the Capture Clip along with its Leash and Slide which use the firm's anchor link connection system. However, it was the Kickstarter launch of its Everyday Messenger bag that really propelled the firm into the consciousness of many photographers.

But many camera-carriers prefer to do so with a backpack rather than a messenger bag, so earlier this year the firm returned to Kickstarter once again to fund that version of its popular bag, along with tote and sling variations. The campaign was successful, eventually raising more than $6.5 million, and the bags are due to start shipping in December.

As self-confessed photography bag connoisseurs with more bags than we have cameras, we were keen to try out the new bags, especially after investing in the Everyday Messenger weeks before the recent Kickstarter campaign was launched. Luckily, Peak Design sent us a pre-production version of the Everyday Backpack to spend some time with, and we've been putting it through its paces on photo-shoots and days out.

We were sent the big version of the Everyday Backpack, meaning it has a 30 L capacity and is able to carry a pro DSLR body and several lenses along with a 16-inch laptop and tablet, and various other photography accoutrements. The bag also comes in a more compact 20 L offering if you are not lugging as much gear. Color-wise we got the charcoal, which is the darker of the two grays the bag will come in.

Being a pre-production prototype model, Peak Design was keen to stress that there might be the odd loose thread or rough corner. However, we didn't come across any issues we'd say needed to be fixed before the bags ship to the public. In fact, we'd say the quality of the bag was right up there with our Everyday Messenger. The weather-resistant waxed Kodra synthetic canvas with DWR coating gives an instant sense of familiarity for Messenger users, and design-wise the bags have a great deal in common.

There are a number of aspects of the Everyday Backpack which are worthy of attention, but we'll start with the cavernous center which is where you'll keep most of your gear. Here you get three rows of Peak Design's origami-esque FlexFold dividers which allow users to fold and change layouts without pulling Velcro. This makes it easy to mix it up depending on the gear you're carrying at any time.

Once gear is stowed in the main section, it can be accessed via three openings. There are two side access doors, and a top flap. The top opening gives you access to stuff stored towards the top of the bag, with an anodized aluminum MagLatch fastening featuring a magnetic clasp and 4 ladder lock points. Closing the bag to the bottom lock point keeps the bag its smallest, while the higher lock points give more storage, though will make the bag taller too. As with the Messenger bag, this feels secure, but easy to use one-handed.

The side openings (which look like a pair of wings if opened together) are, however, potentially more interesting. While by no means the first camera backpack to feature side openings, these allow you to access gear without taking the bag off your back. Simply sliding it around the body on one strap brings the zips within reach, making it easy to quickly grab the lenses or camera needed. Within each of these openings there's also a zipper compartment packed with additional pockets for storing memory cards and filters.

Because of the different ways to access your stuff, you have to give more consideration to the layout of the FlexFold dividers than you do when using the Everyday Messenger. For example, we tended to set it up so that cameras and lenses were easily grabbed from the right side opening of the bag, while accessories and things like jackets were stowed in the top.

A separate dedicated section of the bag is designed for carrying your laptop and tablet and accessed via the top with a weather-sealed zip. Padding in this section keeps things safe, and means you don't need to show the world your camera gear every time you get out your computer. While the 30 L version can fit a 16-inch laptop, the 20 L has the space for a 15-inch laptop inside.

Generously proportioned side pockets offered plenty of space for us to pack a large water bottle and even a tripod. There are included tension straps which also make it easy to carry objects which don't fit inside the bag. Two 60 cm (24 in) straps stow in a magnetically sealed pocket at the bottom of the bag, while another pair of 40 cm (16 in) straps lurk in the side pockets. Ten anchor points can then be used to strap items to to backpack, with marketing material from Peak Design showing them holding things like a drone.

We enjoyed using the Peak Design Everyday Backpack, and even fully loaded with gear it was comfortable to carry, well as much as any bag with two DSLRs and five lenses can be. The backpack design obviously offers better balance than the Everyday Messenger, which is good news for photographers with heavy kit bags, and one sore shoulder.

The shoulder straps pivot at their top connection points, which means the bag offers a similar level of comfort irrespective of your size. This, combined with the padding and general cut of the bag, made it one of the most comfortable big camera backpacks we've worn, and we've worn a few. Indeed, we were also impressed by the way in which the bag, despite being large, didn't feel like it got in the way. Handles on the top and sides of the bag mean it can be carried by hand when not worn on the back, too.

Though the Everyday Backpack is primarily going to appeal to photographers, Peak Design is keen to stress that it can also be used by travelers and commuters as an everyday bag. We used it on a couple of days out, and were able to use our 30 L version like a regular backpack, which just happened to be holding a camera and a couple of lenses at the bottom too. This is good, as most camera backpacks feel awkward on general carrying duty, while typical backpacks don't offer the protection you want for your expensive camera kit.

Measuring 33 x 51 x 59 cm (13 x 20 x 23 in) and with a naked weight of 1,542 g (3.4 lb) even the large 30 L Everyday Backpack is approved for carry-on by major airlines. However, it won't be replacing our LowePro Runner BP bag any time soon for those times we need to take loads of gear on a plane. There are occasional times you want even more padding and protection than it feels like the Peak Design bag is going to be able to offer.

That said, we could most certainly see the Everyday Backpack replacing some of our other bags for some occasions. The quick side access and not having to remove the backpack entirely make it a viable alternative to shoulder bags, like our Billingham Hadley or even the Everyday Messenger. That said, we're still looking forward to trying the Wolffepack Capture trapeze backpack too. But our main use of the Everyday Backpack would be times we wanted a general use backpack which could also fit and protect our camera kit.

While we were testing the 30 L version of the backpack, it's safe to say that this is going to be overkill for the majority of people. If you are carrying loads of gear, or using the bag to lug camera kit and other stuff, fine, but otherwise you are going to be left with a lot of empty bag. We'd suggest that the 20 L option is going to be the best bet for most people. From our experience we'd guess that the 30 L is also going to feel big unless you are around 5 ft 8 in or taller.

Peak Design fans who already have the firm's straps on their cameras and Capture clips to mount them will no doubt love the Everyday Backpack. It's a stylish camera bag which offers the comfort of a backpack with easy access usually associated with a shoulder bag. In fact, we wish it had been available earlier this year when we bought the Everyday Messenger.

The 30 L Peak Design Everyday Backpack can be pre-ordered now for US$290, while the 20 L version will cost $260.

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