Mountainsmith has long been known for the quality of the company's fanny and internal frame packs. So it isn't surprising the company has decided to produce camera packsâ€¦after all, that's how LowePro got started. This summer, the Golden, Colo., company began shipping its new 19-piece line of cameras bags to retailers.
The largest in the series is the Lumen Camera Daypack, which retails for $100. In some respects, this is one of the best packs of its type on the market. However, it falls short in other areas.
The feature that makes the Lumen superior to all of the other major camera packs is the rear-entry zippered panel, which allows the pack to be laid on the ground for access without putting the suspension in the mud, snow or water. This is a huge benefit that is long overdue for outdoor photographers.
The rear panel and shoulder straps are nicely padded and ventilated, so the pack is very comfortable on long hikes. Unfortunately, the pack is too short for photographers with a longer torso so the removable waist belt is useless -- a common defect in all camera packs since sizing is based on volume not back length.
Inside the pack, the foam padded insert has sufficient room for one camera body with a lens attached, two or three extra lenses, and a flash. This holds and protects the gear well, but is a bit shallow for use with camera bodies that have a power grip. There are also two zippered pockets on the panel for all the accessories.
On the front of the Lumen is a relatively large (about 400 cubic inches) pocket for day hike essentials and two smaller pockets (about 150 cubic inches each) for other odds and ends. This is plenty of room for warm-weather trips, but insufficient for winter-time excursions. Mesh pockets on either side aren't quite big enough for using a Nalgene, but will work well with bike bottles.
In action, the Lumen carries well and is easy to work from in a hurry. Though getting to cameras requires removing the pack, it's a fast operation, and the zipper only needs one hand. When traveling, it doesn't look like a pack containing lots of expensive equipment, and that is a major plus.
The biggest downside of the Lumen is a lack of rain protection; after a three-hour hike, the internal padding was soaked. Considering that this pack will easily hold $5,000 of camera gear, an integral pack cover is sorely needed. Another weak point is a quick-release system for a tripod; you can use a mesh side pocket but it will get trashed and is less than ideal.
Overall, this is a really nice fair weather camera pack. Compared to the LowePro Mini Trekker Classic, which retails for the same price, it has more volume and features, and the rear-zip panel is a major improvement. The company is off to a good start, but if Mountainsmith intends to be a serious contender in this market, it will need to listen to the input of a lot more photographers.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 3 hands clapping. (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection).
Suggested retail: $100
For more information:www.mountainsmith.com or 800-551-5889