New to the outdoors: Mindshift packs allow instant access to camera

In this reoccurring series, SNEWS identifies and highlights industry start-up brands vying for a place on outdoor specialty retail shelves.
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One of the defining points of outdoor specialty retail is that it is where customers can go to discover what’s truly new. Local shop owners are the ones who often take the risk to bring in a small, start-up brand, differentiating themselves from the big boys. In this reoccurring series, SNEWS will identify and highlight the new kids on the outdoor block vying for a place on those shelves.

Sooner or later, you come back to the outdoors.

For Doug Murdoch, after spending a dozen years at Lowepro, then striking out on his own to launch an urban photography brand called Think Tank Photo in 2005, he’s back to focusing on outdoor photographers with a new photo pack brand called MindShift Gear.

Introduced in a 2012 Kickstarter campaign, MindShift is the outdoor arm of Think Tank Photo and its most recently released pack, the rotation180° Panorama, is turning heads, or actually, around hips.

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The pack’s special feature is a removable and movable camera hip pack that slides out from the back of the pack to the front when you need it, and then slides back to the when you don’t (see video below for demonstration). Admittedly, it’s kind of like a glorified fanny pack — but one you can quickly hide in the confines of an outdoorsy pack. So, don’t let visions of dorky, fanny-packed fathers wearing black crew socks with their sandals and yelling at their leashed children not to eat the gum off the ground mar your impression.

A magnetic locking mechanism keeps the hide-a-way hip belt secure until users need to swing it around for easy access to whatever gear — camera, binoculars, GPS device, snacks — they might need. The upper portion of the pack features a main compartment for other items just like any other pack.

“MindShift started to create products, like the name says, to do things really differently and to shift peoples’ thinking with how they interact when they go outdoors,” Murdoch said. Add to that Murdoch’s avid involvement in the outdoors — he’s a former rock free climber and now a Master’s division distance runner — and MindShift boasts that traditional outdoor cred as well.

Murdoch is confident that the hip belt system will spark sales and said he has global patents to protect it. He likens the concept to CamelBak’s groundbreaking water hydration system. And just like the water storage backpack, isn’t just for the hardcore alpinist photographer, the Panorama is a great pack for those carrying a souped up Canon EOS 5D Mark III, a mid-level Nikon D600 or just an iPhone and some snacks.

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“Either they want it to be urgently accessible or it’s more of a convenience issue,” Murdoch said about what users put in the hip belt pouch. “It’s less about the activity. It’s for people in the outdoors, but what they choose to use it for is up to them.”

He added that the pack is especially great for any of the –ologists (biologist, geologist, etc.) as well as birdwatchers and mushroom hunters. The movable hip belt omits the need to set the pack down in what could be marshy, sandy or watery conditions and provides a built-in “table” on which to record notes, switch lenses or balance a sandwich while eating a handful of gorp.

MindShift currently sells its products direct-to-consumer online, but is looking for retail partners large and small.

“Given the current state of the outdoor industry and how the backpack industry is very developed, and maybe also over saturated, you’ve got some incredible competitors out there,” he said. “Our goal is to be a smaller company, but provide completely unique products that the industry hasn't seen before.”

Even with Murdoch’s design expertise, he notes that figuring out the technology to allow the hip belt to slide into the upper pack was a real challenge. Genius struck with the realization that the belt pack would need to be tapered in both directions.

“It’s always the case when you look at the finished product. It looks easy, but for people who actually design, it’s incredibly difficult,” he said.

The designers also made it possible to completely disengage the hip belt from the full pack. But if you’re bold enough to rock the fanny pack, do your kids a favor and leave the black socks at home.

--Courtney Holden

Share your thoughts below in our comment section. Does MindShift Gear have what it takes to make it in your specialty outdoor retail store? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page. Or, email us about another newcomer to the outdoors we should feature here.

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