MindShift Gear Backlight 26L Review

MindShift Gear Backlight 26L ReviewFor the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of using the MindShift Gear Backlight 26L.

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know I recently reviewed another MindShift Gear backpack, the Rotation 180.

I was unsure if I wanted to review this backpack, but the features and design of it, compared to every other backpack I have used, are intriguing.  In fact, it’s so different than the Rotation 180 as well.

What caught my attention was the size of the back, being how much it can hold.  In addition to how much outside storage it contains and how you access the gear inside the bag.

Digging into the Backlight 26L

This backpack weighs under 4 pounds, which is not much lighter than the Rotation 180. But that’s ok – because it’s still a very light backpack when compared to others on the market.  Between how much it can hold on the inside, on the outside and how much can attach to accessory locations, the back is beautiful and efficient.

The most attractive feature of this backpack is the rear compartment that is used to access your equipment from within.  Here is how it works.

  1. You attach the waist belt
  2. When you need to access the inside, simply spin the back to the front of your body
  3. Unzip the door
  4. Put the neck leash over your head, which keeps the door open
  5. Do what you need inside your bag
  6. Remove the leash
  7. Close and zip the compartment
  8. Spin the bag back around
  9. Make more photos

As you can see, the concept is fairly straightforward, and a great way to get to your gear without putting the bag on the ground.  That’s a win-win.

Photo via MindshiftGear.com

Weight Off Your Shoulders

Like other MindShift Gear backpacks, and as mentioned, the Backlight 26L has a waist strap. It’s thick for comfort and has an accessory band to attach things like the Filter Hive.

But there is also a chest strap for extra support. If you plan on walking a lot with this backpack, and it’s filled with gear and maybe even a tripod strapped on, then here is my recommendation.

  • Put the bag on your back with the shoulder straps fairly loose.
  • Strap the waist belt around your waist and tighten it, so the bag is comfortably resting on your hips.
  • Lock the chest strap and tighten it so it brings the bag as close to your back as possible.
  • Slowly tighten the backpack until you just barely feel it on your shoulders.

Follow those steps and your back will thank you later.

Photo via MindshiftGear.com

Packing Goodies

One of the things that I like about the backpack is the ability to travel safely with both my 15″ MacBook Pro and my iPad.  Typically backpacks hold one or the other. But MindShift Gear managed to find a way to store them both.

There is also room to hold battery backups for my iPhone, chargers, rain covers and more.

Did I mention there’s a seamless rain cover that doubles as a flat water resistant blanket? That means you can put stuff on your rain cover, on the ground, instead of directly on the ground. That is if you need to put stuff on the ground.

I mentioned the bag had storage on the outside, for water bottles and such. There is also a large pocket that is great for gloves, hats or anything else you want to stuff in it. There are multiple tripod connection points, either on the sides or the back. I prefer the back, so the weight is distributed evenly.

There are two bungee cords designed for holding walking sticks, ice picks or other hiking tools.  I’ve used these to hold light jackets and other clothing while not wearing them.

Traveling With The Backlight 26L

I love traveling with this backpack.  With it, I can not only hold everything I would need for photography. But I can also keep it safely under the seat on a plane, or in the overhead compartment.  That’s a beautiful thing. With other backpacks I’ve used I would many times have to store the bag in the overhead only. Sometimes planes are so packed that I might have had to put the bag far back or far forward from where I would be sitting. That meant the bag was not near me on the plane.  With the size and ability to store under the seat, the bag is by my feet at all times.  Unless there is space above my seat in the overhead. Then I’ll put the bag up there, with the tripod as well.

What’s In My Bag

The following items are usually in my Backlight 26L. To see my full list of photography gear, click here.

  • Nikon D810
  • 20mm
  • 35mm
  • 85mm
  • Triggertrap
  • Batteries
  • Memory Cards
  • Tripod Attached
  • iPad 2
Photo via MindshiftGear.com

Who It Is NOT For

This backpack is not for the photographer who needs to pack all huge lenses all the time. It is not for the photographer who likes putting their bag down non-stop.  It is not for the photographer who brings five cameras everywhere they go. It is not for the photographer who wants a larger, heavier bag.

Who It Is For

This backpack is for the photographer who carries smaller lenses, like prime lenses. Or the photographer who packs fewer lenses and camera bodies.  It is for the photographer who wants their most important gear with them, on the go.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll get out the Backlight 26L here.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Hey Scott, I don’t see anywhere obvious to store a hydration pack. I suppose it could go in one of the side pockets but it might be tough to run the hose up to the front. Do you use a hydration bag? Any thoughts on where to put one in this bag?

    1. This bag doesn’t have a compartment specifically for one. I don’t use a hydration pack because how easily they get moldy. Instead I carabiner water bottles to my bag.

      1. Hmmm, that’s unfortunate. I’ve never had a water bag go moldy (it’s really important to dry them out well when storing them) and use them all the time. Oh well, it looks like a really great bag. Curious if you have ever used an f-stop Gear bag? This looks like it’s very similar in size and features to the Lotus. I’d love to see a direct comparison of the two…

        1. I have a bunch of friends with f-stop bags, but most complain about comfort. Brian Matiash has this bag and fstop bags. Might be worth emailing him to see if he has comparison thoughts.

  2. Hi,
    Will this backpack fit a Nikon D810 with a grip attached?

    1. Only if the lens is removed and the camera is laying flat. If the lens is on and the camera is standing up in the bag then the bag wouldn’t close.

  3. Thanks for a thorough review! One question about the rain cover. How secure is it after you put it on? Would it need to be secured with velcro or bungee cords to keep it on in windy conditions?

    1. It has a bungee built in to hold it tight to the bag.

  4. Great review. I bought one of these about a month ago. Unfortunately the stitching broke on the shoulder strap and can no longer be used. Waiting to see what Mindshift is going to do about it. Love the concept and features of the bag but so far the quality has not impressed me for a £200 bag.

    1. They have a fantastic warranty system so they will likely repair or replace the bag for you.

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